November 19, 2008

Baby Formula Use: Do Mothers Really Know the Risks?

When it comes to parents making decisions about their children, a lot of value is placed on us being able to make informed choices. Take the case of deciding how we will feed and nurture our babies, for example. Many new parents believe they are making an informed choice when they decide to use baby formula instead of, or in addition to, breastfeeding. They believe they have carefully weighed the pros and cons of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding and that the latter is the best choice for their child and family.

But have they really been informed?

[ad#ad-2] Recently, a baby’s death in Illinois was linked to powdered formula contaminated with a bacteria called enterobacter sakazakii. It is a known fact in medical circles that powdered baby formula is not a sterile product. Therefore, it is susceptible to contamination, most commonly by E. sakazakii. However, hardly any parent is aware of this fact. I know about it because I happen to have worked in UNICEF for 14 years!

As in the Illinois case, they boy’s mother says that she was not informed about the risk of using powdered formula. In fact, the hospital didn’t even tell her that they were feeding her premature baby with powdered formula.

How many more parents out there are not informed about the many risks associated with using baby formula, whether it is powdered or not? How many doctors tell their patients that their risk for breast cancer, among other things, increase if they do not breastfeed?

It’s time that the medical community be, first, fully informed themselves and, second, fully inform the public about the real consequences of using baby formula.


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Alexis Rodrigo

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