Sunday, April 06, 2008

I Don't Get It.

I know I will step on a lot of toes by posting this, which is why I keep my mouth shut on this topic unless a) asked b) the mother/parent I am talking to is in a frame of mind to be receptive to this information and not take it as a personal attack. I NEVER mean the sharing of this information as an attack on anyone: personal or not. This is my rant, my vent. If you don't like what I have to say, then you may read another post or find another blog. It won't bother me any. This is MY place to rant.

I was prompted to write all this because I am pregnant, and as such posting on some pregnancy boards. I've finally had enough of sitting on my fingers and biting my cyber tongue, so I came to MY blog to get this all off of my chest.

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I don't claim to be perfect. In fact, I am far from it. I am a sinner just like every other human being walking the face of the earth today. I have nothing against formula. It was created to be a substitute to sustain a child who is unable to have her mother's milk (note: I will use the gender "her" so keep thing simple, but I am referring to infants of both genders). It was never intended to take the place of mother's milk simply "because." In fact, The World Health Organization (WHO) even states that the use of formula should be limited to a last resort. They recommend:

1) The mother's breast.
2) The mother's milk expressed for baby if the breast is not available or separated
3) If mother's milk is not available, the use of donated milk through milk banks
4) If no human milk is available, then use breast milk substitute.

( - about half way down the page is the quote from the WHO representative).

So, why is it then, when the rest of the world is calling formula "breast milk substitute" are educated women, women holding bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees, making the conscious choice to not even attempt to breast feed? Why are they saying, "well, I know they say breast is best, but I just don't believe there's enough of a difference," or "Well, my other child(ren) was formula fed and s/he is healthy so I just don't believe there's that much of a difference."

Comments like these, especially coming from educated women, makes me want to bang my head into a wall. When I DO present the information on the truths, nay the HAZARDS of formula, they brush it off as "bias" and say that as an LC (Lactation Consultant) I am biased so I'm not a reliable person to get information from. *continue banging head into wall* Let me clear the air, and this common myths, not LIES, about LCs and formula.

I am a Lactation Consultant. I am educated in things that the average person AND DOCTORS do not know. EVERY SCRAP of information that I give out is evidence based, and when asked I will provide the person queering with the exact studies done by IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant, what I am aspiring to be through my work towards my BA in Human Lactation) AND DOCTORS not just in the US, but AROUND THE WORLD!!! So, if I am pulling out study after study (and yes, I have hundreds of pages of studies listed in a book of resources that I consult) done by such a diverse group of people in so many countries, how am I biased or is my information bias? I will not list my personal opinion on a matter when representing myself as an LC unless asked, and never without stating that it is my opinion only, and not yet proven yay or nay through research. Saying that I am biased against formula is like saying that engineer is biased against a piece of equipment that has been proven to be less effective than another piece of equipment through studies and research that said engineer has had no part in.

Using formula to sustain and grow a baby IS A HAZARD!!! Why? I will begin my explanation using simple, more broad, arguments and then become more specific. So site tight if you want to know WHY formula is something to be used not at your own risk, but at the risk of your child.

1) Human babies were designed to be nourished by human milk. When any other baby mammal (such as a kitten, puppy, foal, or dolphin) is separated from it's birth mother, every attempt is made to place that baby with another lactating female of it's own species. Why is this done? Every mammal species makes milk for the very very specific requirements of it's own babies growth and needs.

A baby cow needs to grow very quickly, and needs to be able to run to flee danger. Thus, it's mother's milk is made up of components to enable a baby cow to grow as needed for it's life. It's mother's milk is: 3.7% fat to accommodate rapid growth, 3.4% protein to accommodate it's quick muscular development to flee from danger, 4.8% Lactose, and 0.7% Ash. It requires 47 days to double it's birth weight. (Lawrence, 2005).

A reindeer has needs much the same, but due to it's colder climates it needs to gain much more body fast much quicker and needs to be able to run much faster, much sooner. It's mother's milk is: 16.9% fat, 11.5% protein, 2.8% lactose, and zero ash. It takes 30 days to double it's birth weight. (Lawrence, 2005)

A baby human needs to put on weight to survive any illness it may encounter but rather it needs to develop mentally much more than it needs to develop physically. The components of breast milk are designed to encourage the rapid growth that a human brain undergoes. Our milk is: 3.8% fat, .09% protein, 7.0% lactose, .2% ash. It takes your baby 180 days to double it's 6-8lb birth weight. (Lawrence, 2005)

If you are interested in learning more about this check out the book "Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional" by Lawrence and Lawrence (2005 edition). It has an entire chapter (lengthly chapter, complete with tables and graphs) dedicated just to the biochemical make up of human milk.

2) Formula does not contain living cells that help promote the physical and mental health and development for a baby. For instance, a single drop of breast milk has over 100,000 white blood cells in it. Human milk also contains living stem cells. These are things that formula can not simulate.

3) The intestinal wall of an infant contains villi, little finger like projections. These villi act as filters for the baby's blood stream. The catch the nutritional components of the baby's diet and pass it into the blood stream while passing the waist and allergens and bad aspects on to the intestines to be excreted as waste.

