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"Yes, I formula fed my son, but..."

I was so uninformed when it came to feeding my new baby. I had my sight set on breastfeeding my son, but with a lack of support and information as a new Mom that dream became a nightmare. It surprises me at the lack of GOOD information out there regarding INFORMED infant feeding. Everywhere you look for information about infant feeding has been infiltrated by formula companies that want to indirectly sell to you or persuade you to purchase their product. Or “lactivists” who shame Mothers that formula feed their babies.


Let me give you a little bit of insight into my journey with formula feeding and my son.


My son, born eagerly 4 weeks early, spent the first 3 days of his life in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). Hooked up to monitors, IVs, and weighted every so often. We wanted to get the f out of there and take our baby home, so the nurse said to formula feed him. “He would be gaining weight quicker if we gave him formula instead of waiting for my breast milk to come.”


Liam gaining weight= take him home sooner.


The NICU nurse said so and she knew what was best for me and my baby. (insert eye roll here)


We had to bring him back because of his jaundice and told once again to give him MORE formula so the jaundice/ bilirubin can be flushed out. I remember he would vomit at every feeding.


Now I know I can look back and realize how much I was overfeeding him. To the point that he was so full, all he could do was puke it out for relief. I share this story with you since this was the first of many many mistakes I made in my formula feeding journey.


These mistakes are learning lessons that I can share with other Moms or Moms-to-be who are looking to understand more about formula. I tell all the Mamas in my FB community that knowledge is power and I want to inform them.


Yes, I formula fed but, I wish I knew:


Commercial brands like Nestle and Similac are creating formulas with money on their mind, not an infant's health.


I remember looking at the back of my son’s formula when he was a baby. The second ingredient was corn syrup.


WATER, CORN SYRUP SOLIDS, PARTIALLY HYDROLYZED MODIFIED MILK INGREDIENTS (SOY), PALM OLEIN OIL, SOY OIL, COCONUT OIL, RICE STARCH, HIGH OLEIC SUNFLOWER OIL, MORTIERELLA ALPINA OIL, CARRAGEENAN, CRYPTHECODINIUM COHNII OIL§, TAURINE, L-CARNITINE, LACTOSE, ASCORBYL PALMITATE, MIXED TOCOPHEROLS, (MAY CONTAIN POTASSIUM HYDROXIDE),” 1)



I didn’t know much about corn syrup until my sister-in-law started talking with me about “Genetically Modified Organism” (GMO). (Thanks sis). I began learning more about GM crops, corn, soy and BIG FOOD Industry.


Here’s the short and sweet scoop of it to get an idea. Genetically Modified Crops were created to feed the masses since our population is constantly growing. I mean if you think of it, it's a brilliant idea, trying to feed people on a larger scale. Unfortunately, these GM crops have their DNA (rDNA) altered. 2) Which means the DNA has been manipulated to become resistant to weather damage or pest infestation. When these crops begin to grow, they are heavily sprayed with pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides to prevent crops from beginning to be destroyed. Basically these crops are resistant to pretty much an apocalypse.


The issue with these GM crops is that 3)

  1. The pesticide and herbicide residue that is sprayed can potentially end up in the final products- corn used in formula.

  2. DNA manipulation in GM crops could potentially alter DNA in humans



What does all of this have to do with infants? Well as we know, infants are MUCH more vulnerable because their body processes aren't developed or matured the way an adult’s body is. This includes the infant's liver, which is where they detox pesticides and other toxins. This means an infant’s body is more likely to store those toxins in their cells and tissues if the liver is overburdened. 4)


Another issue with these crops is that there hasn’t been any longer term OR short term testing or research done to see what the potential effects are on human health.


I know what you’re thinking… why the hell is something like this used in infant formula? That’s because GM products and crops are extremely cheap to use. Cheap products= more money= fat pockets of cash for these companies. And money is always the motive to these big industries NOT health.


Oh, I forget to mention the quality of the dairy that is used in these formulas, but we will discuss that in a further point.



Formula is more difficult for an infant digest:


When it comes to Mom’s milk, she provides enzymes that support the digestion of her milk. Enzymes are little molecules that break the bonds in nutrients like vitamins, minerals and macronutrients, like fats, proteins and carbohydrates. When the bonds in nutrients are broken, it allows the body to absorb and utilize them. These nutrients go to the brain, eyes, tissues, cells, muscles, bones, etc… When these bonds aren’t broken by enzymes or partially broken, the body has no use for them since they are not absorbable, meaning they are pretty much useless to the body. These bonds MUST be broken for the body to be able to use them. Period.


For formula, enzymes are non-existent. This is for a few reasons:


1. In the production of formula, it is heated to kill off any pathogenic bacteria that are looking to cause harm in the body. With high heat or heat in general, enzymes are naturally destroyed because they cannot survive.


2. Companies do not add enzymes in the final product- the formula.


With knowing all of this, digesting formula can sometimes be very difficult for infants. The digestive system becomes overwhelmed and this is when an infant experiences colic, constipation, or rashes.


3. Live antibodies and immune supporting immunoglobulins are not found in formula


These immunoglobulins, AKA antibodies, are a part of the immune system that help protect and destroy pathogenic (dangerous) bacteria or viruses. Unfortunately, formulas don’t contain these essential antibodies. However, this doesn’t mean formula fed babies have a poor immune system, it only means they have very minimal immune support.



4. Nutrients found in breast milk are biologically active and the infant’s body doesn’t need to do much work to activate them. Formula contains only synthetic nutrients that are made in a lab.


