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?

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.

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).

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 19:14:12

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.

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.

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 18:48:09

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.

Chunderella Wed 10-Jul-13 18:12:59

Minifingers posted I think that it's very hard to acknowledge that for some babies this can involve paying a price in health terms - it's hard to accept that this may be true, hence the fiery debates on mumsnet about whether breastfeeding actually really makes any difference to babies. It's a bizarre situation when parents are generally willing to accept NHS advice and recommendations on every single other aspect of child health, but are so resistant to the message on this particular issue - maybe because there is such a powerful conflict between what they feel emotionally compelled to do, and what they would want to do for their baby under different circumstances.

The thing is, some of us read the literature on the topic before deciding whether to bf or not. I can speak only for myself, but I certainly don't accept NHS recommendations without doing research on every issue- some, but not all. Without wishing to have a dig at anyone, it actually takes considerable engagement with and understanding of the research to, for example, recognise that the tiny size of the ebf group amongst the poorest renders it impossible to do anything other than guess at how the poorest ff babies would be if bf. More so than it does to simply accept the claims of some researchers that they've controlled for social class, for example, and quote an NHS leaflet.

And I'm sure there are women who ff who would be resistant to any suggestion that they didn't do the best for their babies, as you suggest. I'm equally sure that there are women who bf who have sufficient investment in the idea that their choices conferred XYZ benefits that they're resistant to the idea that actually, their DC might have acquired those benefits simply because they're middle class. Particularly if they made sacrifices to bf. I mean no offence to anyone here. But let's not pretend only ff mothers have any emotional investment here, or even that they're more biased than those who bf.

My point is that as a society we should take this issue more seriously, to try and understand why a normal physiological process, which the majority of mothers have done without angst for hundreds of thousands of years

That's a fairly big assumption, without a great deal of evidence to back it up. Obviously we don't know what went on before recorded history, but we do know that since ancient times there is evidence of artificial feeding. We also know that wet nursing is one of the world's oldest professions, and we know that it wasn't particularly uncommon for babies to starve even in the rich West until quite recently. How do you know that a dislike of bf by some mothers doesn't explain X percent of infant mortality in particular historical societies? You don't. You might be right, of course, but there's no evidence. I think it's fairly clear that the current British model doesn't reflect the norm throughout human history, but that doesn't make your claim right either. It's a guess.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 10-Jul-13 17:53:02

Read my previous posts?

Souredstones Wed 10-Jul-13 17:51:27

No but there are digs throughout the thread that are wholly unnecessary

TheCrackFox Wed 10-Jul-13 17:50:35

If you can afford to go to the gym you can afford to pay for formula.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 10-Jul-13 17:49:25

Um, I ff. It wasn't a dig, it was a comment on the fact that she is the only person who wouldn't even entertain the idea because she thought it was gross and weird. Everyone else I know has looked at the pros and cons and made a decision about what to do. This is a person who just thinks it's gross and not cool.

parkin2010 Wed 10-Jul-13 17:31:55

I only know one person who has not even contemplated the idea of breastfeeding, and if I'm honest that is indicative of her general personality, upbringing and social group.- just this. Wow.
Well if it's okay for that patronising ittle dig I am going to have mine.

For me FF worked. It meant I could go out, go the gym after two weeks, have decent nights out with my partner, have an immaculate house and have a lot of energy and be a great mum. All this bottle prep stuff is alien to me- it's no harder than preparing a cup of tea. I didn't feel strapped to the sofa like most of my BF friends who have also admitted to me they don't go out, need boob jobs, don't want to get intimate with their partner and feel resentful.

Show me an adult on the street you can te was bottle fed and then I might start worrying.

Souredstones Wed 10-Jul-13 17:31:51

You know, I consider myself to be an educated and intelligent woman. I know the benefits of breast feeding, as do many other women who formula feed, we don't need the statistics throwing down our throats about how evil formula is and how we are killing our children, exposing them to all kinds of who knows what and all that jazz. We don't need to hear it. I don't need to hear it.

I feel guilty enough as it is. Many ffers feels guilty about making that choice.

I don't get why mothers can't support other mothers, why there has to be all this bullying and belittling.

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 16:34:44

"All our decisions with our children are based on balancing their needs against our own."

