I'll say up front that I am a lactivist (breastfeeding activist). This does not mean that I condemn formula feeding mothers, it just means that I 100% believe that breastmilk is far superior to formula, and I want that fact acknowledged. If people don't continue to promote breastfeeding, the formula companies advertising dollars will mean another generation raised on artificial foods and that's frightening. Babies who are fed formula are at much higher risk for an assortment of ailments including allergies, cancer, diabetes, and infections.
Pediatricians spend much time frightening parents with something like a 1 in 100,000 combined risk from vaccine-preventable diseases when parents question the utility and safety of vaccines. “Would you want to risk the life of your child?” they demand. Yet these very same professionals offer formula samples with the other hand – when the magnitude of health risks associated with the use of formula is 500 times greater.
I have heard the phrase over and over and over again that formula is "just as good" "just as healthy an alternative". It is not! Here is an fantastic article summarizing Dr Linda Folden Palmer's research study "The deadly influence of formula in America". Well worth the read for anyone wanting detailed statistics fully cited and backed by research.
Based on the current U.S. infant death rate of 6.7 and an average breastfeeding rate of 50%, the American infant mortality rate would climb to 9.4 if all infants were formula-fed and would drop to 4.7 if all were breastfed.
The phrase "Breast is Best" has been thrown around liberally to the point no one really pays it much attention anymore. They pay lip service to breastfeeding, all the while still assuming that formula is a low risk alternative. Many parents are well aware of issues such as car seat safety and sleep positioning, but don't realize that breastfeeding is more than "just another neutral lifestyle decision". The AAP (Academy of American Pediatrics) puts its squarely into the same importance rating as those other measures.
Parenting is all about making choices and weighing risks and benefits. Many parents need to make the riskier choice of formula feeding in order to balance other factors that benefit the family. Yet some parents who have lost their children, possibly based on pediatric advice condoning or encouraging formula-feeding, would surely wish that they had been informed of the very real risks related to using formula.Links:
Journal of the American Medical Association
My Attachment Parenting Blog