As I mentioned a few days ago in a post about not buying into the baby food market, I have been reading a compelling book entitled The Politics of Breastfeeding: When Breasts Are Bad for Business. Today another passage caught my attention:
“Messages about the ‘benefits’ of breastfeeding imply that artificial feeding is normal and safe, and that breastfeeding is a bonus. It is not like that. Artificial feeding is risky. This basic fact upsets people who feel insulted if they or their mothers did not breastfeed but most women do not ‘choose’ how they feed their babies: they do what their culture and society expects. Humans are herd animals and we tend to do what everyone else does.”
This passage sums up a number of points perfectly. First, pointing out the risks of formula feeding is not meant as an insult to mothers who opt out of breastfeeding. When I compare the components of breast milk with the ingredients of formula or point out that the main ingredient in many infant formulas is corn syrup, I am not trying to insult anyone. I am simply pointing out a few facts. As a breastfeeding advocate, yes, I hope that sharing this information will influence at least a few mothers who are on the fence about infant feeding to breastfeed. However, the fact remains that infant formula does not and cannot compare to human breast milk.
Second, formula feeding is risky. Children who are exclusively or partially formula fed are at an increased risk for infections, illness, and other health problems during childhood. Babies who are formula fed are more likely to die from SIDS. Children who were formula fed are more likely to suffer from health problems such as obesity and diabetes as adults. Discussing these facts is not a personal attack on any mother. These are just facts, albeit facts that support the argument that breast milk is best for babies.
Finally, many mothers do not, indeed, consciously choose the method by which they feed their babies. Culture and society are, in fact, huge influencers. Fellow blogger Enyo over at Motherhood Looms is very open about her decision to formula feed instead of breastfeed. Her reason for not breastfeeding is largely psychological, and, yes, she blames her mother. She knows that breastfeeding is best but just cannot get past some personal issues. She has been influenced by a culture that basically screams that formula feeding is perfectly okay. She is very aware of psychological hang up about breastfeeding. Most other women, however, are not so conscious about the messages about infant feeding with which they are bombarded on a daily basis.
Yes, formula feeding comes with risks that are eliminated through breastfeeding. No, I am not attacking you personally if you feed your baby formula. The facts are that formula feeding is risky, society influences our decisions, and breast milk is best. No insult intended.
Palmer, Gabrielle. 2009. The politics of breastfeeding: When breasts are bad for business. Pinter & Martin Ltd: London.
Infant with Baby Bottle: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Infant_with_baby_bottle.jpg