Thursday, February 2, 2012

Are breastfed babies more cranky than formula-fed babies?

Here's something that might surprise you -- at first glance, at least.

Breastfed babies were found to have a more irritable temperament than their formula-fed counterparts, according to researchers from the Medical Research Council Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge. They shared their findings in "Breastfeeding and infant temperament at age three months," published in the Public Library of Science ONE.

The researchers based this conclusion on 316 three-month-old babies who were exclusively breastfed, bottle-fed, or mixed-fed. Their mothers completed a questionnaire about their babies temperaments. According to researchers, babies who were breastfed showed, "greater distress, less smiling, laughing and vocalisation, to be slower to calm down following distress or excitement, and more difficult to soothe by care givers."

So why would I, a breastfeeding advocate, be sharing this information on OnCloudMom? Advocacy doesn't mean lying. If this finding is true, we need to look at it head on and make sure we understand it. There's a wealth of benefits to breastfeeding, but there are some negatives, which we've talked about on this blog before.

But the good news is, there's more to this study than meets the eye. This is not a negative that we have to face.

According to lead researcher Dr. Ken Ong, a pediatrician from the MRC Epidemiology Unit in Cambridge, "Bottle-fed babies may appear more content, but research suggests that these infants may be over-nourished and gain weight too quickly. Our findings are essentially similar to other stages of life; people often find that eating is comforting."

That makes sense. Breastfed babies usually eat until they're content, which can just be a couple of ounces per feeding. Because of this, they'll often eat small meals throughout the day as they grow hungry again. This can be different from formula-fed babies, who often eat a certain amount of ounces at each feeding, regardless of their hunger level. Researchers suggested that bottle-feeding is similar to ‘comfort eating.’ Babies who drink from bottles might be over-nourished, and quieter and more content as a result.

So what do you take away from this as a parent? According to Dr. Ong, "Rather than being put off breast-feeding, parents should have more realistic expectations of normal infant behaviour and should receive better understanding and support to cope with difficult infant behaviours if needed."

This means it's normal for babies to cry and be fussy -- it's how they communicate! Babies who have developed a dynamic relationship with their mom through breastfeeding are better equipped to interact with the world around them. From the start, breastfed babies are engaging with their moms and learning to interact with food and people in a very natural way. This early socialization doesn't necessarily make them "more challenging."

Have you seen anything from your own children that confirms or denies this research? Let us know in a comment!


Anonymous said...

9 wk old baby. very alert, smiles tons and holds 3 min cooing convos with anyone talking to her. mommies milk only!

Sengland said...

I breastfed 4 of my 5 children and definitely less fussy! Frequency of feedings are a little demanding because of the digestion being quicker, but easier on babies. Feed baby before crying begins watching for signs of hunger! Breastfed babies are better eaters because of the assorted flavors they get! Way too many benefits and yes it is a dedication, patience sometimes, but that goes with raising children!

Anonymous said...

When they say bottle-fed, do they always mean formula? I'm a working mother who breastfeeds while at home and pumps milk for my baby when I'm not. She never has formula, but she's technically bottle-fed breast milk. I always feel left out in articles like this because I'm not sure where my situation comes into play for it.

Gina Ciagne said...

That's a great question. While the study doesn't distinguish between bottled breastmilk and formula, you do know you're providing your baby with the best nutrition possible by giving her your breastmilk. Good for you for being so dedicated to giving your baby the best! If any more studies like this make that distinction, we’ll be sure to let you know!

Anonymous said...

my son is 7 1/2 weeks...exclusively breastfed had his first bottle ever last night (pumped breast milk). my husband got to feed him. he had very little trouble latching onto the mOmma bottle and then nursed for a few minutes after. no confusion at all. i can count on one hand the amount of times he has cried. he never ever cries. everyone says hes the most content baby they have ever met.

Lisa0565 said...

My daughter (now12) was exclusively breastfed. She was a happy and content baby. I also believe she is more independant because of this.

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