Caring for a newborn isn’t easy, and figuring out how to feed them is one of the biggest challenges any parent will face. Whether you decide to breastfeed, formula-feed, or combination feed, the important thing is that your baby is fed and nourished properly.
If you’re keen to know more about formula milk, we’ve compiled 20 enlightening infant formula statistics and facts to consider.
From the differences between formula feeding and breastfeeding, to the types of formula available, we’re sharing valuable insights so you can make informed decisions about your baby’s food.
Key Facts About Baby Formula
Below are five quick facts about baby formula:
- Over 60 percent of babies under six months in Africa are formula-fed.
- Fifty-four percent of babies born in 2018 in the U.S. drank formula within the first three months.
- Breast milk contains a special carbohydrate that develops healthy gut bacteria for babies.
- Breastfed babies can be exposed to toxins and drugs if the mother has been exposed.
- There are many types of formula milk, including preemie formula, which is specially designed for babies born preterm.
20 Infant Formula Statistics and Facts
Infant formula has been available since 1865, when Justis von Liebig, a chemist, created a blend of cow’s milk, flour, and potassium bicarbonate (1). Since then, baby formula has come a long way and is a safe option for infants. Let’s take a look at 20 insightful baby formula statistics and facts.
Infant Formula Consumption Statistics
First, we’ll delve into information about formula consumption worldwide, including in the United States. Not every parent can breastfeed. Some don’t want to, some have diminished supply, and some struggle with extreme pain. That’s why formula feeding is so important and so popular.
- Required components: The required components for formula milk are set by a program called the Codex Alimentarius (2). The Food and Agriculture Organization of the World Health Organization and the United Nations oversees this. There are 30 required nutritional ingredients. Apart from that, different countries are allowed to have different guidelines for their formula.
- Formula is on the rise in Africa: Over 60 percent of babies under six months are formula-fed in Africa. There has been a significant increase year by year due to more women getting jobs, which interrupts their ability to breastfeed.
- Worldwide formula prevalence: Worldwide, about 66 percent of infants are formula-fed, whether that’s exclusively or as part of combination feeding (3).
- Highest rate of formula feeding: Formula milk prevalence varies by country. North America has the highest rate of formula feeding, with 74 percent of babies having formula milk in their diet.
- Lowest rate of formula feeding: South Asia has the lowest rate of formula feeding, with only 43 percent of babies having formula milk in their diet.
- Formula production for allergies: In the 1920s, non-milk-based formula was developed for babies allergic to cow’s milk (4). In 1929, the first soy-based formula was made available, but it lacked essential nutrients and vitamins. However, this was resolved by fortified cow’s milk with extra vitamins and minerals.
- Formula prevalence in the U.S.: Fifty-four percent of infants born in 2018 drank formula milk within the first three months of their lives (5). Nineteen percent were supplemented with formula within the first two days. This is why the formula shortage of 2022 was so terrifying.
Formula-Feeding Vs. Breastfeeding Facts
If you’re a parent, you’ll have probably heard the term ‘breast is best’. While breast milk has many advantages, it’s important to remember that ‘fed’ is best. Most importantly, ensure your baby gets fed as often as they need with high-value milk.
With that in mind, below are seven interesting facts about the differences between formula feeding and breastfeeding.
- Nutrients of breastfeeding: Breast milk has almost all of a child’s essential nutrients, and it changes depending on your child’s nutritional needs at the time (6). It includes water, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals and proteins. It features a particular carb called oligosaccharides, which helps develop healthy gut bacteria for babies.
- Formula is safe but has drawbacks: Formula is the only safe breast milk alternative for babies. Babies under one should not have regular cow’s milk, animal’s milk, or dairy-free milk. While it is safe, it doesn’t offer the antibodies or digestive enzymes that breast milk offers.
- Physical benefits of breastfeeding for babies: Some of the benefits for babies who are breastfed include a reduced risk of type 2 diabetes, ear infections, SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), obesity, and asthma (7).
- Babies grow differently depending on the feeding method: Breastfed babies consume approximately 10 fewer calories per kilogram of body weight per day than formula-fed babies (8). A breastfed baby expends less energy and grows slower. They experience less gastro-esophageal reflux, too.
