In the interest of avoiding sensationalism let me say right at the start that most of the time baby formula is not actually harmful to your baby.
It’s just that it’s not nearly as good for your baby as breast milk.
But there are also those rare cases when things do go wrong with formula.
In fact I think I can probably give you 5 reasons why you shouldn’t use baby formula.
1. Mother’s Milk
I mean seriously. The expression “mother’s milk” came into usage for a reason. Billions of years of evolution have ensured that human breast milk contains the perfect mix of nutrients for the baby.
There is no reason to use baby formula.
Well, ok, that’s not precisely true. There are a few occasions where a mother’s breast milk is not ideal. If the mother is malnourished, HIV+, or has some other health problem that might affect the milk then formula is a good idea.
And those are the only times.
2. I Can Feel It In Me Water
A second problem with formula lies in its principle ingredient: water.
Because what’s in water, isn’t just water.
You probable already know this, but might not have thought of it in relation to baby formula.
Our tap water contains a wide assortment of chemicals and trace elements including salts, nitrates, fluoride, chlorine and also viruses and bacteria.
Now for most people these elements are almost completely harmless. Yes, I’m sure you’ve heard theories about how the fluoride in the water is bad for you. But what you need to know about the people who support these ideas is this: they are wrong.
So anyway, tap water is usually perfectly fine for adults.
But this begs the question: what effect does taking in large amounts of tap water have on babies? The easy answer is: we don’t really know. Which should be enough in itself to send chills down the spine of many parents.
It is possible, though unproven, that tap water is bad for babies and this claim gains more weight when one remembers that one of the functions of breast milk is to prepare the baby’s digestive tract for other substances later on.
The potential dangers of water also become far more acute in situations where the quality of the water supply is unreliable. This is one of the reasons why, when baby formulas started becoming more popular in developing nations, infant mortality went up, by millions.
3. A Nice Warm Bottle of FAIL
Further complications arise in the making, storing, and reusing of the containers that that you mix or transport the infant formula in.
Basically, if you don’t sterilise all the containers the finished formula sits in then you may have a serious problem.
At its simplest level the problem is this: if a container has had formula in it and hasn’t been completely cleaned then small particles of formula will remain. If these particles are exposed to the air (which they will be) then they will come into contact with bacteria, who will think they’ve just found the promised land.
The formula remains will be a warm, moist, nutrient-rich environment where bacteria can go completely bananas. The next time you put fresh formula in that container the bacteria will happily infest it as well. What happens when you give it to baby will depend on what type of bacteria it is. But diarrhoea, headache, vomiting, fever and death are all possible consequences.
And cleaning the containers isn’t completely straightforward. Some bottles have a strap that holds the lid on. Did you clean under the strap? Did you clean the strap itself? Screw-on lids have grooves that can trap matter and make it hard to wash out. Did you check for that?
Look, I’m not trying to make people paranoid, and all the problems I’ve listed above also apply if you ‘decant’ breast milk into some other container.
But the main point remains the same: why go through all this trouble if a simpler, better, safer, cheaper alternative is readily available?