Comparative Effect of Feeding Human Milk as Opposed to Formula on Visual Function and Ocular Anatomy

Breastfeed Med. 2019 Sep;14(7):493-498. doi: 10.1089/bfm.2018.0263. Epub 2019 Aug 1.


Background/Objective: Performance of ocular examinations on children who were breastfed, fed with formula, and combination of the two for the first 6 months of age. Subsequently, refractive errors, allergic conjunctivitis, and retinal nerve fiber layer (RNFL) thickness were evaluated. Materials and Methods: The present study included a total of 242 eyes of 121 children (aged 60-84 months, 65 males, 56 females) admitted to the outpatient clinic of our institution. The patients were divided into three groups according to their feeding pattern during their first 6 months postdelivery: breastfed children (Group 1, n = 40), children fed with a combination of breast and formula milk (Group 2, n = 41), and children exclusively fed with formula-milk (Group 3, n = 40). All patients underwent detailed ophthalmologic examinations, and measurements of the RNFLs were recorded. Results: No significant difference was observed between the groups in terms of refractive error. In Group 3, we found that allergic conjunctivitis was significantly higher than in the other groups. In addition, in Group 3, the thickness of the RNFL was found to be significantly higher in the superior quadrants of both the eyes of children than in Groups 1 and 2 (p < 0.05). Conclusions: We found that the type of feeding experienced by infants in their first 6 months has no effect on refractive error but has significant effects on both allergic conjunctivitis and RNFL. To determine the cause of this difference in the RNFL and to further validate the present study, future studies with larger patient groups and animal experiments are needed.

Keywords: allergic conjunctivitis; breastfeeding; refractive disorder; retinal nerve fiber layer thickness.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Breast Feeding*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / immunology*
  • Conjunctivitis, Allergic / prevention & control
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Eye / anatomy & histology*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant Formula*
  • Infant Nutritional Physiological Phenomena
  • Male
  • Milk, Human / immunology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Visual Acuity / immunology
  • Visual Acuity / physiology*