Guest Post: How Anti-Formula Propaganda Hurts Infants

The following is a guest post from FFF “Antigone”. I don’t know much about homemade formula; I am not convinced that someone feasibly couldn’t come up with a concoction on his/her own that would be nutritionally sound, provided they had the resources, education, and expertise needed to do so – but most of us don’t fulfill those three requirements, which is why I strongly advise using a commercial formula. However, this post isn’t about homemade formula, but a far more dangerous practice: using goats milk or raw milk instead of commercial breastmilk substitutes. Regardless of my (lack of) opinion on homemade formulas, I do know that plain old goats milk is never gonna cut it. I think Antigone makes some great points in this post, and she attacks the subject with the type of evidence-based, hard-science approach we love here on Fearless Formula Feeder. I hope it will provoke some worthwhile discussion….

-The FFF

****

How Anti-Formula Propaganda Harms Infants

by Antigone

Recently, I had first-hand evidence of my theory that anti-formula propaganda convinces women to resort to less safe alternatives when supplementation is necessary or breastfeeding is not possible. When militant lactivists tell women that formula is poison, or that it is equivalent to junk food because it is “processed” “man-made” and “full of chemicals,” don’t be surprised when children who NEED formula when breastfeeding is insufficient or impossible don’t receive it. Instead, they are subjected to arguably higher risks from one or more of the following:

(1) not getting enough to eat, period, because mom is afraid to supplement

(2) informally shared, untested breastmilk from strangers that could contain viruses, prescription medications, and other contaminants

(3) mom’s breastmilk, but with prescription drugs not proven to be safe while breastfeeding

(4) homemade formulas of questionable quality

(5) unaltered milk from other animals, usually goat or cow

A dangerous precedent is being set where women are being led to believe that formula is so caustic and vile a substance, that they must avoid it at all costs, and virtually anything more “natural” must be better. (Although how breastmilk laced with Effexor could be considered more natural is beyond me.) While medical organizations and professionals of any influence advise against replacing breastmilk with anything other than FDA-regulated infant formula, their voices are going unheard in the world of online lactivism and mommy advice. I recently logged on to my cloth diapering forum to find a thread about how raw goat milk would affect a two month old baby’s poop. I was shocked to find many women endorsing raw goat’s milk over formula for feeding newborns and young infants. Here are a few choice quotes (warning: your blood pressure will rise after reading these):

“I’m not willing to use formula since it is more likely to mess up her digestive system and interfere with the absorption of nutrients from breastmilk. Goats milk is much closer to human milk.”

“You say you can’t imagine a doctor sanctioning the use of goats milk in an infant, but I’m sure you have no problem imagining a doctor suggesting conventional formula – and have you read the side of a formula can lately? Not something I’m willing to put in my baby’s body.”

“from what I’ve heard goat’s milk beats formula in nutrition for supplementing…It’s supposed to be easier to digest than formula too.”

“I would give my newborn baby raw goat milk if I had the choice of pumping vs. raw goat milk.”

“I’m shocked by how many people recommend formula over raw goat’s milk. Shows how many people are still fooled by formula companies.”

“Formula is cow’s milk based (unless it is soy). It is loaded with chemicals and other garbage you can’t pronounce. I’d feel much safer with a natural alternative.”

“Raw milk (goat, cow, or sheep) is the next best thing to breastmilk. I get raw milk via cowshare, and it’s the only kind of milk that my daughter gets other than breastmilk.”

“Last I saw, goat’s milk is the closest thing to breastmilk that isn’t laden with chemically man-made vitamins, chemicals, and corn syrup”

“because when supplementing this is the flow chart to nutrition mom’s milk, donated breast milk, goats milk, other formula good job on knowing and deciding on goat milk.”

The Facts

The fact is that goat milk is nowhere near nutritionally comparable to breastmilk. Formula, on the other hand, is designed to mimic the macro- and micronutrient content of breastmilk. This means that formula has about as much protein, carbohydrate, and fat by volume, and similar quantities of vitamins and minerals. Goat milk, on the other hand contains nutrients more appropriate for a developing goat. This page contains a summary of major nutrients in human, cow, and goat milk, per 100 grams of milk, reprinted below. This data can also be verified, and more nutrients compared, by visiting the USDA Nutrient Data Laboratory http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/

Fat (g)

Protein

(g)

Carbohydrate (g)

Calcium (mg)

Phosphorus

(mg)

Vitamin C

(mg)

Human Milk

4.0

1.1

9.5

33

14

5

Cow’s Milk

3.5

3.5

4.9

118

93

1

Goat’s Milk

4.0

3.2

4.6

128

106

1

If we accept human milk as the standard, the ideal food on which infant nutrition should be based, than goat’s milk, similar to cow’s milk, simply has the wrong nutrient balance. While the total fat content is the same, human milk has much more long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (such as DHA and ARA) when compared to goat or cow’s milk. Human milk contains .497 grams of polyunsaturated fatty acids per 100g of milk, compared to .149g in goat milk and .195g in cow milk (data from USDA link above). Polyunsaturated fatty acids have been shown to be important in brain development, which is why they are added to formula.

