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Should Mothers Breastfeed or Use Formula? Readers Respond!

Reader feedback to the article Should New Mothers Breastfeed or Be Encouraged to Give Infants Formula? from 8/31/05 was overwhelming and pointed to one definite conclusion: the battle lines are clearly drawn, with the infant formula manufacturers on one side promoting the benefits and sale of their product, and virtually everyone from mothers to independent health experts on the other side advocating the extreme importance of breastfeeding.

Some responses were completely opposed to formula: "Definitely should breastfeed! No formula at all."

Breast Feeding

"Breast is best ! No formula made can come close to what your body makes for your baby." - Reader Marsha Doula

Some reiterated that there are circumstances where formula is necessary: "Breast is Best! Unless allergies are involved, go for the breast."

Others made their point with some succinct humor: "Mothers milk is made for their babies. Cows milk is made for calves, goat milk is for their kids and soybean milk is made for ???"

Considering and discussing these issues and, if you believe it is important enough, sharing your thoughts with others, is how the seeds of change are sown. So thank you to ALL who took the time to share their thoughts; if you know of anyone who could benefit from the article above and these comments, please pass it on to them as well!

While we could not possibly reprint all the comments we received - and there were MANY excellent ones -- here is just a sampling that you may find interesting.

Breastfeeding Vs. Formula: Reader's Respond

I believe the benefits of breastfeeding, for the mother and child, far outweigh those of bottle-feeding. My daughter, who breastfed the longest, (exactly 3 yrs) is the healthiest and happiest of my 3 children. My other 2 children went about 21 months. We saved $ and my children rarely went to a doctor, except for well check-ups.
   -- Cynthia Lara Rosenberg, TX

Of course mothers should breast feed if they are able - this IS the natural way to feed a baby. Formulas can never compete as they are full of chemicals and synthetic materials and therefore harmful to the infant.
   -- Colin Bishop, Natural Therapist, Queensland, Australia

I definitely feel babies should be breastfed for as long as possible (I (nursed beyond age four). Not only is it nutritionally superior to formula, breastfeeding provides for a bonding experience between mother and baby that benefits both in ways we cannot fully measure. The emotional attachment benefits are probably the biggest reason to encourage women to choose breast-feeding.
   -- Carol Leeson, West Chester, PA

Infant formula is a very poor second best! There are a very few true contraindications and convenience is NOT one. Even if you can breast feed for only a couple months, mother and baby are greatly benefited. I had 6 children and nursed the first 5. My 6th was Rh positive and I negative and had built up antibodies to her. Now there is a treatment so that is not a problem. Besides being a mother, I am a physician, MD, and have helped many mothers breast feed.
   -- Sara Reynolds, M.D.

I breastfed my baby as I believe all mothers should. There needs to be more awareness to moms to be on the importance of this subject and unfortunately, doctors and the government and of course the formula companies once again are profiting by keeping women and society in the dark at the expense of our children.
   -- Nadine M. Castonguay, Wethersfield, Connecticut

Human beings are the only animals that can tolerate non-species specific milk and live. Infant formula does not have consciousness - it does not have life - it is a dead substance pumped up with vitamins. Of course mothers should be breastfeeding their infants and hospital policies should be mandated to support that. The first hour after birth (as long as mom and baby are ok) should be uninterrupted skin-to-skin contact between mom and baby - this facilitates ease of nursing and connecting and will eliminate 75% of all breastfeeding problems. Breastfeeding gives your children benefits into adulthood with decreased heart disease and adult onset diabetes among other things. It is the best gift you can give your child and the first of many partnerships.
   -- Amy Mager, Northampton, MA

Formula is an excellent substitute. Not all mothers are able to breastfeed for a variety of reasons and should feel no guilt for their choice. Furthermore, formula was given to previous generations and most have lived relatively healthy lives. It should be tailored for the families needs in our modern world.
   -- Anonymous

This is a great article! Thank you very much for taking the time to put the information together. I will make sure all of my patients and their family members get this great specific scientific information on how the body is still superior to anything man could think of making!
   -- Dr. Lewis Misinay D.C.

