On July 8, health advocates were shocked when U.S. delegates stopped a World Health Assembly resolution to encourage breastfeeding.

The resolution was also meant to limit inaccurate advertising and misleading marketing claims by formula manufacturers. But the current administration is more interested in serving the $70 billion formula industry than promoting the health of infants and their mothers.

“As physicians who care for women and children, we urge the United States and every country to protect, promote and support breast-feeding for the health of all women, children and families,” Dr. Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and Dr. Lisa Hollier, president of the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, wrote in response.

EWG recommends breastfeeding, if possible, for at least the first 12 months of your baby’s life, in line with World Health Organization recommendations.

Breast milk is the nutritional standard used to develop feeding substitutes. Breast milk can provide more than half of a child’s source of energy and nutrients between the ages of 6 and 12 months, and helps fight illness and reduce mortality among malnourished babies. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, breast milk reduces an infant’s risk of asthma, obesity, type 2 diabetes, ear and respiratory infections, and SIDS. In addition, mothers who breastfeed lower their risk for type 2 diabetes, breast cancer, heart disease and ovarian cancer, according to the CDC.

Breastfeeding is an investment in the next generation’s cognitive abilities. According to the WHO, breastfed children often perform better on aptitude tests and have better school attendance records, which usually results in higher future income potential as an adult. And when it comes to your family’s budget, breastfeeding is less expensive than formula.

While breastfeeding is best, sometimes it isn’t possible. One in four American newborns consume formula from birth. Around two-thirds of American infants have had some formula by the time they are 3 months old. If you use formula, there are steps you can take to ensure it is the healthiest formula possible. 

When feeding your newborn formula, it is important to be aware of what’s in the product – and what’s in the container. For example, the Food and Drug Administration allows the toxic rocket fuel chemical perchlorate in the packaging of some baby formulas, despite its known health hazards

It is equally important to know what contaminants are in the water you mix with the formula.

A baby fed only powdered formula mixed with tap water drinks the most water for their small size of any age group. Tap water can be 85 percent of a formula-fed baby’s diet, and this period of intense exposure can last four to six months – until parents start supplementing formula with food. A 2018 Mother Jones investigation revealed that in communities that lack clean water, formula increased infant mortality by 9.4 per 1,000 births.

Check out EWG’s Tap Water Database to see what’s in your local tap water. You also may want to consult EWG’s Water Filter Buying Guide to find an effective water filter to reduce or remove the chemicals detected in your drinking water. Learn more about how you can optimize your little one’s healthy development from EWG’s Children’s Health Initiative.