Goat and cow milk also notably contain triple the protein and less than half the carbohydrate of human milk. Excessive amounts of protein are known to strain kidneys, especially when combined with the excess sodium and other minerals which goat’s milk also contains. This article from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) discusses the serious effects of this dangerous combination:

“Goat’s milk contains 50 mg of sodium and 3.56 g of protein per 100 mL, approximately 3 times that in human milk (17 mg and 1.03 g per 100 mL, respectively).6 The estimated requirements of sodium and protein for infants <6 months old are 100 to 200 mg/day and 9 to 11 g/day, respectively.7 The infant described here was receiving 500 mg/day of sodium and 30 g/day of protein, with a total intake of 32 oz of goat’s milk per day. The immature kidneys in very young infants have difficulty handling the byproducts of foods with a high renal solute load.8 Sodium excretion capacity matures more slowly than glomerular filtration rate and does not attain full capacity until the second year of life.9 Therefore, infants fed fresh goat’s milk are at substantive risk for hypernatremia and azotemia, particularly in the face of dehydration (as in the case described here), which may in turn result in major central nervous system pathology, including diffuse encephalopathy, intraparenchymal hemorrhage, or thromboses10 as manifested in our patient.”

To put this in layman’s terms, hypernatremia is an excess of sodium compared to water in the blood, which appears as severe dehydration. Azotemia is excess waste in the blood due to the kidneys being overloaded and unable to perform their function adequately. These two in turn can lead to brain damage, brain bleeding, or blood clots. The article also observed that metabolic acidosis has been observed in infants fed undiluted goat’s milk. This is an increase in acid levels in the body thus low pH in the blood and tissues, which can lead to coma or death. This study also mentions the link with metabolic acidosis, and states that goat’s milk consumption can lead to cases that appear to be tyrosinaemia type 1, which is an excess of the amino acid tyrosine caused by a genetic inability to break it down. Goat’s milk can’t cause tyrosinaemia, since it is genetic, however the symptoms are similar: failure to thrive, diarrhea, vomiting, jaundice, increased bleeding, and liver and kidney failure.

In addition, Goat’s milk is also deficient in several nutrients when compared to breastmilk, most notably Vitamin C, Folic Acid, and Vitamin B12. In fact the term “goat’s milk anemia” was coined to describe cases in the 1920s and 30s in Europe of infants fed goat’s milk. It was more severe and appeared earlier than anemia found in infants who drink cow’s milk, most likely due to lower B12 than cow’s milk. This article from the Canadian Paediatric Society describes an infant presenting with severe anemia and a murmur due to a diet of exclusive goat’s milk:

“Goat’s milk is known to be deficient in vitamin D, vitamin B12, iron and especially folate. Infants younger than six months of age need 65 μg/day of folate (the recommended daily allowance increases with age). Goat’s milk contains 6 μg/L of folate (breast milk and cow’s milk contain approximately 45 μg/L to 50 μg/L). The infant’s serum folate was less than 1.4 nmol/L (normal 7 nmol/L to 39.7 nmol/L), her serum vitamin B12 was 141 pmol/L (normal 200 pmol/L to 540 pmol/L) and her serum iron level was also low.”

Another issue is that many advocates of giving infants goat’s or cow’s milk also state that the milk must be raw to preserve nutrients. It’s well-documented, however, that unpasteurized milk can contain dangerous bacteria such as toxoplasmosis, brucellosis, and e.coli (link 1-scroll to page 6, link 2). Infants, with their weaker immune systems, are at much greater risk of serious illness or death from ingesting these bacteria.

Goat’s milk is clearly not a suitable replacement for breastmilk or formula. To express that formula is somehow less safe than goat’s milk, or raw goat’s milk at that, is absurd. The science does not support this. Goat’s milk may be “less processed” and “more natural” but that hardly advocates for it when less processing, in this case, makes it less nutritionally complete and less digestible. Even notable breastfeeding supporters such as Kellymom, La Leche League, and Dr. Sears also warn against feeding goat milk to infants as a replacement for formula. As Kellymom’s website states:

“While it’s true that whole goats milk (and whole cow’s milk) was commonly used prior to the advent of infant formulas it is also true that the infant mortality and morbidity rate during the times of such substitutions was very high.”

So why does there seem to be a large number of people with the misperception that formula is actually the worst option for breastmilk replacement? In recent years, breastfeeding advocacy has become more focused on using intensely negative, often hyperbolic language bashing formula. Convinced they can win more flies with vinegar, many lactivists use shame and fear to convince mothers that breastfeeding is the only acceptable option. What then, are women to do when breastfeeding fails, after being told that formula is inadequate, fake, unsafe junk? They look for an alternative. Unfortunately, the risks of these alternatives are not nearly as well-promoted as the so-called risks of formula. A widespread distrust of medical professionals and belief that a stranger on the internet will give better nutritional advice contributes to this problem.

Lactivists claim that their goal is to promote the health of infants and children. But when they say that mothers must breastfeed exclusively at all costs, that formula is poison and must be absolutely avoided, they act contrary to their stated goal. Infants could be seriously harmed in a myriad of ways by parents’ choice not to use formula when it is necessary. Not everyone can breastfeed, and not everyone should breastfeed. Formula is one of the most regulated products in existence. Is it perfect? No. Is it as good as breastmilk*? No. Could it be better? Sure. But let’s not mince words here: it is the only safe substitute for breastmilk. Period.

*from a healthy, well-nourished mother not taking harmful drugs of any kind, and assuming the infant in question is not allergic

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.


