Surely you have heard of or seen the recent advertising campaign to encourage women to breastfeed. It shows pregnant women in a compromising situation and implies that a woman would not endanger the baby before she gave birth, so why would she endanger the baby after birth by formula feeding. These commercials have sparked a series of heated debates on TV, in doctor’s offices, and at playgroups across the country.
Very few women would argue against the benefits of breast-feeding. Babies who are breast-fed have undeniably the best start in life. Breast milk provides immunities to the baby that she cannot receive anywhere else. Breast milk is easier to digest than any other type of food. It is easy on the baby’s immature digestive system, and provides all the nutrients she needs for her young life. Milk taken straight from the breast has less of a chance of coming in contact with bacteria before reaching the baby as well.
Breast-feeding also provides a special bonding time between mother and baby. Mothers that are dealing with post-partum depression must still have contact with their babies in order to feed the baby. This can help to relieve the depression. The baby will learn that when she has a need, mom is there to meet it. With bottle-feeding, especially when the baby is old enough to hold the bottle on her own, it is far too easy to skip the holding and bonding that should be a part of feeding a baby.
With that being said, is it necessary to mount an aggressive advertising campaign that seems to indicate that formula feeding is putting a newborn at risk of dying? Many mothers, for one reason or another, cannot breastfeed. Some babies will not latch at the breast. A single mom who has to work might not be able to express enough milk to supplement her baby’s feedings while at daycare. Breastfeeding can cause extreme pain to some mothers. And there are some mothers, admittedly few, who do not produce enough milk for their baby’s needs. Should these mothers be made to feel they are in effect killing their babies by feeding them formula?
Perhaps instead of this campaign of guilt the government should undertake a campaign for education. It is ironic that the government will pay for lower-income moms to buy formula for their babies when there is a free alternative-breast-feeding. Would it not be better to pay for a lactation professional to help these moms learn to breast-feed? Or to pay for a breast pump so they can express breast milk for their babies? Perhaps if formula was not free for them they might try a little harder to breast-feed.
And for the moms who try and can’t, guilt is not going to make the situation any easier to handle. The failure to breast-feed successfully can cause guilt on its own for these women. They do not need the added pressure of turning on the TV and being told that they are, in effect, killing their babies. For some women, breast-feeding is a very personal issue. The reasons that they choose to or not to breast-feed can be very diverse, not to mention personal. These women should not be made to feel guilty about their decision. The government should provide education to women, and then support them in whatever decision they make for their family.