Mothers should breastfeed and avoid commercial formulas altogether. Early exposure to commercial formulas sensitize babies resulting in a greater occurrence of lactose intolerance and other food sensitivities. Breast fed babies also have less occurrence of colds and other infections, and are less likely to have weight problems when they get older. Breast milk has antibodies that are crucial for the baby that are not available in formulas. Mother and baby also form a closer bond than with bottle-feeding.
   -- Deb NS, Canada

If at all possible I think all newborns should be breastfed. What a rewarding experience it was for me. I bonded more with my breastfed baby and I noticed that he also has had much less colds or sickness in general compared to the one I did not breastfeed. They are both grown now and I feel that just as the Lord made us to give life, our bodies are made to sustain life.
   -- Anonymous

Hmmm, wonder what our foremothers would think of this question? Breastfeeding my three children was the gift only I could give them and they were worth all the time, and sometimes agony (sore nipples). Besides, the cost of diapers was enough! Why pay for formula and bottles when I had all the equipment for free! Yes, mothers should experience the joy of breastfeeding their newborns, and get support from nurses and family that it is ok to be "nature-al".
   -- Mary Hayes, Mount Vernon, Ohio

Yes mothers should breastfeed their newborns. I breastfed two children exclusively, one for a year, one for nine months. They are now 15 and 13 respectively, and both are very healthy individuals, who have never had a weight problem. Neither had more than just a few ear infections when they were younger, far fewer than their peers. In Canada maternity leave is a year long, so mothers can devote more time to breastfeeding their children. It is a fantastic experience, and develops a very strong bond between mother and baby.
   -- Ruth, Ontario, Canada

Mothers should always be encouraged to breastfeed their babies as long as they are able, unless there are special circumstances that would prove it unsafe or unwise for either the mother or the child.
   -- Anonymous

I have breastfed 5 children (19, 17, 16, 5, and 23 months) without supplementation of formula. The first 3 for a year and the last 2 over 16 months. All had fewer infant colds. The first 3 are top in their class at school. All have healthy digestive systems. I have an incredible bond with all of them. Nursing helped me nurture them in a way that nothing else could and comfort them instantly. Sometimes it was a tough start but I highly encourage a new mom to stick with it for at least 2 months before even considering quitting, if things are not working out. All of my children went from breast to sippy cup very easily as well. Not only is breast feeding convenient, but an added bonus was how much money I saved.
   -- Lu Jacobs Fairfield, CA

I do not at all understand why anything other than breastfeeding would be considered. Are we such an arrogant generation that we think we can improve upon Mother Nature? This attitude is causing most of the health problems in our country. We succumb to mass advertising of artificial, mass produced food, void of nutrition, and then wonder why we have rising incidents of heart disease, cancer, diabetes, and a host of other degenerative diseases. If we all returned to eating foods that we evolved on (organically produced whole foods, free range meats, raw, unpasteurized, unhomogenized full fat dairy, and fermented foods) and avoid refined processed foods, we would very quickly see the health crisis wee face in this country reversed. Again, why consider anything other than breastfeeding?
   -- Dwight Strickler Fairfax, VA

Definitely breastfeeding except where it is impossible to do so (ex, chemotherapy). Breastfeeding has been such a positive experience for both me & my son. It has helped with PPD, losing weight, less bleeding, etc. It is less time consuming, free & creates a bond between a child & their mother like no regular bottle can ever do. Breast is Best!
   -- Anonymous

Breast milk is best -- why else would women have been given such a fabulous way of feeding their children?
   -- C. Gentry, Indiana

