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Government Takes Hard-line Stance on Breastfeeding

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, June 12, 2006

A lot of Lactivist readers probably remember the super controversial pro-breastfeeding commercials that featured a pregnant woman being thrown off of a mechanical horse, or competing in a log rolling contest. The line was "you wouldn't risk your baby's health while you were pregnant, why do it after they are born" and was designed to tout the benefits of breastfeeding over formula.

Understandably, many mothers were offended and the commercials went off the air. (Heck, even as a Lactivist I found the commercials to be a little bit extreme...)

Anyway...the New York Times has a story running right now called "Breastfeed or Else" that looks at some of the statements coming out of the government about the issue and some of the proposed solutions.

Some select quotes from the article:

There is no black-box label like that affixed to cans of infant formula or tucked into the corner of magazine advertisements, at least not yet. But that is the unambiguous message of a controversial government public health campaign encouraging new mothers to breast-feed for six months to protect their babies from colds, flu, ear infections, diarrhea and even obesity.

"Just like it's risky to smoke during pregnancy, it's risky not to breast-feed after," said Suzanne Haynes, senior scientific adviser to the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services. "The whole notion of talking about risk is new in this field, but it's the only field of public health, except perhaps physical activity, where there is never talk about the risk."

Senator Tom Harkin, Democrat of Iowa, has proposed requiring warning labels, on cans of infant formula and in advertisements, similar to the those on cigarettes. They would say that the Department of Health and Human services has determined that "breast-feeding is the ideal method of feeding and nurturing infants" or that "breast milk is more beneficial to infants than infant formula."

The article goes on to talk, in-depth about some of the problems facing the United States in our attempts to get more mothers to nurse. Obviously the paltry amount of maternity leave that is available to most mothers, as is the fact that few workplaces are truly supportive of mothers that pump. Add in the fact that day care is rarely located near enough to work for mothers to visit and nurse and you basically are left with a world where only SAHMs and the absolute most devoted of mothers are able to pull off long-term breastfeeding.

Those are real issues facing us...it's not just about educating, it's also about enabling.

The article also talks quite a bit about the various health benefits being studied for both mom and baby when a breastfeeding relationship is established and maintained. Overall, it's one of the better articles I've seen in the mainstream press when it comes to the issue of breastfeeding's benefits.

Nice job NY Times. ;)