Effects of Formula Feeding in Infancy

Table of Contents


Family nursing is associated with the development of trusting relationships between nursing practitioners and patients as well as their families. Nurses provide care, as well as train and educate people regarding health issues, treatment types, benefits, and risks of the chosen treatment, prevention, and so on. An evidence-based approach is essential for this area as nursing professionals can be equipped with the most recent empirical data to support their choices and recommendations (Dattilio, Piercy, & Davis, 2013). Research plays a central role in the evidence-based approach as it enables researchers to explore various health issues and develop, as well as evaluate various interventions to address these problems.

This evidence-based project paper deals with the possible effects of formula feeding in infancy on toddlers’ digestive system. Benninga et al. (2016) claim that formula feeding in infancy is often associated with several health issues, including gastrointestinal complications, infections, or even obesity, sleep disturbances, and so on. The researchers examine the disorders associated with formula feeding that can occur in infants or toddlers. The authors also add that these health issues are likely to persist in later years (childhood and even adulthood). Benninga et al. (2016) reveal some methods to address the issue and claim that education is central to addressing the health issues mentioned above and shaping females’ choices concerning breastfeeding. Nevertheless, it is also mentioned that further research is necessary for this area. Therefore, it is critical to gain more relevant data on the matter to provide more information to families.

Application to Family Nursing Practice

Family nursing is associated with addressing a variety of health issues that people may encounter throughout their life. Child care is one of the most important areas where family nurses’ recommendations are specifically valuable. One of the central issues females have to address is related to their children’s feeding. Mothers (especially teenage or new mothers) lack the necessary knowledge and confidence regarding the most appropriate feeding strategies. Breastfeeding is traditionally one of the topics associated with fears and doubts. Family nurses can provide empirical data, as well as recommendations concerning feeding, which will help families address and prevent various health issues. It has been acknowledged that breastfeeding is optimal for children, but many females resort to formula feeding for different reasons (Belfield & Kelly, 2012). Kim and Froh (2012) note that family nurses can shape females’ attitudes towards breastfeeding or help in choosing the most appropriate formula for their children if breastfeeding is impossible or can be harmful to children. Family nursing practitioners should pay attention to different aspects of the problem and be equipped with sufficient data to provide recommendations.

Formula Feeding Vs. Breastfeeding

The discussion concerning the benefits and possible disadvantages of formula feeding has received considerable attention, and various aspects of the issue have been explored. It is noteworthy that breastfeeding is regarded as the most appropriate practice unless certain contraindications exist (Maldonado et al., 2012). Maldonado et al. (2012) argue that some nutrients are present in breast milk only. These elements contribute to the proper functioning of children’s digestive and respiratory systems. It has been found that formula-fed infants are more likely to develop gastroenteritis, diarrhea, respiratory infections, obesity, and other health conditions (Salone, Vann, & Dee, 2013).

Salone et al. (2013) analyzed the available literature on the matter and reported that breastfeeding was recommended to be exclusive during the first six months of children’s lives and should be used with complementary foods up to the age of 12 months or beyond. The development of these health issues in infancy leads to the development of complications or other related disorders in toddlers. Brown and Lee (2012) also state that formula-fed children may develop obesity as they have decreased satiety responsiveness as compared to breastfed children. Satiety responsiveness may remain low in childhood, adolescence, and adulthood, which will lead to such health issues as obesity and related disorders. Interestingly, it is stated that a six-week period of breastfeeding was sufficient to develop higher satiety responsiveness (Brown & Lee, 2012). That further research is needed in this area as more cases should be analyzed.

It is necessary to note that the health issue under analysis is very common. Parents of infants often try to choose the best care for their children and prevent the development of various disorders. Whereas, parents of toddlers often try to identify causes of their children’s health issues to obtain the most effective treatment. Clearly, infants can be the population that will benefit most of all as they will receive the most appropriate food that will ensure their proper development. As far as other stakeholders are concerned, they are quite numerous. People of all ages may need to understand the benefits and hazards associated with both types of feeding. This knowledge is not applicable to their children’s care only as adults may find answers to their health-related questions and receive effective treatment plans. It is also necessary to note that healthcare professionals will also be affected as they will receive additional data regarding different types of feeding. Nursing professionals will be able to develop efficient recommendations or even plans for families, which will potentially result in the development of healthier communities.

