(This is a great newsletter from Healthy Babies Happy Moms, Inc a wonderful clinic in Rhode Island that helps moms navigate the early days of motherhood and breastfeeding. I thought this information was important and want to share it with Milkies readers.)
Sometimes, a lot of what we do at HBHM Inc. involves helping moms navigate the system to get what they need for their particular situation. Read below for the experience of one of our clients, a Rhode Island mother of two small children, who is also a RN with a Master’s of Public Health. In this instance, she taught us new information on DHA/ARA content in formula and an insurance benefit we were not even aware of, which might be helpful for mothers who need formula because of a low milk supply.
DHA/ARA Concerns and Insurance Coverage of Formula
Controversy surrounds the use of DHA and ARA additives to infant formula. While DHA and ARA are compounds are also found in breast milk, manufactured sources of DHA and ARA are structurally different and may not actually be beneficial. More concerning are the potential negative health effects of these additives, which remain largely untested in infants. DHA and ARA additives can expose babies to environmental contaminants and fungal toxins. These contaminants and toxins are most concerning for infants with immature immune systems and can cause unpleasant side effects in all babies. For a full discussion of the dangers and side-effects of DHA and ARA in infant formula, visit this link.
The side effects of DHA and ARA are what I noticed first in our newborn. I had to give him formula due to a low supply issue I have had with both of my children, despite my best efforts to exclusively breastfeed my babies. He had watery explosive diarrhea, excessive foul smelling gas and what I suspected was abdominal cramping by observing how fussy he became when he passed gas or had diarrhea. Our pediatrician said “babies have gas” but I felt like this was more than just a common case of fussiness. I learned about the possibility that DHA and ARA were to blame from the website www.HealthyBabiesHappyMoms.com. Figuring that this was an easy change to make, I set out to buy formula that did not contain DHA or ARA. Sounds simple, but it wasn’t.
After hours spent pouring over formula websites and on phone calls with formula companies, I learned that most formula makers have stopped producing formula without DHA or ARA. The only company that makes a formula without these additives is Baby’s Only, however, this formula is a “toddler” formula and I did not feel comfortable giving this formula to my newborn.
Through my research I discovered that Good Start does make a DHA/ARA free formula but it is only sold in Canada. I called the Canadian Good Start company (Nestle) to ask if I they could send some formula to me but they couldn’t do it. Customs rules do not allow things that are regulated by the FDA to be sent across borders. The man I spoke to on the phone was perplexed. Why was I calling him about this formula when it is actually made in the United States and then shipped to Canada? I wanted the answer to this question too so I called the American Good Start company. I know that you manufacture this formula here, I said, could you just send me a can? But no, they couldn’t. “Not FDA approved for sale in the US,” was the response I received.
I happened to have a friend who was visiting Canada at the time and she brought three precious cans of DHA/ARA free formula back for me, hidden in the trunk of her car. My baby is now three months old and we’ve been using the formula for the past two and a half months. He’s doing so well on it, virtually no gas, normal poops. He’s an incredibly happy and easy baby. But we’re running out of formula and I don’t have anyone to get it for me now. Short of driving six hours to Canada to get it myself, I’m out of luck.
My solution is the one that you may also have to consider, if you are concerned about DHA and ARA in infant formula. Through my research I learned that while all formulas contain these additives, they contain them in different quantities. Earth’s Best, Enfamil and Good Start contain 17mg of DHA and 34mg of ARA per serving but Similac contains less, 8mg DHA and 22mg ARA (personal communication with formula company representatives via phone). If you choose to use Similac, at least you will be exposing your baby to the least amount of DHA and ARA possible.
One unexpected surprise from my previous experience was to find out that Moms with low milk supply can get supplemental formula for their babies for free through insurance. To take advantage of this benefit, ask for a prescription for the formula from your baby’s pediatrician. Some insurance plans may also require that the pediatrician submit a letter of medical necessity in which she should state that this is a breastfed baby with “failure to thrive” due to low breast milk supply. Other insurance plans do not require a letter for babies under 1 year old and only a prescription is required. It’s best to call your insurance provider to ask what sort of documentation is needed.
In my personal experience, I have dealt with two insurance carriers (Blue Cross Blue Shield of New England and Tufts Health Plan) and I have had formula covered without any issue. As a mom with a low milk supply, having formula covered by insurance is such a gift. Paying for formula after heroic attempts to establish adequate milk supply would be like adding insult to injury. It is good to know that insurance companies support the efforts of breastfeeding mothers with low milk supply by helping them to make up the difference in the amount of milk their baby needs. Hopefully, they will be equally supportive someday of coverage for lactation consults and breast pumps!
Check out this great website here- www.HealthyBabiesHappyMoms.com.