You’re going to be told that your baby is hungry. “Feed me,” the little one will say, reaching for your nipple. That’s when it gets tricky. You’ll be tempted to give in and feed the newborn what their body has evolved to crave— a delicious human milk cocktail of sugar, protein and fat that’s now been distilled through a long line of humans over millennia. But what if there was a better option? For some babies, there is: soy or almond formula instead of cows’ milk or breast milk. Here are 5 things you should know before switching baby formula:
- There is no such thing as baby formula.
The word “formula” has been carefully crafted over the years to appear scientific and neutral, like something a scientist would make up in a lab. It’s an innocuous, bland alternative to “dairy” or “soy” baby formulas that evoke images of babies’ wee-wees or women milking soybeans by hand in ankle-deep buckets. Sure, it’s a marketing ploy, but it works—when we see “baby formula,” we don’t think of cows’ milk (which is what it is) but instead imagine science, nutrients and vitamins that are healthy and safe for our infants.
- Baby formula is not a healthy alternative to human milk.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that all babies be breastfed exclusively for the first six months of life, a recommendation echoed in hospitals and child health clinics around the world as superior to all other foods for growing infants.
- There are risks associated with baby formula—both from the product itself and from being fed a substitute rather than mother’s milk.
One study found that babies were subjected to 153 unnecessary medical procedures due to their use of infant formula during their first year of life, including blood tests, urine tests, injections and hospitalizations. Babies undergoing surgery can also be at increased risk if they are given cow’s milk rather than mother’s milk.
- As many as one in every 10 babies who is formula-fed goes on to develop allergies by his or her first birthday.
What’s more, the kind of allergies they are most likely to develop are less controllable, more annoying and harder to treat than allergies to peanuts or shellfish—and they can result in anaphylactic shock and death if left untreated.
- It’s not just the baby who suffers when you use baby formula; you do too.
Baby formula brands are run by giant corporations who are only concerned with their bottom line. In the United States, their ads insist that you will love the product if you just use it, and are careful to avoid saying anywhere in those ads that they aren’t selling breast milk.
Baby formula is not a healthy alternative to human milk, and it carries risks for both mother and baby. It’s time to stop thinking of formula as just another food and start thinking of it as what it is: cow’s milk.