ProMoM Inc. - Promoting the awareness and acceptance of breastfeeding.

The 3 Minute Activist
Dr. Elizabeth Whelan

 

This is a letter to Dr. Elizabeth Whelan in regards to a recent article/booklet featured on the American Council of Science and Health website.

Dr. Elizabeth Whelan
President
American Council on Science and Health
1995 Broadway, Second Floor
New York, NY 10023-5860
FAX: (212) 362-4919

whelan@acsh.org (Elizabeth Whelan Sc.D., M.P.H., President)
byck@acsh.org (Deanna Byck Sc.D., M.P.H, Director of Public Health Policy)
kava@acsh.org (Ruth Kava, Ph.D., R.D., Director of Nutrition)

Dear Dr. Whelan:

As a breastfeeding mother, I was disappointed in the description of your new booklet, "Growing Healthy Kids," that I read on your website. I was especially taken aback by the comments that, "While human breast milk is the 'gold standard' for infant feeding, modern infant formulas are designed to copy closely the composition of breast milk." Because of this, I believe that your booklet gives the false impression that breastfeeding and formula use are interchangeable.

In fact, breastmilk is better and safer for a baby than formula in nearly all circumstances. Despite your claim that formula mirrors "closely the composition of breastmilk," research shows that formula lacks components of breastmilk uniquely designed for the human infant because they cannot be synthetically reproduced. In particular, we cannot discount the immunological benefits of breastfeeding. Studies show that women who were themselves breastfed are at decreased risk of breast and ovarian cancer. By discouraging breastfeeding, we may in fact put our children at greater risk to environmental toxins.

Since your organization is committed to "separat[ing] the leading causes of disease and death from the leading causes of unnecessary anxiety," you would be wise to further review current scientific data associated with the benefits of breastfeeding before equating it with formula. Formula feeding is associated with a higher incidence of allergies, cognitive deficiencies, cardiorespiratory disturbances, morbidity, and mortality. Formula fed infants have 10 times the risk of hospitalization due to bacterial infection, double the risk of lower respiratory tract infections, 3-4 times the risk of otitis media, 3-4 times the risk of diarrheal illness (in industrialized nations), and 5-8 times the risk of childhood lymphomas. Formula feeding accelerates the development of celiac disease and is a risk factor for Crohn's disease and adult ulcerative colitis. Formulas have been found to contain potentially toxic levels of vitamin D, aluminum, high levels of iodine, and bacterial contaminants including Enterobacter sakazakii. For the citations for these facts, as well as other risks associated with the use of formula, please refer to the American Academy of Pediatrics statement, "Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk."

I heartily concur that "both individual health decisions and public policies [should be] based on sound scientific evidence." The scientific evidence in this instance is clear: breastfeeding is far and away the best way to nourish babies. Clearly, breastfeeding must be supported and encouraged if we are committed to raising healthy children. I strongly urge you to correct any misconceptions about the relative risks and benefits of breastfeeding caused by your booklet by further reviewing the hazards associated with formula use.