If you feel instinctively that formula cannot be as good for your baby as your breastmilk, you are right. I am going to explain some of the reasons why so that you know that your instincts are correct and not just a funny feeling.

I am not going to list all of the known contents of milks but to give an outline.

If you take a look at the side of a can of formula you will see a list of ingredients: the substances and chemicals used to create an artificial attempt at replicating human milk. Some of the ingredients are of animal origin: the base is cow’s milk protein for example. Many of the ingredients; such as the oils and sugars, have vegetable origins. Other substances in smaller quantities have been added when deficiencies have become obvious. We have not yet identified all of the constituents of breastmilk. We do not know how many there are to discover, how important they are and we may never know. For example Vitamin D was believed to be absent from human milk because it was not discovered by those looking for it in the fat content as it is in cow’s milk. Breastfed babies were for a while considered to be in danger of deficiency until a different type was discovered in the whey portion because it was water-soluble. This is a good example of how cow’s milk is considered as the yardstick by which to measure human milk when it is completely inappropriate; any more than it would be to suggest that the special characteristics of human milk would make it better for calves. The milks are different because they have been created especially for the needs of the young of that species. Common sense would tell you that if human milk were fatally deficient, we wouldn’t be here. We can trust our bodies to know more than our scientists. If our babies were supposed to be eating vegetables from birth, as some animals do, we would not be making milk at all. We would have more young, like turtles for example, many of whom die, instead of our usual one that is designed to live until maturity. It is a survival tactic that is very successful.

Formula has been so altered that it is like no animal’s milk, and the way it differs from all mammal’s milk is that it is not alive. It does not react to its recipient; to produce antibodies to a baby’s infection for example, or change the amount of fat or water to the baby’s taste or thirst as a mother’s milk does. However we manipulate the ingredients in the factory, it is still a processed food that is far removed from the fresh product produced at source, on demand for the particular infants’ needs. The deficiencies in formula only come to light when babies become ill and fail to thrive. There isn’t any other way to find out. As I said, the needs of human infants are unique. The breast is already able to produce the ideal food for each baby.

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