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Interesting Article on the History of Formula

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, February 20, 2006

The Los Angeles Times had an interesting article over the weekend that discusses the progression of formula from the days of home-made concoctions to the invention of commercial formula in the 20's. It talks about the different trends that created the introduction of new ingredients like iron, nucleotides, DHA and ARA.

It's a well written article, giving facts and information, yet making it clear that despite improvements, breast milk is still superior to anything artificially made. At the same time, it doesn't guilt trip mothers that have to choose formula for their children. Just a good, overall, fact-filled article.

A few interesting points:

Formula companies keep trying to emulate human milk, but the mixture still differs from the real stuff in key ways. "We know a lot about what's in breast milk, but it's hard to replicate all the ingredients," says Dr. Richard J. Deckelbaum, a professor of pediatric nutrition at Columbia University and chairman of the Institute of Medicine's infant formula safety committee.

Those ingredients include, among other things, living cells, hormones, active enzymes and antibodies that fight infection.

Such differences appear to have real health effects. Studies have found that breastfed babies have lower rates of pneumonia, bronchitis, colds, meningitis, urinary tract infections, asthma, ear infections and possibly sudden infant death syndrome.


Also...the following interested me in light of my involvement with the milk banks...

Formulas for preterm babies have also been developed, because babies born prematurely have different nutritional needs than full-term babies. (They need more protein, fat and calcium, for example.) These formulas "have really helped premature babies achieve better weight gain, bone health, and in some cases allows for earlier discharge from neonatal intensive care units," says Erin Feldman, a registered dietitian and board-certified specialist in pediatric nutrition at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center.

In addition, manufacturers have developed specialized formulas for babies with certain illnesses, such as one for babies with cystic fibrosis.


It's true that great strides have been made in the creation of human milk fortifiers designed to help improve the formula that is given to premature infants in the NICU. In fact, there are a few scientists working on a fortifier that's actually created from human milk. That would be a great stride forward.

But what makes me sad is that the article had zero mention of milk banks. Perhaps the author isn't aware of them, or perhaps she didn't think it fit within the context of the article, but based on the tone of the rest of the article, I would have expected the above section to have been me along the lines of "while human donor milk is becoming more readily available, specially developed formulas are being used when supplies are low."

It was an interesting article, but to me, it also really underscored the need to continue educating the public about the availability of milk banks and the need to both donate, and to ask for donor milk when appropriate.

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