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Nutritional Anthropology's Bible:
Breast Milk Enigma, Formula Milk Puzzle
the state of nature, mothers would breast-feed their babies exclusively
to the age of some six months. They would only gradually introduce
solids until the child had a full set of teeth. The mother would finally
finish feeding from the breast when the next child was born, usually
after about 4 years.
know this for two main reasons. First, a few intrepid
explorer-researchers scientifically studied the forager way of life at a
time when it was still untainted by contact with civilization. Such a
man was Richard Lee who lived among the San Bushmen back in the
everything we know about breast feeding today supports the finding that
this is the ideal. In other words, science continues to add findings to
support the mantra that “breast is best”.
The latest confirmation comes from an
unexpected quarter. Breast-fed babies have less diarrhea and lower
incidence of diabetes or asthma compared to formula-fed babies. But
precisely how breast milk confers those advantages was unclear.
Scientists know the basic ingredients of breast milk but don't fully
understand how they work. Now researchers are coming to some startling
Dr Carlito Lebrilla, at University of California, Davis, wondered
why breast milk contains hundreds of seemingly useless compounds called
“oligosaccharides”. Her extraordinary finding is that they are there
to feed “good” bacteria in the colon. It’s an especially important
task to ensure that “bad” species of illness-causing bacteria do not
hijack a new-born’s colon.
This explains why formula-fed babies tend to have “adult-like”
species of bacteria and why they are then more susceptible to diarrhea
and other intestinal troubles. This gut “seeding” protects against
viruses – even the dreaded HIV. Human milk oligosaccharides block the
virus in the gut, helping to explain why a majority of infants
breast-fed by HIV-positive mothers do not develop the disease.
"Breast milk is a
remarkable fluid," remarked Dr. Carlito. "It's extremely
embarrassing how little we still know about it."A better
understanding of the chemistry and function of breast milk will lead to
the design of more nutritious infant formulas.”
what if you cannot breast feed and need to use a formula milk? In
olden days, raw cows’ milk killed many babies when desperate
non-lactating mothers fed it to their babies. The main problem was the
cow’s milk protein which is highly allergenic.
my first book Natural Eating: Eating
in Harmony with our Genetic Programming, I wrote:
the companies that make formula milk are getting a lot more cute about
making a product that imitates human milk as closely as possible. They
have come a long way in 50 years.”
Even so, it is
devilishly difficult to find out precisely
what formula manufacturers put into their products.
So what should you look out for?
make sure they are using “hydrolyzed” cows’ milk protein. This
means that they have put it through a process which reduces the
allergy-provocation to acceptable levels. (But it is not foolproof,
particularly against eczema).
Secondly, pay the extra
and choose the formula milk that contains “long chain fatty acids”,
usually “DHA” (docosahexaenoic acid) and “AHA” (arachidonic
acid). These are essential oils that babies’ bodies cannot make
(although we can as adults).
just in case you need the reassurance, for a couple of generations now,
millions of babies have been bottle-fed from birth and they have grown
into perfectly healthy infants, children and adults.