Yes, and sometimes you have to be selfish as a parent to survive. You know - the old 'put your own oxygen mask on first or you can't help save others' analogy. My point is that something has gone very awry in the UK and other western countries, that the fall out from breastfeeding in the first few weeks is SO huge.

"Maybe (horrible generalisation) younger lower class women just don't really care that much about using formula because they don't know what the exact risks are"

Just under 40% of mothers under 20 who planned to ff couldn't name one benefit of breastfeeding according to the 2005 Infant Feeding Survey. Only about half of women who had never worked before having children were able to give an example of a benefit of breastfeeding. There clearly is an information gap there.

TheCrackFox Wed 10-Jul-13 16:33:50

Formula is expensive (but is £1.75 a day really that much to feed your child?) but if you were to breastfeed you will need to eat more which will cost you roughly the same.

DontmindifIdo Wed 10-Jul-13 16:33:18

maternitart - by breaks, I meant in my case, DD bfs for 30 - 40 minutes, and then needs to feed again in about an hour max. When I've given her a bottle, it's taken 10 minute for her to drink a full feed and she's not needed more milk for 3 - 4 hours. That's a huge difference and a couple of bottles is a break - even more so if my DH gives her the bottle. Right now I've been using that for a feed around 10pm just so I can get some sleep.

While some FFing mums will have to do all the feeds, most partners or parents will help out, there is the option of a break/time away from the DC, there's not option of a break if you breast feed, either you do it directly or you pump.

Not saying it's not worth the extra hassle, but pretending it's not easier in many ways to formula feed is a bad habit of pro-breast feeding people, because mums can see the reality for themselves and are just lead to believe they've got a difficult baby, or not enough milk if their baby is hungry again so quickly, or just aren't prepared mentally for having to feed for long periods of time and frequently in the first 2-3 months.

(arguments about having to wash bottles and sterlise being a hassle, miss that sticking them in the dishwasher then into the sterliser is an extra 2 minutes of work a day if that, making up bottles is quite straight forward, even more so now you can buy 1lr bottles of ready made formula and just pour it out - mind you if we're stressing about £10 tins of formula, that's really going to seem an expensive way to feed a child).

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 16:23:14

"There may be a price, but there doesn't seem to be good evidence about exactly how likely those consequences might be"

The information is out there, but you have to make a concerted effort to look for it and read it, then try and make sense of the statistic in regard to how they might relate to you. I think that's very difficult and in my experience people don't want to read it, particularly if they've made a decision not to breastfeed or to stop breastfeeding.

If you can't emotionally cope with breastfeeding you have no other choice than to stop. My point is that as a society we should take this issue more seriously, to try and understand why a normal physiological process, which the majority of mothers have done without angst for hundreds of thousands of years has become so intolerable for MOST UK mothers. I mean - there have always been a proportion of women who haven't been able to cope with the physical and emotional intensity of breastfeeding. But it's completely disproportionate the number of mothers in the UK who now experience this - there is definitely something going on which is making what should be an OK experience of most people intolerable or untenable for so many.

But as a society formula is so much the normal way to feed babies now that there's a sort of casual acceptance that breastfeeding is something that only a minority of mothers can do - 'can do' in physical and emotional terms. This, in my view, is very fucked up and not fair on babies.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 10-Jul-13 16:19:14

x post.

Maybe it's because the evidence about the benefits of breastfeeding isn't presented in the right way? I'm not really sure. There are a lot of issues around body image and sexualisation of breasts, as well as the power balance in relationships between younger people etc. Maybe (horrible generalisation) younger lower class women just don't really care that much about using formula because they don't know what the exact risks are (though it's hard to determine what the risks are).

I really don't know the answer. I do think that if we want more women to breastfeed (which I do) then basically saying that by not breastfeeding you are being selfish, probably isn't going to help. All our decisions with our children are based on balancing their needs against our own.

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 16:14:08

Whoops - should read: We have got to the point in the UK where we're very, very resistant to seeing infant feeding choices as being primarily about anything other than the emotional and social needs of adults.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 10-Jul-13 16:13:24

Sorry, didn't connect the username.

There may be a price, but there doesn't seem to be good evidence about exactly how likely those consequences might be. I look at DS, who is thriving and see that I made the best possibly choice for us. I resented the non stop feeding, non stop access to my body, resented the way he puked up every other feed all over me (I made that f*cking milk myself!) and then fed for hours again and I hated the way I was feeling about it and him.

