16 September 2009

Is Formula Deadly?

Is infant formula dangerous to your baby’s health? It’s becoming more and more difficult to hide from the answer: “yes.”

A May 2004 study in the journal Pediatrics, Breastfeeding and the Risk of Postneonatal Death in the United States, reports a 21 percent reduction in death for infants who had ever been breastfed.Infants who were breastfed for any amount for three months of any breastfeeding had death rates 36 percent lower than infants who had less or no breastfeeding at all — that’s 36 percent fewer infant deaths!

If researchers had compared three months of exclusive breastfeeding to no breastfeeding at all, the number would have been closer to 50 percent — the same number as found in my research analysis, The Deadly Influence of Formula in America.

And that’s just in industrialized nations. A large-scale study taking place in poor areas of Ghana, India and Peru in 2005 found a shocking 10.5 times the number of deaths among non-breastfed babies than for those exclusively breastfed. Partially breastfed infants had 2.5 times the risk of death.

Why formula?
Infant formula was designed to be a medical nutritional tool for babies who are unable to breastfeed. Formula does not fully meet the nutritional and immunity needs of infants, leaving their immune systems flailing. An infant’s immune system has three aspects: her own immature, developing immune system; the small component of immunities that passes through the placenta during natural childbirth (and to a lesser degree with premature births and cesarean sections); and the most valuable, living portion that is passed on through mother’s milk on an ongoing basis. Remove any of those components and you take away a vital support structure.

This brings us face to face with the safety and effectiveness of infant formula as a breast milk substitute. Is formula actually as safe as we have been led to believe? In fact, the answer is a resounding “no.” In fact, the use of infant formula doubles the risk of infant death for American babies.

What do the facts say?
While the dangers of formula feeding aren’t something you’re likely to hear in your doctor’s office, the conclusions can be derived through an examination of the available scientific research on infant mortality in the United States and across the world. There are studies showing artificial feeding’s impact on overall infant death rates in both developing and undeveloped countries. While studies offering comparative death rates are not available for industrialized regions, there are numerous studies providing comparative occurrence rates for many illnesses and disorders in the United States and other industrialized nations. Many more reports are available extolling superior survival rates and decreased illness rates among breastfed infants, but only those with solid numbers are useful here. We can assemble the statistics from these studies to build a firm picture of the ratio of infant deaths for U.S. formula-fed babies against those who are breastfed.