Thanks to Abel Cheng from ParentWonder.com for forwarding this report to me pointing out how in the UK, formula companies are putting children's health a poor second when it comes to spreading their product propaganda.
I'm not going to go through the whole article - I'm sure you're all well able to read it for yourselves! But basically what it boils down to is that lack of education and government complacency add up to a nation of ill-informed and mis-informed young people who appear to be mostly unaware of the benefits of breastfeeding, many believing that formula-feeding is as good as, or even better than, breastfeeding!
And, thanks to Tanya for this story, that's not all they're up to - believe it or not there is a new website, Moms Feeding Freedom, doing the rounds purporting to offer support for new mums regarding how they feed their babies!
Guess how this new site is funded? Wait for it... it's funded by the International Formula Council!
Isn't that nice? I wonder where their priorities lie. Does anyone out there believe that this site is genuinely interested in helping mothers to make informed choices regarding how they feed their babies?
Within moments of browsing this new site, I could see through its smoke screen straight away. Although on the surface it appears supportive of breastfeeding and to be the work of a couple of mothers, the message it spreads boils down to this:
As soon as you hit a hurdle grab that box of emergency formula you've cleverly stocked and all your problems will be solved. And you'll be a happy mum. And your baby will be a happy baby. And your husband will be a happy husband. All in all, you'll be a happy little formula family...
As for choices? I'm all for mothers making choices as long as the choices they make are informed choices. And that means presenting mums with facts.
Breastfeeding is better for babies.
Breastfeeding is better for mums.
Breastfeeding is better for society.
Breastfeeding is better than formula.
Most mothers are well able to breastfeed. Lots of mothers do breastfeed. Lots of mothers succeed.
The site in question implies that those who don't breastfeed do so because they can't or don't want to, or have certain conditions or medications that mean they shouldn't breastfeed. It's not as simple as that...
Yes, some mothers are vehemently opposed to breastfeeding. Some have concerns as far as their own health and medication go. Some simply don't feel confident about breastfeeding.
But mostly, the reason women don't breastfeed is down to lack of support and lack of knowledge about the scientifically proven benefits of breastfeeding.
This could all be avoided if there was more funding available for breastfeeding support workers. And who could help to make the biggest changes? Umm... wouldn't that be mothers who are currently breastfeeding, or who have breastfed their own babies?
Most mums resent some medical person (who probably hasn't breastfed but has read lots about it) at an antenatal class telling them to breastfeed. I know from my own experience of talking to mums who both have and haven't breastfed that many women enter those classes expecting to be bullied into breastfeeding. So they go in, all guns blazing, adamantly declaring to anyone who will listen, "No-one is going to make me breastfeed!"
Here in the UK there is a chronic shortage of breastfeeding peer support workers. Why? Well, guess what? They're expected to work for nothing!
Which brings us neatly back to the role that our government plays. Start paying more attention to the importance of educating women (and men) about breastfeeding. Stop expecting women who can help breastfeeding mothers to do it free of charge. Most can't afford to. And think of the money that the health service could save if more babies were breastfed! The money spent on support workers would be more than made up for by lives saved and the lighter strain on much-needed resources!
All pregnant mothers need to be aware of why breast is best ; that means offering proper support. Not one short talk at an antenatal class.
Teach it in primary schools.
Teach it in secondary schools.
Teach it in college.
Teach it in the workplace.
Invest in the breastfeeding message - take a leaf out of the formula companies book! Let's learn a thing or two from them about how to spread that message...