This article is part of a series on breast milk's nutrition facts.
Does formula have more calories than breast milk?
Q: I don't have enough breast milk so I was considering of switching my little one to formula. I was wondering in what way its composition differed from breast milk? Does it have more or less calories? Any other differences?
A: Formula contains about 2 kcal more than breast milk at around 24 kcal per ounce.
Fat is what constitutes 60% of the calories in breast milk so formula manufacturers add an extra amount of fat in their formula. It's not only about quantity though, the quality of the fats counts a lot too and formula falls short for this.
For instance it's known that DHA, a type of fat, helps the brain manufacture myelin, an essential sheath that insulates nerve fibers. However research has shown that the brains of breastfed babies had higher concentrations of DHA than those of formula-fed babies1.
In general it's known that breast-fed infants perform better on tests that assess neurodevelopmental outcomes than do formula-fed infants.2 In short, breastfeeding seems to develop your little one's brain better than if they were fed formula.
Breast milk is also full of antibodies and white blood cells that help your baby's immune system fight off diseases and viruses. This is a clear advantage versus formula, which doesn't contain any. In fact if you breastfeed the antibodies in your milk will constantly change based on the demands of your baby's immune system.
Scientists have found instances when, if the baby is fighting a bacterial or viral attack, white blood cells numbers can increase up to 94% out of total cells in breast milk3! Of course formula's composition is static and won't change if your little one is sick. Breast milk is smart, formula isn't!
If the reason why you want to switch to formula is that you don't have enough breast milk, we recommend you rather work on increasing your milk supply.
For this we strongly recommend the excellent Milk Boost Tea. It's an ancestral recipe of 13 natural herbs that's been used for centuries by nursing mums in Asia to boost their milk volume and its nutritional value.
For instance it contains Dong Quai, a root also known as the "female ginseng" for its wide range of health benefits for women. It also contains Sponge gourds (Loofah), famous for their ability to facilitate lactation.
You might also be interested by the other articles in our series about breast milk's nutrition facts:
- How many calories are there in breast milk?
- What are breast milk's nutrition facts? What is it composed of?
- Why is fat so important in breast milk?
- Are colostrum's nutrition facts the same as breast milk?
- How much proteins are there in breast milk?
- How much carbohydrates are there in breast milk?
1. Makrides M, Neumann MA, Byard RW, Simmer K, Gibson RA. Fatty acid composition of brain, retina, and erythrocytes in breast- and formula-fed infants. Am J Clin Nutr. 1994 Aug;60(2):189-94. doi: 10.1093/ajcn/60.2.189. PMID: 7913291.
2. Gibson RA, Makrides M. Long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids in breast milk: are they essential? Adv Exp Med Biol. 2001;501:375-83. doi: 10.1007/978-1-4615-1371-1_46. PMID: 11787705.
3. Hassiotou F, Hepworth AR, Metzger P, et al. Maternal and infant infections stimulate a rapid leukocyte response in breastmilk. Clin Transl Immunology. 2013;2(4):e3. Published 2013 Apr 12. doi:10.1038/cti.2013.1
Article tags: Breastfeeding and maternity