formula fed America

Okay, I’m going to rant for breastfeeding and against bottle feeding in this post.  Yes, I know some of my wonderful readers have bottle-fed their babies.  I’m not condemning you, really I’m not.  I’m condemning the American system that, in my opinion, has failed you and your babies.  It’s not your fault, and I don’t blame you.  But, if someone doesn’t speak up about this problem America has, more babies and mothers will be failed, too.

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It amazes me how subtly prevalent bottle-feeding is in America today.  Cute little baby bottles are found everywhere: on baby shower stationary, on baby blankets, in baby scrapbooks, in baby board books, on parenting products.  Little bottles even come with many baby dolls that one can buy at the store today!  Bottles are everywhere in America, but should they be?

Today I found a link for a new movie coming out, titled Formula Fed America.  You can watch a short 3 minute preview here.

I would like to see a huge increase in support for breastfeeding in America.  I would like to see every new mother have 24-7 access to a highly skilled lactation consultant for at least the first two months after giving birth.  I would like to see more research done on common and not-so-common reasons why women find it difficult or impossible to breastfeed, and I would like to see strategies developed that make it possible for mothers to continue to breastfeed, even in those challenging circumstances.  Although, frankly, much of that research has been done – check out the book The Ultimate Breastfeeding Book of Answers by Dr. Jack Newman.  This information needs to be publicized and well transmitted to lactation consultants, and both LC’s -and especially nurses – need to view breastmilk as the standard that practically every mother should be able to attain.  Furthermore, hospitals need to not be in cahoots with formula manufacturers, such as by sending bags filled with formula samples bags home from the hospital with new moms, like I got with my girls.  What kind of message does that send to a new mother?  It says, breastfeeding is a nice goal, but if you don’t manage it, that’s okay.  Formula is fine, too.

Formula is not fine.  Every day, more and more components to human breastmilk are being found, components that are impossible to replicate artificially.  Just as no one has yet been able to create artificial blood, neither should we be thinking that we have successfully created artificial human milk.  It’s not as good as the real thing.

(Of course, for that matter, it should come as no surprise that I would like to see a huge increase in support for natural childbirth in America as well.  I would like to see every woman in labor have access to a doula before having access to an anesthesiologist.  I would like to see research done into common and not-so-common problems about why women cannot labor and deliver naturally and vaginally, and I’d like to see solutions found that would allow mothers to deliver naturally.  Although, frankly, that research has already been done too; it’s just been ignored by most OB-GYNs.)

America has more children who are formula-fed than any country in the world, just as it has more children who are born via medicated and/or surgical deliveries than any country in the world.  This does not logically make sense.  Our women’s bodies and our children’s bodies are no different than anyone else’s in the world.  I believe the problem lies in our definition of “normal.”  As a culture (and I place a lot of blame for this on our medical professionals), we allow practices such as formula feeding to become a norm.  Our children deal with so many problems today that previous generations have never had to deal with: autism, allergies, childhood cancers, diabetes, obesity — the list goes on.  Just as vaccinations MIGHT have a role in this, might also formula feeding play some role as well?

(And perhaps, just perhaps, might all the medications used in childbirth play a role in the problems that today’s children have to deal with?  Just recently I read some research into autism that is looking at oxytocin levels in the brain.  Oxytocin in the hormone primarily involved in childbirth.  It’s synthetic counterpart is pitocin.  My goodness, over 75% of labors today, and in some hospitals almost 100%, are augmented with pitocin!  What if that turns out to be one culprit in the autism puzzle?)

We use a lot of chemicals in our world today, and I believe we often use them needlessly.  There is no reason why so many American women should be unable to breastfeed.  Will there always be some women who can’t breastfeed?  Sure, but that number should be nowhere near what it is in America today.  And it’s only America that uses formula to this extent – no other country in the world does this.  As I said before, that simply doesn’t make logical sense.

I like this quote from the World Health Organization:

“[With a mother directly breastfeeding her own child being the first choice,] the second choice is the mother’s own milk expressed and given to the infant in some way. The third choice is the milk of another human mother. The fourth and last choice is artificial baby milk.”

If a woman can’t breastfeed or finds it difficult, there should be support systems in place for her to get the help both she and her baby need.  Mothers who make mighty efforts to breastfeed but can’t should NOT be made to feel guilty, but as a society, we need to highly esteem breastfeeding and do everything we can to facilitate a successful breastfeeding relationship between mothers and newborns.  Formula, while it has its uses, should be seen as the last resort.

I believe the breastfeeding and natural childbirth should be seen as the norm that everyone strives for.  Will there be situations that are exceptions to the norm?  Sure, but they shouldn’t become so numerous that they become the new norm.  As a country, we have to work harder to keep the exceptions exceptions, and keep the norm the norm.

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