In spite of the backlash against breastfeeding, science continues to prove that breastmilk is the best nutrition for babies. Dr. Susan Crowe (MD, FACOG) discussed the making of breastfeeding controversies at a recent San Diego County Breastfeeding Coalition half-day seminar.
How the billion pound formula industry hijacked breastfeeding
We’re all familiar of the Nestle’s infant formula scandal: Outrage started in the 1970s, when Nestle was accused of getting third world mothers hooked on formula, which is less healthy and more expensive than breastmilk. The allegations led to hearings in the Senate and the World Health Organization, resulting in a new set of marketing rules.
The rule, now known as the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, forbids advertising of bottles or substitutes, free samples, gifts to health care workers, free or low cost products to hospitals.
But today, most medical professional organizations still accept formula funds or conference sponsorships. More than 50% of women receive free formula in the mail.
US formula manufactures spend around $480 million in advertising, while La Leche League International has a $3.5 million annual budget. “Formula manufactures spend the money because it works,” said Dr. Crowe. And what formula marketing tells mothers?
“You do not have to nurse your child. Scientific evidence today indicates that children who have never been nursed are just as healthy, sometimes more healthy, both physically and emotionally, as children who are nursed. If you are reluctant to nurse your child, if it makes you feel tense or uncomfortable, do not attempt it.”
This is misleading: Evidence shows that breastfed babies become healthier adults, and breastfeeding is a learned behavior. It is unfortunate that mothers are manipulated by the marketing forces of infant formula companies. Breastfeeding decisions needs facts, not marketing.
How maternity care practice supports breastfeeding
Safe sleep and skin-to-skin care in the neonatal period for newborns remain a hot topic. Some argue that skin-to-skin increases the chance of Sudden Unexpected Postnatal Collapse (SUPC). On the other hand, solid number shows that early skin-to-skin significantly raises exclusive breastfeeding rate. Dr. Crowe encourages skin-to-skin. And there are some components of safe positioning for the newborn while skin-to-skin:
- Infant’s face can be seen.
- Infant’s head is turned to one side.
- Infant’s nose and mouth are not covered.
- Infant’s neck is straight, not bent.
What to do with extra milk
Dr. Crowe made it clear that more milk isn’t always better. She discouraged excessive pumping, noting that too much pumping can cause risks of mastitis, plugged ducts.
Mothers who can produce more milk than what her baby needs, they may sell it, share it, freeze it, or donate it. Dr. Crowe encouraged moms to donate extra milk to members of Human Milk Banking Association of Nor America (HMBANA). She donated 900 oz of her milk. “HMBANA provides essential breastmilk to newborns at risk for NEC. I’m concerned that other options may put the supply of this milk at risk.”