Does Formula Keep Baby Fuller Longer (No! And We Explain Why!)

  • By: Sandra
  • Date: March 18, 2022
  • Time to read: 9 min.

A lot of new mothers worry about whether or not their baby is getting enough to eat. This is a valid concern, as babies need plenty of nutrients in order to grow and develop properly. Some parents believe that formula keeps the baby fuller longer than breast milk. However, this is actually not the case! In this blog post, we will explain why formula does not keep babies fuller longer and offer some tips for ensuring that your little one gets the nourishment and sleep they need.

Most parents want their babies to sleep throughout the night as soon as possible and it often seems for breastfeeding mothers that formula-fed infants are sleeping better. Often they are encouraged or feel that they should supplement the breast milk with infant formula or solid foods to help make their baby sleep longer.

However, let’s dive into whether exclusively formula-fed babies wake less than breastfed babies woke and if sleep deprivation is exclusive to just breastfeeding moms!

Sleeping Habits for ALL Babies

Babies wake up at night for a variety of reasons whether they are breastfed infants or formula-fed infants. They may be hungry, wet, or uncomfortable. Some babies also wake up simply because they are used to sleeping in shorter stretches during the day and need to get more rest at night. It is important to figure out why your baby is waking up and address the underlying issue. If your baby is waking up frequently and you are not sure why speak to your pediatrician for help.

Sleeping habits for babies can change frequently and whilst it might seem that formula-fed babies sleep much better than breastfed babies, this is not necessarily the case! A lot of it has to do with the individual baby and their own needs. Some breastfed babies will sleep for hours at a time, whilst others will wake up frequently. It is important to listen to your baby and follow their cues in order to establish healthy sleeping habits.

Transition in baby’s sleep cycle

Baby’s sleep cycles usually start to transition at around six months old. This means that your little one will start to sleep for longer stretches at night, and will be less likely to wake up frequently. Before this, both breastfed infants and formula feeding infants will wake about the same amount of times.

There are a number of things you can do to help your baby sleep through the night. Some simple tips include establishing a bedtime routine, avoiding over-stimulation before bed, and making sure your baby is getting enough rest during the day.

Whilst it might seem that a baby wakes just because they are a hungry baby, this isn’t true, it can be down to a wet nappy, teething or just night waking has become a routine for them.

Hungry babies

Many babies wake up at night because they are hungry. And actually breastfed babies are fed more often than formula-fed babies. This is not because breast milk is ‘weaker’ but actually because breast milk is more in tune with your babies underdeveloped digestive systems and young babies find it a lot easier to digest breast milk. Because breastmilk is more easily digested than powdered formula, they are ready for the next feed sooner.

Infant formula, on the other hand, is harder on a baby’s stomach and they take longer to digest it. Whilst it might seem like a good thing that babies fed with infant formula are going longer between feeds, this is actually just because their stomachs are struggling to digest the powdered formulas as easily as they do breast milk.

One thing you should not do is put cereal or other thickening substances in your babies milk bottle. This can actually make your baby more likely to vomit or have constipation. It is also a choking hazard. Further, the World Health Organization states that the cereal will stop the baby feeling full and stop them from getting adequate nutrients from their formula feed.

Baby’s development

Babies need plenty of nutrients in order to grow and develop properly. Some of the key nutrients that babies need are protein, fat, vitamins, and minerals. Formula does not contain all of these essential nutrients, which is why it is important for mothers to breastfeed their children whenever possible.

As babies develop their sleep patterns will change, regardless of the type of milk they have. Formula-fed babies will not necessarily sleep through the night, and breastfed babies will not always wake up frequently. It is important to listen to your baby and follow their cues in order to establish healthy sleeping habits.

Baby’s growth often comes in growth spurts and during this time most babies might need extra food. Breast milk naturally changes over time to be more nutritious as a baby develops, it’s actually pretty amazing stuff. If you don’t keep breastfeeding exclusively then your body might not be aware of the need to change or up the milk production.

Baby teething

Many babies wake up at night because they are teething. Teething can be a very painful process for babies and can cause them to wake up frequently. As any sleep-deprived parent will tell you, this can happen in both formula feeding babies and breastfeeding babies.

When a baby is teething, they might often want to nurse for the pain, and nursing moms can feel more sleep deprived then. Nursing and breast milk also provide more sleep-inducing hormones in babies, but when you are missing your own sleep, many parents will think that bottle feeding and baby formula might help them get back on that sleep train.

Helping babies self soothe in these nighttime wakings might be a lot more effective than moving to a formula feed, though in the middle of the night many parents might try anything!

Do formula-fed babies sleep longer than those on breast milk?

The concept that feeding your kid meals would help him sleep is an ancient wives’ tale that has been debunked by medical investigations. Feeding your kid meals or formula to try to get him to sleep longer is not a good idea for various reasons.

No Scientific Evidence For Formula Babies Sleeping More

Whilst it might seem like every formula-fed baby sleeps through the night, and you might have people telling you this, the evidence is anecdotal with no scientific support. In fact, when research has been done it’s shown that is simply not true.