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57 thoughts on “Guest Post: How Anti-Formula Propaganda Hurts Infants

  1. I was just trying to explain on a parents' forum why it is not a good idea to give infants milk, be it goat's or cow's, before 1 year of age. The strain to the kidneys is really scary. For what it's worth, goat's milk has been wonderful for my toddler. She was able to transition from her hypoallergenic formula (due to milk protein intolerance) to goat's milk at age 1. But we certainly wouldn't have used it instead of her formula!

  2. Ped #2 was a normal doctor. We could rarely get in to see him, and ended up seeing his colleagues more often. They said they “felt sorry” for me not being able to breastfeed and advocated raw goat's milk. I thought they were crazy. Turns out…they were. They also advocated many other things that I was not comfortable with, including home birth even if you were an hour or more away from a hospital. All in the name of “natural is best”

    It's scary that people have been so duped into the idea that “natural is best” when it often isn't that they end up with an overinflated sense of the pros of natural remedies with an underestimate of the cons. It's scarier when people with letters after their names do this. And all because formula has been demonized when ultimately, it's just food, and in some cases, for any of a plethora of reasons, much better food than breastmilk. I believe infant feeding needs to be a medical decision, and that means that both patients and their health care professionals are held to the standards of a proper risk/benefit analysis.

    This post should be required reading for any naturalist parenting forum.

  3. Interesting and important points here! I wanted to share that I recently spoke with my husbands grandmother, who is 95 and mother of nine kids. She has inverted nipples so could not successfully nursed. She pumped for two months for each of the nine children, then used the recipe for homemade formula given to her by her doctor. All of her kids thrived on the formula she made with milk from the cows on their farm.

  4. I think the whole “YOU know what's best for your baby” thing has gone too far. In terms of personalizing sleep schedules, daily routines and discipline, most parents do figure out what's best for any individual child.

    But becoming a parent does not suddenly confer knowledge, let alone expertise, about nutrition, metabolism, pharmaceuticals, farming practices, environmental science, neurology and the myriad of other areas where some parents assert they know best. These idiots talking about goat's milk have no idea what they are talking about, and they don't seem to realize they have no idea.

  5. Great post.

    This might sound harsh, but I'm saying it anyway. Parents that claim formula is full of chemicals aren't the brightest. If there is anything in a list of formula ingredients they don't recognize or can't pronounce, they are in serious need of an education.

    • Really? Then enlighten me as to what these ingredients are since you are so educated: rganic Nonfat Milk, Organic Vegetable Oils (Palm Or Palm Olein, High Oleic [Safflower Or Sunflower], Coconut Soy), Organic Glucose Syrup Solids, Organic Maltodextrin, And Less Than 1%*, Mortierella Alpine Oil*, Crypthecodinium Cohnii Oil**, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta-carotene, Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol), Vitamin E (dl-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Mixed Tocopherol Concentrate, Vitamin K (Phytonadione), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cyanocobalamin, Niacinamide, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Insitol, Calcium Hydroxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride, Potassium Bicarbonate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Citrate, Taurine, Soy Lecithin, Nucleotides (Andenosine-5′-Monophosphate, Cytidine-5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine-5′- Monophosphate, Disodium Inosine-5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine-5′-Monophosphate). *A SOURCE OR ARACHIDONIC ACID (ARA). **A SOURCE OF DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA)

      • OK, I am a BF’ing mama…. but…. Really? You need to ask this? A LONG list of ingredients does not equate to artificial. I have to agree that the ingredient list is quite basic and easy to understand with basic chemistry and nutritional knowledge.

        Anyone who is savvy on food production, or even interested in natural foods… would have come across these terms and looked for the definition of them….

        Let us enlighten you…

        *Organic Non-fat Milk – Pasteurized Bovine Milk that has had its fat removed. Organic denotes the animal was raised without the use of antibiotics and consumed organic food. Removing the fat allows for production of specific fat levels when adding back into the formula.

        *Organic Vegetable Oils (Palm .. High Oleic …Coconut Soy, etc.) — The expressed oils of vegetables grown without pesticides and NOT GMO (aka Organic). Because you seem to not know….Oleic Acid is a very healthful unsaturated veggie fat.

        *Organic Glucose Syrup Solids – Non-GMO (genetically modified) molecules of glucose, a type of sugar, extracted from any starchy plant grown without pesticides. Glucose is a different molecule from fructose, which is in High-Fructose-Corn-Syrup, so it is unlikely sourced from corn… and if it is, it is organic corn (non gmo, hfcs).

        *Organic Maltodextrin – A sugar molecule that is easily absorbed and closely resembles breast milk’s natural oligosaccharide levels, extracted from a number of organic (pesticide free, non gmo) starchy plants. Maltodextrin is made by using water, not any scary chemicals.

