However, breast milk is an ever-changing liquid, so in some ways it is a moving target, some components of which are still not fully understood, says Feutrell, professor of pediatric nutrition at University College London.

“We can quite successfully produce formulas to provide adequate and safe nutrition so that the baby grows and develops as expected,” she says. “Indeed, formula formulations have been improved in recent years to more accurately reproduce the growth patterns and some of the outcomes seen in breastfed babies. However, I think it would be impossible to ever imitate the “non-nutritional components in this complex liquid”.

Regarding my research into the toxic load on my own body and the harmful chemicals that may have been present in my breast milk, Bloxam, a nutritionist, reassures me: “I will encourage breastfeeding wherever possible, as there is a benefit to mother and child. far outweighs any risks [from contamination].”

However, it looks like I’m not the only one interested in the ingredients of my own milk. Stephanie Canale, formerly a family physician, is the founder of the California Lactation Laboratory, a private company that analyzes breast milk for nutrients as well as toxic substances in the environment. Mothers send frozen samples of their breast milk to check levels of various ingredients, including minerals and vitamins. The idea is that they can adapt their diet accordingly.

Kanale says that when we look at a baby’s nutrition, we need to consider everything from prenatal vitamins to the food a breastfeeding mother consumes to the food a baby eats at weaning. The formula may be part of this puzzle in families where it is used.

“It’s a holistic approach,” says Kanale, who wishes the US had stricter regulations on infant formula content. “I’m from Canada and it still amazes me how much high fructose corn syrup is in American products, including formula milk. Moms will encourage this change by saying we need to know better what’s in these foods, especially formula, because this baby eats the same thing every single day – there’s no variation. [like there is naturally with breast milk].”

In the case of toxic chemicals—whether they end up in breast milk or formula—the question is clearly not just how we can feed our babies safely. It is also about how we can provide them and future generations with a safe, livable environment and reduce pollution throughout the food chain. One answer, of course, is to start by using fewer harmful chemicals.

* listen My toxic cocktailan investigation by Anna Turns for the BBC Radio 4 series Costing the Earth on BBC Sounds. Ditch Toxic Substances: Simple, Sustainable Ways to Reduce Chemical Pollution Anna Turns is out

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