I recently read an article by Fitness Reloaded titled “8 Reasons Why Breastfeeding is Overhyped.” This article makes mothers who have struggled and failed to breastfeed feel better about their struggle. It also brings up an important issue that mothers who failed to breastfeed often feel guilty, can enter into depression, and ashamed of their inability to breastfeed. In my experience, many mothers who struggled to breastfeed but failed, end up believing that breastmilk isn’t all that great anyway and justify their decision to give formula. Formula is life-saving in many situations,
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves and start claiming that “Breastmilk ISN’T the best” and that “Formula is JUST AS GOOD.”
These kinds of statements are false and passed around frequently to soothe mothers with the inability to breastfeed.
Here’s my rebuttal to Fitness Reloaded‘s article. The author’s logic is completely backwards, treating formula as the norm and breastfeeding as something that needs to prove its worth. Here’s your wake-up call: Formula is a NEW INVENTION, made within the last two centuries. The ingredients have been changing and improving, trying to properly mimic breast milk. With it seemingly always updating and changing, new FDA rules have been put into place. It is up to formula companies to prove that it is just as good as breast milk, since this is something they want to SELL to you. Even though formula is relatively new on the scene, especially in comparison with breastfeeding, the use of infant formula to replace breastfeeding is on the rise.
“The [FDA] agency said breastfeeding is strongly recommended for newborns but that 25 percent of infants start out using formula. By three months, two-thirds of infants rely on formula for all or part of their nutrition.” -Jalonick reports for the Huffingtonpost
I struggled to breastfeed. Breastfeeding was so painful that every time my daughter latched on, it felt like sharp shooting pains up my shoulders, neck and into my head. I remember crying almost every time I fed her. My daughter’s tongue tie and lip tie weren’t diagnosed until about 2 weeks old and they weren’t cut until she was 4 weeks old. She lost 10% of her birth weight within the first week and didn’t start gaining weight until she was 3 weeks old! After the tongue tie and lip tie cut, the pain went away immediately and I was able to continue breastfeeding even now at 18 months old!
However, many mothers who struggle aren’t able to establish breastfeeding and many of them feel guilty or even shamed by others for not breastfeeding. In a previous article “Why Most Women Can’t Breastfeed,” I explain why this is so (it’s due to society’s failure to support). Mothers who are unable to breastfeed shouldn’t feel ashamed, but they should pursue to find the best food for their baby–breast milk. With today’s global access to donor milk, the first solution to the inability to breastfeed SHOUDN’T be formula! According to the World Health Organization (WHO)’s Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, it recommends:
- Milk from own mother by breastfeeding,
- Milk from own mother, expressed,
- Milk from a wet-nurse, or
- Milk from a milk bank, or
- Breastmilk substitute fed by cup
1. THE SCIENCE IS NOT CONCLUSIVE THAT FORMULA IS “JUST AS GOOD” AS BREAST MILK. Research history is flooded with studies showing breast milk is best. Breast milk is natural and what humans babies have been fed since the beginning of our existence. Formula is an effort at mimicking and replacing breast milk for when infants are not able to access breast milk. Studies that use formula as the ‘standard’ trying to disprove that breast milk is “better for you” are getting it completely backwards. Breast milk is the standard and it’s time for the researchers to try to prove that formula is up to the breast milk standard.
2. FORMULA FED BABIES ARE NOT PROVEN TO BE HEALTHIER. With increasing studies on the micro biome, gut bacteria and gut health, formula has undigestible ingredients that can damage the gut. Also, a study has found that mothers who formula-feed are more likely to give infants solid food too early, which leads to more gut-damaging effects, which leads to issues with immunity. Even studies which show breastfed babies have “higher IQs” are reporting their data wrong: they should state that formula-fed babies have LOWER IQs. And instead of reporting that breastfed babies have LOWER risk of cancer, they should be reporting that formula-fed babies have HIGHER risk of cancer like this ad below (read text in red)!
3. FORMULA IS DEPENDENT UPON GOOD WATER, PROPER MIXING AMOUNTS, CORRECT TEMPERATURES AND MORE. Let’s not pretend that formula’s actually easier. Imagine the baby is crying at 3:00am again, and you have to get out of bed and make a bottle, but before you can make it, you have to sterilise it because maybe they’re all dirty and you’ve been too exhausted to wash them or run the dishwasher. Then you have to heat up the water/formula mix, making sure you’re using the correct proportions. It’s the middle of the night, you don’t want to make a racket in the kitchen, but you’re so groggy that you make up the house anyway. Breastfeeding, especially if you are co-sleeping, is so much easier, and you don’t even need to get out of bed!
