All mammals produce milk for their young and have been nurturing babies at the breast for thousands of years. It has only been in the last 6o years or so that babies have been given the highly ineffective and processed food called “formula” at the expense of breast milk, and we are now in the midst of figuring out how detrimental this practice will become to the next generation. Even though it’s a contentious issue, formula vs breast milk is an inconvenient truth that must be examined.
The stats on breast feeding practices and baby formula
A woman feeding her baby exclusively breast milk for at least three months was done by a little better than 37 percent of the population in 2013, and only 16.4 percent were exclusively breastfeeding at six months, according to the Breastfeeding Report Card distributed by the National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion.
This effectively means that baby formula was introduced in over 60 percent of cases after three months of exclusive breast feeding and after six months nearly 85 percent of babies were now being fed baby formula in some capacity.
With the health consequences of baby formula showing five times the risk of gastroenteritis, twice the risk of developing diabetes, and up to eight times the risk of developing lymphatic cancer, the widespread acceptance of baby formula becomes a very dangerous practice.
Is baby formula the next best choice to breast milk?
Baby formula was never meant to be consumed on the widespread basis that it is today. The idea originated in the 1800s as a way to feed orphans whom otherwise would have starved. In this very narrow context, formula was a lifesaver.
However, formula is now considered a very popular choice. With there being a variety of formulas, there are many options that the baby’s mother can consider depending on the baby’s needs. Using formula, like and in many cases, is the immediate solution for new mothers. However, formula should not even be considered the second choice, let alone the first, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). They recommend, in order of importance:
1. Breast milk from mother
2. Mother’s own milk in cup or bottle
3. Breast milk from a milk bank or wet nurse
4. Formula milk
Perhaps it is time to set up a system that facilitates the implementation of items 1-3 on this prioritized list. However, if you are forced to go to a formula, read this article to make the most informed choice.
Nutritional and cost comparison
Breast milk is natural, “live” food that contains living cells, enzymes, hormones, and antibodies of at least 400 other unique components. It also provides active immunity to protect the baby from disease.
On the other hand, formula is a “dead”, artificial food full of GMOs, refined sugars, hydrogenated fats, and isolated vitamins and minerals that are incredibly difficult to absorb. This is before you even consider the mixing process that may contain toxic tap water, and being heated in a plastic bottle that can expose the baby to hormone altering BPA.
In addition to that, consider the following:
- Breast milk contains appropriate levels of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates along with appropriate enzymes to digest them, whereas baby formula contains incomplete forms of each without the appropriate enzymes in order to absorb each efficiently
- Breast milk contains millions of living white blood cells in every feeding and is rich in immunoglobulins, whereas baby formula has no live white blood cells or any other cells and has no immune benefit
- Breast milk provides active and dynamic protection against infections of all kinds, whereas baby formula provides none of that protection
If that wasn’t enough reason to breastfeed, consider that the cost of baby formula and bottles can be up to $2000 a year and can “cost” you hours each day in preparation. Breast feeding costs your virtually nothing.
The unfortunate reality
Unfortunately, there are some mothers who simply do not produce milk or are otherwise unable to feed their baby the breast milk that was perfectly formulated for them and their developing digestive and immune systems. This article is NOT intended to “shame” mothers who don’t breast feed even though they tried their hearts out, but rather, show expectant mothers their options and encourage those who do have the ability but perhaps not the knowledge, to know how much better breastfeeding really is for their baby.
No mother wants to give their newborn baby a subpar start. So for those that can produce milk, make an unwavering commitment to breast feed your baby. It will save you time, money, and the heartache of potential future illnesses down the road.
For those that can’t, know your options for formula including how to make a good one yourself.
Either way, we wish all mothers the best in the healthy upbringing of their newborn child. It’s not an easy task, but the rewards are well worth it.