FOX News says Infant Co-sleeping Deaths Linked to Formula Feeding

The internet has been abuzz lately about a recent FOX News report that has linked co-sleeping deaths to formula feeding. The report, which I found to be quite balanced (though somewhat sensational), is based on a number of co-sleeping or bed sharing deaths in the city of Milwaukee and the city’s message that there is no such thing as safe bed sharing.

I first read about the report from a Tweet by Allie from No Time for Flash Cards. Annie from PhDinParenting quickly posted the FOX News video for all to view and discuss.

The City of Milwaukee Health Department is currently running this ad – with a headstone in place of a headboard – to discourage ALL parents from co-sleeping with their babies. “For too many babies last year, this was their final resting place.” I guess they figure fear mongering is better than educating. As a mother who made an educated decision to co-sleep with my children, I find it quite offensive.

Then there is a TV ad that the state of Indiana is running (more fear mongering) to convince parents that they only place a baby should sleep is in a crib which is plain disturbing.

The FOX News report does a good job of representing both sides of the co-sleeping debate and even interviewed Dr. James McKenna, who literally wrote the book on safe co-sleeping.

The report revealed (although not until the very end of the video) a surprising finding, that in all of the Milwaukee co-sleeping cases they reviewed for 2009 and so far in 2010, 100% of the babies were formula fed. McKenna predicted the outcome and even goes so far as to state, “I really actually think that breastfeeding is a prerequisite for bed sharing.”

The blogger at The Babydust Diaries qualifies the formula finding:

This isn’t to say that the formula caused the death or that formula fed parents don’t care but there are some specific circumstances that can make these kids more prone to bed-related deaths2. The video mentions positioning and waking of the mother but also the frequent wakings of the child. Formula takes longer to digest and thus those children sleep for longer stretches than breastfed babies and often sleep deeper – causing an increase in SIDS deaths as well.

The Fearless Formula Feeder wrote about her thoughts on the Fox report in Cosleeping and formula feeding: a tale of two scapegoats. She particularly took offense at “the immediate and inaccurate battle cry against formula and formula feeding” on Twitter. She suggests rephrasing Tweets from things like:
“FORMULA FEEDING, not alcohol or soft bedding, at root of bed-sharing baby deaths!”
“Formula feeding was the common factor in these poor babies’ deaths!”
“Breastfeeding could protect against cosleeping deaths”
“Formula feeding parents should be alerted to cosleeping risks”

The Fearless Formula Feeder adds:

If you watch the video, it is clear that bottle feeding was indeed associated with 100% of the cosleeping death cases in Milwaukee. …

However, the sensationalist news report also mentioned, in passing, some other important factors. Like that the majority of the babies lived in low-income, black families. And that 75% lived in households where smoking was a factor, and many had parents who engaged in drug use or drank frequently. Or that a number of the cases, though originally classified as cosleeping deaths, were later ruled as other causes of death, like SIDS.

Although the City of Milwaukee Health Department would like it to be a black and white issue, there are clearly shades of gray. The medical examiner reports in Milwaukee County showed that the vast majority of co-sleeping deaths were African-American babies living in what the Black Health Coalition calls “chaotic homes.” McKenna agrees that there is an “overwhelming predominance of deaths in the lower socioeconomic environment.” Yet the city refuses to acknowledge and address the complexities.

The Baby Dust Diaries blogger commented on this as well:

The other issue brought up in the piece is about socioeconomic status. Statistically, more bed-related deaths occur in poorer and often unstable homes. Once again this is a correlation not a causal relationship. I was flabbergasted at the health department woman’s assertion that she shouldn’t even have to think about different types of people. Seriously? How do you serve a population and remain blind to the demographics? I really liked the woman from the community program [Black Health Coalition]. She, correctly, points out that ignoring the reality of the situations at home only drives these already under-served people further away from the services that can help them.

