Thursday, November 01, 2007

You probably aren't concerned with pregnancy or breastfeeding...

...but this is the sort of thing that frustrates me SO MUCH. It's long, but you'll get the gist of it if you take just a minute to skim it, if you don't mind.


This explains how legislators, corporations, and pharmaceutical companies don't have mothers' & babies' best interest in mind. They go against the WHO's (World Health Organization's) codes in the name of advertisement and profit.

I really hope I can make at least a little bit of a difference one day. Please, *please*, God, let me make a difference.

1 comment:

  1. Jeannie Babb Taylor: The problem with breastfeeding

    Jeannie Babb Taylor

    Jeannie Babb Taylor, On the Other Hand

    What if doctors discovered a substance so potent, it could prevent dozens of diseases and even reduce the risk of cancer? What if these benefits extended not only to those who partake of this amazing substance, but also those who serve it? If a pharmaceutical company had developed it, it would be a billion-dollar industry. Breast milk, though, is free. Without a visible profit stream, it also lacks a marketing team.

    Numerous studies show that breastfeeding reduces cancer risks for both givers and receivers — yet the American Cancer Society (ACS) has no campaign statement on the importance of breastfeeding. One huge study (147,000 participants) found that American women could cut their breast cancer risk by 33% by increasing the lifetime average of breastfeeding from three months to thirty months, which is the worldwide average. The ACS concluded that significantly increasing breastfeeding duration was “unrealistic” and instead continues to focus on mammograms, cancer prevention drugs and other methods that put money in the pockets of physician groups and pharmaceutical companies.

    Although breastfeeding has been shown to reduce sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) risk by as much as 55%, the National Institute for Child Health (NICH) invests virtually nothing in breastfeeding education. Instead, the NICH organized the “Back to Sleep” campaign encouraging parents to put babies to bed on their backs. The first corporate sponsor of the Back to Sleep campaign was Gerber, a formula and baby food manufacturer. Is it any surprise there is no financial backing to promote breastfeeding as a SIDS prevention tool?

    Breastfeeding contributes significantly to child health. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) breastfeeding is “as important to preventive pediatric health care as promoting immunizations, car seat use, and proper infant sleep position.” Yet a recent AAP survey found that 45 percent of pediatricians who responded see formula-feeding and breast-feeding as equally acceptable. Once again, we can follow the money to understand this phenomenon. Doctors receive numerous samples, perks, and gifts from formula companies — a practice condemned by the World Health Organization (WHO.)

    Formula makers are forced to give lip service to the superiority of breastfeeding. Yet these companies spend millions of dollars per year tripping up new mothers. They have inroads at the obstetrician’s office, the hospitals where babies are born, and the pediatrician’s office. Formula makers ensure that every mother goes home with a couple of cans of formula, so it will be available in the middle of the night when the baby is crying, she is exhausted from lack of sleep and she is vulnerable to the insecurities American society has pressed on her day after day. The result? Even though 70% of mothers start breastfeeding, within a few months the statistics have flipped. Only 11.3% of babies are still exclusively breastfed at six months.

    It is difficult to blame American mothers for the failure to breastfeed, when everything is stacked against mothers from the start. Unlike women in most other developed countries, American women receive no paid maternity leave. Only those on welfare receive a stipend to carry them through the first months of mothering. Women who support themselves are forced to return to work, where it is often impossible to bring an infant, and pumping opportunities may be few and far between, with unsanitary conditions.

    Rep Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) recently introduced the Breastfeeding Promotion Act of 2007. The bill amends the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect breastfeeding women from workplace discrimination. It also gives employers a tax credit of up to $10,000 per year to provide employees with equipment, dedicated space and consultation for pumping breast milk. The bill establishes standards for breast pumps, and creates tax breaks for women who purchase breast pumps in order to maintain employment.

    Maloney says, “I have heard many horror stories of women who were fired for trying to figure out a way to express milk at work. My bill clarifies the Pregnancy Discrimination Act to protect breastfeeding under federal civil rights law, ensuring that women cannot be fired or discriminated against in the workplace for expressing (pumping) milk, or breastfeeding during breaks or lunch time.”