        The following are Less Than 1%*… but they are CLEARLY vitamins. If you have ever had milk, a non-dairy milk, a cereal, a vitamin pill, or even all-purpose flour… then you have consumed a majority of the ones below. Even the most natural of foods come in fortified versions…. Anyway I only describe the first two since they are uncommon (I was vegan for 10 yrs, I know all about veggie sources of omegas)

        Mortierella Alpine Oil* (A SOURCE OF OMEGA 6 FATS), Crypthecodinium Cohnii Oil (SOURCE OF OMEGA 3 FATS)**, Vitamin A Palmitate, Beta-carotene, Vitamin D (Cholecalciferol), Vitamin E (dl-Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate), Mixed Tocopherol Concentrate, Vitamin K (Phytonadione), Ascorbyl Palmitate, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Cyanocobalamin, Niacinamide, Folic Acid, Calcium Pantothenate, Biotin, Ascorbic Acid, Choline Chloride, Insitol, Calcium Hydroxide, Ferrous Sulfate, Zinc Sulfate, Manganese Sulfate, Cupric Sulfate, Magnesium Chloride, Potassium Bicarbonate, Potassium Iodide, Sodium Selenite, Sodium Citrate, Taurine, Soy Lecithin, Nucleotides (Andenosine-5′-Monophosphate, Cytidine-5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine-5′- Monophosphate, Disodium Inosine-5′-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine-5′-Monophosphate). *A SOURCE OR ARACHIDONIC ACID (ARA). **A SOURCE OF DOCOSAHEXAENOIC ACID (DHA)

  6. It takes my breath away that an actual doctor told you to do this. That is freaking scary. Unfortunately a lot of the naturalist parents are unwilling to believe anything that comes from mainstream medicine, and many of them seem to be anti-science. I am generally pretty pro-nature but I am more pro-fact. Several people told me there was research to contradict what I was saying, but they didn't provide any of it and I couldn't find it anywhere. There isn't a whole lot of studies on this topic, but I couldn't find a single fact-based account advocating for using goat's milk for infants. All I could find was internet crackpots who failed to back up any of their claims. There is research that goat's milk is more digestible than cow's milk, especially the fat, although cow's milk fat is not used in infant formula at all, it's nonfat milk + vegetable oils. It's possible that goat's milk could make better formula than cow's milk but I couldn't find any research on that either. There was one study which showed that infants allergic to cow's milk formula were usually allergic to goat's milk formula and another which found that infants fed goat's milk formula grew at the same rate as those fed cow's milk formula.

  7. FFF, thanks for the preface on homemade formula. I really couldn't find much research on homemade formula so that's one reason why I didn't discuss it. Generally the FDA and AAP don't recommend it because there is a ton of room for human error. How do you know how to make an infant formula? How do you know the recipe you found on the internet is okay? I suspect that such recipes range from horrible to decent with many being somewhat adequate but probably lacking in some things. Many of the goat's milk formula recipes call for significantly watering down the goat's milk to diminish the renal solute load, but at that point you have to add a lot of calories, carbs, and fat to get it up to par. And then there's the fact that many infants do better on formula with broken down proteins which you can't do at home. Infants have immature digestive systems so mixing a bunch of whole foods that supposedly has the right nutrient balance may or may not work if they aren't able to digest and absorb all those nutrients. What about quality control for each and every batch? If you make it with raw milk you still have the same risk of infection. I would say that this should only be done under the care of someone who really knows what they are doing, and I'm highly dubious that such formula would be superior to commercial infant formula. But…there's no research on the topic that I could see.

  8. “Goat milk, on the other hand contains nutrients more appropriate for a developing goat.”

    BEST LINE EVER.

    Also, maybe the most obvious line ever.

    Thanks for the great info, Antigone.

    • Well said. Too many mothers are jumping on the nature wagon in haste…not doing any real research, just following advice from other misinformed random followers. This is a recipe for disaster not for any health benefit. I believe formula is best ….straight after pure unmedicated breast milk.

  9. Long time faithful reader here… I feel the link about effexor is a cheap shot, since the amount of drug a baby receives in the womb is nowhere near the one he receives via breastmilk; it's no even comparable. Plus, the mother was on a massive dosage. However I confess you're hitting close to home: I had to start paxil 5 days ago and I'm still exclusively breastfeeding my 5 month old. I would have switched him to formula, but he doesn't accept bottles and I don't have the energy of trying to force him (and, let's face it, I love nursing). I do think formula is a perfectly acceptable alternative to breastmilk, and I do know it's perfectly possible to bond over bottles (I've babysitted a lot, and the moment of the bottle was always a very tender, intimate moment). The criticism of mums who breastfeed on antidepressants made me sad.

  10. By “raw” do they mean “unpasteurized”? Yikes. I was told to avoid unpasteurized milk and even cheeses made with such milk in pregnancy so I imagine that can't be too safe for new babies.

    On the whole natural vs chemical issue, it's sadly common for people to not read ingredient and nutrient lists too closely if they are committed to what they see as one “side,” so for example lots of “natural” bath and body products (KMF, etc) may contain lots of lavender and orange essences but they do also contain sulfonates and other lathering agents just as other soaps do but because people don't have basic literacy about chemicals they assume that somehow they have avoided chemicals. Besides, as a friend of mine likes to say, arsenic is “natural,” and petroleum is “organic,” so…

  11. My favorite thing about it is that “cow's milk is for baby cows; human milk is for baby humans” is one of the common refrains used to promote breastfeeding vs. formula. But formula feeding moms are not feeding their babies straight cow's milk. They are feeding their babies a product that is made from cow's milk but formulated to meet the nutritional needs of baby humans.

  12. I didnt BF because I was on high doses of Effexor and being an SA survivor. I personally think its too risky to BF on any sort of psychotropic drugs and I wouldnt attempt it. It also depends on the dosage. These decisions can only be made between a patient and their doctor. I do however think its dangerous that some BF advocates claim that its ok to BF on just about every sort of psychotropic drug and if your doctor advices you to not BF or cease it they are a quack. One size fits all medicine is more dangerous than a thought out decision on an individual basis.

