Sunday, June 21, 2009

Got Milk?

Got milk? Or do you need to buy it? Either way, chances are good you've been hosed over by a formula company without even knowing it. Most of you probably know I'm a big fan of breastfeeding, but I didn't start out that way. Before Weston was born, I read all the books and decided that I would try it, because it's clearly the best choice. But I knew it could be challenging so I thought I would see how it went. I even had bottles and a can of formula waiting, just in case. I believed, like many others, that formula was an adequate substitute and would have been fine to feed my baby. Luckily, Weston latched on right away and didn't delatch until his fourth birthday. I got more and more interested in breastfeeding, learned more about it and gradually became something of a zealot.

Formula, also known as artificial baby milk, was never designed to be the best alternate to breast milk; it is junk food for babies. Look at the label. It's full of high fructose corn syrup, soybean oil and about a million chemicals. You might think some scientists and doctors got together and came up with the very best way to artificially feed infants and came up with a good recipe, and that manufacturers use the highest quality ingredients. But neither of those very reasonable assumptions are true. It is made in the cheapest way possible to maximize profits and it's virtually unregulated. And, just to add insult to injury, the containers are coated with BPA. You can't compare it to breast milk. It's like equating Tang to oranges or Cheetos to cheese.

Now, don't get me wrong. Formula is important, and sometimes people really need it. But formula companies go to great lengths and expense to convince mothers that they don't have enough milk and that artificial baby milk is as good as breast milk: Why bother with all that messy, inconvenient nursing business when you can just mix up the latest and greatest formula in a handy bottle, they say. It's just as good and everyone does it. Nipples hurt? Having a hard time getting started? Don't worry, just get some formula; it's just as good. In fact, we'll send you home from the hospital with some, and then we'll send you some in the mail for free! Oh, you don't need to sign up for it. We'll buy your name and address from the hospital where you gave birth. Makes it look like the doctors and hospitals endorse it, doesn't it?

In our country, there are some standards. The standards are weak because there is a lot of money to be made selling formula. You have to spend money to make money, so we see a lot of expensive advertising campaigns and outrageous sums spent on lobbying congress to keep those so-called standards low. I'd like to see them spend a few of those dollars coming up with a better recipe for artificial baby milk for the people who really need it, but they don't have to. They get more bang for their buck advertising and lobbying and they don't give a rat's ass about babies.

The advertising practices are harmful to everyone. Even if you successfully breastfed for as long as you wanted, their time-tested and successful techniques designed to discredit breastfeeding and promote artificial feeding probably contributed to any issues you may have had: discomfort in breastfeeding in public or pressure from your friends or family to wean. If you formula fed and didn't need or want to, formula companies are likely largely to blame. Families who do need to formula feed pay an inflated price for low quality food for their babies so formula companies can continue to fund their advertising and marketing campaigns that harm and kill babies all over the world. Approximately half the cost of a can of name brand formula goes to advertising. That's why the name brands cost about twice as much as store brands even though the ingredients are identical.

In developing countries, where there are no standards, babies DIE every day because of the practices of formula manufacturers. They bribe doctors to tell new mothers that formula is best and their milk isn't good enough. They give out free sample cans of their artificial baby milk. The mothers go home, use up the samples, and their milk dries up. Then, they can't afford to buy the formula, so they dilute it too much or substitute animal milks. Or, they don't have access to enough clean water to prepare the formula and keep the bottles and nipples clean enough and the babies get infections. Estimates vary, but as many as 1.4 million babies die every year because they are being given an inappropriate substitute for breast milk (UNICEF).

But now, Enfamil has managed to violate even the pathetic U.S. 'standards'. They are claiming that one of their concoctions offers the same benefits as breastmilk, which clearly violates truth in advertising regulations. This kind of complaint is regulated by the FTC, and you can click on the link to get to their homepage. There is a button on the upper right to file a consumer complaint, and it's super easy to do. If enough people complain, perhaps some action will finally be taken.


Lauren said...

I'm going to post a link form my blog! MOre Boobies!

sara said...

high fructose corn syrup is the devil.