4. FORMULA HAS ONLY BEEN CONSIDERED “FOOD” SINCE ITS INVENTION IN 1865. Please read up on the history of formula to see how many problems were associated with “dry nursing.” Just because advertisers, formula companies, medical establishments, and the internet say formula is safe; they keep changing the ingredients of its complex nature so that we cannot know the true safety of modern-day formula until it is tested years later. Researchers today are vigorously trying to pinpoint the reason for the rise in autism, cancers, and autoimmune disorders and many of them have found answers in the western diet of processed foods. Organic eating and living have risen and this trend doesn’t seem to be going away. Formula is a highly-processed food, and very little of it is derived naturally, without processing. Is the dehydrated cow’s milk from an organic grass-fed hormone-free cow? Check to see if you’re is on this list.
Also, breast milk does NOT required supplementation. If the mother is eating high-nutrient foods and has a lot of vitamin D and etc, the baby does not need to receive supplementation. It is due to the terrible decline in nutrient-rich foods that mothers eat that may be causing a decline in certain vitamins in babies. Another major problem with added vitamins in formula is we are finding the synthetic form of folate, folic acid, is causing more harm than good.
5. BREAST MILK IS ALMOST ALWAYS READILY AVAILABLE, ESPECIALLY WITH DONATION BANKS AND WET NURSES FOR STRUGGLING MOTHERS. The concern I have with saying formula is ‘just as good’ as breast milk when it is not, is that mothers will be more inclined to give up on their breastfeeding journey and switch the formula. This study shows how even one bottle of formula too early may disrupt the gut lining. Women need to have a strong desire to breastfeed, convinced by the data of formula’s obvious superiority, have social support from family and friends, and get expert help. If mothers have genuine low supply or inability to breathed, access to breast milk is still a better option than switching to formula. With our technology-savvy society, there are many ways to get donor milk or even to find local wet nurses. You don’t have to breastfeed your baby in order for your baby have breast milk.
6. BREASTFEEDING IS NORMAL. Breastfeeding has been the standard since the very beginning. Alternatives to breastfeeding have always been considered in extreme circumstances, in cases of emergency, in which formula is GREAT and can save lives! However, the overuse of formula is adding to the general decline of global health. Breast milk is and has always been the perfect food for babies and should not be replaced with formula unless of extreme life-or-death circumstances.
7. BREASTFEEDING IN PUBLIC IS THE NORM IN MANY SOCIETIES AND SHOULD BE IN OURS. Some women may have difficulty breastfeeding in public. This is a valid reason to breastfeed in private or to ensure that a woman has access to private breastfeeding rooms. Like most things in life, you get better at it as you do it; so the more you get comfortable breastfeeding your baby behind closed doors, the more you’ll be able to breastfeed in public. Our society sees breasts as sexual; however, most women I see breastfeeding are very discreet and aren’t putting their breasts on display. The West has become less and less in tune with the way our bodies were designed to give birth naturally and to feed our babies naturally. Advertising campaigns and formula companies have won the people over if you have a fitness advisor telling people the “ills” of breastfeeding. Here’s a fun account of breastfeeding experiences all over the world.
8. BREASTFEEDING IS MUCH LESS EXPENSIVE THAN FORMULA FEEDING, AND IS OFTENTIMES FREE. The average baby’s formula for his first year is at least £1,000! Breastfeeding, which is recommended for exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months, and then continuing to 2 years and beyond truly costs nothing. To say that breastfeeding requires a breast pump and bottles is extremely misleading. It’s another one of those things society is convincing people to get before the baby arrives. I wish I hadn’t gotten a breast pump (which was covered by my insurance at 100% anyway) because the stress of pumping, when hardly anything was coming out, and then trying to feed it to my baby via a bottle with her screaming at me because she just wanted the breast was incredibly hard to bear. No one should have to. You don’t need to breastfeed if you can be home or have baby with you wherever you go. If you are going back to work, then a good breast pump is an excellent way to keep giving your baby the perfect food, and they only cost about £150!
Fitness Reloaded seems to think that how we value our time is a good reason to formula-feed instead of breastfeed. She claims to be a breastfeeding mother, so this is hard for me to understand. All mothers who chose to breastfeed have expressed their love of the quality cuddle time with their babes. Of course, it gets taxing at times, but no breastfeeding mother I’ve met would say their time would be more valuable doing something else.
Parents want to feel good about their choices; however, this doesn’t make breastfeeding inferior to formula. Breastfeeding is still the best, the most natural and normal way to feed an infant and young child. Just because women struggle to breastfeed and feel guilty about it doesn’t change the fact that it is a task worthy to be pursued. So, Fitness Reloaded, please stop trying to convince mothers to choose formula over breastfeeding. Most of the time, the Hardest Choices are the Best Choices, and Breastfeeding is one of them.