Babies are a touchy subject. I totally and fully understand this. However, being such a touchy subject, I am not devoid of reaction when I hear about something that, to me, at first reaction, seems as if it would be a bad idea to feed our babies. This doesn’t mean that I know everything, but it means I have a perspective and a worldview like everyone else and that this leads me to experience emotion associated with certain things.
Let’s say it–Soy Infant Formula.
Let me start with this: why? My first reaction when I first heard of the existence of soy infant formula was “WHY?” (best expressed in capital letters for volume). Upon further thought without research, I at first thought concluded that the children that may drink it have (1) some sort of intolerance to human breast milk, (2) they are an adopted child given to adoptive parents that don’t have a wet nurse or haven’t given birth recently so they cannot breast feed and do not/cannot use cow based formula, or (3) their parents are fitting them into some sort of expression of a vegan ideal. For (1), how could this be possible from an evolutionary standpoint? Human milk intolerance would certainly mean death and an infant lasting less than a week, let alone long enough to reach puberty to copulate and reproduce another dead baby because it can’t eat. Let’s face it: babies didn’t drink “formula” when they were in caves or even in some modern societies. Get real. So (1) has got to be out. For (2), I totally understand this from an adoption standpoint. I am planning on adopt lots of children so I have to figure this out and I would imagine that it’s a challenge. However, if it were not possible for my child to eat my body’s fruit, I would rather give it that of another mammal, strictly because it has got to be better than the milk of a legume with all sorts of vitamins and minerals artificially added. Just a gut reaction. However, I am a white person with strong and close Eastern European roots so lactose intolerance is not really on the forefront of my mind. My ancestors drank nothing but milk in the winter time and ate cheese like it was their job. I am immune. I don’t understand what intolerance is like. So there’s got to be an alternative to cow formula for lactose intolerant infants, this is acceptable in my mind. So for (3) this is not something that I can relate to, really, but I see it for those ideals. I understand (2) and (3) the most, really, as the best reasons for use of formula from monocropped legume.
As a full on lacto-ovo vegetarian, I would never have dreamed of feeding a child soy in lieu of the milk from the human (or even cow) breast as in (3). Not because I was okay with industrial dairy–I didn’t drink it or consume it–but because in my mind a child’s life is at stake and of course you should be feeding it your own or another human’s milk if at all possible because you could be ruining so very early her or his chance for a healthy, long life. Only under extraordinary circumstances would I give a child cow formula, in adoptive circumstances for example, where I cannot find a wet nurse or I am unable to feed my child with my own body. I can hardly think of what I would not give up to keep my child from having to drink soy instead of my own body’s gift. I am a mammal. That’s what I am supposed to do to nourish my child. Read: this is my natural reaction before research.
So, then, let’s research! Allow me to quote some studies verbatim.
“Lifetime exposure to estrogenic substances, especially during critical periods of development, has been associated with formation of malignancies and several anomalies of the reproductive systems.”
“The medical indications for [soy infant formula (SIF)] are limited to galactosaemia and hereditary lactase deficiency. In the treatment of cow’s milk allergy, SIF is used for economic reasons, as extensive hydrolysates are expensive. SIF is dissuaded mainly because of its phytooestrogen content. Isoflavone serum levels are much higher in SIF-fed infants than in breastfed or cow milk formula-fed infants. Administration of pure isoflavones to animals causes decreased fertility, but clinically relevant adverse effects of SIF in infants are not reported. Conclusion: Soy infant formula remains an option for feeding of term born infants if breastfeeding is not possible and if standard infant formula is not tolerated.”
“The data demonstrate that soymilk feeding does not alter the intestinal flora of infants and decrease the intestinal bifidobacterial population.”
“Phytoestrogens are present in numerous dietary supplements and widely marketed as a natural alternative to estrogen replacement therapy. Soy infant formula now constitutes up to a third of the US market, and soy protein is now added to many processed foods. As weak estrogen agonists/antagonists with molecular and cellular properties similar to synthetic endocrine disruptors such as Bisphenol A (BPA), the phytoestrogens provide a useful model to comprehensively investigate the biological impact of endocrine disruptors in general.”
Ok…wait…so we have some studies saying that phytoestrogens are really bad, some saying that they are really NBD (no big deal), and another saying something about how it’s similar to what BPA (stuff everyone removed from plastic water bottles because of cancer scares) does? What?
Now here are some other things about soy infant formula
- unlike your milk, it can be recalled by the FDA (food safety doesn’t really apply to your breasts)
- It’s been determined “minimal risk” by some science-people.
- There seem to be abundant studies on pub med that say, “soy ain’t a problem–it’s actually good!” and an abundant amount of studies that say, “we need more infor about soy,” and still more that say, “we need more info on soy so you probs shouldn’t be eating more than Asians…which actually isn’t that much.”
My personal conclusion (i.e. decide what you want, but here’s my $.02)?
The science isn’t really helping me much here…one minute it scares me and one minute it tells me everything is fine. I think I am going to go with my gut and nature here on this one. My gut and nature tell me (1) humans have been raised on breastmilk for a million+ years…if it ain’t broke don’t fix it we say here in Appalachia, (2) no one can make money off of me using my own body for a resource so why would influenced scientific studies encourage it?, and (3) cow’s (or mammalian, if you want to go broad) milk as a last resort should be used in circumstances where human’s cannot because it is from another mammal, and not a legume that was not evolutionarily meant to be crushed and fed to mammals (combined with fortified vitamins!). If I have an adoptive child that is lactose intolerant, which is likely, I will do my damndest to get human milk. If I cannot, I may have to resort to soy but I’ll try and afford the cow formula that LI children can take. Soy just doesn’t settle with me when it comes to babies. Sorry.