Some newborns will sleep poorly as a result of responses to formula or solids (tummy discomfort, for example), especially if the baby is younger than 6 months. According to studies, adding food or formula to the diet does not encourage newborns to sleep longer. These trials demonstrated no change in the sleep habits of babies who were fed meals before bedtime vs babies who were not given solids before night. 

Stanford has proven that irrespective of whether they are formula-fed babies or breastfed babies, babies will walk in the night. Babies’ sleep requirements differ based on their age. Most of the time, newborns sleep. However, they sleep in extremely brief bursts. The overall quantity of sleep a newborn gets gradually decreases as he or she develops. However, the duration of nocturnal sleep rises.

Are Breastfed Babies Sleeping Longer?

In general, babies sleep 8 to 9 hours during the day and 8 hours at night. However, kids should not sleep for more than 1 to 2 hours at a time. Most newborns do not begin sleeping through the night (6 to 8 hours) without waking up until they are around 3 months old or weigh 12 to 13 pounds. By 6 months, almost two-thirds of newborns can sleep through the night on a regular basis.

According to one study, parents of exclusively breastfed children up to 3 months of age slept 40-45 minutes more than those whose kids were given baby formula. Formula-fed infants’ parents also reported higher sleep difficulties than breastfed infants’ parents.

Research suggests that other factors regardless of whether a baby is on formula or is breastfeeding is to do with the amount a baby sleep. So whilst formula feeding parents seem to have it easier and suggest breastfeeding moms supplement, the science proves these to be old wives tales. If you want to do mixed feedings that’s fine, but if the only reason you are using formula is that you think you have a hungry baby, then rest assured, you probably don’t.

What are the symptoms of baby sleep issues?

When a baby begins to sleep through the night on a regular basis, parents are typically disappointed when the infant begins to wake up at night again. This is common around the age of 6 months. If previously your baby slept for 8 hours you might feel you are going backwards.

However, this is a common symptom of separation anxiety, which is a natural stage of growth. This occurs when a newborn does not grasp that separations are just temporary (temporary). Babies may also experience difficulty falling asleep as a result of separation anxiety. Alternatively, they may be overstimulated or overtired.

Your infant may be awake yet unwilling to feed, and just accepting food does not imply that they were hungry. It’s difficult to say whether formula-fed or breast-fed newborns sleep better since we never know why the baby woke up.

Symptoms of baby sleep issues may also include:

  • Irregular sleeping patterns
  • Excessive crying or fussing for no apparent reason
  • Waking up frequently during the night
  • Falling asleep while eating or during breastfeeding.

If you are noticing the above, then odds are you do not have a hungry baby and don’t need to start baby solids early or start doing mixed formula feeding.

Choosing Baby Names x
Choosing Baby Names

Should I supplement with formula?

Formula causes a newborn’s digestive system to work overtime as the baby attempts to digest something that is not unique to the human body. Because the formula is more difficult to digest than breast milk, formula-fed babies tend to go longer between feedings.

A baby’s digestive system is still developing, and it takes time for him or her to get used to digesting solid foods. If your baby is formula-fed, you may need to wake him or her up every few hours to feed. So, if you’re breastfeeding your baby as much as possible, he or she will be getting all of the essential nutrients, which is why it is important for mothers to breastfeed their children whenever possible.

Also, if your baby has been exclusively breast fed, then suddenly adding in formula might bring its own complications. Not all formulas agree with your baby, as some develop intolerances. Only mixing the feed might not make it immediately obvious that the formula you have chosen suits your baby. Also only partially using formula may mean that you don’t use a full can before it expires, read our guide on what happens if babies drink expired formula.

Am I Producing Enough Milk?

One of the most common feeding concerns of mothers who exclusively breastfeed their babies is that they are not producing enough milk, or their milk is not fulfilling for their baby.

In most cases this is untrue. And whilst milk and formula can look very different, it is very rare for nursing mothers to be unable to provide enough nutritious milk supply for their babies. In general, breast milk is thinner than formula. Breast milk can also vary in color, frequently based on the foods consumed by a mother. Certain chemicals, including antibodies, hormones, and white blood cells, can be found in breast milk that infant formula cannot.

The vitamins in a breastmilk change as the baby develops their own immune system. The baby’s health needs change and breastfeeding patterns change as babies need it. If you are worried about producing enough milk for your baby, then read our guide to pumping to increase milk supply.

Take Away

So, does formula keep the baby fuller longer? No! In fact, research shows that there is no difference between babies who are given solids before bedtime and those who are not. How long a baby sleeps is probably tied to a variety of other things rather than what they consume. Every child is different, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution for getting your infant to sleep through the night.

Newborns typically sleep in short bursts and do not need anything more than their mother’s milk or formula during the day and night. If you are breastfeeding your baby as much as possible, he or she will be getting all of the essential nutrients. So if you’re concerned about your baby’s sleep habits, consult with a pediatrician or your baby’s doctor for guidance.