To be shocked at the price of formula milk?

(257 Posts)
Souredstones Sun 07-Jul-13 18:35:41

It's been 9 years since I was last pregnant and this time round I'm not going to attempt breast feeding because for my previous pregnancies I produced no milk and wasn't able to feed them. So I'm not stressing out I'm going straight in for the formula. I have medical reasons for doing so.

I get that they've put the price up to deter formula feeding. I know why. I agree breast is best. But from what I saw today it's now a sneeze under £10 a tin.

I'm lucky we can afford it, but what if you're on the threshold of not receiving help and find yourself, as I did, unable to bf even with the full intentions of bfing and being unable to afford this price.

Is there a reason it's doubled in price in the last decade? Have production techniques changed that much?

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 18:48:09

I take it then Chunderella, you're not happy to accept the assurances of formula manufacturers that their product is safe in the medium and long term, particularly in relation to novel ingredients which have only been added in the past 10 years and have been tested on tiny numbers of babies over a short period of time?

Breastfeeding has nothing to prove. It's the physiological norm and has proved itself the safest and best form of nutrition for most babies over hundreds of thousands of years. The almost wholesale switch to feeding human infants solely on chemically altered cows milk on the other hand is the single most revolutionary change to the way people are fed, in the history of human nutrition. In essence it's the biggest uncontrolled experiment with human nutrition imaginable.

I'm amazed how people will pick over the research looking for evidence that contradicts the common sense view that human milk is most appropriate for human babies, who seem not to need to apply the same standards of care to examining the evidence on formula. I think people accept the assurances of formula companies that formula is a completely healthy product in the short, medium and long term because of a peculiar trust in big brands.

Formula manufacturers actually have no idea whether feeding a baby on non-human milk as its sole food during its period of fastest growth might have health consequences much further down the line and even into adulthood, because they haven't done the research. The research that has been done into long term issues connected with infant feeding has flagged a range of concerns from higher rates of arterial stiffness to increased risk of some cancers in adults fed on formula as babies. Should we automatically disregard all of this and simply ASSUME safety because it's impossible to control for all confounding factors in the research? Why is an innate belief in the safety of formula the default mode? Because it suits us to believe that formula is completely safe?

We do not know what we do not know and that thought is worth keeping in mind whenever we make a decision to depart from the physiological norm when it comes to feeding our babies.

TarkaTheOtter Wed 10-Jul-13 18:49:50

But chunderella you don't need to have much data on the outcomes of the poorest bf babies to isolate the effects of breastfeeding from social class more generally. Suppose researchers only looked at the outcomes for middle class babies. There would be no variation in social class so it could not be that which was explaining variation in outcomes. If within class, bf babies have better health outcomes (or whatever) then it would be reasonable to assume that for those social classes where there is sufficient data that social class is not what is driving the variation in outcomes.
I haven't read the literature on breastfeeding, but it does amaze me that they would be able to publish papers with such obvious flaws. Wouldn't happen in my discipline (social science).

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 18:55:22

I said 'the majority of women fed without problems. In the padst babies were primarily bottle fed because their mother was dead or too ill to breastfeed. And in most instances bottle fed babies died in droves. Rich women who didn't want to breastfeed employed wet nurses. In other word - breastfeeding was the norm for all young babies because those that weren't breastfeed died fairly swiftly.

Chunderella Wed 10-Jul-13 19:14:12

But chunderella you don't need to have much data on the outcomes of the poorest bf babies to isolate the effects of breastfeeding from social class more generally.

Why not?

Suppose researchers only looked at the outcomes for middle class babies. There would be no variation in social class so it could not be that which was explaining variation in outcomes. If within class, bf babies have better health outcomes (or whatever) then it would be reasonable to assume that for those social classes where there is sufficient data that social class is not what is driving the variation in outcomes.

It wouldn't, because of the way that poverty and inequality influence health. There've been a lot of claims that the poorest babies would be healthier if they were bf not ff. Nobody knows this, because virtually none of them are. An educated guess is all that one can do. You can do the analysis you're talking about on middle class babies, you can't automatically extrapolate it to the poorest.

