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This groundbreaking analysis from noted author, health educator and advocate Dr. Linda Folden Palmer is the first time a health expert has published an examination of the available scientific research comparing the death rates of formula-fed and breastfed babies. While the results hold no surprises for breastfeeding educators and advocates, the study may prove to be a rude awakening for the millions of Americans who have bought into the myth that infant formula is a perfectly safe breast milk substitute. The following article was summarized by editors of Natural Family On-line.
Home birth or hospital? Cloth or disposable? Early exposure to large numbers of other children? Extreme or relaxed sanitation? Pets in the house?
The answers to the swirl of questions surrounding the birth of a baby are not simple. There are no overall right or wrong answers. Parenting involves a huge number of choices, starting from before conception and reaching through childhood and beyond.
In many cases, we don’t have the time or energy to investigate and choose from all the available options. We opt for the status quo or simply what seems easiest for our families. Other times, we do not have the luxury of choice; circumstance prevails. Traveling in a car with our children, for instance, is a risk that most of us take because we have little choice.
Still, many major parenting decisions, including the decision to breastfeed or use infant formula, remain conscious choices for most parents. What’s often missing from this decision are the facts. Sure, we’ve all heard that “breast is best”—but what are the solid statistics? Is infant formula the perfectly safe breast milk substitute we’ve been led to believe?
The deadly influence of 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.
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.