Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Bringing up Baby

A controversial baby care programme has been showing on Channel 4 in the UK. It is called Bringing up Baby. This is the blurb. See:

Every parent wants the best for their baby but how do you know what that is when childcare advice changes as often as high street fashions? For the past hundred years, parents have been increasingly bombarded with books and manuals giving them the definitive answer on how to bring up a baby – so which era had it right?

To try and make sense of it all, we've taken three of the most influential baby handbooks of the last hundred years and are pitting them against each other with the help of six new families. Each couple has chosen the method they think will best suit their values and lifestyles and has agreed to let cameras observe how they get on for the first three months of their babies' lives.

Of particular concern for child health experts have been the methods of Claire Verity, who advocates four-hourly feeds, no eye contact while feeding, early introduction of complementary foods, leaving children to cry in the garden or cot in a separate room from day one. To ensure babies sleep through the night she advocates loading the stomach with feeds at 7 pm and 11 pm - something difficult if not impossible to do if breastfeeding on demand. In discussion with the other mentors on the programme she dismissed the recommendations of the World Health Organisation, disputing that exclusive breastfeeding is sufficient for a child for the first 6 months, ignoring the wide review of research conducted by WHO experts.

As by 3 months one of the couples could boast of their child sleeping from 7 pm to 7 am and already being on solid food, she portrayed this as vindication for her methods.

There have been many complaints about the programme, including a petition on the 10 Downing Street website. Some have pointed out that the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (NSPCC) ran an advertising campaign showing a quiet baby in a cot with the message that the baby had learned not to cry because no-one ever came.

Last week the NSPCC and National Childbirth Trust went public on their complaints about this and other programme that subject babies to sometimes extreme situations for entertainment.

The Guardian reported on 19 October, quoting Maggie Fisher of the Community Practitioners' and Health Visitors' Association and the union Unite. See:

---Extract begins

A spokeswoman, Maggie Fisher, said: "It is clear that voluntary codes of conduct don't work with a television industry obsessed with audience rating figures. Babies can't give their permission to take part in such programmes. They rely on their parents to protect them." She said Ms Verity's parenting methods had left sobbing parents neglecting their baby.

The health visitors' call comes as the NCT, NSPCC and other charities are also drawing up proposals for an ethics panel. The NCT's chief executive, Belinda Phipps, said the watchdog would need jurisdiction not only over regular broadcast channels, but also over non-broadcast productions such as videos made by baby milk manufacturers to promote products.

---extract ends

Curiously the Channel 4 In the news link for the programme didn't include this article when I checked. The article also states: "Both the NSPCC and the National Childbirth Trust called on Channel 4 not to commission the programme, arguing that experimenting with babies in the name of entertainment was unethical."

The programme did include a mentor advocating breastfeeding on demand and exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months, followed by continued breastfeeding into the second year of life and beyond, in line with WHO recommendations.

It may be coincidence, but when I visited the page for the programme it contained two advertisements from L'Oreal, which is part-owned by Nestlé. Whether that is advertising in standard rotation on the site or a programme-specific deal is unclear. The named programme sponsor is Huggies disposable nappies.

We have raised another concern about the programme with the Advertising Standards Authority which is responsible for broadcast and print advertising in UK's voluntary, self-regulatory system. That is the product placement in the programme for infant formula and feeding bottles. While being filmed in a fly-on-the-wall documentary style, the use of branded bottles and shots of formula tins is something that could have been avoided and prompts us to question whether the legislation on advertising of infant formula has been breached. I will let you know what happens.

The programme also contained a plug for formula for 'hungrier babies' as a way to get them to sleep through the night, though the mentor for the mother suggesting this said it was not a good idea. These formulas are casein based which is harder to digest and so remains in the stomach.

If you have concerns about promotion of breastmilk substitutes, feeding bottles, teats or other baby foods, you can report them to us and the authorities via the monitoring project we coordinate for the Baby Feeding Law Group. See the monitoring section of:



half pint pixie said...

That was an awful programme, I couldn't believe that "starve then force feed" approach. Ok so they slept through the night, but at what cost? I have a 1 year old breastfed daughter who has never slept through the magical 7 to 7, but that's fine, she will in her own time!

La Leche League have a statement on their website too.

Did you happen to catch channel 4's programme "How Toxic are you?" the following week where they showed as part of it how much toxins are in breastmilk, leading one of their participants to say something like "I should have used formula"! They don't seem to like breastfeeding too much at channel 4!

