Formula Safety: 7 Tips To Minimize Risks

This week a new study was published in  Environmental Health Perspectives that found alarming levels of arsenic in baby formulas.  The amount of arsenic in one organic formula was 6 times the recommended threshold for adults. This is so distressing to a mom giving her baby formula (like I currently am).  You try to do the best for your baby and the industry just seems to totally fail us sometimes!


But this news is hardly exclusive as a reason to avoid formula.  There are all kinds of scary things going on in formula (bug parts anyone?) and the evidence that breastfeeding is so far superior from a health perspective is enough to make a mama scream!  Formula feeding is not always avoidable and until society puts a premium on milk bank breastmilk so that it is affordable many of us will be using formula.  Here are my 7 tips for avoiding the major risks of formula.

1. Don’t use soy formula.

I really feel soy formula should only be given by prescription.  It is horrible and only needed in less than 1% of babies (with a true milk allergy) and yet in the US up to 50% of babies are getting soy formula.  Unfortunately soy’s reputation as a health food makes conscientious parents think it is better than cow’s milk formula.  I avoid soy in all forms and if I must have some it must be organic.  Soy is the most genetically modified and heavily pesticide drenched crop in the world.  Besides that soy is naturally a phytoestrogen meaning it has a compound that mimics the hormone estrogen in the human body increasing rates of breast and ovarian cancers and causing infertility.
If your baby isn’t tolerating cow’s milk well it is to be expected since cow’s milk is not ideal for human digestion, however, your child is probably not allergic to milk.  Try a hydrolyzed formula instead (see #6).

2. Don’t use fluoridated water to make formula

Ever.  Reconstituted formula “contains 100 to 200 times more fluoride (1,000 ppb) than is found naturally in breast milk (5-10 ppb). In fact, while breast-fed infants receive the LOWEST body burden (mg/kg/day) in the population, they receive the HIGHEST body burden if they receive fluoridated formula(source).” Fluoride is a toxic substance that can cause tooth deformity (called fluorosis), cancers, and decreased cognitive skills in children.  Remember, even if you a pro-fluoride for tooth decay it is only beneficial when applied topically NOT when ingested.

The CDC has a website called My Water’s Fluoride where you can search for your city’s fluoride levels.  However, there didn’t seem to be any data for my state at all.  I did find Ohio Fluoridation levels with a Google Search. If you have well water have it checked for fluoride levels.  The levels could be low or high as it varies from well to well even in the same area. Get a reverse-osmosis or activated alumina water filter.  Your average Brita does not remove fluoride. Bottled water has fluoride in most cases.  Bottled spring water is best but just because it says “spring” on the label doesn’t mean it is from a spring.  Besides, bottled water creates a landfill nightmare.

3. Use organic formula if possible.

This avoids pesticides as well as genetically engineered products like High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS).  The recent arsenic scare was in organic formula using brown rice syrup so until better regulation I would avoid that ingredient.

4. Give a probiotic supplement.

Probiotics are beneficial bacteria that help in digestion.  Babies get probiotics from their mother through vaginal birth and through breastfeeding. In formula fed babies the introduction of cow’s milk throws off the delicate balance of gut flora.  A probiotic introduces the good stuff.  I personally like Udo’s Infant Probiotic.

5. Give an omega-3 supplement.

Omega-3’s help the development of eyes, brain, and immune system and can also stabilize mood. I recommend a cod-liver oil and to avoid some of the junk on the market like Flinstones that have HFCS, artificial dyes and flavors, and less bio-available omega-3.  I use an adult norwegian cod-liver oil where I break the gel-caps and pour the liquid directly into the formula.

6. Consider hydrolyzed formula.

I don’t use this because there isn’t currently an organic option on the market but if your child is having trouble with regular formula this provides milk proteins that are pre-broken down and easier to digest.  There is even some evidence that are showing a long-term benefit of decreased allergies, asthma, and eczema when compared to whole-protein cow’s milk formula.

7. Practice gentle, responsive parenting.

This is good for the immune system and brain development two things that breastfed babies have a leg up on.  Practicing gentle and responsive parenting will bathe your baby in oxytocin the love hormone that breastfeeding releases.  This will enhance brain development and develop a wonderful attached relationship with your formula-fed baby.


BVO: What Every Parent Should Know

If you’ve read my previous What Every Parent Should Know posts: Fluoride and BPA, you had probably already heard of those substances. But, BVO? You might have never heard of that but you really need to know about it!

What is BVO?

BVO stands for Brominated Vegetable Oil.  Bromine atoms are added to the oil until it achieves the same density as water.  The enables the BVO to stay suspended in water and not separate in layers.  BVO is used as an emulsifier (a substance that forces two liquids that would not normally combine to combine) in citrus flavored beverages.  BVO is in Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Powerade, Pineapple and Orange Fanta, Orange Crush, Sun Drop, Squirt and Fresca, BVO can also be found in some bakery products and brands of pasta.

