Monday, August 03, 2009

World Breastfeeding Week: In a Perfect World

My "twitter pal," as Mongoosine calls them, made a statement that I've read many, many times now. @RadicaLactivist called for "1 policy change. formula available only through prescription, not for sale in any retail outlet anywhere... and then provide free lactation consultants to every single mom and a re-training course to every doctor." She isn't alone in the sentiment that formula should be by perscription only, but her point that it would "rephrase formula as a medical procedure rather than a food choice," was one I' hadn't really considered.
What is the purpose of formula, anyway?
If even the packaging it comes in grudginly admits that breastfeeding is the healthiest and best way for an infant to recieve it's nutrition, then why are they marketing it? The World Health Organization and UNICEF reccommend breastfeeding within the first hour of life, and doing so exclusively, no bottles of formula or water, no pacifiers, nothing that might hinder the baby's adaption to breastfeeding. The WHO also promotes breastfeeding children until they are at least 2 years of age ,and for as long as it is mutually beneficial and desirable thereafter. So again, why on earth is formula being marketed to mothers?
Did you know that there are actually laws against this sort of profit-minded guerilla warfar against beastfeeding in some countries? Why? Because of the World Health Organization's directives.
So if formula is clearly second rate, then why is it allowed to be marketed to new mothers? Why is it touted as just another food option so that the differences between breastfeeding and formula feeding get blurred like the difference between organic and non-organic produce?
Is it really that big a deal?
Yes.
The fact is, infant mortality rates are invariably higher in formula fed populations. You want a source? Fine. I'll go hunt one up, but I've read it often enough that I shouldn't have to go find this. Here a reputable SOURCE, and ANOTHER and ANOTHER- and mind you, since there's no money in making formula out to be the bad guy, I'm going to go with most sources on this front being more reliable than say a cloth diapers study done by Huggies. Especially that last one which sites the CDC.
So whether or not a child is breastfed does make a difference. It is more than a feeding choice. Formula should be used as an intervention when breastfeeding isn't possible, and it should only be used with medical supervision and with a good lactation consultant helping the mother to solve the problem that is making the formula necessary in the first place.
Yes, feed your children.
Yes, supplement if your milk hasn't come in.
Yes, supplement if you have another reason to NEED to.
I certainly don't propose making single fathers lactate to meet the nutritional needs of their infants, but I do think that we live in a culture where people are told that formula is just as good if not better, only giving lipservice to breastfeeding. We are taught to expect a baby to be formula fed and that breastfeeding is the extra-credit, gold star, extra effort some martyred woman is putting in because her baby runs her life.
That isn't the case.
It's not just a feeding choice, it is a decision which affects a child's health, as well as their statistical probability of survival.
So should formula be by perscription only?
I'm not going to call that a bad idea.

I'm also going to not call promoting the normalization of breastfeeding a bad idea, because lets face it, the fact that you don't see a lot of breastfeeding in the media or in public reduces the liklihood of a new mother thinking, on her own, "of course I'm going to breastfeed my baby. It's the way it's done."

It'd also be "not a bad idea" if maternity leave was better legislated in this country (and others) to allow for the needs of an infant to be exclusively breastfed for the first six months to better be met. Just sayin'.

So yeah, perscription formula, why not?
It'd certainly give insurance companies a vested interest in good lactation consultants.

3 reflections:

Jessie Kaitlin said...

I think that is a wonderful statement. I'm so tired that I can't think clearly, or I'd have more to say.
But yes- prescription formula.

Jennifer said...

I think it's sad that almost every mom I meet thinks I'm some kind of saint for BF'ing. They all say they "couldn't" do it for really dumb reasons. I realize that it is difficult at first for most first time moms, heck even the subsequent kids. But seriously, who thought having kids was easy? If we had only been taught how to BF, most of us wouldn't be in such pain. I think the pump should be outlawed until people are successfully nursing. That is what really ruins a mom. The pump can be intimidating, scary, and a big turnoff. It does not save your nipples or ease the initial pain. Supplementing with formula is better than the anguish of pumping and seeing like two drops come out. I'm successfully EBF'ng my 2nd child and I still hate the pump. I only do it for the occasional babysitting needs. But to address the formula issue, I think working is the main issue. Inadequate maternity leave (and moms who can't cope with kids at home and would rather work) is probably the main culprit for our society's disdain of the BF'ing process. I've never seen a BF'ing mom on TV in any capacity, so the media plays a big role in keeping us ignorant too. Anyway, I'm babbling... just wanted to chime in my 2 cents.

Upstatemomof3 said...

I agree with you - sort of. I do think that formula needs to not be the "norm" I do think the media needs to promote breastfeeding as normal. I do think that just giving formula should not be the norm. I even think free lactation advice should be given. As a matter of fact if I had been given lactation advice before Big Brother came home I would have nursed him too. I wanted too. I looked into it. I knew there were things I could do to get milk to come in. But in the end just didn't. I don't even really know why. However, I would have needed formula and would not have been in a position to get a note from my doctor as my GYN refused to sign off on any adoption paper work since I had not done any fertility treatments. I also worry that if we did that we would make it that much harder on single (or gay) men to adopt. I guess we could go prescription or have adoption agencies have paperwork too. Because in most cases (I am the exception this time around) adopting parents will need formula - even if mom gets a milk supply she normally has to supplement.