Is Breast Milk Safe for Babies?

Posted by Chris Tracey on 31 March, 2015

Baby Breast FeedingPrevious to several decades ago, most babies were fed formula with a bottle. This was thought to be a more ‘modern’ approach to infant nutrition. However, as a greater understanding of the many beneficial qualities of human milk became known, more and more new mothers started nursing their babies.

Not only is human milk perfectly balanced to provide everything an infant needs in the first few months of life, but it is also designed to promote rapid growth of the brain, rather than fast muscle and body growth needed by animals that must move around on their own quickly. Now, some concerns have arisen over the pollutants that may be present in human breast milk.

Although pesticides are more carefully controlled now than they were in the past, many of them, as well as some chemicals used in manufacturing, are still lingering in the environment decades after the last drop of poison was squeezed out onto a plant. These are called POPs or persistent organic pollutants. DDT was banned in the United States in 1972, it is still detectable not only in breast milk, but in animals throughout the spectrum. All of us, regardless of where we live, probably have some DDT in our fat tissue.

While the mother’s body will filter out most of the fluoride or chlorine that may be in your drinking water, other negative elements can pass through to the infant. Heavy metals, pesticides, and other pollutants can be ingested by the baby from breast milk.

No one can do much about any residues in the body from environmental chemicals, but it is fairly easy to make sure that the baby will be much less likely to be exposed to contaminants if the mother drinks purified water.

Is Formula the Answer?

Some have thought that using infant formula, either ready-made or mix, will solve the problem of breast milk contamination. Always bear in mind that formula will not provide the antibodies that are needed to build up the new immune system of the baby and that there is no way to mirror the actual composition of human milk.

Consider, too, that the soybeans used to prepare many of these formulas were grown using artificial fertilizers and pesticides. In addition to soy products, dry milk is also used. Cows are subject to the same kind of environmental pollution that the rest of us are, and arsenic and heavy metals are just as likely to be present in bovine milk as they are in human. So, no, formula is not the answer.

Making Milk as Safe as Possible

Although the past cannot be changed, there are still effective ways of making sure that no further contaminants will enter the mother’s body through the household water supply. Water filters and purification units are the answer for providing safe, clean water for a nursing mother, and hence for the baby. Even the simplest of these filters will remove most organic and inorganic pollutants. Heavy metals will be ‘captured’ so that they cannot be passed on through breast milk to the infant.

Probably the simplest approach to pure water for the mother to drink is by using a coutertop filter. These units attach directly to the faucet and sit on your counter.  You could also purchase an undersink filter such as the Multipure Aquaversa MP750SB Undersink Filter so it is hidden under your counter and has its own faucet. If you are worried not only about the usual problems, but also about fluoride, the Multipure reverse osmosis systems will also reduce fluoride. Or you can purchase fluoride filters from our sister site Quality Water Filters 4 You.

As chlorine can be absorbed through the skin and also inhaled as a gas, maximum protection for mother and child can be provided by a whole house filter. These units will use a complex series of filter media to reduce a wide range of contaminants to help ensure nursing mothers will be able to provide safe milk.
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