She also points out that there’s a difference between a mom who brings her baby into bed as a last resort and falls asleep and a mom who has done her research and knows how to safely bed share – like she did, as did I. “It isn’t a last resort of the exhausted, but a well-thought out, planned, and safe situation.”

So is it fair, as the city of Milwaukee and the state of Indiana suggest, to say nobody should ever co-sleep? Or how about what James McKenna said, that only breastfeeding moms should be allowed to co-sleep? Or should we instead try to raise awareness about the risks AND benefits of co-sleeping for both breastfed and formula-fed babies and the increased risk for formula-fed babies so that parents can make decisions based on research rather than on fear?

For more information about safe bed sharing, visit:

Cross-posted on BlogHer

Don’t miss a single Crunchy Domestic Goddess post, subscribe to my blog.

The updated Nestle product boycott list

As promised, here is the updated Nestlé product list (current as of Oct. 7, 2009). The information below came from Nestlé USA product list, Corporate Watch, Gerber and Nestlé Brands.

Photo courtesy David Boyle
Photo courtesy David Boyle

Unfortunately, because Nestlé owns such a large number of products and I am only one person, I am finding it impossible to make this list complete. If you run across something that you know Nestlé makes that is not on this list, please leave me a comment so I can add it. Also, when in doubt, read the label, look for the Nestlé name in the fine print. Thanks!

Don’t know what the Nestle boycott is all about? Educate yourself. Check out my post, Annie’s (PhDinParenting’s) post and Best for Babies’ Anthology of Activist Blogs & Twitter Names. Remember, knowledge is power.


Candy and Chocolate:
Baby Ruth
Carlos V (“the authentic Mexican chocolate bar”)
Laffy Taffy
Lik-M-Aid Fun Dip
Nestle Abuelita chocolate
Nestle Crunch
Oh Henry!
Pixy Stix
100 Grand

Frozen Foods:
Lean Cuisine (frozen meals)
Lean Pockets (sandwiches)
Hot Pockets (sandwiches)
Stouffer’s (frozen meals)

La Lechera (sweetened condensed milk)
Libby’s Pumpkin
Nestle Tollhouse Morsels and baking ingredients

Ice Cream:
Dreyer’s (ice creams, frozen yogurts, frozen fruit bars, sherbets)
Edy’s (ice creams, frozen yogurts and sherbets)
Häagen-Dazs (ice cream, frozen yogurt, sorbet, bars)
Nestle Delicias
Nestle Drumstick
Nestle Push-Ups
The Skinny Cow (ice cream treats)

Pet food:
Cat Chow
Dog Chow
Fancy Feast
Frosty Paws (dog ice cream treats)
Pro Plan


Jamba (bottled smoothies and juices)
Milo Powdered Beverage and Ready-to-Drink
Nescafé Café con Leche
Nescafe Clasico (soluble coffees from Mexico)
Nescafe Dolce Gusto
Nestle Juicy Juice 100% fruit juices
Nestle Carnation Malted Milk
Nestle Carnation Milks (instant breakfast)
Nestle Hot Cocoa Mix
Nestle Milk Chocolate
Nestle Nido (powdered milk for kids)
Taster’s Choice Instant Coffee

Specialty items:

Buitoni (pasta, sauce, shredded cheeses)
Maggi Seasonings
Maggi Taste of Asia

Infant Formula:
Nestle Good Start
Gerber Pure Water (for mixing with formula)

Baby Foods:
Gerber (cereals, juice, 1st Foods, 2nd Foods, 3rd Foods, etc.)
Gerber Graduates (snacks, meal options, side dishes, beverages, Preschooler meals/snacks, etc.)

