Nestle’ has introduced a new product (they are the parent company of Gerber, who manufactures infant formula). The more recent comeback of breastfeeding popularity in our society is causing slumping sales for formula companies. Trying to find another way into the pockets of families, they have introduced a “Keurig” for formula. In the past several days, I’ve seen it pop up on my Facebook page in various articles and blogs, but I wanted to share this one in particular: politicsrespun. What struck me was not the opinion itself (though it is very good writing), but the comments. Here is what struck a discordant note with me:
Mad as Hell
May 26th, 2011 @ 1:21 pm
Youn know. Its people like you that made my wife feel like a failure for not being able to breastfeed. For about a day that is, until the joys of formula feeding started to show themselves.
And we have the happiest little girl you can possibly imagine. She ate meat at 4 months and loved it
I know more about the biology of antibodies then most people who read this and I can say this…..you want to breastfeed, go ahead. But keep your recriminations to yourself, because none of us want to hear about it…and at the end of the day, none of us care about you or your crazy, misguided approach to raising children.
This kind of thinking led right to the ‘Genderless child’ in Toronto
Shut up and leave us alone.
Formula Feeder, and proud of it
There are so many things wrong with this, I’m not sure where to start. I didn’t reply on the blog because there were several excellent and sensitive replies. But I still wanted to talk about it so I’m going to do so here in an effort to stimulate some productive conversation.
1) The blog was criticizing formula companies and their marketing tactics, not women who cannot breastfeed. It did also lay blame upon medical institutions and professionals who take monetary (or other) rewards from formula companies to promote their products (note: when you tell a new mother that breastfeeding is best as you hand her a sample of Gerber formula and a brochure about their new machine, it is like telling a blind date you had a nice time even though you have no intention of ever seeing them again so you give them a fake number.)
2)I am very sorry this man’s wife feels so badly. She obviously had a great desire to breastfeed! The anger here is justified, however misplaced. One day is not long enough to know if a person is medically unable to breastfeed. I do not know the exact circumstances in this case, but it takes an average of 3-5 day for a mother’s milk to come in. So unless she didn’t have nipples, a day is not long enough to try (and if she didn’t have nipples, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have tried). This man and his wife have been victims of poor information and lack of support. Her option to breastfeed was stolen from her by the withholding of correct and helpful information. If she (and he) had been given proper encouragement and support for her desires, if she had been given support and the facts she needed, her story may have been very different. The anger needs to be placed upon those who put her in a position of failure. SHE did not fail. THEY FAILED HER.
3) I am very glad for their beautiful and happy daughter. Children are a joy, a gift, and awaken in us the most heart-rending love humanly possible no matter how they are fed. I am very thankful formula is available when it is necessary.
4) The AAP and the WHO (World Health Organization) recommend *exclusive* (this means absolutely nothing else – no water, juice, formula) breastfeeding for the first six months. The little girl referred to in this angry comment was formula fed, and therefore needed to start solid foods earlier because formula does NOT meet all of her nutritional needs as breastfeeding would have (no wonder the mother wanted to breastfeed!). There is actually nothing wrong with feeding an infant pureed meat. It is an excellent source of iron, which all babies need. Two of my infants started with meat. It is a better alternative than cereals, as they are chalk-full of some of the most common food allergens. And the earlier an infant begins on solid foods, the higher their risk for food allergies. If you are fortunate enough to be breastfeeding, it is wonderful to know that you are providing what your baby needs within the biological norm of our species. If you are formula feeding, it is very important that you are supplementing your baby’s nutrition.
5) Of course, you realize the formula companies also manufacture all those cereals and baby foods?
6) Um, if this person really does know more about antibodies than me, I think he would have the desire to be more informed about breastfeeding so that he and his wife can be better prepared to fend off toxic information and support if they have another child. Properly informed support from spouses and grandparents have been found to be the single most important factor determining the success of a breastfeeding relationship. As so many mothers can tell you – they really wanted to breastfeed their baby and the system failed them and their supportive-but-uninformed partners. These parents are putting misplaced trust with individuals (hospitals, OB/GYNs, Nurses and Pediatricians – all well intentioned) who are improperly educated by the formula companies themselves.
7) None of this blog was a recrimination of mothers who formula feed. This was a recrimination of the companies that manufacture formula for the express purpose of making as much money as possible, regardless of the health of the consumers. I find it especially distasteful seeing as the consumers who suffer most of the physical consequences have no voice. (The mother also suffers physical consequences as well, though not as many or as severe.) Formula is an important and necessary tool. It can truly be a life saver in every sense. But consumers need to be fully informed that they and their baby are going to suffer consequences for a choice that is insidiously posed as ‘convenient’ by clever marketing and unethically promoted by institutions that parents trust to have their best interest in mind. I realize it is in the consumer’s hands. But it is hard to choose to breastfeed when you are encouraged to give the baby formula the first day you are in the hospital postpartum because you are having trouble latching the baby on. Formula companies have been reduced from marketing themselves as better than breastmilk to just as good as breastmilk to their current representation of “breastmilk is the very best, but our product is a close second and more convenient.” None of these ever has been or ever will be true.
8 ) If that last point was a bit long, let me sum it up for you. They just want your money, people. Just like everyone selling something. You have to be an informed consumer. Do not take what they say at face value. It is like watching an election debate – nobody really says what they mean, it’s all been rehearsed so many times it smacks of insincerity, and most of the time nobody actually answers a question. It’s lots of fancy slogans and banners designed to make you feel good enough about the candidate to vote for them. But you don’t really know enough about them to understand what you are really getting.
9) How in any way did this article show breastfeeding as a crazy and misguided approach to parenting? Nor does it suggest formula feeding to be a crazy or misguided way of loving and raising children. Rather, it is an open criticism of a company’s obvious bid for money over the health and well being of its consumers.
10) The raising of the genderless child in Toronto is actually much more like formula feeding than Mad as Hell would like to think. For those of you not following me – we don’t really know how the children in this family are going to be affected by their parents attempts to protect them from gender stereotyping. We know they obviously love them very much and are doing what they feel is the best thing for their family. It is a social experiment, in a way. Not because these parents want to experiment with their children, but because they truly believe with every fiber of their existence that they are doing what must be done to bring their children up the very best way they can even though it is different than everyone else. A lot like Mad As Hell because there is not an understanding of the long-term effects of formula feeding of infants, and the more studies are done the worse the news gets. But formula companies keep right on pushing it as an excellent choice and health care professionals keep letting them. And guess what – unlike Storm’s parents, who are alone in their chioces, Mad As Hell is surrounded by families in similar situations. And I’m certain Mad As Hell and his wife love their daughter more than anything in the world and believe with every fiber of their being that formula was the right and best choice for them at the time. He may feel that he knows it is bad for those three children in Toronto to be raised without gender-bias, but we all know it is worse for their daughter to have formula when his wife should have been given better support and information than she was in order to have a choice at all. The parents in Toronto made their choice freely, but Mad As Hell and his wife had their choice removed from them.
11) The author was not talking to Mad As Hell. At all. Telling the author to “shut up and leave us alone” shows how deep the wounds can cut when we are pitted against one another over an issue that involves such intense feelings. I think this is something Mad As Hell should be telling the formula companies.
12) Regardless of how this family feeds their infant, I know how much they love her and how proud they are of her.