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Baby Talk: Whether Breastfeeding or Formula Feeding, Babies Need Adequate Nutrition


There are a few phrases that parents come across in the early days of parenting and caring for their newborn. A popular one is “fed is best”. This saying gained traction when Dr. del Castillo Hegyi coined the phrase to send a message that babies should never go hungry. Another common phrase that competes with this is “breast is best”, which is advice from the World Health Organization. Dr. Aimée Kahn, a Board Certified Pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare, says that while breastmilk is ideal, this has the potential to put pressure on new mothers who may be struggling to breastfeed their newborns. “Overall, the goal for all families is to ensure their children are getting adequate nutrition and educate themselves in regards to the benefits of breastfeeding or using formula,” says Kahn.

Breastmilk, compared to formula, is usually better absorbed and often contains the perfect amount of the needed nutrients such as fat, carbohydrates, and protein for nursing infants. Breastmilk additionally has proteins that aid in digestion, vitamins, minerals, and hormones that a mother's body makes specifically for their newborn. Studies have shown that there are also nutrients in breastmilk that help with infants' growth and development, particularly in their nervous system. “Breastmilk has antibodies, which are disease-fighting products that lead to fewer infections in breastfed babies,” says Dr. Kahn, “There are also several other benefits to breastfeeding your infant. Babies that are breastfed have been shown to have fewer ear, lung, digestive infections, and some skin conditions. Breastfeeding has been linked to fewer episodes of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), as well as lower chances of obesity later on in life. Breastfeeding also offers a unique opportunity for mothers to nurture their child.”

For those that are using formula in any amount, the formula shelves at the grocery store may be intimidating and confusing for first-time visitors. Several types of formulas are available for infants on the market today. Different formulas have variable nutrients (milk protein vs soy for example), added vitamins, taste, and smell, number of calories, and can be digested differently. Some of the most common formulas include:

  • Standard milk-based formulas are made with cows' milk protein and contain minerals, lactose, and vitamins.
  • Soy-based formulas use soy protein and are recommended for certain medical conditions or are also preferred if families want to avoid animal protein.
  • Hypoallergenic formulas are available for infants who have identified true allergies to milk protein that is in standard milk-based formulas.
  • Specialized formulas may be recommended for certain concerns that your pediatrician may have including prematurity, reflux, digestion problems, heart disease, etc.

“With the recent formula shortage, something to consider is also to check stores for their own brand of formula,” says Dr. Kahn, “For example, Costco provides Kirkland formula, which can be used as a substitute until the formula families were previously using becomes available again.”

There are many resources available that give helpful information to parents about both formula and breastfeeding options. The American Academy of Pediatrics has many articles available online for parents to read about keeping their newborns healthy. also has a variety of resources for new parents. “Here in Rockland County, there is also the Breastfeeding Coalition, of which I am a member, that is made of physicians, nurses, lactation consultants, nursing mothers, and community members that advocate for the health and wellbeing of mothers and babies,” advises Dr. Kahn, “In Orange County, Moms of Orange County is dedicated to offering support, education, and care to pregnant and new mothers and also offers free classes to those interested. Families can also speak with their pediatrician about their questions or concerns regarding feeding as we have a wealth of knowledge to share!”

Crystal Run Healthcare’s family-focused pediatricians are dedicated to caring for your child from infancy through adolescence, as well as educating you on prevention and wellness strategies to keep your kids healthy, active, and safe. Your pediatrician will counsel you on the various stages of infant and toddler development, including milestones to look for at each age and when to call the doctor.

Aimée Kahn, MD, MPH, is a Board Certified Pediatrician at Crystal Run Healthcare. She earned her Medical Degree from St. George’s University School of Medicine in Grenada, West Indies. She completed her Residency and Internship in Pediatrics at SUNY Health & Science Center in Brooklyn, NY. Her clinical interests include Pediatrics, Obesity Prevention, Urgent Care, and Nursery. Dr. Kahn is seeing patients in West Nyack.