    At least the welfare moms have the chance to stay home and breastfeed — after all, their babies comprise the most high-risk population of infants in terms of health problems, asthma, failure to thrive and learning disabilities. Yet the formula-makers find these mothers, too. Government programs take away one of the incentives for breastfeeding by shelling out $600 million per year to put low-income infants on the bottle. Taxpayers also foot the bill for the increased healthcare cost of these children.

    The U.S. government has certainly been slow to recognize the fountain of youth. Reagan and the first Bush both refused to ratify the World Health Organization’s breastfeeding code, designed to protect new mothers from formula makers’ guerilla marketing tactics. The code was not recognized by the U.S. until Clinton signed it in 1994, and it is still not enforced.

    Recently, a handful of individual states sought to enforce the code. They especially want to stop hospital formula marketing, because once a baby receives a bottle, the mother and baby are confronted with a whole host of problems including nipple confusion and inadequate milk supply. If successful breastfeeding is not established within the first few days, formula-makers are practically guaranteed a new customer.

    In Massachusetts, it was Governor Mitt Romney who struck down a ban on hospital marketing. Less than two weeks later, Romney announced that he had secured the construction of a $66 million pharmaceutical plant in Devens, Massachusetts. The plant is owned by Bristol-Myers Squibb, the largest formula manufacturer in the world.

    Outside the U.S., things are no better. Nestle actually targets babies in developing countries, where breastfeeding has the greatest potential for good. Babies are routinely hooked on formula in third world hospitals and sent home without ever establishing breastfeeding. Back in the village, families soon discover that the cost of buying formula is higher than their entire wage.

    As a result of Nestle’s tactics, sub-Saharan Africa has a breastfeeding rate of only 32%; Asia, 35%; Indonesia, 39%, Vietnam, 19%, and Thailand, 5%. According to WHO and UNICEF, approximately 1.5 million babies die each year because they were started on formula instead of breast milk.

    American women who breastfeed should expect resistance from a society that depicts over-sized breasts on magazine covers and billboards, yet rejects the breast’s highest function. Numerous polls show that the majority of Americans are comfortable seeing women breastfeed in public; yet, a few shrill voices continue to insist that it is improper.

    American women have been harassed or thrown out of libraries, restaurants and public parks for the simple act of breastfeeding. One woman was even expelled from a Vermont Delta Freedom flight for breastfeeding her child, resulting in nurse-ins at Delta counters across the nation.

    Most recently, comedian Bill Maher praised Appleby’s for discriminating against a nursing mother, asserting that women who breastfeed in public are lazy and narcissistic. Maher’s other comments, which are too crude to be printed in the county paper, illustrate that what bothers some people about breastfeeding isn’t that it is perceived as sexual, but rather that it is not. Hooters, wet T-shirt contests and Playboy magazines are just fine with people like Maher, who believe that breasts are not for babies, but for men.

    Although doctors agree that “breast is best,” their own licensing board does not follow their recommendations. Breastfeeding mother and aspiring doctor Sophie Currier had to sue the National Board of Medical Examiners for the right to take pumping breaks during her nine-hour licensing exam. In typical anti-feminist fashion, the judge told Sophie she would just have to take the exam when her child was older and finished breastfeeding. She would have lost her residency in clinical pathology at Massachusetts General Hospital and derailed her career. Sophie appealed the decision, and won.

    The “problem” with breastfeeding is that it lacks a corporate profit stream. It profits mothers and babies tremendously. It profits families, the government and taxpayers. The USDA estimates that $3.6 million in healthcare costs could be saved if more U.S. babies were breastfed. Unfortunately, nothing much happens in America unless it lines the pocket of a corporation. WHO cares about breastfeeding, but corporate America never will.

    We live in a culture that despises human bodily fluids — even as we feed our children cow’s milk and use pregnant mare urine (Premarin) to balance menopausal hormones. Canadian researchers are even developing medicines based on genetically-engineered pig semen. The market for animal fluids continues to grow, because there is a profit stream associated with it. If formula companies maintain control of doctors and legislators, a day may come when humans are no longer classified as mammals. Mammals, after all, are defined as animals that have hair and suckle their young.

    Jeannie Babb Taylor is a local business leader and author. She also teaches Sunday school, educates her children at home, and engages in Georgia politics. Jeannie may be contacted at, or you can leave a public comment on her blog