Breast Feeding / Formula Feeding
BREAST FEEDING / FORMULA FEEDING
The Truth about Breast-Feeding and Formula-Feeding
The long-running debate between breast-feeding and using formula are consistently in the headlines within the health-focused community. It’s easy to get tangled up in the arguments on what to feed your child because of the common misconceptions and the aggressive formula-industry marketing. How do you establish what’s fact from fiction?
There is a tremendous amount of research on breast milk showing it to be the best form of nutrition for babies. Breast milk consists of the perfect combination of vitamins, protein and fat for proper development and growth. Breast milk is incredibly easy to digest, and contains prebiotics that fights to establish a balanced microbiome. The prebiotics have antibodies and enzymes that are essential for proper immune system development. Although some formulas come very close, this perfect mixture of essential nutrients that a woman's body produces cannot be exactly replicated.
However, breast-feeding is not possible for all women, and for many, the decision to breastfeed is based on their comfort level, medical situation, and income level. In struggling low-income countries, a mother’s decision on breastfeeding can be critical for a child’s survival. Powdered formulas require a sufficient amount of clean water, which is not available to about 700 million people, according to the World Health Organization. If the water is not clean, it can cause serious harm in these early months of development. In under-priviledged communities, mother’s may not have the proper funds to purchase an adequate amount of formula, causing them to dilute the formula to make it last longer. Watered down formula leads to malnourishment, illness and even death. The notion that undernourished women in these countries cannot produce high quality breast milk is a falsity created by formula-industry marketing. Breast milk is of wonderful quality even if a mother is malnourished! Additionally, it’s nearly impossible for women to make an educated choice on how to feed their child when the environment surrounding low-income countries are pushing them to formula feed.
For women medically impaired, suffer from lactation failure or simply decide against it, infant formula is a wonderful alternative. Today, formulas are closer to breast milk than ever before. Formulas contain vitamin D, the only nutrient that breast milk does not produce. Some infant formulas come closer to breast milk and have prebiotics to support the immune system, and DHA and ARA for brain and eye development. For those women who struggle with lactation, we recommend seeing a lactation consultant before switching to formula. At the end of the day - it’s the woman’s decision to decide how she wants to feed her child.
How is Formula Regulated?
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates formula companies because formulas are deemed as a food item. The problem with regulation responsibilities falling into the hands of the FDA is that they are only required to ensure that they provide the necessary nutrients needed for proper development in babies. When it comes to toxicities and chemicals, the FDA is not required to approve infant formulas before they are marketed. Meaning - the only thing that the FDA is controlling is whether or not the formula product meets the nutrient requirements. The common contaminants found in some baby formulas are heavy metals, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, and mercury. The bottom line is formula needs to be chosen carefully, from a brand that practices sustainability and clean ingredient use. So far, we conducted a few of our own testing at Testsharing, testing brands such as Similac, Enfamil, and Mom to Mom. According to our lab results, there were trace amounts of heavy metals found, but no levels deemed as “unsafe” were detected.
The Best Choice is Your Choice
With all the increasing concerns about potential chemicals and pesticides that food is exposed to, choosing organic formulas is a practical option for parents who want to minimize their child’s potential exposure to residues and toxicities. Similar to organic food products, organic formulas have more strict regulation protocols before they enter the marketed, and must go through specific certification practices. They must comply with the National List of Allowed and Prohibited Substances - which means that some preservatives, flavors, and additives found in commercial formulas cannot be in organic formula products.
With the help of an inviting conversation, knowledge about your own body, and the proper education and research, you can find the best course of action for feeding your baby. The truth is, it’s not about breastmilk vs. formula, it’s about what’s best for the mother and the child.