We all know breast is best when it comes to feeding our babies. This is just fact and not a statement to make anyone feel bad. Formula was created to feed babies when mom isn't going to breastfeed for whatever reason. We shouldn't rag on moms who go the formula route, either. It's also a fact that not every single mom can breastfeed. What we should all agree on is that formula needs to be better, safer for babies. Because what we have now isn't good enough and has been proven to be toxic to some infants. This is the saddest fact. A recent study revealed that the digestion of formula can be so toxic it can lead to cellular death, also known as cytotoxicity, and could cause a baby to die.
Instead of panicking, we need to do something. I have some ideas. Formula can be especially dangerous for premature babies because they aren't fully developed yet at birth. And what's so heartbreaking is that many times when a woman has a preemie, her body sometimes doesn't produce enough milk.
The stress of having a preterm baby isn't good for milk production, plus many moms have preemies because they get sick during pregnancy, which could also make breastfeeding challenging. So we need to figure out why some pregnant women are getting sick, coming down with preeclampsia and other ailments that put their pregnancy at risk. That could prevent many preterm babies and help more women carry to full-term.
This is also a good reason why no one should ever schedule an induction for an early delivery.
We've known that preemies who are fed formula are more likely to develop cellular damage in their intestines, what they call necrotizing enterocolitis. It's the leading cause of death in preterm babies, but they never knew why it happened to formula fed babies and not breastfed babies. Now they believe they do. It's the free fatty acids in formula that is toxic for some, and essentially damages the cell membranes of premature babies and infants with compromised health. The damage happens within five minutes of digestion, which is frightening. Right away, when a preemie has formula, there is cellular death, and that could lead to big problems and, in some babies, death. Healthy and full-term babies seem to have a barrier in their intestines that prevent this when digesting formula. Breast milk, when digested, has a component to it that appears to prevent cytotoxicity.
This should also make us realize how sensitive our babies' bodies are, particularly their intestines, and this is why we should wait to introduce solids until at least 6 months.
Now, knowing this, it will put even more pressure on moms to breastfeed. And that could be both good and bad. Good because some who didn't even want to try nursing their baby would give it a shot. Bad because of the stress. The mom guilt. The what if. Which is exactly why we have to fight for better formula or, better yet, more human milk banks so babies can get mama's milk from another mama. We need better and more accessible ways for moms who can and are willing to donate their breastmilk to be able to do so. And until our breastmilk donor banks are overflowing with breastmilk to feed all the babies that need it, we need to develop a formula that poses less risk and doesn't kill off cells, and harm our babies.
So what do we need to do? Keep pregnant women healthy, find cure for preeclampsia. Breastfeed if we can. Give support to moms who need it. Donate breastmilk if you can. Demand safer formula. This is a tough to-do list, but our lives and our babies' lives are worth it.
What do you think of these findings? Will you demand safer formula?
Image via Markus Reinhardt/Flickr