Gerber – cups, diaper pins, pacifiers, bowls, spoons, outlet plugs, thermometers, tooth and gum cleanser, bottles (all of these are made by Gerber)

Breastfeeding supplies:
Gerber Seal ‘N Go breast milk storage bags, bottles, nipples, nursing pads, Breast Therapy warm or cool relief packs, Breast Therapy gentle moisturizing balm (all of these are made by Gerber)

Bottled Water:
Deer Park
Gerber Pure Water
Poland Spring
Pure Life
S. Pellegrino

Breakfast Cereals:
see joint ventures below

Performance Nutrition:

Jenny Craig

Joint Ventures (in which Nestle is partnered with another company):
Nestlé SA has several joint ventures. These are some of the larger ones:

Beverage Partners Worldwide, formed in 2001, is a joint venture between the Coca-Cola Company and Nestlé S.A. It concentrates on tapping markets in the beverage sectors, particularly ready-to-drink coffee and teas, such as Nestea.

Cereal Partners Worldwide is a joint venture between Nestlé and General Mills. From what I understand, in the USA, the cereals are made by General Mills. In the UK, they are made by Nestle.

Laboratories Innéov is a joint venture between Nestlé and L’Oréal, formed in 2002. Cosmetics included in are:

Dairy Partners Americas is a 50/50 partnership between New Zealand dairy multinational, Fonterra and Nestlé and was established in January 2003. The alliance now operates joint ventures in Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Ecuador and Colombia.

Other Nestle Boycotts:

If committing to a total Nestle boycott is too overwhelming, you might want to consider joining a week-long Nestle boycott. Baby Milk Action is hosting one for the week of Oct. 26 to Nov. 1, 2009.

Also, Danielle Friedland of Celebrity Baby Blog fame is hosting a #BooNestle Halloween candy boycott.

Whether you decide to join the boycott completely, the week-long boycott, the Halloween candy boycott or just a partial list boycott, I’d love it if you’d leave a comment and let me know. Thank you.

If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to my mailing list.

* indicates required

Another reason to steer clear of high fructose corn syrup – mercury!

In case you needed another reason to avoid high fructose corn syrup, here’s a new one – it may contain mercury. According to a Washington Post article, “Almost half of tested samples of commercial high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) contained mercury, which was also found in nearly a third of 55 popular brand-name food and beverage products where HFCS is the first- or second-highest labeled ingredient, according to two new U.S. studies.”

Janelle Sorensen (of Healthy Child, Healthy World) co-authored the studies for the Institute for Agriculture and Trade report along with Dr. David Wallinga, mentioned in the Washington Post article.

According to Sorensen (who spoke with me via email), at this time it is unknown what species of mercury this is. Personally I don’t know that it matters too much, because mercury is just plain bad for our health.

  • The nervous system is very sensitive to all forms of mercury.
  • The EPA has determined that mercuric chloride and methylmercury are possible human carcinogens.
  • Very young children are more sensitive to mercury than adults.

You may recall that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings regarding the consumption of certain types of fish containing mercury for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant, nursing mothers, and young children.

Should there be warnings against consumption of mercury-laced HFCS too? When you consider HFCS is found in so many food and drink products these days, it may seem hard to avoid. Cereal? Yes. Bread? Yes. Soup? Yes. Lunch meat? Yes. Yogurt? Yes. Condiments? Yes. Soda? YES! Even infant formula can contain corn syrup! If you shop at a conventional grocery store (not a health foods store), check out the ingredients listed on just about anything you buy. You’ll be surprised (and maybe even a little freaked out) how many items contain HFCS. According to the Washington Post, “On average, Americans consume about 12 teaspoons per day of HFCS, but teens and other high consumers can take in 80 percent more HFCS than average.”

That’s why the HFCS commercials by the Corn Refiners Association are so laughable. They say HFCS is fine in moderation (though they never quantify what that amount is), but how do you consume it in moderation when it’s infiltrated a large percentage of the products in the grocery store?

