Formula Isn't Food
Why are we feeding this crap to our kids?
The headlines are blaring:
“FDA is ‘working around the clock to address baby formula shortage,’ Psaki says” (CNN)
“Baby Formula Shortage: How Much Can You Buy? Here’s What to Know” (NBC5)
“‘I don’t know how my son will survive’: inside the dangerous shortage of specialty formulas” (Politico)
The gist of all these articles is the same: There’s a nationwide shortage of baby formula, partially caused by the voluntary recall of contaminated formula, the FDA’s shutdown of an Abbott Nutrition manufacturing plant, which was found to be producing formula in an unsanitary manner, and supply chain issues.
What none of these stories mentions, however, is that baby formula is not food. Selling formula is a $55 billion industry. And these soul-less companies have only one motivation: to do everything they can to derail a new mom’s ability to breastfeed her baby. They spend millions of dollars to sponsor pediatricians, wine and dine doctors and other healthcare professionals, and to do everything they can to dupe moms into believing that formula is just like breastmilk.
But it’s not. Baby formula is a highly processed powdered artificial food-like substance full of corn syrup solids and harmful additives. Breast milk is delicious. It is the optimal food for a baby’s developing immune system and brain. Artificial milk, on the other hand, tastes disgusting, smells disgusting, and contains disgusting ingredients. Drink down a bottle and see for yourself. Baby formula is not food, and it’s not “optimal nutrition” for babies. In fact, it’s more like poison.
“Insidiously and Persistently” Targeting New Moms
The news industry is shouting from the rooftops about formula supply shortages. But what they’re NOT covering is a much more important news story:
At the end of last month the World Health Organization released a detailed report showing that the artificial milk industry “insidiously and persistently” targets moms at the most vulnerable moments of their lives.
This WHO report, “Scope and impact of digital marketing strategies for promoting breast-milk substitutes,” found that the artificial milk industry:
Uses virtual support groups and baby clubs to market formula to moms.
Pays social media influencers to market formula to moms. These influencers don’t disclose that they’re working for the industry.
Pretends to give moms “breastfeeding advice” in order to … you guessed it … derail breastfeeding.
Sends personalized promotions to newly pregnant women in order to get them not to breastfeed but to use formula once their babies are born. Nine months of advertising, it turns out, is highly effective.
Reaches 229 million users a day, three times as many people as are reached by breastfeeding advocates.
3 Reasons to Hate Infant Formula (there are thousands more but I’m truncating)
Fact: A baby fed infant formula is more likely to die than a baby who is exclusively breastfed.
Fact: Formula-feeding disrupts a baby’s microbiome, which can have lifelong negative health consequences, including putting the child at higher risk of obesity, diabetes, and even cardiovascular diseases later in life.
Fact: Exclusively breastfed babies have higher IQs and fewer attention challenges at age eight than formula-fed babies.
What If You Can’t Breastfeed?
Keep trying: Breastfeeding is natural but that doesn’t mean it’s easy. For many women it is actually quite hard to do, especially at first. Your breasts may be sore and leaky, you may feel awkward and unsure, your nipples may get red and raw. You may even end up with an infection or two, especially if you’re not sleeping well and don’t have time to rest throughout the day. Ask me how I know. Women who suffered from sexual abuse in the past or are experiencing severe postpartum depression may have an even harder time learning to nurse at first.
The solution is not to give the baby a bottle. The solution is to be kind and loving with yourself as you’re learning. Give yourself grace. Like mastering new dance steps, breastfeeding takes time to learn.
Get help, support, and hydration. Don’t turn to the internet for “help” (because, as the WHO report I mentioned above shows, you will think you are calling a breastfeeding hotline when you’re actually calling a formula company salesperson.) Do turn to other moms, family members who nursed their babies, lactation consultants, La Leche League, and good books like the classic The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding and How to Raise a Healthy Child In Spite of Your Doctor. La Leche League has volunteers in almost every town in America who are available 24/7 when you need them. Lactation consultants can come to your home and help you. You may have to pay out of pocket but some hospitals and birth clinics sometimes offer these services for free. If you had a home birth, call your midwife. A good midwife will come over and help you position your baby, and check on you daily until you get the hang of it.
Milk share: When my last baby was born I express-mailed breast milk to a reader who was having trouble nursing her baby (she had a very rare glandular disorder and was not making enough milk). I helped her find other donors as well. Many moms, especially those working outside the home, have freezers full of extra milk that they’re happy to share with moms who are struggling to learn to nurse. You can buy milk from a milk bank, but it’s usually pasteurized and also very expensive. However, it’s not as hard as you might think to find donor milk for free. There are now several global networks of parents sharing breast milk. Check out Human Milk 4 Human Babies.
Make your own: The Weston A. Price Foundation has a recipe for a real food infant formula that you can make yourself. Breastfeeding is by far the best choice. But if you can’t breastfeed or find donor milk, you can make your own. After you whip up a batch, try it. You’ll see that it’s tasty. Because it’s food. My aunt, 75, went back to work when her son was just a few months old. Pumping wasn’t a thing back then. So when she wasn’t there to nurse him, her husband or the babysitter would feed him a bottle of raw goat’s milk.
Jennifer Margulis, Ph.D., is an award-winning journalist and the author of the highly acclaimed book, Your Baby, Your Way, which contains a chapter on breastfeeding called “Bottled Profits.”