My Opinion on “Milk Wars”

A mother recounts her own experience and feelings of pressure to breastfeed in today’s NYT (see link below). Obviously, perspective is everything–but the author has a right to her opinion and her desire to express it—although, this piece reads more like a rationalization of the author’s opinions to me.

Many in the field of lactation read blogs, articles, opinion pieces like this and get all riled up and they worry about how the author’s statement will affect other women. I think that everyone is entitled to their opinion and that if there are issues surrounding breastfeeding that we can change–talking about them is the way to go. We should not try to sweep these issues under the carpet, ignore them and pretend they don’t exist or that they do not matter to some women.  Instead let’s listen to what women are saying.

One statement the author makes, “unfortunately, there are few places for women to turn for balanced advice on the matter” made me think.  Did the author want someone to tell her formula was just as good–her baby would do just fine on formula–that there are no health risks or concerns with formula feeding?  Do parents want justification of their decision to formula feed?  Do they want to hear half-truths/untruths/lies?  The debate is over when it comes to breastfeeding and other forms of infant feeding and parents deserve evidenced based medicine not lies, platitudes, or quoting of out-dated/faulty research–parents deserve the truth so they can be informed consumers. Should health care providers lie or sugar coat information because parents may feel “guilty” or bad (of course, calling formula “evil” like the doctor mentioned in the article is inappropriate).  Do smokers want their doctors to tell them that that smoking poses no risk to them–that overweight/obsesity is just fine, since many people are overweight/obese (or perhaps they are overweight/obese–I can’t tell you how many times I have heard of a health care provider that has said to new parents, “I was formula fed and I am just fine” or in one mother’s case,”I was formula fed and look at me–I am a doctor[insert gag here]”)–I could go on and on.  Formula is not evil and in cases where mothers cannot breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed it is an acceptable alternative (the WHO does not list formula as the best alternative–expressed milk from mother or donor milk is preferred). Whatever the feeding choice parents make, they deserve respect and support.

I must point out that supporting the choice to breastfeed includes maternity/parental leave and workplace support; the variables that effect breastfeeding outcomes are interdependent not mutually exclusive.  Take a look at the article–do you agree or disagree with the points made?  How can we support mothers?

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