New mothers are increasingly using expressed breast milk in bottles rather than direct breastfeeding for their babies, a trend researchers said “is a concern,” according to a new study published in Public Health Nutrition.
The study also found that mothers who use expressed breast milk typically move their babies to infant formula feeding sooner than their breastfeeding peers, a trend that may impact the health of our next generation, the researchers said.
“Breast feeding is the unequaled method for feeding infants,” said study co-author Marie Tarrant, a professor at the University of British Columbia. “It has been previously determined that breastfeeding is important for the nutrition, immunology, growth and development of infants and toddlers. Anything that contributes to shortening the recommended six months of exclusive breastfeeding is a concern.”
Tarrant and her colleague Dr. Dorothy Bai of the University of Hong Kong studied the infant feeding practices of more than 2,000 mothers living in Hong Kong over a five-year period. They found that an increasing number of mothers moved away from directly breastfeeding their infants to using expressed breast milk, which is usually delivered via a bottle.
“New mothers may believe there is no difference between expressed breast-milk feeding and direct feeding at the breast,” says Tarrant. “Although expressed breast-milk feeding provides greater benefits than infant formula, bottle-feeding may increase the risk of respiratory issues, asthma, rapid weight gain and oral diseases.”
The study also showed that those mothers who used expressed breast milk were more likely to quit breastfeeding earlier than moms who directly breastfed. In the study’s conclusions, Tarrant suggested that a lack of institutional breastfeeding support and information may be partly to blame for this feeding behavior.
“Providing greater access to professional lactation support to new mothers, particularly in the first 24 hours after birth, could ensure that new infants receive the optimal nutrition,” she said.