Category Archives: Baby food

Breastmilk vs. infant formula: the never-ending discussion

Breastmilk vs infant formula

Breastmilk vs infant formula - click on the image to view the full document on the California Department of Public Health website

Just a few days ago I ran across an online discussion in which a mom blurted out that infant formula was “just as good as breastmilk”, since it contains the same nutrients. She wasn’t able to breastfeed her baby because of the medication she was taking, and thought formula worked just fine. In a way, she’s absolutely correct. Infant formula does what it’s supposed to do: it feeds babies with the basic proper nutrients and helps them grow. And for mothers who have physical limitations to nursing, formula can be a life saver.

The truth is, 90% of mothers don’t have these limitations, yet only 75% of them choose to breastfeed after birth. The numbers trickle down quickly and only about 25% of moms still breastfeed after six months. This is sad news because even though breastmilk and infant formula share many similar nutrients, breastmilk offers many more valuable ingredients that will never make it into industrially-processed formula (see chart on the right).

I think all moms who have breastfed their babies for a year or more will tell you the same. Yes, nursing is a tough habit to pick up. It does take a lot of practice, for both mom and baby. It does require commitment and huge amounts of support, especially from your partner, your family, nurses and pediatricians. Breastfeeding is a challenge, but one that women around the world have taken on for tens of thousands of years. And breastfeeding is usually cheaper than formula. A mother will spend a few hundred dollars in extra food for herself and possibly a breastpump, but it doesn’t compare to the average $1500 spent on infant formula for the first year.

With infant formula manufacturing companies heavily marketing their products (after all, they do make billions of dollars from it yearly!), 80% of hospitals releasing new moms with formula samples in their diaper bags, and an overall lack of education and support, making the choice to breastfeed is an uphill battle. And honestly, it shouldn’t be this difficult to do what our bodies were meant to do. But in 2011 it seems to be harder than ever.

If you’ve nursed your own babies and believe in the value of breastmilk, look around you and see who could use your help. Sometimes, one highly supportive person is all it takes to put a new mom on the right track.

As Mother Theresa once said, “Never worry about numbers. Help one person at a time, and always start with the person nearest you.”

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Why is breastfeeding not considered a medical necessity?

With the current US administration undertaking the reform of healthcare in this past year, including eliminating pre-existing condition clauses meant to deny coverage, you’d think the US would be making progress towards supporting breastfeeding too. Well, it seems that is not yet the case… Even though some laws have been passed to allow more women to breastfeed in public, get a dedicated place to pump at work and get some unpaid breaks to do so, there is still a long way to go. One big sign that our government doesn’t believe in the “higher powers” of breastmilk? A breastpump is still not tax deductible, whether it is a manual or an electric breast pump.

Most US companies offer flexible spending accounts to their employees, allowing them to pay for their medical expenses with pre-tax dollars. Doctor co-pays, prescription co-pays, hospital bills and most dental procedures are covered. Breastpumps? Nope. I see why the IRS would be worried of opening Pandora’s box if breastpumps were a tax-deductible purchase. Moms who can’t breastfeed or decide not to breastfeed would complain that infant formula is a medical necessity in their case and that it should also be tax deductible. I bet the infant formula manufacturers constantly lobby Congress to get it on the list! But the issue would then be to wonder, is manufactured formula the same as breastmilk, when most of us know that both foods are not, and just can’t be the equal.

Why should the IRS consider breastmilk a medical necessity, deemed worthy of a tax exemption? Because liquid gold has been shown in many studies to:

– reduce your baby’s risk to catch many illnesses, or prevent them from getting as sick
– be more gentle on your baby’s digestive system
– can prevent your baby from developing food allergies
– contain growth factors that ensure the best development of your baby’s organs
– may boost your child’s intelligence (who doesn’t like that reason?)
– may protect your child from obesity
– offers plenty of health benefits to mom too!

I previously made my own list of the 10 things people don’t tell you about breastfeeding, but the list above has a little more scientific value, in case you needed that!

Medela breast pump, Pump in Style

Breastmilk still provides the most complete and optimal mix of nutrients, fluids and calories only a human being can provide to another. And a breast pump will help a mom continue to breastfeed her baby even after she returns to work. Using a breast pump, a mom doesn’t have to make a hard choice between breastmilk or formula, working or staying at home. With most breast pumps ranging from $100 to almost $300, a tax break of 10 to 20% would be nice. I was lucky enough to get my Medela Pump in Style from a family member and I loved it, using it several times a day for over a year for each of my boys. However most insurance companies don’t cover the cost or subsidize the purchase of breastpumps. Again, they don’t consider it a medical necessity.

To all of the health insurance companies and the IRS, I’d like to ask: why is Viagra only requires a co-pay and is tax deductible (= medical necessity) but a breastpump isn’t??? My guess is that the IRS and the insurance companies are run by older men, instead of real moms. Sometimes, I really feel that our boobs are underappreciated for what they can really do. I hope one day I get to see a change in our corporate world and government, and for someone to stand up and acknowledge that “breastmilk feeds life”. Liquid gold it is!

What’s your personal take on this issue?

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Abbott recalls some Similac brand powder infant formulas

Abbott recalls Similac powder infant formula

Abbott recalls Similac powder infant formula

I have no idea why I received Similac’s baby powder formula recall letter in the mail earlier this week. I have never used or bought Similac infant formula so I’m not sure where they got my address and why they would think I’m a Similac user. My boys are two and a half and four years old by the way, way past formula age! My guess is that Similac got my contact information from the hospital where I had my first child, since they kindly donated Similac samples on my way out the door (read my post on Breastfeeding – a tale of two hospitals for more on that topic). Or the birth record County Office has sold my information to a number of third parties. That wouldn’t be a surprise since the California DMV already does sell driver contact information to third parties to round up the numbers (and don’t ask to opt out, because it’s not an option!).

This recall doesn’t affect me but it may affect you or someone you know, so please get the word around. Unless you signed to receive recall notices on the US FDA website, you may not hear about such recalls.

Apparently, some small beetles may have made their way into the cans of formula during the manufacturing process. We all know that insects sometimes manage to appear into our processed food (yummy crunch!), but for baby formulas, it’s not only gross, it’s also unsafe, since little babies’ intestinal tracks may get irritated from the foreign food elements.

For more information on this Similar recall, visit the Similac recall web page to identify the lot numbers that are affected and what you need to do if you’re one of the unlucky ones. We always hear that breast is best, but I’ve never been given the “bug” reason before!

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