I cannot count how many mothers have said, “My mother fed me formula and I grew just fine.” No argument there. But is growth the only outcome any of us are hoping for? Before you give your baby formula, consider that you are:
… buying into the myth that formula is “almost as good.”
For years, formula manufacturers have been selling us on the idea that giving your baby formula is nearly as good as breastfeeding. Yet, formula is not even in the ballpark.
A mother’s milk is a miracle substance. It provides more than nutrition — it provides living human cells! Through her milk, a mother provides a “remote control” immune system for her baby, one that is highly responsive to the germs in their shared environment. But infant formula cannot do that.
Infant formula is “almost as good” as a mother’s own milk in the same way that a 1-carat perfect cubic zirconia may be “almost as good” as a 1-carat perfect diamond, or a Rolls-Royce is “almost as good” as a Volkswagen. Their basic appearance and purpose are the same, but that’s about where the similarities end.
… giving your baby less than the best.
In the 1970s, Derrick Jelliffe said, “Breast is best”! By now, it’s a fact, not an opinion.There are piles of scientific studies showing the superiority of human milk for human babies.
Don’t believe me? C’mon. Be brave! Download and read this tome by Ip and colleagues: who report,
“We screened over 9,000 abstracts. Forty-three primary studies on infant health outcomes, 43 primary studies on maternal health outcomes, and 29 systematic reviews or meta-analyses that covered approximately 400 individual studies were included in this review. We found that a history of breastfeeding was associated with a reduction in the risk of acute otitis media, non-specific gastroenteritis, severe lower respiratory tract infections, atopic dermatitis, asthma (young children), obesity, type 1 and 2 diabetes, childhood leukemia, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and necrotizing enterocolitis.”
And that paragraph addresses only the “baby” aspect! They also reported how breastfeeding mothers are protected against diseases, too.
It may be uncomfortable to hear this. But if you’re giving your human baby something other than human milk, including infant formula, you are giving him less than the best that you have available.
… disempowering yourself and your body.
For decades, I’ve heard the concern that we shouldn’t talk about breastfeeding, out of concern for “those women who can’t breastfeed.”
Unquestionably, there are mothers who cannot breastfeed. There are also mothers who have four kidneys, one arm, and bifurcated uteri. However, they produce and pass urine, pick up and carry items and babies, and conceive and bear children. With rare exceptions, women can breastfeed.
Nearly all who say they “can’t” breastfeed are lacking either the internal motivation or the external support — or both. It may be negative feedback from others, labor practices that get breastfeeding off to a bad start, lack of confidence, or any plenty of other circumstances that undercut breastfeeding. But in the vast majority of cases it isn’t that the mother’s body can’t make milk.
… empowering Big Business to create your child’s growth and ill-being.
That’s right, I said “ill-being.” Remember, the outcome we’re looking for here is not just growth. It’s not even health in early human development. We’re talking lifelong health here, folks.
And, yes it may very well be that even one bottle of infant formula can make a difference, and you want to do all that you can to make sure your baby’s microbiome has the long-term benefits.
… trusting the FDA to control formula safety and efficacy (when maybe you shouldn’t).
You may, like so many other parents, believe that infant formula is completely safe, and that it is put through rigorous testing by the FDA before it can be fed to babies. That’s not the case.
The FDA doesn’t test infant formula before it hits the market. The agency does establish guidelines for manufacturers, but it relies heavily on industry self-regulation. There are problems with this system, as I discussed with special guest Dr. George Kent.
So just think about it before you give your baby formula.
If you want to bring better health to the next generation, share this post with new parents to share the importance of breastfeeding!
Marie, you mentioned that “labor practices” may influence a babies inability to breastfeed or ,at least, get them off to a bad start. Would you mind elaborating on this?
Wow! What a loaded question! I could probably come up with a half-dozen or more posts to answer that question! But in general, I’d say the “labor practices” that impact breastfeeding success could be categorized as
(a) practices that alter hormonal function,
(b) medicated labors,
(c) practices that restrict the mother’s ability to be in control of her own body OR her own decision-making, and
(d) practices that are associated with increased likelihood of assistive or operative delivery or birth trauma.
Studies suggest that there is some relationship between synthetic oxytocin inductions and decreased breastfeeding initiation and continuation. And, an astounding cohort study by Marin and colleagues showed that primitive reflexes (e.g., rooting, etc.) were diminished in infants whose mothers had had a Pitocin induction.
Medicated labors are controversial and their effects on breastfeeding—oh, so controversial! But I think there is general agreement that analgesics given in in labor cross the blood brain barrier, AND that having epidural analgesia results in poor pushing efforts, which is a set-up for an assistive or operative birth. Donning my flak jacket, I’m going to suggest hypnosis as one possible alternative.
Restricting mothers to bed or to a horizontal position has repeatedly been associated with assistive or operative deliveries. I know this from having read dozens of studies, as well as seeing it in clinical practice many, many times. In turn, such deliveries lead to all of the practical problems associated with breastfeeding in the early days. I would urge mothers to consider walking, dancing for labor/birth, and using waterbirth as much as possible.
Any practices that are associated with birth trauma can impact breastfeeding. Even something like an amniotomy which deprives the fetus of the “cushion” for his skull, which is then associated with caput succedaneum, and possibly cephalhematoma and more. I think these kids have a headache, which is likely to explain some of the “reluctant nurser” stories we see. I address this birth trauma question much deeper in my new course.
Those are just a few examples.
My passion for labor/delivery issues has not faded in more than 40 years. I also believe that until we can normalize the labor/birth processes, we will have a tough time increasing breastfeeding initiation and continuation.
Thank you for the question! I am truly grateful to have a chance to expound on this very important topic.