  13. Stephanie said most of what I wanted to say. Psychiatric drugs do pass through breastmilk. Yes it is in smaller doses. But they are there. Most of the studies have very small sample sizes and mainly confirm that the drug is present in the breastmilk, often present in the baby's blood, but the baby doesn't appear to be affected. We are talking about sample sizes of less than 20. I saw one study with a sample size of 3. There are no longitudinal studies that I have seen to determine if there are long-term effects. My concern would be that it could affect brain development, particularly how the brain processes serotonin. Society in general seems to take a “assume it's safe until proven otherwise” approach. I tend to lean toward “assume it's not safe until proven otherwise.” There are differing opinions among medical experts on whether it is safe to take these drugs while pregnant or breastfeeding. I mainly take issue with the widespread notion that breastfeeding is always best no matter what medication you're on, and that women should ignore their doctor if they say not to breastfeed on medication because formula is so horrible. I think that these decisions should be made between a woman and her doctor with the best available information for risk-benefit analysis. I personally would always choose formula over the risk of passing psychiatric drugs to an infant. But I had a loved one with a rare but serious side effect to a psychiatric drug so I tend to be rather cautious when it comes to their use.

  14. I was dumbfounded when I saw the advocates for goat's milk on one baby forum I used to frequent. This woman was arguing that it would be cheaper than formula. I priced out some goat's milk at the local grocery (you could only buy it by the half-liter).

    NOT cheaper than powdered formula. Not even cheaper than similac or enfamil powder. I t was, perhaps, cheaper than ready to feed.

  15. Wow, this was great. I never knew all of that, although reading around on line I've seen the crazy suggestions. I love reading the science behind it all.

  16. Isn't this why formula was created in the first place? People used to supplement–or completely use–goat or cow's milk. Then they decided to make formula so it could be safer. At least that's what I've read from lots of different sources online.

    Seems to me we're backtracking in society…with trying to be all natural, we're putting our children more at risk (this goes along with the whole not immunizing thing too…different subject altogether). I'm all for breastfeeding if you can, but saying that goat and cow milk is better than formula? That's just wrong on so many levels.

  17. On my mom's group it always bugged me when a breastfeeding mom would take her baby in for weight checks because she thought she might have a low supply and the baby wouldn't be gaining weight properly because mom had a low supply. The doctor would tell her to supplement/supplement and pump etc. so the baby would gain weight.
    and the holier than thou lactivists would say things like “mommy knows best! you don't need to supplement, just pump and hopefully you'll make enough”
    formula is designed to help moms, not hinder breasfeeding.

  18. I have to say I am horrified that anyone is giving their babies 'unprocessed' cows or goats milk.

    I have not heard of it happening here (New Zealand) but I suppose its possible in very extreme 'natural living' communities (not that I know of any…??)

    I also agree that I can see how the 'formula is poison/evil' camp could be influencing people this way – but I would say that this is now the minority, and certainly not the majority of people in positions to help women to breastfeed or formula feed. I have read stories here about how some bottlefeeding mothers have been treated, and am appalled, but would still maintain that this is not the majority.

    I do think parents know their babies best, but as AmyM says, it does not make one an expert in all areas.

    “I believe infant feeding needs to be a medical decision, and that means that both patients and their health care professionals are held to the standards of a proper risk/benefit analysis.”

    Personally, I think bf should be defined as the baseline, but yes, deviations from that in consultation with a HCP to decide on each different individual's needs is absolutely appropriate.

    I would also agree that infant formula made by a reputable company is the only acceptable alternative to human milk – and that is the very reason for its existance!

    I can understand the 'mistrust of health professionals' but only in as much as that I know they aren't infallible, I know they have gaps in their knowledge, but it would probably just drive me to ask more questions of them, or ask for evidence. Some random stranger off the internet isn't a good source of information, for sure. I would want to see information from reputable, evidence backed sources.

    “because when supplementing this is the flow chart to nutrition mom's milk, donated breast milk, goats milk, other formula”

    I don't know where the hell this came from. It looks like a 'chinese whispers' version of the the information from the World Health Organisation, which people often claim 'ranks' milk in order of mothers own milk, donated milk and formula – but when you read it, just lists them as the acceptable ways of feeding a baby.

    I think its great that we are now in a position that we can stand up and ask questions and not necessarily take a health professional's word as gospel, but giving babies goats milk (or unmodified cows milk) is a dangerous practice that definately takes 'natural living' a step too far!

  19. Well said. And it's not just goats' milk that people end up using. E.g., on a Lactivist site I was once horrified to follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mpubjGb1c8U&feature=youtube_gdata_player to a ridiculous scaremongering and totally inaccurate clip about 'the horrible facts on infant formula'. The makers then recommend as a next step a clip on preparing quinoa based baby milk as a natural, vegan, alternative to breastmilk: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8A9_qCl8BY&feature=related . As far as I can tell, the 'inventor' of this milk has no nutritional qualifications, yet in the comments (which include many mums wondering whether they can use it as an alternative to breast milk because of milk supply issues) she says that she's known mums use it from when their babies were 2 or 3 months with no ill effects.
    It makes me so cross about the formula scaremongering that goes on, as babies are being put at risk as a result.

  20. I have breastfed several children while on antidepressants, but I was not offended by this reference. I have always taken Zoloft, which is considered the “safest” option. On the other hand, I'm planning to wean my current nursling in a month or two so that I can take a medication for which breastfeeding is contraindicated.

