I try to keep my language positive around here. I always shy away from ‘formula bashing’ as formula has its place. Some babies need formula to survive. I try to focus my energy on supporting moms and encouraging them to breastfeed for as long as they can or want.
I have heard about poor moms who are able to feed their babies formula thanks to WIC, and also how WIC doesn’t provide 100% of the formula a baby needs. It’s meant to be a supplement to the food mom provides. Unfortunately for so many moms on WIC, spending $20+ for a can of formula just isn’t an option. So moms have gotten creative. How can I stretch my formula? I can water it down, or I can feed them less often! Here’s the problem. Babies need calories to grow and thrive. And when moms are diluting the baby formula, or not feeding the babies as often as they need to eat, those babies aren’t getting enough calories.
We know that Nestle goes into countries and uses predatory tactics such as encouraging moms to formula feed their babies, and then they increase the price on formula so that moms can’t afford to feed their babies properly. This mostly happens in 3rd world countries, but this recent MSNBC article is brining to light the issues with our WIC programs and the practice of stretching formula for babies. Now we’re realizing this practice is not just killing babies in 3rd world countries, but it’s hurting babies here in America too.
Here’s a quote from that MSNBC article:
The study found that 30 percent of parents who brought their infants to an inner city children’s clinic didn’t have enough food to make it through each month. And a full 15 percent, or about 1 in 8, made ends meet by watering down their babies’ formula or by feeding less frequently, according to the study which was published in Clinical Pediatrics
For so many moms, the thought of going to the store and spending $20 on formula for their baby isn’t really a big deal. Unfortunately for many moms it’s a HUGE burden. One they sometimes can’t bear. Can you imagine? Trying to stretch your baby’s formula or listen to them cry, knowing they’re hungry and there is not a thing you can do about it.
So what’s the answer? My first suggestion is to help these moms breastfeed. Why are these moms choosing formula? Is it because of societal pressure? Because they have lived in poverty their whole lives and they know that WIC will just give them formula so why bother breastfeeding? It’s a fact that lower income women have lower breastfeeding rates.
Supporting moms has always been important to me. It’s why I’ve been a La Leche League Leader for so many years, and why I became an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant. It’s also why I have kept the #bfcafe chat on Twitter going.
How can we as a society help support more moms? How do we reach the moms who truly need support and how can we help these moms break down the social barriers that keep them from breastfeeding? How do we help make sure no more babies are starving or failing to thrive because of a lack of food?
How can we join together to help moms breastfeed?