Why the breast is still best

“INFANT feeding may affect brain” was the somewhat alarming headline this week for what turned out to be a good news story. Researchers at the University College London Institute for Child Health have established that babies fed enriched formula milk consistently outperform other babies in IQ tests, a benefit that seems to continue into the teenage years.

So does this mean that new mums should switch to formula? In short, no, though you might find this news a bit confusing. After all, weren’t we always told that it was breast milk not formula that made them brainier?

There have been confusing stories for and against formula feeding, and this is but the latest. This new report, part of a long-running study, actually concerns premature babies, who have very specific developmental needs. They used to have food and fluid intake routinely restricted in an effort to keep them clinically stable. But then research established that they really need super-feeding with formulas enriched with protein, vitamins and minerals if they are to thrive.

Premature babies have received enriched formula since the 1980s. There have been other reports that may have erroneously pushed mothers of full-term children towards formula feeding. In 1999, the World Wide Fund for Nature claimed that more than 300 “inherently toxic” chemicals had been found in breast milk.

So if super- formula works for premature babies, might it not be even better for full-term babies and protect them from those chemicals, too?

Well, the WWF claim is scaremongering at its worst. Finding chemicals is easy with today’s supersensitive testing, but there is no evidence that the tiny traces found cause harm. As for super-formula, no one has yet tested it in full-term babies, so we don’t know if it holds benefits.

Source - Times

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