    I have known women to still be encouraged by medical professionals to breastfeed even while taking more than one medication listed as “contraindicated” by the AAP for use during breastfeeding. This is problematic, in my opinion, and directly goes along with the demonization of formula. Paxil isn't contraindicated for such use, although Zoloft is encouraged. See here for the official view of the AAP: http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/content/124/4/e547.full.pdf

  21. Mary, that is indeed terrifying. I have a bunch of friends who are brand new moms and are dealing with supply issues like I was. I finally made peace with combo feeding, and did it for 10 months. Now she's on formula only (for another week, and we switch her to milk) and she's FINE. Milestones a-go-go, happy, healthy, 95% height and 50% weight. What is this conspiracy theory that formula manufacturers want to poison babies?

    • Because the negative effects are long term. I personally formula feed, but to say “my baby is fine” and he/she is only one is kind of ignorant. There is arsenic, proteins that mimic estrogen and a host of other things in formula that might not affect the baby now, but the adolescent, or adult down the road.

      • My husband and sister-in-law were both exclusively FF. Both are extremely intelligent, healthy and well adjusted (as are many other adults that were FF). Both formula AND breast milk can exposed babies to arsenic (a naturally occurring element) and estrogen mimicking proteins.
        Breast milk is ideal, however commercially prepared (and heavily regulated) formula is a perfectly safe alternative. Comments like “There is arsenic, proteins that mimic estrogen and a host of other things in formula that might not affect the baby now, but the adolescent, or adult down the road.” are exactly the type of fear mongering that scare impressionable parents… I know, I was one of them 2 years ago!

  22. I love the breastfeeding activists who go on and on about how we're the only species to consume animals' milks. To that I say, what about the obligatory news articles that seem to crop up every other week featuring a mother cat that's “adopted” a puppy? Or zoo animals nursing other animals completely not of their species?

    Further, we're also the only species to send one of our own to the moon and make medicines to cure ourselves when we're sick. Does that mean we need to stop all scientific study? Avoid dairy if you wish to your heart's content, I can see some benefit to doing so. But don't tell me that just because animals do something, we need to be the same way.

  23. The natural craze is just that–a craze. I'm all for products that are made without dumping dangerous things into the environment (which often end up in breastmilk) but people lose their heads. Natural is not always best.

  24. It's a veiled slap against FF parents, quite frankly. It's become more fashionable to attack not the FF parents but the formula companies. People read this drivel from breastfeeding websites and then conclude that all formula is evil. And no, this isn't the minority, just about every lactivist blog I encounter has people bashing “the formula companies,” often with no idea that they're the same companies that make their vitamins, painkillers, antibiotics, and other such drugs.

  25. Seriously. If formula were really poison, most of us wouldn't be here, as many of our parents were FFed, and they clearly survived to adulthood and reproduced. And I'd say the majority in my generation were FFed (born in late 70s) and somehow we are still here too. There has never been a report of a baby dropping dead because it ingested formula. If it ingested bleach, sure, but that really IS poison.

    Those formula manufacturers are parents too, and likely many feed their babies formula! If they knew they were manufacturing poison, they certainly wouldn't give it to their children….so there's the survey: ask formula manufacturers what their infants ate. I'm guessing the demographics there will reflect our society at large.

    I want to know where the sickly, fat, stupid, cancerous, ADHD, sociopathic population is, since there should be more of them if the “formula is poison” crowd is right.

  26. OK, if goat's milk is that wonderful food we've all been waiting for, ie a natural, unprocessed and safe alternative to breastmilk,easy to use ( no measuring and mixing with hot water, hurrah!!!) why hasn't anyone started a goat's milk for babies business? Sounds pretty straightforward and achievable. Hmm, maybe evil f****** companies have killed anyone who's tried to do it….

  27. Yikes. I support EBFing if the mom wants to and its not unsafe for that particular mom and/ or baby. But in my unprofessional opinion, underfeeding your baby (because your supply is low and you don't want to give your baby f******, as EllaB called it) can't be safe.

    If you want to try to increase your supply in hopes of no longer needing to supplement, all power to ya. In the meantime, please make sure your baby gets enough to eat. And please use commercial formula and/or SCREENED donor milk.

  28. The reason naturalists, lactivists, etc. are saying raw milk is better is because much of the digestive enzymes are destroyed in pasteurization, therefore making it more difficult to digest. No, formula isn't LITERALLY poison, by no means is it BETTER than breastmilk, in any circumstance, as one reader commented above (way above). There are situations where it is needed. There are sometimes physiological reasons why mothers or their babies can't nurse. And I can tell you, I wouldn't want to exclusively pump–pumping SUCKS! And I'm lucky, I live in Canada, where anyone who works and accumulates enough hours can have a full YEAR of maternity leave. Makes it much easier to breastfeed. I would be devastated to have to return to work after 3 months or be faced with losing my position. Annnnyway….Idk why people who bottle feed are so defensive. One reason so many lactivists hate the formula companies is b/c they market poor quality formula in 3rd world countries. Lots of videos on youtube about it.

    • Thank you for your sane, unemotional, and fair comment. I too am amazed by all the defensiveness here. I just scrolled through about 100 comments, looking for someone who would admit that there are legitimate reasons to criticize current commercial formulas — but that this is not a personal attack on the moms who have used it with their babies.

