Nowadays most health professionals will encourage new moms to breastfeed, but will also say that most infant formulas are perfectly acceptable alternatives. While breast milk is really the most “organic” food you can possibly provide for your newborn, a throbbing raw nipple might be too much for even the most health conscious woman. With the convenience of packaged bottles and popular brands of infant formula claiming to ease fussiness and promote brain development, the choice seems somewhat easy. But these claims may be nothing but false promises. Once we decoded the list of ingredients in several different baby formulas, we uncovered the shocking truth behind the marketing hype.
Enfamil’s line of infant formula products proudly boasts that the company is the “#1 Brand Recommended By Pediatricians.” It even exploits a purple baby owl Gentlease label, to infuse the notion of innocence and safety. The promise to “ease fussiness, gas and crying in 24 hours, while providing nutrition for healthy development to help babies reach key milestones” seals the deal.
But are these claims true? Let’s look at the facts.
The first ingredients (and therefore the bulk of the product) are corn syrup solids. Expert Mira Calton, CN, CMS, FAAIM, DCCN, CPFC, BCIH, and author of the book Rich Food, Poor Food, explains that corn syrup solids are a dried form of high fructose corn syrup, an artificial sweetener that does not trigger the satiety signals the way that real sugars do; these solids train your baby to need extremely sweet foods, while depleting the body of chromium, magnesium, zinc, and copper.
Because 86 percent of corn is GMO, which the FDA defines as “produced from crops whose genetic makeup has been altered through a process called recombinant DNA, or gene splicing, to give the plant desired traits,” the likelihood that this formula is made of primarily genetically modified ingredients is high.
Calton’s research has shown that the risks and long-term effects of the GMO laboratory experiment are largely unknown. While human clinical trials on GMO safety are virtually nonexistent, animal testing has had fatal and debilitating results, including the deaths of thousands of monarch butterflies that ingested food sprayed with seed-treated GMO corn pollen.
The next ingredients, partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk and whey protein concentrates (soy), are likely from cows that were given rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone), rBST (recombinant bovine somatotropin), and a diet rich in GMO soy and corn, according to Calton. These hormones are banned in a growing number of regions due to the widespread health concerns linked to the additives. Vegetable oil, palm olein, soy, coconut, and high oleic sunflower oils are the final ingredients that make up the bulk of the product. Calton reveals that palm olein oil matches the fatty acid profile of human milk, but may lower calcium and fat absorption, weakening baby’s bone density.
If it contains soy oil, it is likely genetically modified and difficult to digest, particularly in babies with gastrointestinal issues such as gas and indigestion. The oligosaccharides are difficult to break down and can contribute to stomach discomfort, bloating, and gas — the very symptoms this product claims to reduce!
The remaining ingredients comprise two percent of the product, including various vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin A palmitate and vitamin D3 — two vitamins that compete for receptor sites in the body and cause reduced absorption rates in infants.
Gerber’s “Good Start Gentle Formula” contains the same processed ingredients, but instead of GMO corn syrup solids, it contains mostly whey protein concentrate, posing the same health risks as partially hydrolyzed nonfat milk and whey protein concentrates. It also lists vegetable oils and corn maltodextrin (likely GMO sourced) as two bulk ingredients, followed by a laundry list of variously sourced vitamins and minerals. The last ingredient in Gerber’s formula is soy lecithin; ninety-three percent of all soy is GMO.
By demystifying the ingredients on the labels of infant formula, the morbid truth of GMO-overload is exposed. Not only are these two of the most recognizable and seemingly trustworthy brands, they demonstrate the power of effective marketing in shaping consumer beliefs.
Safety First: How Do I Know What To Buy?
Just as with any packaged foods, read the ingredients in the baby formula you purchase. The labels’ claims cannot be trusted; they are produced from a business mindset to gain your trust in order to sell a product. Check to see whether the product contains GMOs. (You can only be certain if the product is labeled organic or the label clearly states that it is GMO-free.)
When choosing an organic infant formula, avoid any with organic syrups, especially brown rice syrup. These syrups rapidly spike blood sugar levels. A recent study revealed that inorganic levels of arsenic are detected in organic brown rice syrup and “may introduce significant concentrations of Asi (inorganic arsenic) into an individual’s diet.” Currently, there are no U.S. regulations on the levels of arsenic permitted in food.
Also, steer clear of anything containing maltodextrin, carrageenan, added DHA, or ARA in baby formulas — as these are extracted by using the toxic chemical hexane — or synthetic nutrients or preservatives such as taurine.
The best diet for a newborn is mother’s milk. The milk becomes richer and more nutritious when the mother eats clean and nutrient-dense whole foods. When breastfeeding is not an option, natural nutritionist Catherine J. Fromovich advises choosing baby formulas that are:
1. GMO free
2. Free of chemical additives, preservatives, artificial colors, etc.
3. Free of synthetic forms of fatty acids
Homemade milk, such as a raw goat milk formula, can be a whole food, unprocessed option; however, there is continuing controversy about how these homemade recipes affect a baby’s development.
How To Be Super Mom
With the GMO experiment continuing to run rampant more quickly than ever before and with mounting concerns about safety, there is a growing need to eliminate these foods from our diet.
The first foods you feed your baby, including infant formula, create lifelong eating patterns and metabolic functions that shape your child’s health and future well-being. As a new mother, the best thing you can do for your child is provide comfort along with a nutritive and healthy diet. The undeniable power of education is the best tool you can use to learn about the ingredients on the label. If you’re concerned about something listed, remember to research, research, research!
Breastfeed if you can. It creates an undeniable mother-child connection with unmatched nourishment that only you have the miraculous ability to provide.
Kylie Swenson recently graduated from UC Berkeley on a full ride academic scholarship with a degree in interdisciplinary journalism and visual arts studies. With a passion for exercise, whole foods and nutrition, she works to maintain integrity in the food industry and empower consumers through food education. She obtained her two hundred hour yoga certification in 2012 and currently teaches power vinyasa, sculpt and heated yoga in Central California. She hopes to apply for her PhD next fall and one day educate at the collegiate level to inspire others to collaborate, seek and share the truth so that we can all live better, healthier and happier!