Iron-Fortified Infant Formula Is the Only Recommended Alternative if an Infant Is Not Breastfed
Breast milk is the best form of infant nutrition. The infant formula industry strongly supports the positive, accurate promotion of breastfeeding and is pleased that recorded breastfeeding rates in the United States are the highest they have been in over 30 years. Labels on infant formulas and information provided by formula companies clearly state that breastfeeding is preferred.
However, if an infant is not breastfed for whatever reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that all infants weaned before 12 months of age should receive iron-fortified infant formula. Iron-fortified infant formula is the only safe and effective alternative to breast milk, providing complete nutrition to meet the unique needs of growing infants.
Iron-deficiency anemia, a potential nutritional deficiency in infants, was once common among infants fed cow's milk. According to the AAP Committee on Nutrition (CON), "The use of iron-fortified formulas has dramatically reduced the rate of iron-deficiency anemia during infancy in the last 25 years." In large part this is due to the provision of ironfortified formula through the federal government's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC). The U.S. government currently makes free infant formula available to about half of the infants born annually in the U.S. through the WIC program, which serves some of the most vulnerable infants at nutritional risk in the country. (More about iron fortification of infant formula is available at www.infantformula.org as well as an "Infant Feeding and Nutrition" brochure.)
Infant Formula is a Necessary and Nutritious Product
The need for breast milk alternatives is centuries old. Infant formula was developed to meet this need and is the only safe and nutritious alternative to breast milk. Today, nearly 70% of all babies born in the United States are breastfed at birth. And, while more must be done to further encourage and support breastfeeding, infant formula is proven to help infants grow and develop into healthy children. Decades of research and dedication to nutrition science have led to this achievement and to important breakthroughs in specialized infant formulas that provide premature babies, and babies with challenging nutritional problems, the sustenance to survive, and thrive. The critical health risk in infant feeding arises when neither breast milk nor infant formula is chosen. For example, cow's milk (whole, 2%, 1%, ½%, or skim) is not appropriate for children under the age of one year, according to the AAP Committee on Nutrition (CON). Whole cow's milk is a poor source of iron, vitamin C, vitamin E, and copper, and can cause gastrointestinal bleeding in young infants. For these reasons, the CON recommends that breastfeeding or iron- fortified infant formula be continued during the first year of life.4
Infant Formula is Safe and Highly Regulated
Because infant formula is the primary source of nutrition for millions of infants, the industry, and the government, have set very high standards for infant formula production.
As a result, infant formula is one of the most highly regulated food products in the U.S. To ensure the safety and effectiveness of all infant formulas, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulates the levels of essential nutrients in formulas through the U.S. Infant Formula Act (IFA) of 1980 and subsequent amendments of 1986.5 The FDA also regulates directions for infant formula preparation, labeling, and many aspects of product claims.
The Workplace A Major Barrier to Increasing U.S. Breastfeeding Rates
Efforts to increase breastfeeding rates would be best served by addressing a major barrier to breastfeeding in the U.S. - the lack of workplace support programs. Research indicates that returning to work is one of the most common reasons women stop breastfeeding. Data show that women who work full-time start breastfeeding at virtually the same rate as all mothers, but by the time their infants are six months old, breastfeeding rates for full-time working moms are significantly lower.6 Providing workplace support for women who wish to continue to breastfeed will have a significant impact on breastfeeding duration rates.