These days, everyone from the AAP to the super judgey lady at the playground will tell you that, in the battle of formula versus breast milk, the boobs win. And while breast milk is obviously great (because everything about breasts is great), this consensus can put a ton of pressure on parents for whom breastfeeding isn’t an option. But a recent study that looked at how child brain development is affected by breast milk compared to formula might help ease some of the stress for women with tired breasts, inverted nipples, chronically inflamed ducts or any number of awful things requiring them to fill their bras with cabbage (Seriously, it’s a thing. And it’s supposed to do wonders).
The Arkansas Children’s Nutrition Center followed more than 300 children who were split pretty evenly between babies who’d been given cow’s milk formula, soy milk formula, and breast milk. The researchers tested the babies for language skills and other developmental milestones every 3 months for the first year. What they found was that there was no significant difference in growth or development between the groups; all 3 scored, on average, within normal range.
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However, there are some important things to note: The AAP recommends cow’s milk formula second and soy milk formula last, because the former has been around for much longer and has been deemed historically safe to use. Also, the breast milk-fed babies did show a slight advantage, although it wasn’t hugely significant and researchers couldn’t determine whether it would benefit the children later in life. Finally, the study isn’t exactly finished. It will be officially completed in 2017, and much more will be known about the longer-term effects.
Still, this new evidence should come as welcome news if you’re tired of crying, feeling guilty, and eating breast-wilted cabbage salads. Just take a deep breath and call this old argument a stalemate. For now.