The bulk of both formula and breast milk is a protein source, a fat source, and a carbohydrate source. Formula and breast milk certainly contain other nutritional things such as vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, probiotics, etc. But the bulk of the liquid is fats, proteins, and carbs. These are essential not just to be healthy but to survive. As much as formula and breast milk are similar, there’s at least one major difference.
In breast milk, the carbohydrate source comes from lactose. This is what makes breast milk sweet. Most of us have heard of someone being lactose intolerant. Some people become lactose intolerant as adults but it’s very rare in babies. Many babies are sensitive to dairy and sometimes even doctors will mistake this for lactose intolerance. Usually, however, babies who have dairy sensitivities are sensitive to casein rather than lactose.
Casein is a protein in cow’s milk that’s also present in breast milk of mothers who consume cow’s milk and in formulas that are milk based. Two of my three children were sensitive to casein and as a result I had to drastically reduce my dairy intake while breastfeeding them and also avoid giving them dairy products until they got a little older. One of my children has grown out of this sensitivity and the other one still has it. Although both of these children had trouble digesting dairy, neither was lactose intolerant.
But how do I know they weren’t lactose intolerant? Breast milk contains lactose as the carbohydrate source. It’s a sugar and it makes milk and many formulas sweet. Lactose is very easily digested by almost all babies, even ones who are sensitive to dairy. Lactose is the carbohydrate source God designed little babies’ tummies to digest.
Unfortunately, almost all the formula WIC approves uses corn syrup solids as a carbohydrate sources in their formula. Sometimes corn syrup solids are used in addition to some lactose, and sometimes they’re used instead of lactose. Corn Syrup solids are cheaper than lactose, but if formula companies really want to make formula as close as they can to resemble breast milk, they should be using lactose and not corn syrup solids.
Formula companies do this to save a small amount of money, but I’m positive if WIC said they were only going to approve formulas that used lactose instead of corn syrup solids, the formula companies would very quickly comply with this request since WIC buys up so much of the formula sold in America.
Why would WIC not request this and let formula companies know they needed to make this small simple change to make formula more similar to breast milk? My guess is that corn industry lobbyists are working hard to try and ensure this change never takes place.