Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Baby B'org Food

As I was writing about What is Food?, a few more seemingly innocuous questions arose. First of all, What is the best food for a baby? But also, What is a baby? In other words, How old is a child when he or she is no longer a baby? Assuming that the best food for a baby is mother’s milk, then how and when should the baby be weaned? I think these are all interesting questions and was surprised to find a BBC presentation with discussion of them soon after I started this article. I recommend it here: Is Breast Best Cherry Healey Invetigates.

Nestle and others now make it clear on their websites that breastfeeding is the best option for newborns (at least in the UK and US), which is clearly supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO). But, it’s been a battle to get to this point because in the 1970s, 75% of American women were bottle feeding their newborn infants. Now the statistics have fallen quite a bit to around 25% partly because of the Nestle boycott. However, this appears to be for babies that are newborn up to the age of six months only. And in reality, when many mothers have to go back to work after three months, many start bottle feeding with baby formula not long after that.

Although some cultures breastfeed up to the age of three or four, up to the age of one or two is pretty much acceptable in western cultures. However, what with the taboo of breast feeding in public and mothers having to go back to work, this is rarely the case. Of course, mother’s can express their milk and put it in a bottle, but because of time and convenience, as with meals for the parents and older children in the family, prepared alternatives are often preferred. So I think a little discussion about these alternatives is called for because they are mostly provided for by big corporations.

Since there is an obesity pandemic, my first concern is with the amount of sugar in the mother’s milk substitutes. It has been said that "British children are the gluttons of Europe (link is to a video): From an early age UK youngsters become accustomed to an industrialised, processed, packaged diet, consuming half a kilo of sugary foods a day by age seven, says Felicity Lawrence, author of Eat Your Heart Out" (and Not On the Label).

To be honest, I have difficulty in understanding why anyone would chose to buy formulas with ingredients such as those listed below.

Ingredients of Similac Advance baby formula with iron:

D Nonfat Milk, Lactose, High Oleic Safflower Oil, Soy Oil, Coconut Oil, Whey Protein Concentrate, Less than 2% of: C. Cohnii Oil, M. Alpina Oil, Potassium Citrate, Calcium Carbonate, Ascorbic Acid, Potassium Chloride, Choline Bitartrate, Magnesium Chloride, Choline Chloride, Ferrous Sulfate, Ascorbyl Palmitate, Taurine, M-Inositol, Alpha Tocopheryl Acetate, L-Carnitine, Mixed Tocopherols, Sodium Chloride, Zinc Sulfate, Niacinamide, Calcium Pantothenate, Cupric Sulfate, Vitamin A Palmitate, Thiamine Chloride Hydrochloride, Riboflavin, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Beta-Carotene, Folic Acid, Manganese Sulfate, Phylloquinone, Biotin, Sodium Selenate, Vitamin D3, Cyanocobalamin and Nucleotides (Adenosine5 -Monophosphate, Cytidine 5-Monophosphate, Disodium Guanosine 5-Monophosphate, Disodium Uridine 5-Monophosphate).

I won’t go into a long discussion about what the ingredients actually are. However, even the milk I'd question because who knows where it came from or how it was processed. But I will comment on the second ingredient, lactose, which is sugar from milk. Not only is there lactose in the first ingredient, non-fat milk (2-8%), but more is added, enough to make it the second most prevalent ingredient. It is hard to understand how this chemical ridden sweetened re-formulated milk has been approved as a substitute for mother’s milk. Although this is in the US, there are plenty of other similar products available around the world.

I found some misleading Baby Care Advice online which claimed that infant formula contains a similar amount of lactose to human breast milk. Human breast milk contains around 7% lactose, but on average, infant formulas contain much more or substitute the lactose with other sweeteners.

For babies with fussiness or gas Enfamil Gentlease LIPIL - Infant Formula, Powder Enfamil Gentlease Lipil is recommended by Mead Johnson with a whole slew of claims about why this formula is superior over others. Then I looked at the ingredients list and the primary ingredient is corn syrup solids! No matter what else is in the product, it cannot compensate for the fact that the primary ingredient is basically sugar.  This is a con.

Other Baby Formulas fare no better in composition, including Nestle Good Start Supreme DHA/ARA and Bright Beginnings with DHA/ARA.

Another issue is that baby formulas often come in powders which need to be re-constituted with water. If tap water is used in a fluoridated area, the issues associated with fluoride surface. Fluoride is a known neuro-toxin. Babies that do not have any teeth are certainly not deriving any benefit from the fluoride. As a by the way, in case you live in Peterborough like me, you may have an unacceptable level of pesticide in your drinking water called Metaldehyde which is not due to be resolved until 2015. 

As if on cue, the Chinese are coming to the rescue of those mothers who either can’t or won’t breastfeed their babies but agree that formulas are not a good solution. How about genetically modified cows producing ‘human’ milk instead? All I will say is that we managed for millennia without baby formulas and genetically modified products, and if we were smart, we would return to managing without them.