Thursday, November 13, 2008

Formula Rant

I recently got a flyer from the formula company Similac in the mail. It was informing me that most toddler food –cow’s milk, chicken nuggets, macaroni and cheese, applesauce—is deficient in essential vitamins and nutrients. Because these little finicky eaters growing so rapidly, it is imperative that they ingest adequate nutrition. Their solution? A new powered formula you can buy for toddlers!

Every parent who feeds their infant formula bemoans the exorbitant cost. But they pay it, sometimes double, for brand name formulas, because they have been scared into thinking they must. Each new “health claim” serves to further reinforce the companies’ case to the parents that this product is crucial to their child’s health and future.

And then is there is another kind of scare. The widespread contamination of China’s milk supply revealed the vulnerability of a nation dependent on unscrupulous companies for it’s children sustenance. Company officials were deliberately adding melamine to watered-down milk so it would appear to have acceptable levels of protein. The fact that it causes kidney failure and death didn’t bother those who added to milk for children and infant formula any more than it did those who used it to bump up testable protein levels in pet food. I hope there is a special circle of hell for those who put their personal profits ahead of the lives of all the innocent children of their nation.

This second scare reinforces the sense that consumer parents have that in order to assure their babies have the best, safest food, they must buy the most expensive, name brands. Who knows where those half-price generic formulas are made?

All of this plays into the relief parents feel when their child reaches the magical age of one, when pediatricians tell us we can safely feed them cow’s milk. Household budgets take a breather.

Until now.

Because formula companies naturally want to make more money. The only way to do that thus far has been to introduce formula into markets where breastfeeding had been the societal norm. Never mind that many of these places are in underdeveloped nations without adequate supply of fresh, uncontaminated water, so that even if the formula is heavily subsidized or donated, it may still pose a risk to the infants who consume it.

The brilliance of the formula for toddlers is that it expands the already existent formula-sipping base by extending the length of time that the product must be consumed to the exclusion of other similar products.

I think about my own kids and the choices we’ve made with them. I chose the breastfeed exclusively. No formula. Because we had already made the decision to accept the financial sacrifices our culture demands of a single income family, breastfeeding was convenient and appropriate for our budget. And I felt good about it—according to everything I read, human milk is the best food for human infants.

My first I weaned at fourteen months because I didn’t want to be pregnant and nursing at the same time. He was in no way ready. He ended up drinking tons of milk and was very reluctant to eat solid food. I constantly worried about the potential negative health effects of this predominantly liquid diet. (Evidently I’m not alone, and the formula companies know it.)

The second I nursed until twenty-two months. I was far less stressed about her diet because she was still getting the breast milk, in addition to her solids, some cows milk, and dilute juice. The World Health Organization actually recommends breastfeeding until the age of two.

Now we’re on Number Three. He is fourteen months old, and absolutely refuses to drink cows milk. And since Similac has informed me of how deficient that is for him, I feel even better about continuing to nurse him until he approaches his second birthday. Bet they didn’t see that one coming.

1 comment:

denebug said...

I got another flyer in the mail today, this one from

Here's a startling article: