The Breastfeeding versus Formula Feeding war is heating up once again. Time Magazine published an article about the connection between Mitt Romney and Formula. Basically, it was a look at why Massachusetts has enacted a ban on free formula samples in all their hospitals six years after Romney overturned the first go at this ban. Peggy O’Mara, editor in chief of Mothering magazine, was quoted in the article in support of the ban (you can read her whole critique titled “Choice is a Red Herring” here):
“It is naïve to believe that the formula industry’s distribution of formula to you is an innocent gift. A “gift” of formula is like a “gift” of a pack of cigarettes when you’re trying to quit smoking; it will undermine your resolve. The formula company has bought your name and address from the hospital, without your knowledge, and will now solicit you for sales. Do you really want this commercial intrusion into your life?”
Excuse me? How on earth did she come up with THAT???
I have several issues with this view. First of all the comparison between a nourishing substance that helps children grow and develop and a toxic, cancer-causing stick of tobacco makes me really angry. There are still no studies showing that there is any REAL advantage that can be attributed to breast fed children over ones who were formula fed. To call formula poisonous is just a ludicrous statement and makes the Lactivists (breast feeding advocates) seem overzealous at best, crazy at worst. It also doesn’t help to bolster their argument that breast is best. If they really want to encourage breast feeding, they should show the positive aspects of the practice, they don’t need to trash and demonize formula.
Lactivists are adamant that our society pressures women to formula feed. I find the exact opposite is true. Everywhere I turn, someone is telling me how horrible formula is for children, how much better breastfeeding is for both mother and child and how horrible mothers who formula feed are to their kids. I was pressured to breastfeed in the hospital with both girls. I literally had a minimum of 5 different nurses and lactation consultants come to (what felt like) harass me to try to get me to breastfeed. I was made to feel bad about the route I had chosen.
Is it me or did a myriad of pro-breastfeeding ads and campaigns just start popping up all over? The New York State Health Department, Michelle Obama and the USDA have all recently launched campaigns. Seems like our society is pushing “breast is best” NOT formula…
The first pediatrician I had with Bella kept pressuring me to breastfeed, too. Although I clearly stated that I was giving Bella formula, the doctor asked me each and every single time I came in how breastfeeding was going. After the fifth time I had to ask her to put it in the chart, I got too frustrated and changed to a different practice.
I don’t understand why people take this issue so personally. I don’t get why you care how I feed my child. Is it an affront to you? Are you affected IN ANY WAY by my not pulling out my boob to feed my kid? Does it not matter what is best for me and/or my family?
O’Mara and the merry band of Lactivists think we women should not be given a choice between breastfeeding and formula. Obviously, O’Mara thinks most women are too easily swayed and because of one free sample, will desert their plan to breastfeed. Give me a break. I have gotten hundreds of free samples in my life. They did not affect my life choices unless they were right for me. Are women that lacking in free will that they can’t think for themselves? Why do we need this ban?
The “marketing” of formula in hospitals is not overt in any way. First, most hospitals carry multiple brands of formula. For example, I gave birth at the same hospital for both girls. Bella took to Enfamil while Anya took to Similac. I did not go home with a random brand of formula that the hospital was pushing. I requested the type each girl liked. The nurses ASKED me whether I wanted the formula sample. They did not force it on me or make me feel like they were a sales rep from the manufacturer.
I gladly took as many samples as the nurses would give me. Formula is not cheap. I was grateful for the gift, as it meant that we had a few days’ worth of food for our baby. I don’t understand why these samples have to be banned. A woman who chooses to breastfeed and hates formula because she thinks it may kill her child can just say no thank you. Take it or leave it. No one is holding a gun to your head.
If you want to breastfeed – whether for one minute, one month, one year – you should be able to do as you wish without judgement. The same holds true for formula feeding parents. Live and let live. Let’s help women figure out what is right for them – whether it’s formula or the breast. Whether a woman is able or unable, willing or unwilling to breastfeed should not matter. We should help make the first few months of motherhood easier. Lactivists shouldn’t bully mothers who want to formula feed.
I hate that women feel guilty, ashamed and afraid – on both sides of this “discussion.” Let’s just support women and meet their needs and concerns no matter how they feed their children. Are you breastfeeding? Good for you. Are you formula feeding? Good for you. Are you mixing formula and breast milk? Good for you. For me, the more important question is, “Are your children nourished? Are they thriving?” That seems much more pertinent. If we took half the amount of energy we waste on these ridiculous feeding wars and put them into helping and supporting women in their choices, we would all be much better off.