Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Child Nutrition Act: holding formula companies accountable

There are these posts about birth and breastfeeding that swim around in my head. I find myself really wanting to write about these things, but not wanting to offend anyone. I know. Those of you who have known me for a long time find that hard to believe, but trust me. I've mellowed in motherhood.

I'm thinking maybe I need a disclaimer or something. Maybe a little phrase like, "This post contains my opinions, which are bolstered by what I believe to be facts, but in no way am I writing any of this in judgment. Especially not of you."

Instead, I think I figured out what I am passionate about regarding birth and infant feeding. I'm passionate about women being able to make empowered and informed decisions. It's not necessarily the decisions themselves that I think about, it's how those decisions are made and with what information.

Because, really. Do I believe, as a breastfeeding advocate that mothers who formula feed are lazy and uncaring mothers who want things to be easy? No. Not in the least. And, really. As an advocate for natural, intervention free childbirth, do I believe that medicalized childbirth is the easy way out and carefree? No. Absolutely not.

But I have this fear that when I start talking about things that I passionately believe, that someone might think I am judging them. And. I'm. Not. Because in reality, even though we all know breast is best, it's not like breastfeeding mamas are always making the optimum decisions about what to put in their bodies while nursing (*ahem* Diet Coke addict *ahem*). What I mean is, just because something is the "best," doesn't mean that we are failures if we don't always choose it.

So maybe I'll start talking about it. I post a lot of links on my Facebook page because some people say things so much better than I do. Like this post by Dou-la-la (which is such an awesome name, I might add). To sum up what I brought away from it:

When mothers who choose to formula feed are no longer judged and victimized, they can start to freely admit when it is their choice to formula feed. In removing the stigma, we can then have honest conversations about latch issues, low milk supply, nipple confusion, supplementation, skin to skin, and whatever else we NEED to be talking about with new mamas in order to help them be successful at breastfeeding.

In other words, because mamas feel judged, they feel guilty. And because they feel guilty, we have allowed all of these reasons not to breastfeed to overshadow the possibilities of successful breastfeeding. When, in reality, most women can overcome most issues with the right support and help. Notice, I didn't say ALL BY THEMSELVES, nor did I say ALL women and issues.

Alright, I'll go first. I CHOSE to supplement my first child. I believed that I had low milk supply, and that belief was bolstered by a pediatrician who didn't know his head from a hole in the ground when it came to breastfeeding. I chose to follow his advice over the advice of my doula and other La Leche League women, and voila! I ended up with low milk supply.

I don't fault myself for this. I was stressed, scared, hormonal. I had a traumatic birth experience. Insert whatever reason, and I'll take it. I had my reasons, but it was still my choice. Because in one visit to a new pediatrician who told me, "If you don't want to supplement, then stop," I stopped. Didn't give him another ounce, and we did just fine.

Because I didn't like my choice, I armed myself with better information and more support this time. That worked for me, and I'm happy it did.

There. I have admitted my choice, and I have no guilt for it. I supplemented my child, and he is perfectly fine. Formula is not the devil's saliva. It is necessary in some cases and can be good in some cases. Unless we are going to go back to a normalcy of wet nurses, then we had better learn to accept formula as part of our culture and stop judging mamas for using it.

Here's what I don't like, and it has to do with what the mama's are told, and not what the mamas do.

Formula companies are in general, disgusting. Their marketing practices are in bad taste and disrespectful to the mamas who know that they want to breastfeed. They are like the used car salesmen of the baby industry. You know those CarFax commercials where the salesman just pretends to give the customer what they want, but really never do? That's the formula company.

You want breastfeeding support? Of course you do! Breast is best! Here are some formula samples and a pamphlet on breastfeeding issues. You're welcome! We are just here to help!

Bull. Bull. Bull.

A step in the right direction of correcting this would be for Congress to pass the Child Nutrition Act to INCLUDE the scientific evaluation of the "functional ingredients" in formula. We can request this of them. It's easy to do, and it's a great start in holding the formula companies accountable to their claims.

MomsRising has prepared a letter that you can send to your representatives just by filling in the form on their website. Let Congress know that you want them to use the WIC funding wisely. You want them to know the truth about formula and to include REAL breastfeeding support to mamas who need WIC.

Ahhhh. Now that I've unleashed a little on that, maybe next I'll take on the internet search engines. Because it really pisses me off that when you type in "breastfeeding support" on Google, you get sponsored results from formula companies.