This means that we should consider formula a drug, which, if one thinks about it, is exactly what it is. It replaces a normal fluid (breastmilk). It is only very superficially like that fluid it replaces. There are known side effects of formula, in the short term, medium term and long term, some quite serious and irreversible. Formula may occasionally be necessary, but so are drugs. In rare cases, formula can be lifesaving, but so can some other drugs.
A drug is, as my pharmacology professor said to us in medical school, a poison or toxin with beneficial side effects. There is much wisdom in that statement. So when a mother decides to feed her baby artificial milk instead of breastfeeding, she is not avoiding the problem of giving toxins to her baby.
In fact, it is amazing how indulgent we are towards formulas. In none of the articles or television programs that bring us the news of toxins in breastmilk, do they ever, in any I have read or heard, talk about toxins in formula. There are toxins in formula. Why would everything on earth be polluted, even the far reaches of the Arctic, but not formula?
Formula is full of heavy metals, including lead, for example, in quantities much higher than breastmilk. And why would pesticides not be present in formula? After all, the cows do eat the grass in the countryside where the fields are sprayed. And soybeans grow there too. Interesting you never read about this in the newspapers.
No they are not and breastfeeding helps to diminish their bad effects.
Here are some facts:
1. Toxins increase the risk of developing some cancers,. True, and the evidence shows that breastfeeding babies have a lower risk of some cancers than artificially fed babies.
2. Toxins may interfere with neurological function and learning abilities. True, and the evidence shows that children who were breastfed do better on neurological and intelligence tests than artificially fed children, and the longer they are breastfed, the better they do.
3. Toxins may interfere with immunity. True, and the evidence shows that infants who are breastfed have better and more mature immunity than artificially fed infants, and that this better immunity carries on much longer than the length of time the infant or child is breastfed.
If you breastfeed your baby, you are doing the best for your baby, and for the world, for that matter. Breastfeeding is very environmentally friendly. Formula feeding pollutes the environment. The fact that there are pollutants in breastmilk can be likened to the situation of the canary in the coal mine. We should be worried about what we are doing to our planet, but this should not lead us to encourage mothers to feed their babies artificially.
Questions? Get Dr. Jack Newman's book The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers.
Jack Newman graduated from the University of Toronto medical school as a pediatrician in 1970. He started the first hospital-based breastfeeding clinic in Canada in 1984 at Toronto's Hospital for Sick Children. He has been a consultant with UNICEF for the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative in Africa, and has published articles on the subject of breastfeeding in Scientific American and several medical journals. Dr. Newman has practiced as a physician in Canada, New Zealand, and South Africa.
Toxins and Infant Feeding, 2009©
Written & revised (under other names) by Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC, 1995-2005©
Revised Jack Newman MD, FRCPC, IBCLC & Edith Kernerman, IBCLC, 2008, 2009©©