When nutrients are in their correct form the body doesn’t need to do much work to break them down to use. Along with the enzymes in Mom’s milk, the baby's body doesn’t need to do much at all. For babes who are formula fed, it takes quite a bit of energy to break down those nutrients since they are not really recognized by the body. Think of it, Mom was doing all the work for 9 month (or however long Mama was pregnant). In those months, Mom digested the food, broke down the nutrients and passed those broken down nutrients in their finest form (given Mom’s digestive system was optimally functioning + Mom consuming whole foods). While the baby absorbed those nutrients, those nutrients were found in their biological active form, therefore this is what the body knows.


Commercial brands of formula use the worst dairy sources:


You learned above that these commercial brands use GMO corn and soy, which is beyond poor quality, I would even go to the extent to say toxic ingredients. So what is stopping these companies from using poor sources of dairy?


This is just speculation however if you consider their only motive is money, why not use cheap dairy as an ingredient that makes them more money?


When I say poor sources of dairy, I’m talking about conventionally farmed dairy. These animals (cows) live in factories where they live pretty much on top of one another, eating their own feces because they are confined to such close spaces.


These animals probably never see the light of day and are bred to be slaves (pretty much). Then these animals are fed grains from GM sources (which they are meant to only consume grass). Grains are meant to fatten them up. They are also fed antibiotics (because they are eating poop and get sick) Sick cows= dead cows= money loss. Then they are fed hormones to either fatten them up or to help them produce more milk.


Since there has been absolutely no testing on long term health effects when using ingredients like conventionally farmed dairy, the health repercussions are unknown. But if there is any chances that:

  1. The antibiotics are a by product in the formula- those antibiotics destroy the good gut bacteria that is meant to protect and infant’s gut and immune system

  2. The hormones are a by product in the formula- these hormones disrupt an infant’s own hormone production.



There are better brands of formula out there:


For those of us who live in North America, the main formulas that are offered and marketed to us are brands that focus mainly on profit, not infant health. Like I mentioned above, these companies like Similac, Enfamil and Nestle source their ingredients from the cheapest and shittiest sources- corn, dairy, soy, added DHA, etc…


But, the beautiful thing is in other countries, specifically Europe, they have a higher standard of quality and testing. Ingredients that are allowed to be used in North America, are in fact banned in Europe- like corn syrup.


There are also quite a few brands like Holle and Hipp that come from Europe that use cow’s milk or goat’s milk sourced from pastured raised organic animals. Keep in mind they tend to be on the pricey side, but when it comes to your infant’s health, this should not be an issue.


Donor breast milk available:


I couldn’t believe this, but there are breast milk banks! How cool is that? These breast milk banks have 4 pillars to ensure this donor breast milk is safe; informed choice, donor screening, safe handling, and pasteurization.


I would 100% choose donor breast milk over formula because:


  • Breast milk is easier digested for a baby

  • Offers baby better proportion of nutrients in the right forms compared to formula, which is one size fits all approach

  • Making homemade formula seems like a lot of work, but so is breastfeeding- time consuming & formula feeding- sterilizing bottles, washing bottles, preparing and heating up bottles


Donor breast milk is often found in hospitals in the NICU to give to preterm babies when their Mamas milk hasn’t come in or Moms are choosing not to breastfeed. However, you can look more into the “Human Milk Banking Association of North America” where you can find out local milk banks for you to use. 5)


If you can not breastfeeding, or use donor milk the next best option is homemade formula:


Yes, you can make your own formula at home that is WAY better than any brand of formula. I’m going to be straight up with you, this process of making homemade formula is time consuming and you will need to source all of the ingredients.


When you do make homemade formula, you MUST follow the recipe to the exact detail and measurement, any change in the recipe can lead to nutrient deficiencies or dehydration. All of the homemade recipes for infant formula can be found at the The Weston A Price Association. 6) These are the only recipes I would consider using.


Formula fed babies are overfed:


I didn’t realize this was possible because I only had one baby, who I formula fed. My friends around me who did have babies also formula fed their little ones. So I didn’t have anything to compare it to. But when I became friends with an amazing woman named Alex (@alexandradoulawellness) who is a Pregnancy and Postpartum Doula that has like freaking 30+ months of breastfeeding experience! I know right! Goddess! I’ve learned so much about breastfeeding from her. Breastfed babies tend to drink 3.5-5.5 oz/feeding.


Dr. Sears states in this article that infants' stomachs are the size of their fists. So offering feedings that are a bit smaller and more frequent are the best way to go! 7)



Unfortunately, I was feeding my son way too much to the point he would get stomach aches and vomit his milk. I didn’t realize this at the time because I was a new Mom, knew absolutely NOTHING, and thought how the hell is this milk filling him. Formula fed babies tend to drink up to 10 oz per feeding (or more) compared to breastfed infants who drink 3-5.5 oz per feedings.


I strongly recommend to clients to start their infant’s feeding with 4 oz. If their baby finishes the bottle, then add ½ oz to their next bottle. If they finish that bottle, add another ½ oz to the next bottle. Continue adding ½ oz every feeding until there is some formula left over. Expect to waste some formula and never force them to finish a bottle. This is when overfeeding happens which affects a baby’ stomach, stomach acid production, enzyme production and it reduces the baby’s overall digestion of the formula.



Overfeeding can lead to reflux or GERD


When babies are overfed on a consistent basis, they begin to experience reflux. Reflux happens because a baby’s stomach acid production has become overwhelmed and is now low. Along with low stomach acid, the valve (esophageal sphincter) between the stomach and esophagus becomes weak and doesn’t function the way it is supposed to.