      I had to supplement with my first child and was horrified by the ingredient lists on even the organic “healthy” brands. Soybean oil, high fructose corn syrup — absolute garbage ingredients. I also could not find one baby formula without soy of some sort in it, which is something that should be avoided by people of any age — but especially babies.

      And you are absolutely correct about formula makers having a shady past of pushing their products in 3rd world countries. Nestle in particular (the makers of Gerber Baby) has a long history of marketing their formula to poor mothers worldwide — mothers who would have otherwise breastfed and cannot actually afford the formula. In many cases this has lead to moms watering down the formula due to the cost, as well as using unclean water to mix them.

      I myself received a Gerber “care pack” in the first hospital I gave birth in, which included a large can of formula.

  29. Ok Lala I have to respond. Breastmilk isnt always the ideal and in some cases formula can be the “superior” way to go. If a woman has HIV, Hep or is on chemo for cancer. As far as formula companies go yes like any company some of their past marketing tatics have been unethical. But these companies also make many of the vitamins and medications that you may or may not use as well.
    The main thing I want to address is your comment that you dont know why people who bottle feed are so defensive. How about because militant lactavists think that we need to “justify” our choice or need to FF. I didnt BF for two reasons Im a sexual assault survivor, the thought of BF repulsed me. Add also I was on medication for depression as result of self assault. I was told that I didnt love my baby enough if I didnt want to BF and give him the “best”, that if I could have sex I could BF, get over and quit making “excuses”. I also was advised by WIC to cease my medications and BF as BF would induce hormones, hence alleviate my depression. When my son was about 7/8 monthes old we were ejected from a playgroup because I gave him a bottle. I was informed it was for BF moms and babies only. One biatch had the nerve to call my son “formula fed spawn”. So if you want an example of why FF moms feel the need to be defensive I just gave you one.

  30. “One reason so many lactivists hate the formula companies is b/c they market poor quality formula in 3rd world countries. Lots of videos on youtube about it. “

    I have bought formula in two separate third world countries and tried to buy better; it is not great but I am extremely grateful it is available and wish it were not so expensive relative to people's incomes. Why on earth one would not want people in the majority of the world to have the same choices that one does escapes me. If we think we have challenges feeding children with all the conveniences of North American life it's not exactly a walk in the park with the household and other labour many women in other countries have to do. Are lactivists pushing for better formula and better education about infant nutrition generally in the third world?

  31. I can't tell you how many people I've run into online who shove that WHO “ranking” list in my face. Aggravates the heck outta me.

  32. I see a curious amount of superiority complex among lactivists toward those “unfortunate” enough to live in a developing country. What, just because they might have a different skin color, system of government, ethnic history, national history, etc., women in developing countries are too dumb to figure out what's best for their families? We have to “protect” them from themselves? By taking away choices that we enjoy? How arrogant. And possibly racist.

    • Racist? Really, you have to go there? No, it’s that companies like Nestle have gone out of their way to promote their product to low-income women who can’t even afford the stuff and who probably could and would have breastfed otherwise. Not to mention, in many cases the containers of formula in various countries aren’t even in their language. So, yes, they are kept “dumb” on how to even use the stuff safely (i.e. using the correct amount of powder; picking the correct stage formula for the age of the child).

      I received a “care pack” from Nestle (aka Gerber) in the hospital, complete with formula, despite the nurses knowing my intention to continue breastfeeding. That lack of ethics by the hospitals is downright creepy, which formula-maker Nestle is facilitating.

      Again, this is NOT an attack on formula-using moms. It’s an attack on the formula companies.

  33. I guess I don't feel that you need to justify it. My niece chose to formula feed both, b/c she was just uncomfortable with breastfeeding. Felt weird when she tried it. And your story is very sad. And you are right, in the case of disease, or chemo, yes, formula would be better than that. I can't understand how BF would cause painful sexual assault flashbacks, b/c it doesn't feel sexual at all. But I've never been sexually assaulted, and I would NEVER judge someone for that choice. And that is RIDICULOUS that you were kicked out of a playgroup for bottle feeding & they even insulted your baby?! Anyway…see, not all lactivists are so judgemental.

  34. Idk if lactivists are pushing for better formula, no, b/c most serious lactivists don't believe there is such a thing as a “good formula”. It's powdered milk, with synthetic vitamins, etc. Mostly what the lactivists are pushing for is better education about breastfeeding, in these 3rd world countries.

  35. Those links are just the kind of thing that drives me up the wall. The first one is just scaremongering for people who don't have a basic understanding of chemistry. Yes let's go over the scary chemical names for vitamins and how the various elements in them may be bad. I mean guys, have you ever heard of this horrible stuff we put in our food, sodium chloride??? Everyone knows chlorine is a poisonous gas. It must be a government conspiracy!! And dihydrogen monoxide, can't get much worse than that. Hydrogen is highly flammable, don't you know? Oh, I love the part when he says folic acid isn't necessary for babies. Um, WTF?? Folate is absolutely essential. As for the quinoa lady – quinoa is a great food, but I'm quite certain that quinoa + water is not even close to replicating the nutrients of breastmilk. It sounds like it would be extremely low in fat, for one thing. It's just scary that people believe this crap and subject their babies to it.

