WHHAAATT? Formula is a Fate Worse than DEATH?

Yes, that’s right. If that baby needs anything more than skin-to-skin contact and breastmilk, then you should apparently just let him die. I don’t know what’s more disturbing: that someone actually typed this out or that NINE  TWENTY ONE other people said, “Hey! I like that!”

(original post)

Only slightly less disturbing: the woman who thinks it might be reasonable to risk giving a special needs baby pertussis in order to donate breastmilk to him…

35 thoughts on “WHHAAATT? Formula is a Fate Worse than DEATH?

  1. Man… so not on Facebook.

    In fact, mixing similac or other high-calorie, preemie-appropriate formula with breastmilk is a common strategy for premature infants, an attempt to better meet their caloric needs.

    This baby sounds like he is having a tough time. Those things there (cranial/intracranial bleed, possible necrotizing enterocolitis) are some serious health problems. However, I know from experience that the prognosis for a premature infant can look dire and then suddenly turn around.

    The notion of letting a preemie “pass peacefully” rather than treating the cause and the symptoms of his suffering, makes me furious.

  2. They really must believe that formula is poison, or else the original poster wouldn’t have connected fortifying breastmilk with the baby’s intestinal problems. Clearly, none of them have even a vague understanding of the types of problems encountered by preemies simply because, well, they’re preemies! A 33 weeker has a pretty good chance of growing up to be a normal, healthy child, provided that he gets good NICU care. The suggestion to allow “nature to take its course” is revolting.

      • Astraea, I didn’t know that! Thank you for correcting me. (See, NCBers, it is actually possible to admit when you are wrong).

        • Before I typed this I noticed someone else addressed this already further down, but it bares repeating…fortifiers aren’t thickeners!

      • Breast milk can help avoid NEC, but formula doesn’t cause it, it just doesn’t help prevent it. This is why berate milk is best for preemies. Im pretty sure the NICU knows what’s best for that baby.

        • Actually it may not be a direct cause and effect relationship, but it is much closer to that than what you are saying. The recent “Simply Thick” warning from the FDA shows this, for one thing. Even babies who were getting breast milk were more vulnerable to NEC if it was being thickened.

          “Doctor knows best” is a 1950s attitude I am glad to put behind us. I simply don’t want to replace it with “midwife knows best,” either. NICU in particular has historically been a place of much trial and error, where therapies that “doctor knows are best” today end up being the source of pain and disability tomorrow.

          • It sounds like a rock-and-a-hard-place situation. Likely the mother can’t produce enough milk to meet the baby’s calorie needs. Donated breast milk could help but who knows the situation at that hospital–could be there isn’t enough of a supply for the entire NICU population. A good reason for nursing moms to consider donating milk to their local (legitimate) breastmilk bank.

          • They are talking about a product that is *added* to expressed human milk, not used in place of it. It’s not a question of mom not making enough milk, but of needing the milk to be more calorie- and nutrient-dense, so donated breastmilk is not the solution in this scenario.

            When I had my 32-weeker 10 years ago, I expressed way more milk than he could be given at first, but the fortifier was added to my milk to help him grow by getting in more calories, protein, etc.

          • Yeah, I spouted off without doing research and here’s what I found: the FDA has recommended against the use of thickeners, which are supposed to make breast milk easier to swallow for babies with reflux. Thickeners are different from fortifiers, which as you said add calories to breast milk. Thickeners are linked to necrotizing enterocolitis, fortifiers, so far as I can tell, are not.

          • Breastmilk or regular formula are not nutrient-dense enough for vulnerable preemies. They spend more calories just digesting the milk than they receive from the tiny volume they can handle. So a fortifier is added to make the small volume of breastmilk higher in calories and nutrients.

            It is necessary, and it cannot be replaced just by giving the baby more breastmilk. The baby cannot physically consume enough breastmilk to live and grow.

          • I’ve heard lots of women say their breastmilk was dumped while their baby was in NICU, or the baby was “just fed!” when mom suddenly shows up to nurse. This is not an uncommon practice, unfortunately, so I’d bet that they’re not so much mixing the formula with breastmilk as they’re probably just dumping out the breastmilk and feeding the baby straight formula.

          • Are you serious? As a nurse, I think lying about something like that is deplorable! It is possible that adding fortifiers or formula supplements is best practice with nicu preemies, I really have no idea what but tossing out expressed milk and just giving straight formula on the sly is a total breech of trust and not at all professional. Also, what about the exhausted, postpartum mother working hard to pump her milk, thinking it is going to her baby? This attitude drives me crazy as it is exactly why people are seeking alternative, often less safe, care options.

          • Do you know how hard it is to pump? Do you know how long it takes to get an ounce out with a pump, versus with a baby? And are you at all familiar with how breast milk is far superior to formula??

          • Well, first the breastmilk is going to waste. That is unfortunate.

            More importantly, however, hospitals do not “own” babies and have the right to lie to parents because they “know better”. The principal of informed medical consent was established decades ago.

            I’m not a breastmilk at all costs person. Modern formula is another miracle of our age. Breastmilk is obviously also food designed for full term babies, not those at minus 2-3 months.

            However, that doesn’t change the fact that parents have the absolute right to know what is being fed to their infant in NICU. Unfortunate is a mild word if nurses possibly feel the need to lie or “omit the truth”.

          • Actually the milk mom produces is made specifically for her baby’s needs. Moms of preemies make milk that is different than moms of full term infants. Please do your research before claiming things that are not true.

