Friday, December 13, 2013

First parenthood-related research expedition: the search for the best formula

As many of you know by now, I'm an information ferret. My digging for information is not going to end when I have a baby (note I said when, not if!); rather, it is going to intensify.

In my case, I know that unless I get really lucky in my quest for milk, I will have to start formula feeding from a really early point. My first foray into parenting-related research: finding a decent formula option. Twenty minutes into my research, I was horrified. Everything I was finding had some issue or the other.
  • Cow-milk based formulas have the potential to trigger allergy due to the presence of alpha S1-casein, and its nutritional profile makes it much harder for the baby to digest.
  • Soy-based formulas are something I would never consider anyway: the nutritional profile of unfermented soy is not ideal, and more importantly, most of the soy available today is genetically modified and has been sprayed that godawful pesticide Roundup
  • Wheat-containing formulas have the capacity to trigger gluten allergies. I don't know WHY gluten allergy is so common today, as compared to 50 years ago. Clearly, there is something different with the wheat grown in the world today, or our reaction to it. The why of it will be a post in itself one day.
  • Then I considered an elemental formula like Neocate...only to find that instead of lactose, they add corn solids to sweeten the bloody thing.  
Not only are the nutritional profiles of all 4 of these formula choices problematic, even if you go organic, they have some insane additives.

The more you read about the food industry and how fake and profit and lobbying-driven it is, especially in the USA, the more depressed you get. 

DHA supplementation of baby formulas sounds like a good idea right?  Your baby would get this vital fatty acid that it needs for optimal brain development. Except---your baby does not need it. Except the DHA in most baby foods is extracted from algae using hexane, a neurotoxic solvent. What they should be adding is  adding DHA from a natural source, but that is too darned cost ineffective for them.

Lycopene in tomatoes is great. So if you saw it in your baby's food, you'd be happy. BUT---but the version in organic infant formula is produced synthetically by the chemical manufacturer BASF.  A three-stage process is used to produce synthetic lycopene, and involves the solvent dichloromethane and the solvent toluene.  Toluene is a neurological toxin derived from benzene.

The source for all this information is this FABULOUS article written by the Director of the Cornucopia Institute, which serves as an organic food industry watchdog. 

Basically, even the organic versions of regular formulas for the most part have nutritional profiles that differ from that of human milk, and they could be contaminated with trace quantities of stuff like hexane and toluene, and many contain ridiculous and unnecessary additives like carneegan. This is where you want to grab the food industry people (scientists/executives, etc) and whack them for doing the stuff that they do. Is it all for profit? Do they simply not stop and think? If you read the article above, this woman also talks about the evolution of baby formulas, of how their ingredients could change over time, and this is a key point. The product you see today may not be the one that is there like one year later.

So what is a better, practical alternative? Well I found one, but that deserves a post of its own. Coming soon. 


  1. Neocate can literally be a life-saver for the child with milk/soy protein intolerance and similar GI-mediated allergies. My daughter drank it from 7-24 months. But not worth considering as first choice formula for any other child. It is wickedly expensive and smells/tastes AWFUL.

    Interested in hearing what you came up with. My son (25 mo) is now on Gentlease toddler formula; it has all kinds of crud in it (corn syrup, check!) but he needs the calories/protein/fat to supplement the rice milk and general lack of eating...

  2. Good luck figuring this out. :-)

  3. My first, who I had naturally, was 100% breastfed. My second, who was born in Mumbai through surrogacy, was also breastfed but supplemented with formula. In Mumbai we used Nestles Nan and when we came home, we used Enfamil Gentle and its equivalent which we purchased at Target. He was three weeks early, so I'm not sure if that effected his digestion or it was the formula or it was just him, but he did have a fussier tummy than my daughter.

    I don't know how you feel about inducing lactation, but in case it's a consideration, I want to encourage you to go for it. It's intense. Lots of pumping for a couple of months before the baby's born. I was also very nervous about supply after he was born. In retrospect, I could have skipped the formula, but there were some factors that made me feel it was better to offer a bottle, too. He was early and a bit of a lazy sucker. The less milk he got, the more he was jaundiced. The worse the jaundice, the sleepier he got and the less he ate. You see where that's going.

    He's past a year now and still nursing and off the formula. I am also off the domperidone and my supply is still pretty good. So we weren't able to avoid formula entirely, but reduced his intake of it by quite a lot. Regardless, they have to eat and it is only for a year that they take it.

    Hope this comment helps a bit.

    1. Yes this was helpful, thanks for commenting! I am thinking about induced lactation, but I have not made up my mind one way or the other yet. One thing I'm not clear about: how long do you have to be on domperidone after your milk production is established? Can you talk about your individual experience with this?

    2. I wanted to comment on this relative to something I read. Normal lactation is hormonal lay controlled for only the first 6 weeks or so, then it is supply and demand based. I would assume that once you begin to lactate after inducing it, it will take a little while to establish a good supply, then at some point it would also be supply and demand based. You likely could stop shortly after you have enough for full feedings.

      I honestly assumed that induced lactation would be the way you would go, more as a research experiment as well as how much control it gives you over what your baby eats than for any other reason.

    3. I've been taking the domperidone since he was born Nov. 29, 2012 and I'm just now weening off of it (down to 20 mg. from 100 mg. when he was just born). I don't see much of a difference at all. I did not want to stop taking the dom earlier because I just didn't want to risk a drop in my supply and there was no way I was going back to pumping if my supply had dropped off. I also had the pills and hadn't had any side effects so there was no reason to stop taking it. I am now at the end of my dom supply, my son is on whole milk and solids and although he still nurses (loves it, in fact), I'm comfortable with a drop in supply if it does happen. The Newman-Goldfarb Protocol recommends staying on the dom for the entire time you nurse (I think). But if you want to stop taking it, they recommend slowly weaning from it like I did and if you see a difference, just upping the dose again.

      It's a big commitment, inducing and nursing. I'm glad I did it. If we have another baby, I'm pretty sure I'd do it again.

  4. Is your surrogate willing to pump for you for any length of time?

    1. I've asked her, but have not heard back. I'll be looking for wet nurses who can pump in Mumbai, let us see how far I get with that.

  5. Iron supplementation in formula is tough. It makes it smell and taste like a rusty nail. Nom! I did lots of research and ended up trying several before settling on something I felt was not the best, but not terrible. It was the difference between not getting enough food and being fed. Whatever works will be what you go with. I find that I have to remind myself not to beat myself up when things didn't go according to plan as a parent. I look forward to seeing where you ended up with research!

  6. UGH so tough! I was lucky enough to be able to EBF my daughter so she didn't ever have any formula, but I did lots of research into it just in case. I couldn't really find a solution either. Then of course once they start solids it's so hard to find foods that don't contain GMOs, etc. So it is like fighting a losing battle. :)

  7. So much to consider!! But I just love hearing your optimism!!