Anonymous said...

Some people at channel 4 definitely appear not to be fans of breastfeeding and are obviously allowing their personal opinions to override scientific fact when it comes to televising programmes which cover infant nutrition and toxicity.
It is correct to report on the toxins which exist in breastmilk in order for the public to be made aware and thus campaign against harmful, damaging manufacturing/chemical/farming practices etc that pollute our environment and bodies but it is unethical not to put this into perspective by televising factually that it is still healthier to breastfeed due to the toxins that exist in infant formula, from its manufacture to its packaging, bottles, waste etc which also contribute to the environmental pollution that enters our bodies and that there is actually more medical concern over how environmental toxins affect a developing foetus in utero when it is at its most vulnerable. Breasts are actually said to be better at filtering toxins than the placenta - In fact a Dutch study concluded that mothers who smoke and were unable to refrain during pregnancy should definitely breastfeed as the human milk appeared to compensate for some of the harmful effects. The study showed a link between maternal smoking in pregnancy and poor academic performance but only in bottle fed children.
I posted the following as a new thread on Ch4's family forum and titled it 'how toxic are you and infant feeding'. The thread had plenty of views but was deleted, maybe its because I included news from Baby Milk Action about the Belgian baby death case, enterobacter sakazakii and Nestle, yet I had mentioned this in a reply on a previous thread and it had not been removed so I am more inclined to believe that either a moderator at Ch4's forum or another forum user were just simply uncomfortable with the honest truth and had the thread removed. What do you think, were the powers that be at Ch4 correct to delete the thread? Was it responsible or irresponsible of myself to attempt to make others aware of the toxicity surrounding artificial feeding? To me the content of the thread was about providing some rarely published and little publicly known facts about artificial feeding, it was not about perpetuating guilt in formula users. As a mother who breastfed I would be enraged if the information about toxins in breastmilk was kept quiet, this knowledge enables us to make choices about the products we use that can lessen the impact of toxins on our bodies and thus our children, so shouldn't a formula using parent also be privvy to all facts about feeding and toxins that affect their infant? If I had chosen formula over 'my contaminated human milk' due to not being fully informed of the facts relating to contaminants in formula then I would be 'bubbling over with rage not guilt that this info was not public knowledge!' It would appear that some formula users would rather bury their heads in the sand than face facts about health issues concerning formula, and worryingly so it would also appear that these types of formula users/ex users are plentiful in the areas of media and broadcasting which can therefore wrongly influence public opinion.

Once again a TV show highlights the toxins in human milk but does not counter balance this by advising of the toxins / contaminants in manufactured infant formula.

For fans of infant formula or those considering dropping /not breastfeeding because of irresponsible broadcasting heres what formula manufacturers would rather the public didn't know and do a damn good job keeping it quiet:

Contaminants In Infant Formula
You’ll never find these listed on the label!!


<5-45 ug/l in breast milk
557-2,346 ug/l in soy formula
Aluminum interferes with cellular metabolic processes and information transfer from DNA


55.45ng/ml in milk of mothers with silicone implants
51.05ng/ml in milk of mothers without implants
746-13,811 ng/ml in 26 brands of formula tested for silicon
The effect of large amounts of silicon on an infant is unknown


Cadmium is a highly toxic metal that can cause kidney damage in high amounts. Neurotoxic effects such as psychomotor disturbances, behavioral and cognitive disorders have been demonstrated in animal models with low-dose exposure. Cadmium levels can be 6 times higher in soy formula compared to milk- based
formula. Cadmium is also found in cereals with the exposure of dietary cadmium from weaning diets up to 12 times higher in children fed infant formula compared to breast milk.

Genetically engineered corn and soy

Detected in Alsoy (Carnation/Nestle), Similac Neocare (Ross Labs), Isomil (Ross Labs), Prosobee (Mead Johnson)
Transgenic ingredients pose the risk of introducing novel toxins, new allergens, and increased antibiotic resistance to infants. The FDA does not require labeling of genetically engineered foods, so parents will remain unaware that their baby is consuming transgenic ingredients

MSG (processed free glutamic acid and processed free aspartic acid)

These are known neurotoxins found in a number of infant formulas. Because the blood brain barrier is not fully developed in infants, these neurotoxins are more accessible to the infant brain than the adult brain. The highest levels of these neurotoxins were found in hypoallergenic formulas. Because no studies have been done on the long term outcomes of infants fed on hypoallergenic formulas it is unknown if they will exhibit more learning disabilities at school age, and/or more endocrine disorders such as obesity, and reproductive disorders, later in life.


