10 Feb 2015
February 10, 2015

Mythbuster 3: Early bottle with formula

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Many midwives and neonatal nurses are eager to feed newborn babies, and seem to think a bottle formula is the perfect solution.

“Don’t worry, it is only one bottle”

You are right to worry: one bottle of a single formula feed  is enough to cause harm!

The baby is born with a sterile gut. She has been swallowing amniotic fluid for many months. When the baby is born the first small amounts of colostrum coat the stomach lining with immune protection. There are gaps between the cells that line the gut, and even a small amount of formula is enough to breach these gaps, exposing the underlying tissue of the baby to foreign proteins. This may cause immune reactions, or future allergies.  It also causes changes in the microbiome: the normal healthy and necessary bacteria that the infants needs. These comes from the mother, scientists have recently discovered that some necessary organisms are even provided in mother’s milk and, and these are  highly specific and protective.

Colostrum comes in small amounts that the baby can easily manage to swallow, allowing also coordination of suckling and swallowing and breathing.The colostrum MUST be the first thing the baby gets into its stomach, because it provides aprotective layer for the stomach and the intestines. This makes immune protection, with potential life-long impact.

Cow milk is rich in caseins, which are very large protein molecules which the human newborn gut does not how to deal with. Without the protection of colustrum, this can cause harm. Human milk in contrast has very small molecules and even mini-proteins, ready to be used by the gut and the rest of the baby without effort.

More problems with the myth … not only is formula as such harmful, but the bottle is something totally unexpected to human biology. That single bottle makes the next attempt at suckling on the nipple more difficult and frustrating, for mother and baby.

It is never a “good idea” to give that first bottle with formula. There may be a “good reason”, and if there is such a reason then that should be explained carefully to you, and why there is no other alternative.

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