This article is written by Dr. Jess Hambly, Chiropractor – Neurohealth Chiropractic
We see a lot of newborn bubs here at Neurohealth and a question I often get asked about different brands of formula for bubs. Based on the current information and research available, including that of the World Health Organization, I am definitely an advocate of “breast is best” whenever possible. We know that breast milk is most easily digested by bub, and assuming that Mum doesn’t have too many toxicities of her own, breast milk does a complete job of building and strengthening the immune system until solids are introduced. Breast milk also helps to culture good bacteria in the digestive system during the introduction of solids as well, to help bub absorb the most nutrients from their food. There is simply no formula out there that can substitute the power of breast milk.
However, I am aware that in some cases it is not always possible to feed your child solely on breast milk. These cases are unfortunate, but there are steps you can take to ensure that your bundle of joy is still receiving as high a quality of nutrition as possible. The following advice is the best for your bub if they can’t, for whatever reason, be breast fed.
Formula is often recommended in cases where birth weight is considered to be low. Now be aware that if you have a thriving, growing, engaged child who is considered to be on the low end of the birth weight spectrum but is happily breast feeding, it is ok to hold off on the formula. The birth weight scale is a guide and is different for every child. Birth weight can depend on how much nutrition bub received in utero, as well as how soon the umbilical cord was cut after birth. They may catch up in their own time. If you have a child who is losing weight however, such as when your milk supply cannot meet their demand, then that is a time to make sure your baby’s digestion is assessed by your chiropractor or other healthcare professional and possibly then supplemented with formula.
When looking for formulas there are some key ingredients in many brands that can cause irritation to your child’s developing digestive system. Now at least 60% of our immune system is in our gut, so we need to make sure this is in balance in newborns as an imbalance at an early age can potentially set them up for allergies, skin conditions and a low immune system.
One of the first ingredients I recommend avoiding in any formula is corn starch. This may also be listed as high fructose corn syrup. Lactose (milk sugar), fructose, maltodextrose and glucose are all other forms of sugar in formulas. They are a grain based sugar (in the case of corn starch) with a very high GI, added to formulas to make it more palatable. Unfortunately sugar content this high at a young age can really irritate the good bacteria of the stomach and give the bad bacteria (of which we have a balance of both) more of a chance thrive. This sweetener can also be found in some anti-colic preparations too. Be wary of sugar-free options though, as unfortunately these may contain artificial sweeteners, which are of a chemical nature and known to be carcinogenic. Steer clear of anything containing aspartame and phenylalanine.
Vegetable oils are another good ingredient to avoid. While these are added with the intention of building birth weight, vegetable oils are highly inflammatory and rather than creating healthy bulk are simply overrunning the body with fat cells, in turn causing an inflammatory reaction to the other organs in the body. Research has actually shown that these particular fats may not even lead to a statistically significant increase in healthy weight anyway, as these oils are hard for a new digestive system to break down and often lead to fattier stools. (read Vegetable oil fortified feeds in the nutrition of very low birth weight babies http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1345325).
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying dairy for the first 12 months as it is so allergenic and many formulas have a dairy or lactose base filler. But before a baby can drink cow’s milk in the form of infant formula, it needs to be severely modified. Therefore the protein and mineral content must be reduced and the carbohydrate content increased, usually by adding sugar (Read Cyndi O’Meara’s Breast Feeding Report http://www.changinghabits.com.au/_webapp_985656/FREE_Breastfeeding_Report).
Try and source a goat’s milk or organic formula, as goat’s milk contains proteins very similar to breast milk and is much more easily digested. Be wary of soya containing formulas as these have high levels of phytoestrogens, a plant based growth hormone. Too much oestrogen in the body is quite carcinogenic. Soya found in formulas is often genetically modified as well.
As well as the labeled ingredients, many commercial formulas have been shown to have unintentional contaminants from the packaging and manufacturing process. These can range from carcinogenic and hormone disrupting substances in the packaging, to bacteria such as Salmonella and aflatoxins which have unfortunately been regularly detected in many formulas, and are toxic immuno-suppressants.
When it comes to the health of your child it always pays to be informed. Here are some references for you to read in regards to formula nutrition. Always make an informed choice, and trust your intuition in the face of what may be considered “normal”. Just because it’s common, doesn’t make it normal.
Some other great resources for you to check out
Cyndi O’Meara’s Breast Feeding Report
Vegetable oil Fortified Feeds in the Nutrition of Very Low Birthweight Babies
Dr Jennifer Barham-Floreanni discussing ‘What Foods When” for Babies http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3ZjYPp5lPhE&feature=share