- Breastfed babies’ nutrition depends on the mother’s nutrition: Breastfed babies can still be exposed to toxins, especially if the mother is. If the mother has taken drugs (even legal ones, such as medicine), this can get into the baby’s bloodstream. In this case, formula may be a better option for the baby.
- Breast milk doesn’t contain vitamin D: While breast milk is nutrient-rich, one thing it doesn’t contain is vitamin D (9). When exclusively breastfeeding, it’s important that parents supplement their child with vitamin D every day. Formula milk, on the other hand, usually contains it.
- Cost of feeding: Exclusively breastfeeding a baby is technically free, though other costs are associated (such as missing work, nursing bras, pumps, etc.). Formula-feeding typically costs between $800 and $3000 for the first year (10). That’s just for the milk alone — this doesn’t include baby bottles, sterilizers, etc.
Facts About Types of Infant Formulas
There are various types of infant formulas, including organic, specialty, and dairy-free ones. Below are six facts about the types of infant formulas.
- Cow’s milk-based: Cow’s milk-based formula is the most common type of formula, accounting for about 80 percent of sales (11). Generally, this type of formula is easy to digest and most similar to breast milk. Popular brands in the industry include Similac, Enfamil, and Bubs.
- Soy-based: Soy-based formulas are lactose-free, making it a great option for babies allergic to cow’s milk. However, up to 50 percent of babies allergic to milk protein may also have a sensitivity to soy protein.
- Preemie formula: Premature baby formula is designed for preterm babies (12). It helps to boost the growth and development of babies born too early. It has higher amounts of calcium and phosphate, which support bone growth. It also has extra folic acid, and vitamin D, E, K and iron.
- Extensively hydrolyzed formula: Extensively hydrolyzed formula is another option for babies allergic to cow’s milk protein (13). This type of formula breaks the protein into pieces, allowing 90 percent of babies with a cow’s milk allergy to tolerate the formula.
- Hypoallergenic baby formula: Hypoallergenic baby formula is excellent for babies with allergies and food intolerances (14). Most of these formulas are still made with cow’s milk, so they aren’t lactose-free, but they are extensively hydrolyzed (the cow’s milk proteins are broken down into smaller pieces). Other hypoallergenic formulas may be partially hydrolyzed or amino acid-based.
- Goat’s milk formula: Goat’s milk formula is suitable from birth (15). It’s very similar to cow’s milk formula. It’s unsuitable for babies who are allergic to cow’s milk, as the proteins are similar.
Prescription Infant Milk
If your child has specific metabolic needs, has low birth weight, or has other medical problems, they may be prescribed a specialty formula from their healthcare provider.
Infant Formula Feeding Guidelines
Formula feeding can be mind-boggling, especially when many healthcare providers push breastfeeding. Many mothers are left with little support or guidelines for formula feeding their babies. We have compiled some critical information about formula feeding an infant.
With a newborn, you should feed your baby on demand. This means feeding them whenever they seem hungry rather than sticking to a schedule.
Generally, this will be about every two to three hours, but some neonates might demand more. Once they are a bit older, they might eat every three to four hours.
In the first few weeks, give a two or three-ounce bottle to your newborn. You may need to adjust this depending on your baby’s needs. Around two months, the baby might drink four to five ounces every three to four hours.
By four months, the baby might drink four to six ounces. By six months, they may drink six to eight-ounce bottles.
Here are some additional tips for formula feeding:
- Practice good hygiene: Make sure the bottles are sterilized, the surface where you’re preparing the bottles is clean, and you’ve washed your hands before preparing.
- Don’t put food in the bottle: Don’t put infant cereal or other foods into your baby’s bottle, as this can increase the risk of choking.
- Positioning: Position the bottle at an almost horizontal angle rather than straight down, as this allows your baby to suck at a safe pace for themselves. This is called paced feeding.
- Allow breaks: Allow your baby to take breaks during the feed. Don’t force your baby to finish the whole bottle if they are full.
- Don’t leave the bottle with your baby: Don’t prop the bottle into your baby’s mouth. This poses safety hazards such as increased risk of choking, tooth decay, and ear infections. This also prevents your baby from being able to take breaks when they need to.
- Burp the baby: After a feed, hold your baby upright and pat their back gently to encourage burping.
- Toss unused milk: If your baby does not return to the bottle within the hour, throw away the unused milk.