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

The 3 Minute Activist
Parents Magazine


Ann Pleshette Murphy,
Editor In Chief
Parents Magazine
P.O. Box 3042
Harlan, IA 51537-0207

Dear Ms. Murphy:

While I was pleased to see your discussion of the dangers of trans-fats in the human diet in your July 1998 health feature, I was disappointed that the risks associated with formula use were not included in your discussion of the presence of trans-fats in breastmilk. Because of this, I believe that the article gave the false impression that it is better to use formula than to breastfeed. Breastmilk is better and safer for a baby than formula in nearly all circumstances. Since the levels of trans-fat found in breastmilk results from the amounts consumed by the mother, we must focus on a healthy maternal diet, rather than suggest that it is better to feed our babies the inferior nutrition supplied by formula. 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 from environmental toxins. 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 to 4 times the risk of otitis media, 3 to 4 times the risk of diarrheal illness (in industrialized nations), and 5 to 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 International Lactation Consultant Association's (ILCA) published summary of the hazards of formula use. I do, however, applaud your reminder that every mother needs to have a healthy lifestyle. All mothers set examples for their children through their actions. What we eat is as scrutinized by young eyes as much as stress management and modeling positive behavior. That said, breastfeeding is the healthiest start we can give our children. I strongly urge you to correct any misconceptions about the relative risks and benefits of breastfeeding caused by this article by reporting on the hazards associated with formula use.