Recently the WHO looked at a breastfeeding resolution that seeks to limit the aggressive marketing of infant formula companies. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the US fought against the resolution, mentioning moms that are unable to breastfeed. They even went so far as to threaten other countries with tariffs if they did not agree to shoot down the initiative. To clarify, no one is trying ban infant formulas. The WHO resolution merely seeks to prevent large corporations from marketing infant formulas as breast milk equals.
I am not shy about sharing my low supply and breastfeeding struggles. I know there are cases where breastfeeding is not physically or emotionally possible, such as for breast cancer survivors, moms who do not produce any breast milk, or sexual assault survivors. I have had to supplement both of my babies with infant formula. Obviously the most important thing is that my children are fed. However, I still acknowledge that breastmilk is the perfect form of nutrition for my babies. Formula is a substitute.
I am disappointed that my government chose to use me as a statistic. As a low supply mom I need breastfeeding support. I need access to breastfeeding research and other tools that will help me succeed, such as a breast pump and a lactation consultant. What I don’t need is to see deceptive formula marketing at every turn. When I first had to start supplementing with my first child, I needed access to information about all the different option I had. I didn’t need my pediatrician to tell me to start with a specific infant formula just because the manufacturer provided his office with free samples.
Low income mothers should not be told to supplement from birth or to introduce formula at the first sign of a breastfeeding setback. What those mothers need is breastfeeding support. What happens when parents can’t afford infant formula? Oftentimes they will water down the formula to make it last longer, which can be very dangerous in a small child. Watered down infant formula can cause malnutrition, electrolyte imbalances, and kidney failure.
Why doesn’t our government (and society) want us to encourage and support our new mothers? Breastfeeding isn’t easy, even for a mom without a milk production problem.
In order for breastfeeding to be successful we need to be taught about feeding on demand, pace feeding, how to prevent and resolve clogged ducts, and how to help baby get a deep latch. We need help choosing the right flange size for our breast pumps and we need to learn about proper breast milk handling and storage. We need to know our pumping and breastfeeding rights in the workplace.
We need to stop setting new moms up for failure.
What we don’t need is commercials about infant formulas that claim to be “close to breast milk.” We don’t need formula samples and coupons before our babies are even born.
Formula has helped my babies thrive, but I’m not going to pretend it’s the same as breast milk. And I don’t need my government to assume I am incapable of understanding the differences.