I didn't have PND, but I was utterly miserable. So I put my own happiness first. I'm probably going to get blasted as selfish, but that's the crux of it. The cons of breastfeeding far outweighed the potential risks (for an otherwise healthy, happy baby with loving, involved, middle class parents).

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 16:12:29

And it's also worth acknowledging that if the primary determinant in the UK of whether a baby will be breastfed for more than a few weeks is the social class of its mum (it is), then we have to accept there is much more to this than meets the eye. It's about more than just universal individual experiences of mothering. Why should young and working class women find breastfeeding emotionally so much more unacceptable than older women and educated women? Educated, older mothers tend to have far more autonomy before they have their children, so why should it be easier for them to adjust to the exhaustion and relentless demands of being a new parent? And yet in relation to breastfeeding it appears they are more likely to persist, even when things are difficult. And even though they tend to have more difficult births. And why are women who are recent immigrants to the UK (who may be living in circumstances which are much more challenging in terms of work, housing and social support and who tend to have larger families) so much more likely to breastfeed and to breastfeed for longer? This is a deeply cultural subject - it's not just about the intrinsic nature of breastfeeding. We have got to the point in the UK where we're very, very resistant to seeing infant feeding choices as being primarily about the emotional and social needs of adults. And I think the formula companies want us to see it this way. It suits them for us to push to one side the issue of infant health in relation to feeding, or to trivialise it, as so often happens. I don't think this is right. I think you can acknowledge the needs of adults without diminishing the importance of breastfeeding to babies.

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 16:01:45

Sorry Hopalong, because you've been so kind to me on another thread. sad

But 'so someone else can feed the baby' was the biggest single reason given for choosing to formula feed in the 2005 Infant Feeding Survey (which is done every 5 years - it involves about 8000 mothers and is carried out by the department of health).

And wanting some space from your baby in the sense of not wanting to have to do every feed, when you're feeling overwhelmed with the demands of parenting in the first few weeks and months of your baby's life IS a very significant factor in women's choice to introduce formula or switch to it altogether.

I think that it's very hard to acknowledge that for some babies this can involve paying a price in health terms - it's hard to accept that this may be true, hence the fiery debates on mumsnet about whether breastfeeding actually really makes any difference to babies. It's a bizarre situation when parents are generally willing to accept NHS advice and recommendations on every single other aspect of child health, but are so resistant to the message on this particular issue - maybe because there is such a powerful conflict between what they feel emotionally compelled to do, and what they would want to do for their baby under different circumstances.

ifyourehoppyandyouknowit Wed 10-Jul-13 15:16:47

On balance I suppose there are many people who feel that an increased likelihood of urinary infections, SIDS, vomiting, constipation or respiratory illness in one's baby may be a price worth paying for the feelings of pleasure, freedom and relief that can come with being able to hand your baby over to someone else to feed. Hence the success of formula.

Wow.

Because that is exactly why women give up feeding. So that someone else can do it? Not because of the myriad complex emotions we feel about our bodies, the exhaustion, the time consuming nature of breastfeeding, physical pain, complex feelings about bonding and attachment etc... how utterly utterly judgemental and horrible you have come across there.

And I didn't feel pleasure at giving my baby to someone else to feed. Actually no one but my husband or I fed him when he was little. So do fuck off.

Minifingers Wed 10-Jul-13 15:06:41

"I think its pointless talking about bottlefeeding being sub optimal or inferior. A baby lives in a family and everyone's needs to be taken into consideration. If breastfeeding issues are causing postnatal depression then it may well better to switch to formula as severe depression affects the quality of parenting."

If a mother's pnd is simply caused by bf and cured by switching to ff then I should imagine it is better on the whole for him or her to be bottlefed (though of course it's hard to say this categorically, as some ff babies will experience illness they might have dodged by being breastfed. Depressed or not depressed, it's never a good experience looking after a poorly baby, particularly if the illness is recurrent).

However, I doubt it's often as cut and dried as that.

On balance I suppose there are many people who feel that an increased likelihood of urinary infections, SIDS, vomiting, constipation or respiratory illness in one's baby may be a price worth paying for the feelings of pleasure, freedom and relief that can come with being able to hand your baby over to someone else to feed. Hence the success of formula.

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