There are various reasons why mums may need to switch from feeding their babies breast milk to feeding them formula. These reasons range from pathological conditions to growth (for instance, the gradual transitioning when a mom wants to commence weaning).
However, irrespective of whichever reason, switching or gradual transition from breast milk to the formula has some side effects (primarily mental and physiological) on the parent. In addition, on the part of the baby, this switch may trigger nutritional and developmental side effects.
How long should breastfeeding take?
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Breast milk is the best for the baby when it comes to the balance of nutrients and system-food compatibility. Of course, it is the body’s natural provision for infant development. There are quite several different recommendations for breastfeeding duration.
The World Health Organization recommends that a mother breastfeeds her baby for at least six months. This time recommendation factors everything in from the mother’s physique to her possible schedule.
However, it is said that for optimal infant development, breastfeeding is advisably long term. The long term in this regard is about one year. It has been found out that long-term breastfeeding is associated with a stronger immune system in babies as they progress into active childhood.
Side Effects of Changing from breastmilk to formula on babies
Before these side effects are examined, it is important to reiterate that this switch takes its toll on both the mother and the baby. So let’s dive straight in for these side effects.
1. Nutrients Deficiency
Irrespective of the quality of the formula a mom switches to, it would most likely never match the perfect balance and presence of nutrients in the breast milk. Formulas are usually lacking in amino acids (especially the ones synthesized naturally by the body).
It is common knowledge that these amino acids are required for developing a healthy nervous system. In addition, fatty acids – just like amino acids – are deficient in a formula, and it is crucial for the development of a healthy nervous system. Finally, the proportion of essential nutrients like calcium and iron are not quite as apt as in breast milk. All these contribute to the general effects of nutrient deficiency on the baby’s general outlook.
2. Lowered Antibody Count
The direst side effect of switching to the formula is reduced antibodies. Breast milk is very rich in the necessary antibodies and white blood cells required to build the baby’s immune system. Unfortunately, these antibodies cannot be synthesized, which leaves the baby more susceptible to infant diseases. Examples of possible diseases the baby is exposed to include childhood inflammatory bowel disease. Diabetes, hyperactivity, autoimmune thyroid disease, multiple sclerosis, coeliac disease, dental malocclusion, and coronary heart disease.
3. Bowel Discomfort and Possibly Diarrhea
The mother’s breast milk is optimized specifically for the baby’s bowels. The formula, on the other hand, has a PH level deduced from the average data available. In some cases, the PH level of these formulas causes irritations in the bowel of the baby. In very extreme cases, the baby develops diarrhea and diaper rash. On a similar note, the formula has digestS slower in the bowel of infants. In addition, there are instances where conflicts of electrolytes may occur in the child’s digestive tract because of the foreign nature of the formula. This slows digestion and the rate of food absorption.
4. Risk of obesity In Infants
Breastfeeding has been associated with obesity control in infants. Babies can be obese from premature and continuous exposure to formula milk. In addition, it is observed that breast milk has a comparatively lower energy and protein density, thereby regulating fat conversion and accumulation in the infant’s body.
In the process of trying to up their game of mimicking breast milk, manufacturers of formulas often try to synthesize and add missing nutrients to their product. This is done from time to time to gain a competitive advantage in the market. Although this looks good on the surface, it may pose a threat to the child’s health upon deeper inspection.
The body’s absorption mechanism may not be able to keep up with the concentration. This greatly distorts physiologically predetermined factors of bioavailability. As a result, the baby’s body may begin to accumulate these nutrients in unhealthy concentrations. This may cause stunted growth and other serious effects of nutrient overload.
6. Allergic reactions
Allergies are easily triggered by foreign food introduced to the body of an infant. Formulas are often implicated in this situation. Formulas are more likely to trigger allergies and related health issues (like Eczema, rashes, pox, respiratory allergies) than breast milk.
7. Altered occlusion
This is one of the less frequent side effects of switching from breast milk to formula feeding in babies. Naturally, breast milk contains the necessary nutrients required for optimal teeth development. Although formulas have the essential nutrients for proper dentition, teeth and strength, the imbalance sometimes causes a deformity in teeth formation and consequent teeth arrangement.
