Happy World Breast Feeding Week!
In Australia where I live there are guidelines about how formula can be advertised, but we still catch artificial baby milk producers out. There are supposed to be no advertisements for baby formula, however toddler formula is frequently advertised across all mediums, and sometimes they sneakily slip in a picture of newborn ABM (Artificial Baby Milk).
Formula was first created in the 1920's, probably for the right reasons, however there was money to be made, and where there's money there's usually unscrupulous people not too far behind. At first formula must have been a wonderful convenience for women who genuinely couldn't breast feed. However those women were surrounded by women who could breast feed so they had a trouble shooting team in the house next door, if not in their own home. Formula wouldn't have been something they viewed as a choice, it would have been a last resort.
ABM companies weren't stupid. They latched on (pardon the pun) to this niche market and when the money started coming in, they decided that expanding their business would be rather nice. So they began marketing formula more aggressively.
I know a lot of women who breast feed, and many of them have struggled in the early days. The breast feeding advocates made a big error in their marketing by telling women that it is natural. Yes, it's very natural, but so is an earth quake, so are killer bees. Need I say more?
Formula companies wanted to get rich quickly. Their get rich quick scheme was to to sell even more formula than was necessary and their strategy was to undermine mothers who really weren't having any trouble at all. The messages they sold as FACT, were pure FICTION, but they permeated every single facet of our society.
- Tell them their milk isn't good enough
- Tell them their milk is insufficient
- Tell them that bottle feeding is a sign of affluence
- Tell them bottle feeding is modest
- Tell them bottle feeding is convenient
And hey presto! Billions of dollars for ABM companies!
92% of women initiate breast feeding when they give birth in an Australian hospital. By three months a miniscule 56% are still feeding, and by six months only 14% of women in Australia are still breast feeding. By these statistics, we can assume one of two things. Either it is remarkable that we survived as a species given that we are so unable to feed our young, or that women have drastically lost confidence in their body's ability to grow, birth, and nourish a baby.
In Australia this has huge ramifications for our health care system. However in countries where there is no access to clean water, high illiteracy rates, and extreme poverty, formula has been an absolute disaster. In countries where women know they can breast feed, formula companies have had to use a different marketing approach. They tell women formula is superior to breast milk, that it will make their baby stronger, smarter, and reduce the chances of diarrhea.
In countries where babies die of diarrhea daily, this is a pretty nifty marketing ploy ... but it's an outright lie and it results in babies dying more frequently. Women don't have access to clean water, so there are diseases in the formula by the time it's given to their baby, and other women can't read the directions so they don't know how to mix it up correctly. Poor woman can't afford to buy enough formula (remember that billions of people survive on less than $1 a day) so they water the formula down to make it last.
Babies are dying. Formula companies don't care and no one holds them accountable. The World Health Organisation has a set of guidelines relating to the marketing of ABM, but ABM companies don't abide by guidelines. Why should they? Nothing negative happens to THEM when they don't! It's time the watch dog grew some teeth.
Some bright spark got the idea to start a National Formula Feeding awareness week, because it is currently National Breast Feeding Awareness Week. Well I couldn't agree more! Let's raise awareness of the dangers of formula feeding! Let's raise awareness of the politics that drive formula producing companies. Let's raise awareness of the environmental impact of bottle feeding. Let's start milk banks to provide REAL baby milk to those women who genuinely can't breast feed. Let's stop allowing the promotion of bottle as a choice. Let's give our babies the best start in life that they can possibly get!
Let's raise awareness of how LESS THAN 1% OF WOMEN REALLY CAN'T BREAST FEED!