Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Breast is Best, but….

By: Dr. Kelli Tapley with Birmingham Pediatrics Associates

While William Shakespeare wrote “that which we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet,” that is not usually the consensus among parents and some physicians when it comes to infant formulas.

Make no doubt about it raising a child is expensive. According to the USDA, approximately $1500 is spent on simply feeding them during their first year of life. While many mothers chose to breast feed, and we as pediatricians whole-heartedly support their decision, some cannot or chose not to do so while others add supplemental formulas to their breast milk. Then the choice of “best” formula becomes paramount.

It is challenging to address the psychosocial issues each family brings with them to their child’s appointment in twenty minutes or less. We focus on growth and nutrition, meeting developmental milestones and then try to answer any lingering concerns or questions our parents may have. All while trying to assess if the sleep-deprived parents are bonding well with their newborn. Often our nurses are the ones who get the calls regarding infant formulas. More recently, I have begun to encounter them also. Particularly when it comes to the cost of formula.

In a recent publication from the American Academy of Pediatrics, the authors concluded, “store brand infant formulas meet the same criteria as name brand formulas for about half the cost.” Regardless, many parents are resistant to the idea of using a “generic formula.” Some parents choose to dilute the formula, which has potential health and developmental risks.

While there is no perfect formula and mother’s milk is always best, the reality is that more women supplement or exclusively use formula than exclusively breastfeed. The 2013 Breastfeeding Report Card issued from the CDC showed that in Alabama only 23% of mom’s are exclusively breastfeeding at 3 months and only 12% are exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. It’s important for us, as providers, to be aware that other cost saving options are available to mothers who do not qualify for WIC and take the time to address parents’ concerns regarding formula choice while providing them with unbiased options available to them.

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