8. Cardiovascular Side Effects
Baby formulas – during high-end heat processing may generate AGE (Advanced Glycation End Product) toxin. This toxic substance is associated with producing diabetic side effects in babies. Most significantly, AGE is associated with high-risk cardiovascular effects that include vessel clogging, hardening of blood vessels, and a complete metamorphosis into atherosclerosis and similar pathological conditions in extreme conditions.
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Side Effects of Switching from Breast Milk To Formula In Mothers
Here are some of the possible side effects of formula feeding on the mothers
These are possible side effects; they are not bound to happen by some arbitrary supernatural rule. They can be kept in check (this will be discussed later on).
Sense of guilt
Let’s start with the less health-related side effect, shall we? These mental battles can be as intense as the effects on body physiology. Society and the whole media constantly glorify breastfeeding (and sometimes rightly so).
This has a way of creating some sort of guilt in mothers that don’t breastfeed, even when they are not in control of the circumstances. It may seem very inconsequential as an effect, but it can affect the mother-child bond if not checked.
Risks of Overweight
When a mom switches from breastfeeding her baby to formula, she is more likely to gain body fat faster than usual. Breast milk is an outlet for the extra nutrients manufactured by the mother’s body due to hormonal stimulation.
Switching to formula leads to accumulating those nutrients (hypothetically, the body converts the nutrients into body fat and stores them). Therefore, formula feeding is a supposed contributor to post-partum weight.
Risk of Osteoporosis
A mom is much more predisposed to osteoporosis when she quits post-partum baby breastfeeding. Lactating has a significant effect on loss of bone minerals and consequent replenishing. Formula feeding slows down the replenishing of the lost mineral bone.
The body’s hormonal changes trigger milk production, but when the milk is not let out, replenishing becomes slow or non-existent. Therefore, a mom with physiology and a biochemical composition susceptible to osteoporosis may develop it faster as a side effect of switching from breastfeeding to formula.
Predisposition to diabetes
Stopping breastfeeding is known to be associated with increased chances of diabetes as a side effect. This is possible, especially in moms with diabetic tendencies. However, a Harvard-based study in 2005 inferred that the longer the period of lactation and breastfeeding, the lower the chances of maternal diabetes.
Possible increase in stress and anxiety level
Hormonal fluctuations during lactation have been associated with feelings of stress and anxiety in mothers at the post-partum period. Very recent studies have shown the relationship between stress and mood hormones and breastfeeding. These studies have shown that mothers that do not breastfeed are more prone to stress, getting anxious, and experiencing negative emotions. At the same time, breastfeeding mothers were observed to be less susceptible to these mood changes.
How To Protect Babies And Mothers From Possible Side Effects of Changing from breastmilk to formula
As mentioned earlier, a switch to formula feeding is sometimes an inevitable choice for a mother; sometimes, it is necessary. Should this then spell doom for the mom and the baby? Of course not! There are quite several ways to cushion the side effects of a switch. These ways include,
1. Do not try a sudden switch
Instead, you have to transition gradually and carefully from breast milk into formulas. This gives the baby’s body enough time to adjust to the new normal and thereby reduces the intensity of the body’s reactions.
2. Check out for formula–baby compatibility
There are a variety of formulas for babies. Each of them is manufactured under different conditions, they are likely going to trigger different changes in babies, and these changes are specific to the conditions of production. In the process of transitioning, you have to carefully observe your baby’s body response to specific formula products. This will help you determine which one produces the best result and the least side effects in your baby.
3. Transitioning should be done under the supervision of a pro
Health professionals are aware of the possible side effects of a switch to formula feeding (in both parents and babies). They are capable of looking out for which you (and your baby) are most likely predisposed. They can advise you on the healthy choice of formula and possible practices to cushion or avoid side effects.
On the bright side, there are quite several advantages to using formulas to feed your baby. The formula allows you flexibility, time, and sometimes protection (to the baby). As a mom, irrespective of your reason for switching, you have to make up for whatever possible mental or developmental side effects with professional advice, strict observation, and healthy practices. You can do it!