What really freaks me out though is to know that corn syrup is in infant formula. It might not be high fructose corn syrup, but still. Does a baby need artificial sweeteners? What about genetically modified (GMO corn) sweeteners as most corn is? And more importantly, how can a baby, who’s diet consists solely of formula, possibly consume it in moderation? Or is moderation only necessary for HFCS, but not corn syrup? I tried to find the ingredients in formula listed online and was able to find a few brands – two listed the first ingredient as water, followed by corn syrup. That’s alarming to me.

Increased corn allergies
Could this prevalence of corn in the diets of the youngest of our species, as well as being the number one thing Americans eat (because it’s in nearly everything), be contributing to the rise in corn allergies in this country? My guess is yes.

Returning to the study…
Sorensen shared with me some of her thoughts after doing months of research about HFCS and mercury:

In essence, we rely on a vastly complicated global food system that has many opportunities to go awry. And, not only is the chain of ingredients and manufacturing very complex, the foods we are eating are very complex and unlike anything people ate even two generations ago. HFCS is one story in this grand theater of food production. And, even though the studies are small, it’s clearly an actor that deserves more attention as a potential instigator in the public health drama we are currently witnessing. First of all, HFCS is an unnecessary part of the human diet. We thrived for millennia without it. Second, the caustic soda used to manufacture it can be made using mercury-free technologies. Safer alternatives exist and are used widely at this very moment. Third, even though the exposure is minute, it’s a repeat offender in the average US diet and should also be addressed in the context of combined daily exposures of modern day society.

The authors of both of the studies recognize the limitations of their findings. There is clearly much more research to be done in order to be able to understand what the true health implications may be. Maybe the impacts end up being nominal, but who wants to risk their child’s health and development waiting to find out when it’s such an unnecessary exposure?

Human development is a miracle. The journey from egg and sperm to adult (and even beyond) is a tumultuous and risky endeavor. Research is increasingly showing how very vulnerable the developing fetus is – susceptible to exquisitely small environmental exposures – so, why take an unnecessary chance? Why even allow antiquated technologies that are extremely pollutive; that have safer, economically feasible alternatives; that are completely unnecessary in food production? There is not a single piece of this story that makes sense.

What is the FDA’s response to the request for “immediate changes by industry and the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] to help stop this avoidable mercury contamination of the food supply?”

Sorensen says:

The FDA and industry are quickly trying to assuage the concerns spread by these reports, calling us irresponsible for setting false alarms. But, the FDA and industry are notorious at this point for coercing people into taking risks their instincts tell them not to. I’m not anti-FDA nor anti-industry; I simply believe in transparency of information. If you decide this risk is nominal, that’s your decision. For me, and my family, it’s not okay. And, it’s extremely simple to avoid.

How do you avoid HFCS?
You buy whole foods, not processed foods. You prepare meals from scratch. You grow your own vegetables and buy from local farmers’ markets, farm stands and CSAs. You look for certified organic foods. You read the labels and find alternatives to the products containing HFCS. It might seem like it’s in everything, but it’s not. There are brands of bread that don’t contain it (even at Costco), just as there are brands of soda, yogurt, and infant formula, but you have to read the labels to find out. Become a wise consumer and vote with your dollars.

Finding balance
It might seem like the best bet it to avoid HFCS at all costs, but even Sorensen admits that she lets her kids consume it once every now and then. “It’s a very small amount and I know I’m very careful about other exposures. Life is all about balance.” Yes, yes it is.

Lastly, if you are looking to reduce the HFCS in your or your family’s life, you might want to check out the blog A Life Less Sweet One family, no high fructose corn syrup, eating healthier. And here are a few more related posts: from Nature’s Child – HFCS, fortified with mercury, from Ask Moxie – Whoa: Mercury in HFCS, and (a really good one) from AngieMedia – High Fructose Corn Syrup is Dangerous for Many Reasons. A couple more: from Mom-101 – High fructose corn syrup contains mercury and other reasons I think we’re going to start feeding our kids air and from Her Bad MotherPoison In The Ketchup: This HFCS Scare Might Actually Make Me Start, You Know, Cooking From Scratch Or Something.