We live in a society (and by “we” I refer to the majority of my readers who do not live in abject third-world poverty) in which corporations take free or inexpensive things, place them in appealing packaging, and sell them back to us at a steep profit. Take, for instance, bottled water. You can turn on your tap at home and fill up jugs of the stuff, all for a few pennies (or for nothing at all, if you live in an apartment like mine). The water is regulated by the EPA and fit for human consumption. Yet, still people pay a premium to drink water sold in bottles — often, this water comes from the very same kind of tap as the stuff in your sink.
It’s little wonder, then, that enterprising corporations are successfully selling people a concoction that is a pale imitation of a fluid that a large percentage of the population can easily manufacture themselves: breast milk.
Infant formula may have some nutrients and calories necessary for growth, but researchers are discovering more and more benefits related to breast feeding. So why are so many kids hitting the bottle when they could be getting the good stuff on tap?
A small percentage of women can’t produce breast milk at all. Some women are hindered by disease or past breast surgery. Then there are women who feel that breast feeding is too much of an inconvenience, perhaps interfering with their jobs. Now, I am not a mother (IANAM). Because IANAM, I am woefully ignorant in the demands of motherhood, so perhaps some mothers can correct me on this — is it really that much of an inconvenience? I mean, you already have a wailing baby who requires constant attention and butt cleanings. Is it that much more of a problem to squirt out milk every now and again?
The other possible reason why women continue to buy formula when they could be breastfeeding is simply bad PR. The charts at the right come courtesy of this NY Times articleÃ‚ about the preponderance of evidence suggesting huge benefits from breastfeeding that has lead to groups like the World Health Organization campaigning for awareness and possible warning labels on formula. According to that survey, 26.4% of women believe formula is as good as breast milk and a whopping 45.7% don’t know that research suggests breast milk helps prevent illness.
The companies manufacturing the formula have done a very good job of fooling people into thinking their product is necessary for newborns. Nestle in particular has accomplished some incredibly heinous acts in the third world, where the planet’s poorest people are struggling to survive. The company has been repeatedly bitch slapped by the WHO for marketing their products to nursing mothers, informing the womenÃ‚ that the formula was better than breast milk. When mothers mixed the powdered substance with the only available poorly sanitized water, children died. They’re still dying today, 1.5 million a year dead because of the effects of this campaign.
Yet still, Nestle continues to promote formula. Here’s a rundown courtesy of the WHO concerning the company’s past and present activities. From the site:
Code violations by NestlÃƒÂ© are condensed into a table format because the sheer volume of violations reported would take too many pages. All countries involved in this survey reported evidence of NestlÃƒÂ© violations.
The New York Times article includes one other ridiculous counterargument to the promotion of breast milk: an educational campaign could make some women feel bad. Aw.
But critics say the new campaign has taken things too far and will make mothers who cannot breast-feed, or choose not to, feel guilty and inadequate.
“I desperately wanted to breast-feed,” said Karen Petrone, an associate professor of history at University of Kentucky in Lexington.
When her two babies failed to gain weight and her pediatrician insisted that she supplement her breast milk with formula, Ms. Petrone said, “I felt so guilty.”
“I thought I was doing something wrong,” she added. “Nobody ever told me that some women just can’t produce enough milk.”
While I sympathize with Ms. Petrone’s inability to lactate, I’d like to humbly suggest she get over herself if she thinks that we should halt a campaign designed to educate women on how to use their own natural bodily fluids to raise healthier babies just because someone might have their feelings hurt. (To be fair, there’s a chance Ms. Petrone doesn’t believe that at all and is merely being quoted out of context in order to fit the opinion of the generic “critics” mentioned.) If the campaign makes women who “choose not to” breastfeed feel guilty, good. If a campaign to educate people on the benefits of vaccinating children made Christian Scientists and anti-vax proponents “feel guilty and inadequate,” then we’d rightfully tell them to go to hell.
As stated in the NY Times article, all the benefits of breast milk haven’t been fully explored yet. At this point, though, nearly every expert agrees that the science shows breast milk to be the clear victor over formula. So let’sÃ‚ dump the politically correct garbage and get the word out.