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Last week on face book, I posted regarding my frustration about a formula pamphlet I found.  The pamphlet was put out by a formula company and had been left in the NICU where I work, along with a sample bottle of formula.  I found the pamphlet offensive because it compared breast milk and formula in regards to such things as intact proteins and DHA/ARA content.  Of course, the formula was touted as being superior because the proteins it contained were partially broken-down (cow's milk protein, I might add) and breast milk's proteins were intact.  The DHA/ARA content of  the formula was slightly higher than the breast milk. 

In regards to point one: Comparing breast milk proteins to factory or laboratory broken-down cow's milk formula proteins is an apples to oranges comparison.  It seems obvious that breaking down cow's milk proteins (intended for baby cows, not baby infants) is theoretically a better idea than utilizing completely intact cow's milk proteins.

In regards to the second point  comparing DHA/ARA content: Who cares if the formula has an infentesimal amount more than breast milk?  Breast milk's content is tailed to the specific needs of each baby-made to suit the infant or child perfectly.  Quite a different case from the algae or fish-derived DHA/ARA contained in formula.  And, who's to say that a tiny amount more DHA/ARA makes this cow's milk-derived, partially broken-down protein formula superior to human milk?

Can you tell that this formula pamphlet frustrated me?  I posted about this on face book and said nothing more than that, that the comparisons frustrated me when the attempt was made to make breast milk look inferior to a formula.  A friend became very defensive and stated that perhaps the point was to lessen the guilt a mother feels when she is unable to or chooses not to nurse.  She said that she had found breastfeeding very difficult and had quit after two and four months with her sons. Further, she stated that she wishes it were "as easy for her as some moms make it look."  Because I care about my friend and saw no point to offending her, I refrained comment.  However, truth be told, I have not found breastfeeding to be easy.  Not with this baby, not with my previous two.  I nursed the previous two to at least a year and plan to do the same with Sammy.  But, here's what I've dealt with just with this baby: recurrent plugs up until he was 7 months old-some times as many as a plug each week.  Mastitis, not once but twice.  Food intolerances-I have not been able to eat milk, soy, egg, or nuts for most of the time I have nursed him.  Low supply-I have struggled to make enough milk when I pump away from my baby.  While I may not have true low supply, I do not respond well to the pump.  This means I have to pump very often, take herbs to boost supply, and be sure to drink adequate water.  None of this has been particularly easy.  Here's what I have to say about it, though.  It's worth it!  I love my baby more than anything.  This year or so of nursing him is only the beginning of the sacrifices I will make for him because he is my child and I value him above all else. No matter how much the formula companies would have us believe that they can come close with claims such as "Our closest formula to breast milk," they have and will continue to fall far short.  Breast milk-nature's perfect and intended food for human infants.

An exerpt from the Journal of Human Lactation:



more than 190 different fatty acids

not just DHA and ARA


immune factors

that work together to boost your baby’s

immune system


that help your baby digest your milk.

growth factors and hormones

that help your baby

grow and develop properly

specific antibodies

against germs that you’ve been exposed to, so your baby is protected against them.


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Mar. 12, 2010 at 10:15 PM

The added DHA/ARA added to formula is under review by the FDA right now. It causes chronic diarrhea, stomach upset and intestinal distress. Scary stuff! It's is made using algae... YUCK.

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Mar. 12, 2010 at 11:33 PM

quick responce to randi02, the algea used in actually healthy stuff. That being said, I am a breastfeeding momma. I have had to supplement about a bottle a day becasue I cannont pump often enough to give her enough bottles because I have one side that will only give up to one ounse while the other will give 5-8 depending on the anount of sleep and water I've had. I had to d othis at 9 months for my ds and strted at 5 for my dd (I got to have him home for hte summer when he started needed more and I won't be able to be home all day with her again for acoule more months). So yes, breastfeeding is hard. Formula is not as good and should not try to make itself sound better. Good for you for voicing your opinion Heidi (and for being kind to your friend) I feel guilty the days  I can't get enough milk for her to have at school so she has to have more than one (any, really) formula.

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Mar. 13, 2010 at 12:43 AM

This is a great post, thank you. 

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Mar. 13, 2010 at 4:01 PM

I agree about that algae--like sushi? Guess what, those "seaweed" wrappers are actually algae, which is a healthy, nutrient-rich food for children and adults. Not for infants. Most people don't realize that. It's particularly good for vegetarians.

I totally agree that breastfeeding is hard and I think you may have just inspired me for my own journal. I don't like nursing, never have, but I'm not doing it for ME. There are times where it's peaceful and happy, but more times, I'm just trying to distract myself through another feeding. I don't get those happy hormone floods. I feel sad when other people talk about "that special bond" that only happens during nursing. But you know what else is hard? Being a parent. Anyone who signed up thinking it would be easy was deluded. And taking shortcuts like feeding your infant bottles or ignoring them crying in a crib is just going to make other difficulties even harder and make you more likely to take the "easier" choice that isn't better for your kid because that's what you've learned to do.

Less than 2% of women don't make enough milk to exclusively breastfeed. That doesn't mean they shouldn't breastfeed at all, just that they need to supplement. And even that can be done at the breast now. And less than 5% can't do that for other reasons (mastectomy, medications, psychological trauma, etc.). But the number of mothers who bottle feed is closer to 40% that goes up the closer to a year you get :( The number of women who nurse to the reccommended 2 year minimum is only like 12%. But those who even make it half way (one year) is only like 35% :( So all of those women have a reason to be proud--out of the 93%-95% that should have nursed that long, they were the ones who did.

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Mar. 13, 2010 at 7:31 PM

Full text of the Journal of Human Lactation article if anyone is interested:

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Mar. 16, 2010 at 7:13 PM

Yes, breastfeeding is hard! I had to work at it with my daughter, and now with my son! We are currently fighting thrush! When we were doing the initial yeast die off (symptoms get worse before they get better) he was cluster nursing for a growth spurt. He nurse constantly for 2 days while it felt like someone was holding a lighter under my nipples! But we made it!

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Mar. 17, 2010 at 11:55 PM

Just wanted to say that the algae used in formula is NOT the same as you would find in something like sushi.

It is fermented algae and fungus being cultured in a lab using something called Hexane. It is NOTHING like the natural source DHA/ARA found in breastmilk, and it's making babies sick. Hexane is a known neurotoxin, and has been linked to many cancers and other illnesses.

Once the babies are taken off of the enriched formula, most of their symptoms stop immediately. That alone speaks volumes!

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