Report Finds that Using Formula Doubles the Death Rate for U.S. Infants
© 2004 Midwifery Today, Inc. All rights reserved.
[Editor's note: This article first appeared in Midwifery Today Issue 69, Spring 2004.]
The December issue of Natural Family Online magazine (www.naturalfamilyonline.com) features a new analysis which finds that formula feeding doubles infant death rates for babies in the United States. Health educator and author Dr. Linda Folden Palmer's report, based on several decades of research from the U.S. and across the world, reveals that the use of infant formula costs the lives of an estimated 9,335 U.S. babies each year.
According to the report, formula feeding costs U.S. babies more than four additional lives per thousand. The final relative risk for formula feeding comes to double the risk of death for U.S. infants who are fed with formula, compared with babies who are fed naturally.
Based on the current U.S. infant death rate of 6.7 and an average breastfeeding rate of 50 percent, the report shows that the U.S. infant mortality rate would climb to 9.4 if all infants were formula-fed and would drop to 4.7 if all were breastfed.
"Infant formula was designed to be a medical nutritional tool for babies who are unable to breastfeed," Palmer said. "Formula does not fully meet the nutritional and immunity needs of infants. It leaves their immune systems flailing."
The report's conclusions are derived from an examination of the available scientific research on infant mortality in the U.S. and across the world. Research included in Palmer's report includes studies showing artificial feeding's impact on overall infant death rates in developing and undeveloped countries; studies providing comparative illness occurrence rates for many illnesses and disorders in the U.S. and other industrialized nations; and reports examining superior survival rates and decreased illness rates among breastfed infants. The report assembles these statistics to build a firm picture of the ratio of infant deaths for U.S. formula-fed babies against those who are breastfed.
The report cites results from numerous studies illustrating the negative impact of formula feeding on the health and survival of infants with various illnesses and health problems, including Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS); heart, circulatory and respiratory failure; diarrhea; respiratory illnesses; cancer; and low birth-weight and preterm babies.
Illness and death rates of breastfed babies who receive formula supplementation are much closer to those of fully formula-fed babies, Palmer's report notes. Numerous studies referenced in the report reveal conclusively that the longer breastfeeding lasts, the greater the measurable difference in illness and death rates.
Available evidence strongly contradicts commonly made assertions that formula feeding does not risk lives in industrialized nations where education and medical advances prevent increased deaths, Palmer said.
"Some insist that the blame for the United States' relatively high infant death rate lies with underprivileged communities," Palmer said. "But after examining the available research, we see that elevated death rates among U.S. blacks cannot be attributed to poverty. Hispanic Americans rank similarly to African American populations for socioeconomic factors, but they match non-Hispanic whites in their lower infant mortality rates. The difference is not socioeconomic; the difference is in rates of formula use versus breastfeeding."
For both condensed and full, referenced versions of Dr. Palmer's report, visit www.naturalfamilyonline.com/BF/200312-formula-report.htm.
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