More Blog Articles

Baby Formulas as Good as Breastmilk? Part 1

Jul 09, 2022

I was speaking to a close friend yesterday and she was talking about the infant formula scarcity right now. She knew some women who were really at a loss for the formula.

She was saying that it was suspicious that the lack of baby formula on the shelves at the grocery stores right now was due to a particular billionaire who was releasing his own infant formula into the market.

I thought that was interesting because something similar happened with the seed oils and/or margarine years ago. Saturated fat was demonized and people were told that vegetable oil or margarine was the only way to go. And we all know what happened as a result – health problems from increased free radicals that are linked to all degenerative diseases.

One top prenatal education book I read recently stated that research studies on infant formulas vs breastmilk show there is no difference between the two for health. But there is no way this can be true. The history of formula for babies is checkered at best. No one knew how to create the formula in the beginning for many decades. It wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that a refined, hygienic feeding bottle was available

First Milk Substitutes were Animal Milk

Because clay vessels with a nipple-shaped spout were found in graves of newborn infants, scientists analyzed the residue in them and found casein from animal’s milk. The animal milk was a substitute for breastmilk.

Substituting animal milk for breastmilk makes sense. In fact, how many times have you seen videos of a cat that breastfed a puppy or vice versa? Still, the milks of different species are very much different.

Synthetic Formulas Show Up

In 1865, a chemist formulated and patented a liquid and powdered infant formula. It was composed of cow’s milk, wheat, malt flour, and potassium bicarbonate and marketed as the perfect infant food.

Evaporated milk was patented in 1835, and in 1853, sugar was added to it and called it condensed milk. Both were used as infant food. Pediatricians recommended evaporated milk for infant feeding between 1930 and 1940.

By 1883, 27 patented brands of infant food were on the market. They came in powdered form and consisted of carbs (sugars, starches, and dextrins) added to milk. They lacked protein, vitamins, and minerals.

The friend I mentioned in the beginning of this article told me something that was alarming. She said she told her friend to make her own infant formula like they had when she grew up – a mix of Karo syrup and evaporated or condensed milk.

Well, this is a sure recipe for early death. About 15 years ago, I worked with some medical doctors in Arizona writing a book for them and had to read all the studies on something called Advanced Glycation Endproducts (AGEs). There were hundreds of these studies. AGEs are toxic compounds that are formed when protein or fat combine with sugar in the bloodstream. The reaction that occurs is called glycation.

AGEs play a big role in the rise of diabetes and metabolic disease worldwide. When AGEs get into the body from foods, they multiply exponentially and cause rapid aging as well as chronic inflammatory disease, hardening of the arteries and neurodegenerative disease. If someone is a diabetic and they eat high AGEs foods (hot dogs and pizza are amongst the highest), you can expect that person to develop all the complications a lot sooner than a diabetic that doesn’t eat high AGEs foods.

Well, the evaporated/condensed milk is already high in AGEs and then adding Karo syrup to it is a recipe for glycation in a huge way. So her recommendation about creating infant formula with those ingredients was literally the kiss of death and she didn’t know it.

We often wonder why there are so many cases of people with chronic diseases. How much of it goes back to the infant formulas of the 1920-1950s?

Let’s take up this topic again in the next part of the series.

Reference: Stevens EE. A History of Infant Feeding. J Perinat Edu. 2009 Spring;18(2):32-39.