Warning labels on infant formula will only stress out mothers already under incredible pressure, a Western Bay post-natal consultant warns.
"I work with mothers who have already made the decision to formula feed and it has been a decision they have had sleepless nights about," Katikati's The Baby Whisperer and post-natal consultant Vicki Kirkland said.
"They have read the risks, they are vulnerable and upset about it."
Her comments follow a proposal to introduce product labels warning of health risks associated with infant formula.
Research suggests babies who don't breast feed are at increased risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and being obese. Slower cognitive development and weak immunity have also been linked to not breast feeding.
Ms Kirkland said many mothers she worked with already struggled with having to use formula.
"In the last year, I've had five mothers who have been verbally attacked in the supermarket because they have gone out and bought formula.
"The great majority of those mothers feel they have no choice [but to use formula]."
Introducing warning-style labels would only stigmatise these women further.
"I don't want to see a label go on [infant formula products] without an 0800 number for a support group," Ms Kirkland said.
A Food Standards Australia and New Zealand consultation paper is calling for submissions on proposals, including warning labels that could replace or supplement the "breast is best" statement currently on infant formula products.
"Such a statement would reflect a body of evidence showing that compared to formula feeding, breastfeeding is associated with lower incidence of infection and some chronic diseases, and evidence for improved cognitive development in the breastfed infant," the paper says.
Debate over breastfeeding versus formula has flared this year, with formula-feeding mothers complaining they feel villified for choosing formula for their babies.
The New Zealand Breast Feeding Authority says it is important all parents understand the difference between formula feeding and breastfeeding.
"We would endorse the importance of informing mothers about the risks," executive officer Julie Stufkens said.
"There does need to be a statement about the importance of breast feeding on [infant formula products] and people also need to know if they are using formula, there are risks."
Mrs Stufkens also wanted better promotion of safe formula mixing and storage practices.
"People expect that when you get a product in a tin that it's sterile and safe. Infant formula, as a product, especially if it's powdered, is not sterile."
Generally, mothers who breastfed did not need to be worried about contamination of their milk, she said.
"We require that if a mother is going to formula feed, that somebody on staff spends time explaining how to actually make up their chosen product carefully."
New Zealand scientists are also working on developing a baby formula which could match the nutritional quality of human milk.
The Government recently approved a research grant for the University of Otago-led project, which is investigating ways of adding oligosaccharides into infant formula made from cows' milk. Oligosaccharides have been linked to healthy bacteria in babies' bowels.
Submissions to the FSANZ paper close on November 7.
EDITOR'S NOTE: A small section of this article has been removed. To clarify, Mrs Kirkland meant some mothers had been had been advised to introduce formula because of their baby's low weight gain or medical issues. Those mothers decided to supplement feed _ combining breastfeeding and formula. She by no means meant to say that formula increases milk supply.