Formula Feeding Moms Increase Child's Chance of Diabetes?

Jacqueline Burt Cote
27

baby with bottleAt first glance, the results of a recent study look like just one more reason for moms who aren't breastfeeding to feel guilty: "Infant formula is linked to childhood diabetes." But it's not actually such an open-and-shut case. The research showed that babies who already carry the gene pre-disposing them to Type 1 diabetes were less likely to develop symptoms of the disease if they were fed easily digestible "highly hydrolyzed" formula instead of more common, cow's milk-based formulas. That's not quite as incriminating as "formula linked to diabetes," now is it?

The way the results of this study are being presented is troublesome for two reasons. First, this is a prime example of our society's readiness to demonize non-nursing moms at any given opportunity, just another nonsensical "mommy wars" strategy along the lines of the ongoing Working Mom vs. SAHM debate. The "if you don't breastfeed, you're hurting your kid" accusation does nothing to address the actual problem here, which brings me to my second point: Clearly formula companies aren't doing right by babies or moms. Most formulas on the market are made from cow's milk. Because infants aren't physically ready to digest cow's milk until after their first birthdays, the protein in the formula is altered. But is it altered enough? If highly or "extensively" hydrolyzed formulas are known to be easier to digest (pediatricians also recommend this type of formula for babies with colic) and can even stave off serious diseases like Type 1 diabetes, maybe the protein in all types of formula needs to meet the same standard.

Whatever the solution is, I'm certain it doesn't involve pointing still more fingers at moms who are most likely doing the best they can.

Do you think we need to lay off formula-feeding moms?


Image via Abigail Batchelder/Flickr

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