Formula 101: The Bad News About Feeding Your Baby Formula

Our guest blogger spills on the real facts about formula



This week we have a guest blogger! While I was in Florida (missing Coraline like crazy), my friend Elle Renaldo stepped up to enlighten us about formula. A sassy, sage-wielding, former English teacher, Elle recently moved to the Hudson Valley with her husband and two toddlers, Gabe and Violet.

The birth of my second child — just 14 months after my first — was an event layered with drama. Four days after delivery I developed a Cesarean infection and was hospitalized for two weeks. During this time, my body was intravenously blasted with antibiotics, and family members cared for my newborn daughter. Out of necessity, she was exclusively bottle-fed. After I was discharged I tried to breast feed, but she refused to latch on and my milk supply disappeared. Because my children would be so close in age, I had predicted my sanity would be stretched tissue paper thin. But I did not anticipate having to formula feed.

Panicked, I turned to the Internet. My mother often recounted how her mother made homemade formula; years ago there was no powdered mix. But once I discovered most modern recipes called for things like raw organic milk from grass-fed cows, yeast flakes, and fermented cod liver oil, I threw my hands up. Living in Queens, the prospect of acquiring such ingredients with two babies to care for seemed dauntingly impossible. Instead, I redirected my research and unearthed a complex heap of conflicting, negative information about the most popular formula brands in the United States.

This shocking information sent me on a mission to find an ethical company that produced quality formula with a naturally derived source of DHA and no genetically modified ingredients. While this seemed like a tall order, I was pleasantly surprised to come across Nature’s One, a private company who produces a formula called Baby’s Only. Their BPA-free formula canisters read Toddler Formula (though they meet the nutritional requirements set by the Infant Formula Act) because they choose to promote breastfeeding and advise formula use only with a pediatrician’s consent.

Nowadays, people will spend weeks researching vacuum cleaners, cars, or toys before buying. So why isn’t formula discussed, researched, or reviewed online as much as the latest kitchen gadget? Are we all just overly trusting and not proactive enough to explore what our babies are really ingesting? Ultimately, without vigilance and a critical lens, our children’s health may suffer.

Formula Facts:

  • Most formulas contain DHA and ARA for brain development, so formula companies can advertise their product “as close as ever to breast milk.” However, the DHA and ARA oils are extracted from laboratory-grown fermented algae and fungus and processed using the toxic chemical hexane. A 2008 report (click here to read it) reveals DHA and ARA additives may be ineffective and unsafe.
  • Almost all brands of infant formula contain BPA (Bisphenol A) at levels that may be harmful to infants. The chemical leaches into the formula from BPA-based lining on metal portions of formula containers. The Environmental Working Group recommends using powered formula whenever possible, as liquid formula contains the highest levels of BPA.
  • Many formulas contain corn syrup, hydrogenated oils, and genetically modified ingredients, which have potentially harmful side effects like reproductive disorders, immune system deficiencies, and organ damage.
  • Despite a 1981 “milk code” enacted by 84 countries to prevent the marketing of formula feeding, especially in underdeveloped countries, major formula companies are currently breaking laws to promote their products across Asia. View MSNBC.com’s report here.

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About This Blog

Shannon Gallagher

Shannon Gallagher
Rhinebeck, NY


Dutchess County native Shannon Gallagher is a contributing editor for Hudson Valley Magazine. An erstwhile thrill-seeker, these days she courts disaster of a different variety wrangling a spirited toddler, honing her vegan baking skills, and chasing the ever-elusive work-family balance. She teaches Pilates and does fascial bodywork, and lives in Rhinebeck with Coraline, a cat named Otie, and Sushi the Fish (named, of course, by the toddler).

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