  36. BF can most certainly triggered flashbacks. It happened to me in hospital after dealing with a LC who didnt understand the word NO. BF itself isnt sexual, but for a SA survivor such as myself it was feeling that I wasnt in control of my own body. A rapist takes that away from their victim, rape isnt a sex crime as many think its about power and control. For me to have to subject myself to the demands several times a day to a baby for a unspecified amount of time was too much. Pregnancy was horrible enough for me, but I knew once he was born it would be over. I could have control of my body back and thats what I wanted. For an SA survivor one of the most important aspects of our healing is taking back that power and control that was taken from us. Some moms find that BF is very empowering and they want to do it. Others like myself find it repulsive and see it as being subjugated and to give control of a part of our body to another. My son is now 8, happy and healthy. I dont feel guilty for my choice to FF, Im angry at how I was treated because I know that many moms are under similar pressure to BF even if it may not be the best option for them. It seems the pressure has gotten worse since my son was an infant. Its ridiculous! Just as a woman should be able to discreetly BF in public a woman with a bottle should be allowed the same. I find it rude that anyone thinks because a woman has given birth that her breasts are now public domain. To be told what she must do with them. I find it offencive to even ask a woman if she is BF. Would we go up any other time and ask a woman how she uses or doesnt use parts of her body?

  37. I didn't think the problem was poor quality formulas, but using unscrupulous advertising tactics to sell formula to people who honestly just could not afford it and who did not have a safe water supply.

  38. Well your comment that lactivists dislike formula companies because they “market poor quality formula” suggests it would be better if they marketed good quality formula. We third worlders (in the parts of the world I know) have plenty of information on BFing from extended family (little need for professional lactation consultants when you have all the older women around) and BFing is very much the norm. Except when it doesn't work and children are fed unsafe substitutes

  39. Poor quality formula, often marketed in misleading ways, which imply that formula will make your babies smarter, or that they need the vitamins found in formula. Another issue with pushing formula in poorer countries is the quality of the water it's being mixed with (sometimes). Unsanitary conditions, unsafe water. I'm glad that wherever it is that you are (or have been) that BFing is more the norm. I wish it was like that here.

  40. OK I can agree with you (strongly!) on making misleading claims about formula being better for babies or making them smarter – I support advertising that suggests formula is good for babies but only inasmuch as it approximates breast milk as closely as it can. As for pushing formula in poorer countries and unsanitary water, I think this is a bit of a leftover myth because if you can afford formula (which can cost about $5 a day even if it's the cheapest kind) you probably have access to clean water. Companies don't make money pushing formula to people in subsistence level rural areas.

  41. Not being in control of your body is an issue for SA survivors as well as survivors of certain kinds of diseases/conditions. A cancer survivor, someone with auto-immune disease, someone who has been through the medical wringer for any number of conditions–they all are prone to feeling like they're just not in charge of their bodies.

    Stephanie is right–SA is not about sex, it's about power and control. Anyone who feels a loss of control may find breastfeeding to be not best for her. Anyone who feels forced into it when she already has difficulty with feeling enough control over her body risks exacerbating the trauma of what happened to them. As the old saying goes, if mama ain't happy, ain't no one happy. Depression, anxiety, and more in a parent can be difficult for a child to grow up with.

    All these things need to be taken into account when talking about breastfeeding. This is why I am adamant that “breast is best” is nothing more than lazy, inferior, one-size-fits-all medicine that reduces all women to the same cookie-cutter situation. It doesn't reflect reality and in fact does a lot of women real harm. Breastfeeding is not some competition to see who can hack it, it's about health in general, and yet many lactivists cannot see beyond what they perceive as the benefits of breastfeeding to countenance what others know are the real harms of breastfeeding.

  42. So…the solution to poor quality formula is to force everyone into the same one-size-fits-all solution? Even when they cannot breastfeed? Because they don't fit into your worldview, they deserve to be “punished” with something inferior? If formula is inferior, perhaps it's actually the fault of lactivists who seem all too happy to set women who can't/shouldn't/don't breastfeed up for a fall.

  43. Stephanie-I have to tell you that after reading your first post of this thread here, I am literally in tears at how you were treated, probably most at the fact that someone called your baby “formula fed spawn.” Seriously-what the @#$% is wrong with people???? I can't even imagine what you must have gone through. All in the name of what? Yes, breastfeeding is great and you will get no argument from me that overall and generally speaking it is the better choice. However, I am NOT convinced that it is SO much better that it justifies anything close to the treatment and nonesense that you've described.

    It is my sincere hope that with awareness raised by blogs and forums like this, along with discourse from writings of more people like Hannah Rosin and Joan Wolf, the pendulum will swing sooner rather than later and we will have some semblance of a balance where BOTH breastfeeding and formula feeding (or some combination of the 2) are all ok and the “norm.” By all means, let's encourage and support breastfeeding, but it's not the only way to go and it doesn't have to be all or nothing.

  44. Well I for one thought the comments posted about raw goats milk were hilarious. Seriously who are these women? They need constructive hobbies. I'm gonna make up a fake document that states only using crystal clear water from the Nile River mixed with ox milk from Turkey coupled with the omega 3 pill from the latest infomercial will suffice as an alternative to breast milk. I think the vast majority of breastfeeding moms actually have stuff to do during the day rather than lament what other moms they don't know are doing. We're all just trying to do what's best for our kids. And one last thing: I have YET to hear a famous successful person say: “the reason I am who I am today is because my mommy breastfed me for (insert time length).” still waiting to hear that!

  45. Thank you! I’m in the process of adopting and would love to provide breastmilk to my new baby. I was looking into homemade formula as a natural alternative. From reading this I see I have some more research to do.

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