Myth Busting and Feeding Babies Formula

By Nurse Barb Dehn

As a new mom, you’re probably getting a lot of advice about your baby. Some of it is probably good and a lot of it likely seems crazy and a little scary. My son’s cradle cap was a big topic for the family who offered lots of unsolicited, well-intentioned home remedies guaranteed to work. I drew the line with rubbing olive oil on his head and putting him on a baking sheet on the open oven door. Seriously, the person who told me this wasn’t kidding. I had lots of experience as a pediatric nurse and shelves full of books, but a few things I heard from people made me wonder.

Now, as a Nurse Practitioner, my patients ask me about the advice they’re hearing from friends and family. So let’s bust a few myths when it comes to feeding your baby.

Myth #1: If your baby is colicky, give them some tea

One of my patients called with this question. Her mom was visiting and trying to help with her baby who was having some tummy troubles. The baby was gassy, pulling their legs up and crying after feedings. Her mom suggested that they brew up some tea and give it to the baby, because that’s how they handled it when her own kids were small. The idea is that the tea calms the stomach and it’s given instead of breastfeeding or providing formula. I wasn’t too surprised, because this is a common practice in many cultures, though there’s no evidence that it works.

This is not recommended as a treatment from the American Academy of Pediatrics. What’s better is to call your pediatrician, discuss all the aspects of the issue, including whether the baby is gaining enough weight, what their stools look like, if they’re spitting up or if they have diaper rash and many more questions that can lead to the best remedy for the situation.

Myth #2: If it’s hot, give the baby water instead of a feeding

This seems reasonable, after all when it’s hot outside; we sweat and get thirstier, however for babies it’s different. Babies need more than just fluids when it’s warm outside. Unless you live in a place where it’s over 105 degrees routinely and your pediatric health care provider has suggested that you do this, it’s not a good idea to substitute breast or formula feeding for water. A baby’s hunger may be satisfied for a short time with a water feeding, but they also need the calcium, protein, carbohydrates, fats and other nutrients that are only found in breast milk and formula.

Your baby may need to feed more frequently when it’s warm and you should make sure they’re in the coolest environment possible. If they must be outside, use an umbrella or other shade, a hat and sunglasses and keep them out of the hot sun as much as possible. Also, don’t water down formula by adding more water to the powder or liquid when mixing it up. To keep your baby hydrated, feed them more often, but don’t substitute water for breast milk or baby formula.

Myth #3: If you choose to formula feed, only use name brands

This is a common assumption made by many parents. Parents sometimes think that using the most expensive option is always the best formula for baby. In the world of infant formula, this is not true. The FDA strictly regulates formula to ensure all babies stay safe. Store brand formulas like Walmart’s Parent’s Choice Formula brand are nutritionally comparable to name brand formulas like Enfamil and Similac and cost up to 50 percent less. By switching to store brand formula families can save approximately $600 a year.

Myth #4: It’s okay to give the baby juice

This seems reasonable, but it’s NOT okay to give a baby juice. Until babies are older than one year of age, offering them any fruit juice is not a good idea for several reasons. First, fruit juice is loaded with fructose, fruit sugar and very little else nutritionally. It contains no calcium, protein or other nutrients for growth. Providing juice to babies is also more likely to spark the development of a taste for sweetened foods and sugar.

When babies are older than one year of age, it’s also important to limit their juice intake. Juice boxes; while convenient, provide hundreds of extra calories each week. If you want to give your child juice, try mixing it up in this way: mix 1 part juice to 3 to 4 parts water. Better yet, just add a splash of juice to a cup of water and only after your child’s first birthday.

Myth #5: Colostrum is bad for babies

It’s hard to believe it, but some moms have been told, that their first milk - the colostrum - is actually bad for the baby, and must be pumped and discarded. Nothing could be further from the truth! Please don’t discard your colostrum; it’s the perfect milk for newborns, with hundreds of important immunities, nutrients and fats. When newborn babies are breastfed, the colostrum is perfect to help the baby’s digestive system rev up and start working to pass their first stools. New moms who frequently breastfeed not only provide their baby with colostrum, but the frequent nursing also helps to stimulate her milk production.

Myth #6: Using a pacifier will interfere with breastfeeding

It’s easy to understand why people might be confused about pacifiers and their influence on breastfeeding, however there is no evidence that babies who use pacifiers are more or less likely to be able to breastfeed. Babies learn within seconds that there’s no milk available from a pacifier, no matter how hard or how long they suck. If they really are hungry, there’s nothing that will truly pacify them except food. The truth is that many babies need extra time for non-nutritive sucking to soothe themselves. Some babies need an extra 10 minutes, others as much as 2 to 4 extra hours each day. Babies learn a lot about the world from their mouths through the thousands of nerve endings that help them with taste, texture, vocalizations and much more. If you feel like your baby sucks as much as a vacuum cleaner and relies on their pacifier, don’t worry, it won’t interfere with breastfeeding.

When it comes to your baby, it’s very important to trust your own instincts. You’re the best expert for what works for your baby. When in doubt, get advice from trusted sources and check with your pediatric care provider.

About Nurse Barb
Nurse Barb Dehn is a practicing Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner, award winning author, and a nationally recognized health expert. An in demand and popular national speaker on all aspects of women’s health, she also lectures at Stanford and is a frequent health expert on television. She has appeared on CBS, ABC, CNN, Good Morning America Now and NBC’s iVillageLive.

Retail prices are from a June 2013 retail price survey of assorted Wal-Mart stores. Actual prices and savings may vary by store and location. Enfamil® is a registered trademark of Mead Johnson & Co. Similac® is a registered trademark of Abbott Laboratories. Parent's Choice Infant Formula is not made by or affiliated with Mead Johnson & Co., or Abbott Laboratories.