Breast milk is a natural food, with many nutrients contained in each drop. It is the original traditional food for babies.
All indigenous people have foods from the natural world which sustained them before contact with Europeans. Some indigenous communities are still able to gather and eat traditional foods. However, in the United States, as part of the relocation of indigenous people to reservations, the commodity foods were introduced. These commodity foods are very different from the natural foods the people were accustomed to eating, have less nutritional value, and have been part of the cause of increased disease processes such as diabetes and obesity.
Artificial baby milk, also known as formula, can contribute to the poor health of babies when used for non-medical reasons, because it is not a natural food and has a different composition and fewer nutrients than breast milk. It is a baby “commodity food”- being an inferior substitute for human mother’s milk.
The dominate culture has normalized artificial breast milk with out evaluating the consequences. In the recent past, the Medical community has promoted it as an equal alternative to breast milk. The formula companies have had a strong influence through advertising “formula” being based on science, as well as allowing women to know exactly how much their child is receiving, responding to mother’s concerns about not having enough breast milk.
Breast feeding science is developing at a rapid pace. In addition to looking at the benefits of breastfeeding we need to be educating mothers, families and communities about the risk they take when children are not breastfed.
Risks of Not Breastfeeding for the Mother
- Increased risk of breast cancer, reproductive cancers, diabetes and osteoporosis
- Possible disruption of maternal-infant bonding behavior with subsequent risk of child abuse
- Maternal obesity
- Hinders post partum uterine contractions and involution
- Additional visits to Provider with sick baby/ time lost at work
- Financial cost of formula
- Increased risk of shorter pregnancy intervals
Risks of Not Breastfeeding for the Baby
- Changes in intestinal tract which allow for increased risk of infection
- Increased risk of diabetes and obesity
- Allergies and respiratory ailments
- Increased risk of sudden infant death
- Challenges in attachment behavior
- Problems with jaw development
- Bottle mouth- tooth decay
- Speech problems/ Visual problems
- May become a picky eater; does not learn variety of tastes from formula
- Danger of manufacturing errors and formula recall
Risk to Society
- Increased cost of government programs i.e. WIC and food stamps
- Public Health care cost increased i.e. increased chronic illness
- Special needs programs i.e. hearing, vision, speech problems
- Children missing school due to illness
- Increased pregnancy rates
- More waste in landfill i.e. formula cans
- Factory created pollution from production of artificial breast milk
- Increased absenteeism in the work place
The Risks Of Not Breastfeeding for Mothers and Infants. Stube, A (2009)Obstetrics and Gynecology, 2009 fall; 2(4): 221-231)
"Just One Bottle Won’t Hurt—Or Will It?” by Marsha Walker, RN, IBCLC