As any evidence-based project, this study will have a narrow focus. Toddlers’ health outcomes have not received the necessary attention as researchers tend to concentrate on infancy or later years (for example, adolescence or adulthood). Some researchers explore the effects of drinking formula in infancy on toddler’s health (Brown & Lee, 2012). However, these studies explore different health issues without the focus on gastrointestinal complications and infections. At that, these disorders are common in toddlers and can often persist into adolescence and adulthood transforming into severe health conditions. This study will have numerous implications for the stakeholders mentioned above. The results of the study can be used to train and educate mothers regarding breastfeeding and formula feeding. The project can also be the basis for further research in this area.

Evidence-Based Practice Question

As has been mentioned above, the association between toddlers’ gastrointestinal complications and infections has received insufficient attention. It can be beneficial to explore the way breastfeeding and formula feeding in infancy can affect toddler’s health. The PICOT question can be formulated as follows: In toddlers (Population/ Time) does drinking formula during infancy (Intervention) compared to drinking human milk during infancy (Comparison) increase the risk of gastrointestinal complications/infections (Outcome)? The implementation of a quantitative research design can help answer this question. The dependent variable will be the occurrence of gastrointestinal complications and infections in toddlers while breastfeeding and formula feeding will be the independent variables.


In conclusion, this evidence-based project will explore the associations (if any) between formula drinking in infancy and toddlers’ health issues related to their digestive system. The findings can be later used in family nursing practice as nurses can share the data and provide evidence-based recommendations to parents. Family nursing professionals can also use the findings when treating adolescents and adults. It is necessary to note that some associations between formula drinking and children’s, in particular, toddlers’ health, have been well-researched. However, little is known about the impact formula drinking has on toddlers’ digestive system, in particular, the development of gastrointestinal complications. It can be beneficial to compare the prevalence of these health conditions in toddlers who were breastfed and those who were formula-fed in their infancy.

This project was a valuable experience as it helped me unveil some peculiarities and benefits of the use of evidence-based approach in family nursing practice. Clearly, I have gained certain knowledge related to formula feeding as compared to breastfeeding. Furthermore, I acquired skills associated with research and evidence-based practice. For instance, I explored different methodologies used to identify benefits and hazards related to breastfeeding and formula feeding. I will be able to use this knowledge and skills in my future practice. I also practiced developing PICOT questions, which will help me apply the evidence-based approach in my practice as a family nurse. I learned about areas and issues I will have to address in my future practice. I have gained empirical data supporting the claim that education is one of the major responsibilities of a nurse and one of the most effective interventions that lead to positive health outcomes. Finally, I outline certain gaps yet to be addressed, which is beneficial for me as I will be able to focus on the most relevant aspects.


Belfield, C., & Kelly, I. (2012). The benefits of breast feeding across the early years of childhood. Journal of Human Capital, 6(3), 251-277.

Benninga, M., Nurko, S., Faure, C., Hyman, P., St. James Roberts, I., & Schechter, N. (2016). Childhood functional gastrointestinal disorders: neonate/toddler. Gastroenterology, 150(6), 1443-1455.

Brown, A., & Lee, M. (2012). Breastfeeding during the first year promotes satiety responsiveness in children aged 18-24 months. Pediatric Obesity, 7(5), 382-390.

Dattilio, F., Piercy, F., & Davis, S. (2013). The divide between “evidenced-based” approaches and practitioners of traditional theories of family therapy. Journal of Marital and Family Therapy, 40(1), 5-16.

Kim, J., & Froh, E. (2012). What nurses need to know regarding nutritional and immunobiological properties of human milk. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic & Neonatal Nursing, 41(1), 122-137.

Maldonado, J., Cañabate, F., Sempere, L., Vela, F., Sánchez, A., & Narbona, E., … Lara-Villoslada, F. (2012). Human milk probiotic lactobacillus Fermentum Cect5716 reduces the incidence of gastrointestinal and upper respiratory tract infections in infants. Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, 54(1), 55-61.

Salone, L., Vann, W., & Dee, D. (2013). Breastfeeding: An overview of oral and general health benefits. The Journal of the American Dental Association, 144(2), 143-151.

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