  3. Dear God in heaven. What does that second poster (the one with the baby with pertussis) MEAN???? “Passing it through the exchange of the BM etc rather than the BM itself?” What is she TALKING about????

    And yeah, kangaroo care and breast milk will fix brain bleeds all the time. Soon the emergency departments will start using these when folks have hemorrhagic strokes, right?

  4. My son spend several weeks in the NICU for brain injuries when he was born. I sobbed for days when they started adding formula with the breast milk. I pumped and pumped but had just gone through a very traumatic birth and was not making enough. I felt that once again I was failing my baby as a mother. Due to his injuries he did not successfully breastfeed and at 4 months my supply stopped meeting his needs. I was devastated all over again. At 6 months my milk dried up completely. I was shocked when I got passed all the fear based exaggerations I had been told and watched my son thrive on it. And what do you know, not having to go pump for 45 minutes every 2 hours with a screaming colicky newborn literally saved my sanity. I think that breastmilk is an amazing thing. Anyone that says that a baby should die before receiving formula is disgusting.

    • Kristine, take some solace in that it’s not simply about how much milk you were producing. Preemies have tiny, tiny, tiny, tiny stomachs. They simply can’t fit as much fluid in there as full-term babies. The more premature the baby, the more pronounced this effect is. And of course this remains true, comparatively speaking, as they get bigger – a 4 month old baby who was born 1 month premature is generally going to be the size of a 3 month old term baby (or, usually, smaller). Breastmilk has about 20 calories per ounce, whereas high calorie formulas have up to around 27. If a preemie is failing to thrive, then practically one of the only choices you have, nutritionally, is to increase the number of calories per ounce, which means supplementing the breast milk with formula – you can fit more calories into that tiny stomach that way.

      And I absolutely agree that the attitude expressed on that FB page is unconscionable. Babies survive today that even 30 years ago would have been doomed. To tell a parent in pain that they should throw their child’s life away for, essentially, political reasons is beyond comprehension.

      • Breast milk supplemented with formula is not a better option than fortified breast milk. There is a lot of confusion around this, but fortifying is not the same as supplementing.

    • The “breastfeeding at any cost” attitude frustrates me too, and I have suffered for it. I kept nursing my son even though I was so impoverished I was nutritionally compromised, and although I was chronically ill, until it became obvious it wasn’t working for either of us and I couldn’t feed him enough to meet his nutritional needs at 6 months. He began thriving much more than he had been BUT about that time he got his first ear infection, which he recovered from within a day, but I spent MONTHS beating myself up over his stupid ear infection, knowing it was ALL MY FAULT because I hadn’t nursed him long enough to bolster his immune system or something. We had also just moved to a new apartment, so it may have been connected to that, too.
      Years later there are STILL people who will tell me I just didn’t try hard enough. I have a perfectly healthy child and we get along great – what is their problem?

  5. I am completely flabbergasted that anyone would starve their child essentially to prove they are too crunchy for formula, or more specifically, fortifying breast milk. Most breastmild fortifiers I have used in the NICU WHERE I AM A NURSE, are powders that give extra calories. This is following evidence-based practice, as preemies, sick newborns and newborns with digestive systems that are impaired need extra fat and calories….

    • There really is nothing wrong with formula if a baby is thriving on it.

      However, I had a milk allergy at birth and was fed dairy based formula way back in the 1970’s when they weren’t aware of those issues as they are now. My parents tell tales of endless sicknesses and high fevers during my first year of life. I lucked out, but those illnesses could have easily led to seizures and permanent damage/death.

      It may not surprise you that I choose to breastfeed.

      Ultimately, it’s all about balance and making the best choices without some of luggage other people are trying to attach to them. Good parents make a choice and then change or adjust if it was the wrong one. With no family history of allergies and/or many other circumstances, formula feeding can certainly make sense.

  6. I recently read a natural birth blog in which the writer (mother) said she was unsure what she would do if she went into labor before 30w and (I paraphrasing) perhaps it was better to just let nature take its course. As the mom of an incredibly wonderful 29weeker, I really hope that she was clumsily trying to say that there can be a point when a very sick very early baby is not viable and should not be put through painful heroic measures when there is no hope. However, I fear that some people think it’s better and more natural to homebirth a baby at 29w and wrap that baby in a handmade linen shroud rather than having that baby in an isolette, hooked up to machines, receiving medical care.

  7. This IS beyond ridiculous. My niece was born at 26 weeks. They fortified my Sister In Laws breast milk as well. Why because fighting for her own little life sucked the calories right out of her. So in order to give her the strength to continue to fight a good fight they gave her those calories. She was still getting Breast Milk, it was just topped up a little.
    She received Kangaroo Care as well & all the best that could be provided for her. She is now a thriving 15 month old wonderful child.
    I cringe at the thought that someone would say well if she can’t make it on just breast milk & skin to skin then let her go. So all the machinery then shouldn’t have been used either? It is man made & not “natural”.
    My sister in law went on to pump for 8 months because my niece never could latch on.
    WOW! That’s all I can say.

  8. We preemie moms have to remember that yes, while our breast milk IS attuned to our preemie baby’s needs, our breast milk might not always be *quite* enough. And because a pump does not bring in milk like a baby does, we might sometimes be a little bit behind their current needs volume wise.

    I’d argue that the respirator, CPAP, antibiotics, CAT scans, ultrasounds, and highly trained neonatologists shouldn’t all be tossed in favor of kangaroo care (as wonderful as it is) and breast milk (as wonderful as THAT is) alone.

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