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The Formula Decision

The Formula Decision




When a mother considers giving formula to her baby,
she needs to balance many bits of information,

and fit them into her family.
Here are some of the pieces worth considering:


• Formula is not to be used without good reason.  It causes abnormal changes in a young baby’s intestines – changes that last for several weeks after a single bottle.  A single dose of formula before about 6 months of age can trigger allergies that might have been avoided, and increases the risk of diabetes, colitis, and other illnesses.  Despite reassuring advertising, formula is not “almost” human milk, and even one use has consequences.


• Smell some formula.  Taste it.  Under a microscope, formula looks…white.  Human milk is full of dots, blots, and blobs.  It actually teems with life, like a tiny city with one manufacturing goal:  the baby’s health.  And the taste?  Melted ice cream!


• Babies need to eat.  If a baby 1) isn’t thriving on breastfeeding alone, and enough extra human milk isn’t available – either 2) through the mother expressing her own milk or 3) from human milk donors – then commercial formulas are considered the fourth best milk source.  Babies need to eat.


• Some day, our milk banks will be large enough, and insurance coverage will be good enough, that every baby can receive human milk, whether or not he breastfeeds.  Until then, formula does have a necessary place for some babies.


• Call a breastfeeding specialist before giving formula to a young baby.  There may be a surprisingly simple way to avoid exposure.


• The healthiest, brightest children in the world are those who nursed for about 6 months with no other foods or drinks, and who continued to nurse well into toddlerhood or beyond.


• Most adults today were formula-fed, and we’re leading bright, healthy, active lives.


• We also have more vision problems, obesity, allergies, intestinal problems, colds and flu, dental problems, diabetes, heart problems, and cancer than normal.  And we’re a few IQ points lower than we would have been if we had been breastfed.


• If formula is used, the older the baby is when it’s introduced, the better he’ll be able to handle it and the less it will interfere with long-term health or with easy, happy nursing.


• Even a little breastmilk or breastfeeding is better than none, for as long as you can provide it.


No two families balance all this the same.  When you’ve made a decision that feels right for you, it is right for you, no matter what decision another family makes.  


Diane Wiessinger, MS, IBCLC  www.normalfed.com

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