Breastfeeding has long been considered the best option for mother and child. Now, compared to most major formula brands available, breastfeeding is really the only option. Most infant formulas have added DHA and ARA, two important essential fatty acids that are normally found in breastmilk. Unfortunately, the added fatty acids are produced from fermented algae and fungus in a laboratory and extracted using hexane. The end products are called “single-cell oils” (SCO), and are molecularly different from the fatty acids found in breastmilk. To make matters worse, these manufactured oils have not yet been approved by the FDA as safe for consumption. Amazingly, even if you’re buying organic formula, you are not protected, since all major brands are including DHASCO and ARASCO (DHA/ARA in single-cell oil form) in their organic lines.
Why is this happening? The company responsible for the production of these single-cell oils is Martek Biosciences Corporation. In the mid 1990s, Martek positioned itself to produce DHASCO and ARASCO with the hope that it would be adopted as a standard ingredient in infant formulas. A 1996 letter to Martek investors included this alarming statement: “Even if [the DHA/ARA blend] has no benefit, we think it would be widely incorporated into formulas, as a marketing tool and to allow companies to promote their formula as ‘closest to human milk’.” Side effects that have been associated with DHASCO and ARASCO include digestion disturbances, such as diarrhea, vomiting and increased gassiness. Despite this letter being public record, and the FDA questioning the safety of these manufactured oils, there exists no authority to stop their inclusion in infant formulas.
There seems to be one brand, Nature’s One, that uses added DHA and ARA extracted naturally from egg yolks. Like most organic formulas, a major ingredient is organic brown rice syrup, which has recently been shown to be at significant risk of containing arsenic at higher than acceptable levels. To the credit of Nature’s One, however, the company uses only U.S.-grown organic brown rice, and employs independent laboratory testing to ensure “undetectable” levels of arsenic.
If you truly cannot breastfeed or are unable to pump and store, and don’t have access to a breastmilk bank (find one at hmbana.org), your best option might be to make your own formula with trusted ingredients. The Weston A. Price Foundation has an excellent raw milk–based recipe on its website, westonaprice.org.
Alternative Brand Choices
Nature’s One uses added DHA and ARA extracted naturally from egg yolks.
Make Your Own
If you cannot breastfeed or are unable to pump and store, and don’t have access to a breastmilk bank, your best option might be to make your own formula with trusted ingredients. The Weston A. Price Foundation has an excellent raw milk–based recipe on its website, westonaprice.org.
Find a Milk Bank
Breastmilk banks aren’t everywhere, but there may be one in your area. You can find out locations of banks nationwide by consulting the map at hmbana.org.
This article appeared in Pathways to Family Wellness magazine, Issue #34.
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