Editor’s note: CHEK Faculty Member Angie Chek, a certified nutritionist with a B.A. in Biology and the mother of a healthy little boy, often receives questions from her clients about challenging issues they face in raising their children in an unhealthy world.
From time to time, we’ll share some of Angie’s insights based on questions she receives on general topics in this space. If you have questions for Angie, feel free to send her an email at editor at chekinstitute. info.
Hey Angie: Wondered if you could give me any insights or places to go to learn more about baby formula. My grandson is seven months old. He was breastfed for five months then moved to baby formula. His skin is very dry, and his doctors and the hospital aren’t helping.
My daughter is adamant the baby formula she feeds him 100 percent gluten-free and dairy-free. I wondered if you knew of any milk alternative, as I can see your son is gorgeous and beaming with health.
Thanks for your kind words on Mana. I only do breast milk with my son because, as nature has it, it’s the best stuff on the planet! I took a breastfeeding course when I was pregnant and learned so many cool things that I would like to share with you.
First, the bumps that form on the areolas when a woman is pregnant are there for a reason! They help in detecting what is present in the baby’s saliva. They tell the breast what macronutrients the baby needs. Then, Mom’s body will create a specific nutrient cocktail for baby. The nutrient content of the milk can change from feeding to feeding, based on baby’s needs.
It also picks up on what pathogens are present in the baby’s mouth. This information is passed to Mom’s body where antibodies are created and sent back to the baby via breast milk.
Dr. Katie Hinde, an associate professor who works at Arizona State University’s Biodesign Institute, has an interesting theory on how babies get this natural boost in their immune systems: Baby backwash. Here’s a 2015 excerpt from The Stranger that explains this natural process.
“According to Hinde, when a baby suckles at its mother’s breast, a vacuum is created. Within that vacuum, the infant’s saliva is sucked back into the mother’s nipple, where receptors in her mammary gland read its signals. This ‘baby spit backwash,’ as she delightfully describes it, contains information about the baby’s immune status. Everything scientists know about physiology indicates that baby spit backwash is one of the ways that breast milk adjusts its immunological composition. If the mammary gland receptors detect the presence of pathogens, they compel the mother’s body to produce antibodies to fight it, and those antibodies travel through breast milk back into the baby’s body, where they target the infection.”
For a more scientific explanation, including a link to the 2004 study that first discovered baby backwash and another that tracked leukocytes in breast milk, check out this article from Science News.
So as you can see, there really isn’t any substitute for mother’s milk. Understandably, there are medical reasons why some mothers can’t breastfeed their babies. In this case, choosing the best formula is a really important concern.
Here are things you and your daughter should be looking for:
- Non-GMO: You don’t want any genetically-modified ingredients in your baby’s formula. GMOs are known to cause digestive distress.
- Organic: If it’s organic, it won’t have GMOs in it. Plus, it will be free of any pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides and other chemicals that can get into baby formula from the farming process.
- Probiotics: A mother’s breast milk is naturally high in probiotics — immune-building good bacteria — which are important in building a healthy gut. Some formulas don’t contain any beneficial bacteria, so find one that has a few strains.
- DHA: This omega-3 fat, an essential structural component for your baby’s brain and eyes, is naturally found in breast milk and is necessary for your baby’s immune and nervous systems to fully develop.
- Soy Free: Lactose-intolerant babies are often fed soy, but try to stay away from it, if possible. Soy is known to cause hormonal imbalances and thyroid problems. Genistein, a plant estrogen found in soy, seems to be the reason for hormonal disturbances that are linked to human developmental issues. Goitrogens are also found in soy and lead to depressed thyroid function. Another issue with soy is that it contains phytic acid which blocks the absorption of essential minerals.
- Low in Sugar: Typically, many infant formulas are more than 50 percent sugar, 43 percent being corn syrup solids, which means they are also high in fructose. In fact, “There is no way that a baby should be consuming any corn syrup whatsoever, and the fact that infant formulas are able to be marketed as nutritious for babies when they’re loaded with corn syrup is incredibly deceptive,” advises Joseph Mercola.
If you want to make your own homemade formula, I recommend following this recipe Dr. Mercola shared from the Weston A. Price Foundation.
Another option for quality milk is to find a milk donor. The La Leche League has some guidelines on milk sharing.
Many hospitals are now offering this service too, but keep in mind that many companies are pasteurizing the milk – which kills off the bad bacteria but also the good bacteria – making it a dead food!
Unfortunately, I have yet to see an infant formula that I can recommend. But using the guidelines above, I hope that you can make a more informed decision about the formula you choose.