To be fair, formula companies have produced milk for babies which, at least on paper, seems to resemble the real thing. Formula is definitely better than it used to be. But on close inspection, what the factories make doesn’t quite measure up to what mom makes. It is nearly impossible for artificial baby milk manufacturers to make a milk with nutrients even close to what mothers’ bodies can make. And these companies’ primary goal is to make a profit, so marketing and manufacturing issues influence what finally gets into the can.
One of our concerns is that even though formula-fed infants appear to grow normally, are they really thriving? Thriving means more than just getting bigger. It means developing to the child’s fullest physical, emotional, and intellectual potential. We just don’t know about all the long-term effects of tampering with Mother Nature – though we do know that there are significant health differences between formula-fed and breastfed infants. Human milk is a live substance containing live white blood cells and immune-fighting substances, and is a dynamic, changing nutritional source, which daily (sometimes hourly) adjusts to meet the individual needs of a growing baby. Formulas are nothing more than a collection of dead nutrients. They do not contain living white cells, digestive enzymes, or immune factors. In terms of human history, they are a new experiment.
Even though the Infant Formula Act passed by Congress in 1985 mandates the Food and Drug Administration to see that formulas contain all the nutrients that babies need, we don’t really know everything there is to know about what babies need. The good news is that formula companies are constantly updating their recipe in order to keep up with new research into infant nutrition. The bad news is that each change in formula is really just a new experiment.
COMPARISON OF BREASTMILK AND FORMULA
|NUTRIENT||BREASTMILK CONTAINS||FORMULA CONTAINS||COMMENT|
||Fat is the most important nutrient in breastmilk; absence of cholesterol and DHA, vital nutrients for growing brains and bodies, may predispose child to adult heart and central nervous system diseases. Leftover unabsorbed fat accounts for unpleasant stools in formula-fed babies.|
||Automatically adjusts to infant’s needs. (e.g., higher in premature infant)|
||Lactose is considered an important carbohydrate for brain development. Studies show the level of lactose in the milk of a species correlates with the size of the brain of that species.|
||When mother is exposed to a germ, she makes antibodies to that germ and gives these antibodies to her infant via her milk.|
|Vitamins and minerals||
||Vitamins and minerals in breastmilk enjoy a higher bioavailability; a greater percentage is absorbed. To compensate, more is added to formula, which makes it harder to digest.|
|Enzymes and Hormones||
||Digestive enzymes promote intestinal health. Hormones contribute to the overall biochemical balance and well-being of baby.|
|Taste||Varies with mother’s diet||Always tastes the same||By taking on the flavor of mother’s diet, breastmilk shapes the tastes of the child to family foods.|
|Cost||$600 a year, extra food for mother||Around $1,200 per year for formula; up to $2,500 a year for hypoallergenic formulas; plus cost of bottles, etc.; plus lost income when baby is ill||>Breastfeeding families save $600 to $2,000 a year, and often much more in medical bills since baby stays healthier; and employed breastfeeding mothers miss less work.|