Myth #2: Infant Formula is Equal to Breast Milk:
I realized when I looked back at last week’s myth post I had forgotten to explain to everyone that my new Friday features are going to be on parenting myths- today specifically will be about the myth that formula feeding is just as good as breastfeeding. Since I have finished my “Things To Do Before Baby” posts I decided this would be a fun topic to write on for a while. If you have any suggestions for topics then feel free to leave a comment and I will consider adding it to my parenting myths lineup.
Breastfeeding vs Formula
Is breastfeeding really best for mother and baby or should I trust the formula companies to provide my baby with the proper nutritional support? I am very strongly opinionated on this topic but not due to ignorance- rather it stems from my professional experience and knowledge as a medical laboratory scientist. No, I am not a doctor and you should always consult your doctor about any medical decisions, but I do know where the American Academy of Pediatrics stands on this great breastfeeding vs formula debate.
Does formula have all of the good ingredients that breastmilk has? Doesn’t breastmilk contain environmental pollutants and possibly certain viruses that formula will not have? Scientifically speaking, formula has not been able to mimic all of the same nutrients that is found in breastmilk but it has come close in recent years. Also, it is possible although highly unlikely to transmit certain viruses through breastmilk, but environmental pollutants will be minuscule (if any) and can be found in formula too. (For more in depth comparison of breast milk vs formula I suggest reading about it on Dr. Sears’ website.)
The exact composition of breast milk varies from day to day. Also, for the first few days postpartum it is composed of essential nutrients and antibodies which will help a newborn to transition from the womb. After those first few days, breastmilk changes to what you would normally expect and is more comparable to formula. As your baby grows the composition of breastmilk changes to match the baby’s specific needs.
The proteins in breastmilk are unique and most easily digested and absorbed in a baby’s immature digestive system. The vitamins, minerals, and fats are in a form that makes them easily absorbed also. (Although breastmilk is lower in iron than formula, the iron is better absorbed from breastmilk.) All of these key ingredients are important and can be found to varying degrees in formula as well as breastmilk, but there are some things that formula companies cannot manufacture- at least not very successfully- the following are some components that differ in breastfeeding vs formula:
Alpha-Lactalbumin– binds with fatty acids and is now believed to have the ability to kill tumor cells (this is being researched right now as a possible treatment for cancer).
Immunoglobulin A (IgA) and G (IgG)– These proteins provide your baby with your immunity, so whatever you are immune to your baby will be immune to as long as the baby keeps receiving those proteins (which can only be successfully passed on to the baby through breastmilk); and you won’t have to worry about getting your baby injected with so many immunizations at too early of an age.
Immune Cells (Leukocytes)– Another way to boost the baby’s immunity is via these amazing cells that cannot be produced in formula because it is a living cell. This is also a reason why it may be dangerous to breastfeed if you are HIV positive, because this nasty virus can hide inside the leukocyte and possibly infect your baby.
Enzymes and Hormones– These don’t survive well through processing of formula so your baby will be lacking them if you choose to formula feed instead of breastfeed.
Environmental Pollutants– Yes, they have been found in breast milk in small quantities according to recent research, but most air quality has much higher levels of these toxins than has been found in breast milk. It should not be a reason to switch to formula instead of breastfeeding.
Formula has been developed as an acceptable alternative to breast milk when the baby is unable to breastfeed for any reason. It is not an equal choice to breastmilk because formula companies have not yet been able to manufacture everything that is found in breast milk, and more amazing properties of breast milk are still being discovered today that formula companies do not yet know to manufacture in formula.
Now, having said that, formula also does not have the possibility of transmitting HIV if you are HIV positive, and it has a lower rate of environmental pollutants unless you happen to receive a contaminated batch (but that is rare). It also lacks immune properties and has to be carefully prepared with sterile water and sterilized bottle parts.
Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding
Breastfeeding is just so much easier, convenient, and relaxing compared to formula feeding. Plus, it doesn’t cost an arm and a leg to give your baby the best nutrition. Plus, you get that special bond from nursing that you will not get by bottle feeding. When my baby is upset or hurt I can calm her by nursing her. To read more about these benefits of breastfeeding check out my previous post on why I chose to breastfeed.
As for the argument that you don’t want to be the only person to feed your baby, I understand and that is why I have a breast pump- to express milk so my husband could feed the baby on occasions too. Raising children is a lot of hard work but that doesn’t mean you should take short cuts when it comes to the important issues like your baby’s health. If you don’t believe me maybe you will believe the American Academy of Pediatrics or read about it on Wikipedia to get a more in depth knowledge before making such an important decision.
If you ever need help in establishing breastfeeding you can always contact the La Leche League and they will gladly help you with any breastfeeding problems, just visit their website for more information. In my opinion on the breastfeeding vs formula debate, breastfeeding wins hands down. But don’t take my word for it, read about infant formula then read about human breast milk on Wikipedia, and learn before you decide. What is your opinion in this controversial breastfeeding vs formula debate?