BVO is banned in over 100 countries but in the US it is one of only 4 substances given “Interim” status – meaning it needs further study and in the interim is permited in foods until it can be researched.  It has been in an interim status since 1984.

Is BVO Dangerous?

Bromides (which include Brominated Vegetable Oil, polybromo diphenyl ethers or PBDEs which is used as a fire retardant, methyl bromide which is used in pesticides especially on strawberries, and in some hot tub/pool treatments) are endocrine disruptors and they are in a family of compounds called Halides.  The halides are: Fluoride, Chloride, Bromide, Iodide, and Astatide.  We are constantly exposed to the very toxic fluorides, chlorides, and bromides and this competes in your body for the same receptors with iodides.  Iodine is an essential element our bodies need.  When fluoride, chloride, and bromide stop iodine from being used in the body we have the double threat of toxicity and iodine deficiency.  Bromide is particularly aggressive in pushing out iodine which leds to the Bromide Dominance Theory.

BVO and Your Thyroid

Bromine is such a strong “bully” in the thyroid that it is implicated in nearly every thyroid condition.  In one study[1. Vobecky M et al., Interaction of Bromine with Iodine in the Rat Thyroid Gland at Enhanced
Bromide Intake, Biol Trace Elem Res 1996.] fully 1/3 of the iodine content in the thyroids of rats was displaced by bromide.

BVO and Cancer

Iodine deficiency is linked to cancers of the breast, thyroid, ovaries, and prostate;

Iodine-deficient breast tissues are also more susceptible to carcinogen action and promote lesions earlier and in greater profusion. Metabolically, iodine-deficient breasts show changes in RNA/DNA ratios, estrogen receptor proteins, and cytosol iodine levels[2. Eskin BA. Iodine and mammary cancer.  Adv Exp Med Biol. 1977;91:293-304.]

BVO and Mental Health

Bromine toxicity is can cause headaches, memory loss, skin rashes and severe acne, loss of appetite and abdominal pain, fatigue, and cardiac arrhythmias.  Additionally bromine can cause schizophrenia;

Bromide intoxication has the power to bring to the surface a latent schizophrenia…It is wise to examine the serum for bromide routinely in every acute psychosis, rather than to do so only “when indicated.” If the test is not made routinely, one will overlook some cases, for sometimes one does not suspect a bromide psychosis until an unexpected recovery has opened one’s eyes, at which point it may be too late to verify the diagnosis chemically[2. M. Levin. Bromide Hallucinosis. Arch Gen Psychiatry, April 1, 1960; 2(4): 429 – 433].

Sources for BVO and Bromides

BVO is, as mentioned, in Mountain Dew, Gatorade, Powerade, Pineapple and Orange Fanta, Orange Crush, Sun Drop, Squirt and Fresca.  Bromides are also in (from The Bromide Dominance):

BREAD – Potassium bromate as an additive to most commercial bread and baked goods.

WATER –  When drinking water containing bromide is exposed to ozone, bromate ion, a powerful oxidizing agent, is formed.  Two significant recalls of drinking water involving bromate have occurred:  Wegmann’s Food You Feel Good About Spring Water Recall in 2006, and Coca-Cola’s Dasani in 2004.

TOOTHPASTE, MOUTHWASH AND GARGLES – Potassium bromate is an antiseptic and astringent in toothpaste, mouth and gargles.  Very toxic if taken internally.  May cause bleeding and inflammation of gums in toothpaste.

BROMIDE IN FLAME RETARDANTS – Flame retardants reduce the flammability of a wide variety of commercial and household products.  Some brominated home retardants migrate from the products in which they are used and are entering the environmentand people.

PERSONAL PRODUCTS AND SOME COSMETICS – Sodium bromate is in permanent wave neutralizers, hair dye material, and the textile dyeing process. (28) Benzalkonium is used as a preservative
in some cosmetics.

What Can You Do?

  1. Eat Organic to avoid pesticides
  2. Don’t drink beverages including Brominated Vegetable Oil (it is required to be listed as an ingredient)
  3. Eat Whole-grain breads and look for “bromine-free” on baked good labels – Pepperidge Farms is all bromine-free.
  4. If you own a hot tub, look into an ozone purification system.  If you own a pool use salt-water (chlorine in both is bad anyways).
  5. Look for bromine-free personal care products – Always consult Skin Deep, the Environmental Working Group’s Cosmetics Database.

BPA: What Every Parent Should Know

You have probably seen the letters BPA on baby products that advertise they are BPA-free.  But, what is BPA, are baby products the only things to worry about, and what can we all do to avoid BPA? Continue reading