Infant formula is NOT okay. We are raising generations of compromised humans from getting them off to the wrong start with formula. Your positioning on the benefits of breastfeeding was interesting . . . but since breastmilk is the NORM for our species, it is better said that formula is damaging. Formula causes: An increased risk of infectious diseases including bacterial meningitis, bacteremia, diarrhea, respiratory tract infection, necrotizing enterocolitis, otitis media, urinary tract infection and late-onset sepsis in preterm infants. Formula causes: A 21 percent higher risk of dying after the first month of birth. Formula feeding causes: A higher risk of sudden infant death syndrome in the first year of life. Formula causes: Higher rates of type 1 and 2 diabetes, higher rates of lymphoma, higher rates of leukemia, Hodgkin disease, overweight and obesity, increased incidences of high cholesterol and asthma in adulthood. Formula causes: Decreased cognitive development. Formula provides: No analgesia to infants during painful procedures like a heel-stick for newborn screenings. We have been made critically aware of the dangers of smoking. We are aware of the dangers of microwaved plastics and pesticide exposures. It is time the United States government stopped bowing down to the manufacturers of human milk substitute and put *warning labels* on all of the products and advertisements. The public needs to know the truth. Only then can mothers make truly informed decisions.
   -- Anonymous

Breast milk requires 60% more effort to extract and is pre-digested. So a bottle-fed baby gets more exercise and uses less energy digesting and sleeping to recover from it, spending more time upright and alertly taking in the 360-degree world.

Breast milk varies in composition during each day as well as over the entire breast-feeding cycle through weaning. A baby receives, at the exact correct time, the exact best amount and composition of nutrition needed for the fast-developing brain and nervous system. Calves' nutrition, on the other hand, is designed for quickly developing long, strong bones. Breast milk is vibrant and many-layered, an integral part of a baby's digestive tract. It is live, raw, custom food, including antibodies protecting against infectious threats in the nearby environment. Formula is a pale shadow of the real thing, attempting only a fraction of what a nursing child is designed to need from the nursing experience.

Babies nurse for reasons other than nutrition: "The babe can't say, and the man can't remember." Along with excellent facial and bone structure, and good health, they develop a lack of fear, in its stead, comfort and confidence in self, mother, family, then the world.

Yes, formula and its application will keep most babies alive. However, they will be less likely to thrive long-term, mentally, physically, and emotionally. Some parts of them will still be waiting for the intended fulfillment, waiting for content from the multi-faceted experience nature intended, the solid foundation their breast-fed peers have gone through and stand on to become solid adults.
Breast-feeding is natural. This does not mean there are no obstacles to overcome, or that your doctor is the person who has the experience or knowledge to help overcome them. Breastfeeding may not be practical in the family schedule, but then babies are not generally practical in the short-term. They are, however, very cute.
   -- Jae Asancheyev, St. Paul, MN

... I am the blessed mother of 5 children. I have breastfed all of them for various lengths of time. The first one was breastfed until 12 months, second was until 13 months (with no other food or drinks until after 9 months), the third child was nursed until she was 14 months. My other two were nursed longer. My fourth one until she was 2 years old (later only at night to go to sleep) and my 5th until he was 4 yrs. old (the last 2 years were just to get to sleep also).

I know that this was the best for my children and myself. The children were all very healthy, happy and well adjusted to life. There is a closeness that is developed between you and your child through breastfeeding them and a satisfaction to know that you are supplying to them the nutrients needed and provided by the Creator Himself.

I always returned to my pre-pregnancy weight quickly and I credit this to breastfeeding. I heard a saying that I have always liked: "Breastfeeding is fast food at two convenient locations!" It is true that breastfeeding is so convenient. No bottles to fix, no shortage of formula to deal with (let alone the high price). Just what the baby needs, when they need it (and at the exact temperature!)

I would encourage women to breastfeed their babies on demand (they will only eat as much as they can hold), and God has created our bodies to produce more as needed or less according to the baby's needs so there is no need for concern that there is not enough.

The mother needs to drink plenty of water when nursing (I suggest aglass every time you sit to nurse) and just relax!!! I hope this helps to encourage some of your readers to seriously consider breastfeeding their children. It is a decision they will not regret! Thank you for your newsletters.

Mrs. Becky Rhea, Lee, IL

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