Breastfeeding vs formula explained

While Red Nose recommends breastfeeding as the best source of infant feeding, we recognise this is not always an option for parents.


In instances where breastfeeding is not an option or breastmilk is unavailable, than a suitable infant formula is recommended, Red Nose Chief Midwife Jane Wiggill advises.

But, Jane says, make sure your formula adheres to the Australia New Zealand Food Standard Code (Standard 2.9.1 – Infant Formula products).

“While infant formulas have been developed to contain similar nutrition to breastmilk, make sure it confirms to industry standards, as these are reviewed to reflect the latest scientific evidence.”

And if you can breastfeed? There are many benefits to your baby, including a reduced risk of sudden and unexpected death in infancy.

“Multiple studies have demonstrated that breastfeeding provides protection against SIDS, and we are seeing more and more strong evidence that breastfeeding for as long as possible decreases the risks by 50 per cent,” Jane explains.

Breast milk also contains substances that reduces the risk of infection.

“We know that infection is an exogenous stressor, which is also a risk factor of SIDS.”

Other benefits of breastmilk is that it also helps increase the good bacteria in the infant gut, and contains substances that contribute to myelin development in the brain, supporting brain function.

“As breastmilk is a natural substance, it is also naturally higher in nutrients than formula and is more quickly digested, meaning babies arouse more frequently for feeding,” Jane says.

If you are unable to, or choose not to, breastfeed, Red Nose recommends following our other safe sleeping recommendations to reduce your overall risk of SIDS. This includes sleeping your baby on their back; keeping your baby’s head and face uncovered during sleep; and making sure your baby sleeps in a safe environment.

“We understand that some parents cannot or choose not to breastfeed, and that’s OK,” Jane says.

“We want all parents to be informed of the risks and how to reduce them, and then make the best decisions for your family.”

Find out more about the evidence behind breastfeeding.