Breast milk vs. formula: What do the studies really tell us?

By Pediatrician, Emiliano Tatar, M.D.

April 20, 2016

In “Is Breast Truly Best?” the researchers set out to remove the effects of confounders on the data. They used a very large study which followed about 12,000 children from all walks of life from birth until age 14. This study was particularly helpful not only because it was large, but also because it followed very diverse groups of families. Then, they focused on sibling data in situations where each child was fed differently and, the results were stunning. When they looked at “between-families”, the data showed that breastfeeding was “associated with beneficial long-term child outcomes. This trend was evident for 10 out of the 11 outcomes examined here.” These outcomes included differences in IQ. But when they flipped the statistical “sibling switch” on and accounted for all the confounders they reported that those associations disappeared and they were “forced to reconsider the notion that breastfeeding unequivocally results in improved childhood health and wellbeing.”

Unfortunately, women can experience shaming and guilt when they choose to skip nursing. For many, nursing is a joy and offers a break in the day when mother and child can be physically attached. But we should not forget good mothering (and fathering) consists of many, many factors which transcend the methods of feeding. Perhaps the most truthful statement, ultimately is “fed is best.”


Part 1: Breast milk vs. formula: What do the studies really tell us?

Part 2: Breast milk vs. formula