Phytoestrogens are endocrine disruptors found in soy formulas. Infants fed soy formula can have circulating phytoestrogen concentrations that are 13,000-22,000 times higher than normal levels in early life. These bioactive compounds can create steroid hormone imbalance, compete with enzymes that metabolize steroids, drugs and xenobiotics, and can influence gonadal function. Genistein can be carcinogenic if exposure occurs during critical periods of differentiation. Soy formula has been linked to premature thelarche (breast development in infants and girls under eight years of age). Phytoestrogens (isoflavones) also act on the thyroid gland. They are well known inducers of goiter and anti-thyroid agents. They act against the thyroid by inhibition of thyroid peroxidase. Children with autoimmune thyroid disease were three times more likely to have been fed soy formula in infancy.

Phthalates and Bisphenol-A

These are endocrine disrupting industrial chemicals. Phthalates are used as plasticisers and are testicular toxins as well as estradiol imitators.
Bisphenol-A is used in the production of polycarbonate plastics and has been found in plastic baby bottles. It can leach from the container and has been known to be estrogenic since 1938. Bisphenol-A resins are used as lacquers to coat metal products such as food cans. With a high affinity for fatty products, it has
been shown to leach into the content of cans during the autoclaving process, including cans of milk based infant formula.

Contaminants in water used to reconstitute concentrated and powdered formula


Lead in water used to reconstitute formula can cause elevations in blood lead levels if used from the hot water tap or boiled. Boiling concentrates lead. There is a 6 point IQ drop for every 10ug increase in blood lead levels.


Infants fed formula reconstituted with nitrate-contaminated water are at risk for potentially fatal methemoglobinemia. Nitrates are converted to nitrites by the baby resulting in hemoglobin being converted to methemoglobin that cannot bind molecular oxygen. This risk increases if babies under six months are also fed baby food with high concentrations of nitrates such as green beans and bananas.


Atrazine is a weed killer that causes mammary and uterine cancer in rats. In the cities and towns the worst tap water contamination, formula-fed babies who consume reconstituted formula would lifetime dose of this chemical in the first four months of their lives.


Significant bacterial contamination can occur during home preparation of powdered infant formula. Reconstituted formula stored in the refrigerator shows increasing bacterial counts over time.

For info go to naba-breastfeeding org

News from baby milk action:
Friday, October 05, 2007
Ruling in Belgium : deaths from contaminated formula are to be accepted

News arrives from Belgium that a family has lost its legal action against Nestlé and the hospital that put their new-born child onto infant formula that turned out to be contaminated with bacteria. The effect of the ruling is to suggest that deaths from intrinsic contamination of formula, which are rare, are to be expected and accepted.

The couple's son became ill with meningitis and died at 5 days old. This was linked to Enterobacter Sakazakii contamination in Nestlé Beba infant formula, prompting a recall. See the International Baby Food Action (IBFAN)'s press release from 10 May 2002.

This death and others in France prompted action at the World Health Assembly. IBFAN called for improved labelling to warn of the risks and how to reduce them. This call was reflected in the Resolution adopted shortly afterwards (WHA 55.25) and more explicitely in 2005 (WHA 58.32) after the World Health Organisation had held an expert meeting.

Dr. Sherry Rogers Fellow of the American College of Allergy and Immunology and a Diplomat of the American Academy of Environmental Medicine gives her book the title "Detoxify or Die" as the stark warning. There are many issues covered in the various chapters, were infant feeding is concerned she advises that even though breastfed babies are taking in plasticisers and dioxins, babies that aren't breast-fed take in even more of these toxins, including those linked to plastics used to prepare bottles and their food.

"Would we knowingly substitute any other complete biological system of nourishment (blood for example) with one that contained no living cells, no tissue-specific growth enhancers, no immune system modulators, no inflammatory response inhibitors plus a massive dose of non-human protein? And then give it to our children for the first six months of life when their immune systems are at their most under-developed and sensitive and consider it a mystery when they become ill?"

From issue 2445 of New Scientist magazine, 01 May 2004, page 32