Breastfeeding: good for the world, perhaps not obligatory for the rich world by mattsteinglass
March 13, 2009, 9:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hanna Rosin’s piece in Slate  The Atlantic on the moderately ambiguous benefits of breastfeeding is a good read. My sense is that much of the push for breastfeeding comes from the worldwide campaigns by UNICEF and other nutrition-oriented development programs which are thinking more about conditions in poorer countries (i.e. most of the world) than about the developed world. In Africa and Vietnam, for example, not only do you have the old problem of lack of access to clean water, which makes formula a problem; you also have the problem of substandard or fake baby formula, formula containing melamine-tainted Chinese milk powder, or, as Vietnam recently found, formula containing almost no protein and almost all fat. Meanwhile there’s tremendous poverty pressure on mothers to start working soon after childbirth, which pushes them to use formula or, as in Vietnamese culture, to start feeding their babies rice at 3 months (which is basically crazy). Because third-world governments tend to be weak and unable to do things like inspect the baby formula supply, the safest way to guarantee that babies around the world are reasonably well fed is to push for universal breastfeeding.

But for wealthy mothers in first-world countries, it’s less important. The emergence of what Rosin calls “breastfeeding fascists” is probably tied to the emergence in developed countries of fascists wrt every other aspect of childrearing — no-processed-sugar fascists, not-letting-your-kid-walk-to-school fascists, or in the East Asian version making-your-kid-study-for-five-hours-after-school fascists. Basically it seems that an iron law of economic development is that high per capita GDP + having kids >>>  parents becoming total fascist nut cases.

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This piece may have appeared in Slate (don’t know), but the link you posted is to The Atlantic.

Comment by Del

It is unfortunate that such a long article was written on the topic of breast feeding, yet so little investigative work was done on learning about the reality of breast versus bottle forces in the American marketplace (which is what hospitals are). As a registered nurse, I see everyday at work the onslaught of anti breast feeding forces, pushing women away from breast feeding. Why do hospitals get free formula? What else is given away free in a hospital? Nothing! But companies vie for the chance to get their product in the supply room of hospitals because they want women broken of the idea of breast feeding in those critical first few days after delivery. That explains the gift bags for patients, naming rights for L and D wings for hospitals, “instructional” cruises for the OBs and freebies that flood the medical staff- pens, badge covers, lanyards and penlights all pushing formula company logos at new moms like we are endorsing their products.
And that breast feeding ad campaign that Rosin complained about- cut short and canceled by HHS by the formula companies that want Americans paying big money for something they make for free.
I am proud of the AAP for FINALLY making a recommendation based on health and science, instead of profit. That is their job after all. To offer medical advice on best health practices, as determined by scientific evidence.
If someone wants to use formula- fine. People do lots of stuff that adversely impact their kids health. Parents smoke around their kids, don’t give vitamins, don’t get yearly physicals and don’t make them wear helmets when they ride their skateboards. But don’t expect the APA to say not wearing a helmet is as good a wearing one- because it isn’t. The science is in and the results are clear- breast milk is better than formula. The best you can say about formula is that it is nearly as good. Nearly because it is less digestible, filled with cow proteins and sugars and confers no advantage to the infants immune system. Those are the facts.

Comment by Colleen

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