I'm going to be very blunt in hopes that it awakens more people to the dangers of infant formula.
NOTE TO MOMS: Don't read this if you are feeling vulnerable, guilty or overstressed. NOTE TO ALL: I'm not a therapist but a researcher in child development. As mentioned in last week's post, most research comparing formula and breastfeeding referred to is correlational (but some experimental too). The research supporting these statements is in the previous 7 posts.
Why do institutions* push formula on normal infants when it is VERY RISKY?
Formula is a starvation diet. It gives kids the equivalent of bread and water right when they are growing the most. Only 25% of the brain is developed at birth in full term infants (40-42 weeks at birth).
Formula is fake food like other procesed food. Formula is extremely deficient. It hardly has any ingredients in it (less than 3 dozen). Breastmilk has thousands of essential ingredients that formula is MISSING. For example, formula has only 2 of the 200 essential fatty acids available in breastmilk. But these are not even human essential fatty acids. They are fake ones that the baby's body has to use energy to convert to a human form! Here is a recent report.
Formula is the first junk food. Do we want our kids to be healthy? Then we know they should not have foods that are out of balance with nature. So we don't want to give them formula. We don't want them to get used to the same flavor day after day (unlike breastmilk). We would be setting them up for eating disorders.
Formula is for cow babies or soy babies, not human babies. Most formulas are made with cow's milk. Why would we want to give a human baby another animal's milk? It is the wrong set and balance of ingredients. If not cow's milk, then soy is in formula. Soy (unless fermented) is terrible for digestive systems, especially in children, and undermines health.
Formula undermines health. Breastmilk is loaded with what is needed for the immune system to develop optimally. Formula has virtually nothing for the immune system.
Formula is linked to lower intelligence and ill health. Lower IQ, greater chances for cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, illnesses throughout life. Is this what we want for our children?
Formula undermines wellbeing. The most important experience for a child is at the breast of the mother. Bonding with a responsive mother is an innoculation against whatever life brings later. Kids who are not breastfed are more depressed--not a surprise since breastmilk has the precursor for serotonin (tryptophan) and has been shown to increase wellbeing.
Babies who react to breastmilk DON'T need formula. They need mom to pay attention to her diet and cut out spices, garlic, dairy or whatever is bothering the child for the time being.
95% of moms with full-term infants can breastfeed successfully. It is ignorant doctors, nurses, family members and the push of pharmaceutical companies that make it seem untrue. NOTE:If you have tried everything possible and it has not worked to improve your milk supply, you might be one of the 5% who cannot breastfeed. Please then in this case don't anguish your baby or yourself any more and use formula. Formula is for such emergencies.
Moms and families: Careful with healthcare providers, hospitals and birthing units. (See the CDC's new report here.) Too many have fallen for the hype from the pharmaceutical companies (who make formula) telling them that formula is good enough for normal babies and best for digestive problems. These are ignorant mistruths. Only 4% of hospitals in the USA are breastfeeding friendly, so you will have to stand strong. The photo is from "ban-the-bags.org" an organization advocating banning free bags from formula companies that hospitals give to new moms.
Moms: Get support for your feeding choice from local support groups or online. There are several groups listed in our last post.
Moms and Dads: Should you feel guilty for feeding your children formula? No. There is nothing you can do about past actions now, so let it go. And it happened to most of us. But now that we know better we can support those who breastfeed and speak out agains widespread ignorance.
"I fed my kids formula and they seem healthy." There are many aspects to raising children that matter for their health and well being, including being responsive to their needs, holding them, playing with them. The data on formula that have been presented this past week are risks--not everyone will suffer from every problem covered (and some problems show up later in life like diabetes). But the risks are there.
"I didn't have enough breastmilk so I had to use formula." New evidence is showing that the mother's body has a sensitive period after birth for setting up the breasts for feeding the infant. It's important to breastfeed on demand through the first days of the child's life so the mom's body sets up enough receptors to provide enough milk as the child grows. Health personnel, again, typically are ignorant and interfere with natural processes. So insist on keeping your baby with you after birth. If you do have this trouble (not enough milk), there are mechanisms for adding more (pumped) breastmilk through a tube when the baby is feeding. You can also "power nurse"--nurse at least 8 times a day or more to get your body to adjust to producing more milk.
What to do when you cannot breastfeed? The World Health Organization discusses several options: "The vast majority of mothers can and should breastfeed, just as the vast majority of infants can and should be breastfed. Only under exceptional circumstances can a mother's milk be considered unsuitable for her infant. For those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative - expressed breast milk from an infant's own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breast-milk substitute fed with a cup, which is a safer method than a feeding bottle and teat - depends on individual circumstances." (from GLOBAL STRATEGY FOR INFANT AND YOUNG CHILD FEEDING)
No breastfeeding = doom? No. Remember, babies need much more than food. They need your prompt responsiveness to their needs, lots of positive touch, loving communication and tenderness. Being a responsive caregiver will help their bodies and brains grow well too.
Why is breastfeeding so hard to start up? U.S. society makes it very difficult for moms to breastfeed. Medical professionals often present formula as an almost equal choice, give babies formula in hospitals unbeknownst to parents, and give moms free samples of formula. Formula companies give pacifiers (a no-no for breastfeeding) that are laced with the flavor of the formula or addictive vanilla. These medical personnel, who should know better, perpetuated misinformation and indirectly push moms to formula feed. Despite rhetoric about supporting families, U.S. society is set up against breastfeeding and provides moms with few resources and little support. Families are more stressed than ever and when moms are stressed it is hard to 'let down' the milk. Moms need time to relax with their children.
It's time to empower moms and families to take back child nutrition! Breastfeeding is normal, natural and necessary. Moms' milk is better than any man-made milk.
- We need to make sure our health agencies and personnel don't undermine breastfeeding (as they are doing now).
- We need to make our societies friendly and supportive of breastfeeding at work and in public places.
- We need to provide supported maternal leave for more than 6 weeks (ideally at least a year), as other industrial societies do.
- We need to put breastmilk banks in every community.
- This is a moral issue because of how much damage is being done to children, society and our future by not breastfeeding.
Everyone should be able to breastfeed or give human breastmilk to their children if they so desire, and they should know the risks if they don't.
* Institutions like hospitals, the field of medicine, pharmaceuticals, toymakers treat formula as normal and natural for all babies.
NOTE: Co-authored with Stephanie Sieswerda and Elizabeth Ledden
POSTS IN THIS SERIES*
Post #1 discusses why you should care about breastfeeding, no matter who you are.
Post #2 discusses assumptions about infant formula that are wrong.
Post #3 discusses myths about infant formula.
Post #4 discusses the TREMENDOUS benefits of breastfeeding.
Post #5 addresses myths about breastfeeding.
**Check out our YouTube video on breastfeeding vs. formula.**
Post #6 discusses real truths about breastfeeding.
Post #7 provides links to resources for breastfeeding.
This is post #8.
Post # 9 responds to critics of the series.