I haven't read the literature on breastfeeding, but it does amaze me that they would be able to publish papers with such obvious flaws. Wouldn't happen in my discipline (social science).

Trust me, there's some crud out there! There was a study a couple of weeks ago that looked at whether bf and ff babies were more likely to be obese aged about 5, I think it was, and didn't even attempt to consider let alone control for what they'd been eating since. Equally, there was a study a few weeks back about how supplementing supposedly helps bf and that had massive flaws too.

Wbdn28 Wed 10-Jul-13 19:16:43

> I don't want a GP deciding who has a geniune reason for using formula

Totally agree. It's the woman's body, so it's her decision, not the GP's, the government's or anyone else's.

Chunderella Wed 10-Jul-13 19:34:00

I take it then Chunderella, you're not happy to accept the assurances of formula manufacturers that their product is safe in the medium and long term, particularly in relation to novel ingredients which have only been added in the past 10 years and have been tested on tiny numbers of babies over a short period of time?

Yes I agree. Which is why if all else were equal I personally would have continued to bf as it represents the safer option in that regard. It wasn't though (I find it difficult to have my breasts touched, though probably would have been able to tolerate it to some extent if there were no other food source available). While we do know that millions of babies have been formula fed and enjoyed good health, it's true that ingredients have changed and though educated opinion is that formula has improved, it's possible that isn't the case.

I'm amazed how people will pick over the research looking for evidence that contradicts the common sense view that human milk is most appropriate for human babies, who seem not to need to apply the same standards of care to examining the evidence on formula.

Ah yes, the old common sense again. Always gets dragged out in this argument, even though there are boatloads of ways in which humans have improved upon nature, and departure from the diet we evolved to eat is the only way to stop billions of us from starving. I don't suggest formula is superior to breastmilk btw. But it's stupid to look at anything and assume that what we've evolved must be better than what we've invented just because of common sense.

Should we automatically disregard all of this and simply ASSUME safety because it's impossible to control for all confounding factors in the research? Why is an innate belief in the safety of formula the default mode? Because it suits us to believe that formula is completely safe?

No, and neither should we pretend correlation and causation are the same thing or that we can actually control for all confounding factors when we absolutely can't. There are lots of things we ought not to do.

I said 'the majority of women fed without problems. In the padst babies were primarily bottle fed because their mother was dead or too ill to breastfeed. And in most instances bottle fed babies died in droves. Rich women who didn't want to breastfeed employed wet nurses. In other word - breastfeeding was the norm for all young babies because those that weren't breastfeed died fairly swiftly.

Actually you said the majority for hundreds of thousands of years fed without angst, which is clearly a ridiculous statement to make. for one, most human history is unrecorded and we've no idea what prehistoric women felt about nursing. For all you know, most of them hated it and would have been delighted to use formula had it been available. I agree that bottle fed babies died in droves before formula, and that starvation was common. That absolutely doesn't mean mothers were bfing without angst and with success: the superiority or not of bf and how women felt about it are two totally different things. Indeed, the fact that some women still didn't want to bf despite the risks seems fairly good evidence of 'angst' and problems, no?

Additionally, in hunter gatherer societies women often communally bf children. Even some lactivists- Mayim Bialik says this in her book- acknowledge that there have always been women who weren't skilled at or disliked nursing and got other women to do it for them. And wet nursing has of course not been limited to the richest. Actually history is replete with examples of poor women having to go and work and leaving their babies with others soon after birth (not that this has anything to do with how women felt about bf, but as you mentioned rich women using wet nurses it was worth redressing the balance a bit).

TarkaTheOtter Wed 10-Jul-13 20:28:22

Completely agree that you couldn't extrapolate to the poorest (or for that matter the richest).

But it is often implied that all these studies are picking up is the social class of the mother (social class being the confounder) and it should be able to prove/disprove that.

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