Friday, October 9, 2009

Dr. Sears: A Word About Bottle Feeding

Let me be clear—there is no real substitute for breast milk. It is simply the best food for your baby. It provides all the nourishment they require and builds immunities protecting your baby against developing certain infections to which they will be exposed. Now that I’ve said that, I know some of my patients decide to bottle-feed. If you do please discuss this with your health care professional, and investigate all of the formula alternatives.

Bottle-feeding Index
How Formulas Are Made
Comparison of Formula and Breastmilk
Choosing Formulas
Soy Formula?
Follow-Up Formulas
Comparing Formulas
Lactose-Free Formula
Hypoallergenic Formula
How Much and How Often to Feed
Safe Formula-Feeding Tips
Bottlefeeding Tips
Choosing Nipples
Switching from Formula to Cow's Milk
Bottlefeeding Questions of the day

Using human milk as the nutritional standard, formula manufacturers follow a basic recipe that includes proteins, fats, carbohydrates, vitamins, minerals, and water. They combine various ingredients so that the nutrients in artificial baby milks follow the same rough proportions as human milk. The big difference between formulas is the different sources of these elements – cow's milk, soybeans, or something else. Most formulas are cow's-milk based, meaning that the basic nutritional building blocks of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates are taken from this nutritional base. Cow's milk contains most of the nutrients necessary for adequate infant nutrition, although not in quite the proper proportions. Soybeans are also a ready source of certain nutrients necessary for human nutrition. Formula manufacturers start with the basic nutritional elements in cow's or soy milk and add ingredients until the mixture approximates human milk as closely as possible. They adjust levels of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat and add vitamins and minerals.

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.


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