Formula strips away the Villi. This causes the intestinal wall to become porous and allow for allergens to pass into the baby's blood stream. This makes the baby susceptible to developing food allergies. This is especially bad for babies who come from families with a history of food allergies. It takes 6 weeks for these villi to grow back from a single bottle of formula that may be pushed upon the mother in the hospital by well meaning nurses ("But mom, your colostrum isn't enough right now. Your baby will become dehydrated if you don't give her formula." being the most common bit of misinformation given to new mothers by nurses in the hospital). Babies that are fed a diet of nothing but formula are not allowed to regrow the villi and leave their gut in a constant state of attack.

Additionally, the villi is what is involved in the passing the lactose into the blood stream. A human baby needs lots of lactose (high in sugar) to grow; more than any other mammal baby. If the Villi are gone, then pure fat is what is causing baby to grow. This causes extra fat stores in a baby, and what a formula fed baby is more likely to develop Type 1 or Type 2 diabetes than a breast fed baby.

4) Babies that come from families prone to diabetes are more likely to develop diabetes in life if fed infant formula instead of breast milk.

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Now, while I have listed all of the reasons why formula is dangerous to feed your baby, I want to clear something first. I recognize that formula is needed for some babies. Some mothers are "unable" to breast feed. However, I am going to go into a mom being "unable" to breast feed.

Most mothers who do not succeed in breast feeding their babies (I am reluctant to call it "failing" at breast feeding since this is not a test) do so because of any or all of the reasons below.

* They lack a support system - the people that surround a new mother need to be supportive of her choosing to breast feed. It is something that takes much dedication and is rarely accomplished if her husband, mom, mother-in-law, friends, etc. around her are not breast feeding or not supportive of breast feeding. Comments such as "Just give her one bottle, it won't hurt," do not help the situation any. Even worse is when a well meaning mother or mother-in-law tries to undermine the mother or convince the mother to give bottles because she (the mother/MIL) wants to help feed the baby too. When the support of, "Come on! You can do this! You are doing such a wonderful thing for you baby!" and "Come on, just one more feeding/day/week/month/etc. You can do this!" to help encourage mom to reach her mini goals. These are all wonderful things that help a new mother keep going.

* "My milk dried up." or "I didn't make enough milk" is a common argument. Being bombarded with samples of formula from formula companies. The cans for the "occasional" bottle to "give mom a break" are often times the beginning of the end. If mom replaces one feeding at the breast with a bottle of formula, it is telling her body to make one feeding less of milk. That's one feeding she physically won't be able to give her baby, which leads to another feeding from a bottle, then another and another, etc. until her milk has diminished to almost nothing. When combined with someone saying, "Well, you can't make enough milk for you baby," this can be in and of itself the beginning of the end.

* When baby has a problem, and mom is not being supported or seeking advice from a breastfeeding professional (such as a Lactation Consultant or La Leche League leader), or doubts and does not follow the advice of the professional given (or even is given misinformation by a well meaning "professional" such as, "oh, you have to use a nipple shield" being a VERY common one) then the breastfeeding relationship is in peril. Combine it with the free samples on hand, mom doubting herself, and/or the lack of a good support system and their relationship is over before it started.

These are the most common reasons why new moms end up formula feeding. These are all things that are very easily remedied. With the Internet in almost every home, all a mom has to do is goggle a query to find sound, evidence supported, information from sites such as and It is disheartening as an LC to see moms not utilizing these free tools and caving to any of the above road blocks. It is frustrating to see a mom not listen to the LCs and La Leche League leaders around her and rather listen to the dated, often mis-information, given by their mothers.

These are the situations that frustrate me. Not the ones where a woman had a breast reduction and is unable to breast feed. Or the baby was given bottles in the NICU against mother's wishes, and will no longer accept the breast. Formula DOES have it's place. It's place is NOT on the shelves of every store, mailed to new mothers, passed out in diaper bags, and given away at baby showers.

Very little thrills me more then when a mother whose breastfeeding relationship was damaged with her first child comes to me or any other breastfeeding professional and goes on to breastfeed her next/future child(ren). To these mothers, I applaud and hug and cheer.

In short, I wish mothers would stop listening to the lies of the formula companies that "formula is just as good" when scientifically it's proven that it is NOT "just as good." When all the evidence proves that formula is not a good thing for every baby to be raised upon just because it's "there" acting as a rubber crutch to new mothers in a society that normalizes infant feeding with cans of formula, bottles, and artificial nipples. Why can't mothers just listen to their instincts!? Why can't more mothers stand up to these societal lies!?

If you got this far, thank you for reading the rants and raves of a hormonal, pregnant, tired, mother.

(Lawrence and Lawrence (2005). Breastfeding: A Guide for the Medical Professional. p. 107. Elsevier Mosby, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. )

1 comment:

new mom in a small town said...

I was one of those mothers in the hospital whereas when I was knocked out after my c section, they were feeding my baby similac. All the "lactation consultants" were telling me to give up and feed him formula because he was starving and I couldn't bf correctly. BUT with the help of a lactation consultant that was independent of the hospital and perseverance, it paid off and I am still bf my wonderful baby boy almost 7 months to date. Great blog, even if you are a "cranky" pregnant lady. :)