NEWS: Breastfeeding Is a Mother's Choice, Not a Public Health Issue

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010
NEWS: Breastfeeding Is a Mother's Choice, Not a Public Health Issue
13
Fri, 03-09-2012 - 7:16pm

When I hear the term, "public health issue," I immediately think of a disease outbreak or some kind of epidemic. If breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months is a matter of public health, then that must mean that

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

Before I read further, I'll comment.:

>>If breastfeeding your baby for the first 6 months is a matter of public health, then that must mean that women who don't breastfeed their babies are doing something to hurt the greater population, right?<<

Yes, exactly.

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

Sorry. I just can't help but wonder if the the author was put by the Formula Industry.

>>It's a matter of a mother taking care of her own child and basing her decisions on what works best for her and her baby. Period.<<

Apples and oranges.

The AAP, just like the Heart Association, gets to say what is the healthier choice. No exercise=sendentary lifestyle choice=less health. No breastfeeding=formula lifestyle=less health.

The mom does and should have the right to choose whether or not to exercise and whether or not to breastfeed.That's her call. Her choice. Her lifestyle choice. The heart association's job is to be clear about the preferred choice heartwise: exercise. The AAPs job is to be clear about the the preferred choice healthwise, ie breastfeeding.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008

Reading the whole thing, there is an emphasis on what the mother wants, and no mention of what the baby needs. Does what a mother might want overtake the needs of a baby she has brought into the world? Of course, I recognise that there will be times that the mother has strong needs that conflict with the baby getting breastmilk, and also cases where the mother for example finds she needs to work, and cannot keep up with pumping or something. (But then we need social change to allow mothers to address the need to BF)

Also anecdotes are thrown around, as though that somehow counteracts any statistics. In fact, the research was just ignored, as though health effects had not been repeatedly shown.

Public health issue was equated with perhaps some widlly contagious illness. But lots of other things come under the blanket of public health issue.

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010

Yes, I was thinking that this sentence was missing a word:

<<"Because

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008
Yes. I think that if you are mature enough to consider having a baby, you need to be mature enough to consider that this entails making some decisions in your life that are not all about you. That you in fact, have to make some decisions that take account of the life you chose to bring into the world. And funnily enough, many of those decisions, including breastfeeding, benefit the mother as well.

Teresa
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008

One major problem with her argument is that she seems to think that if BF'ing is a public health issue then it can't also be a choice as if these two positions are mutually exclusive. Just becuase it's a public health issue does not mean it can't also be a choice. We have lots of issue that are public health issue such as childhood and adult obesity, smoking, alcohol abuse, etc. where governments and health groups argue against such things overeating, unhealthy diets, smoking, heavy drinking, etc. while at the same time people are free to make the choice to overeat, eat mostly junk food, smoke, drink heavily (except while while driving or in public), etc. I believe most BF advocates, myself included recognize there are pragmatic and other good reasons to continue allow mothers to be able to make the choice to FF solely by choice even when BF'ing is possible. While I believe that the health risks of FF'ing are significant and do have a significant impact on society as a whole, I don't feel that forcing mothers to BF when possible even if they don't want to is the answer. I believe that education and improvements to BF support are the answer to encouraging more women to BF or BF longer. We also have to accept that their will likely always be a small percentage of moms who will always choose to FF whenever possible.

Another part of her argument that stuck out to me was her incorrect claim that "breastfeeding has always been, and should always remain, a choice" which those who know the history of infant formula know is false. Formula has only been around since the late 1800's and before then there was no alternative to breastmilk that most babies could tolerate and thrive on. I don't disagree that formula should remain a choice now that it does exist.

I also take issue with her implication that AAP thinks most moms are stupid and that's while they issue the recommendation to BF. The fact is that a) not all moms are making a informed decision when they decide to FF and that the AAP just wants to correct that. Also, BM is more then just nourishing. It also has many health-benefits, including immune benefits that formula lacks.

When she says "I just don't understand how breastfeeding can be considered anything but a lifestyle choice." the answer is simple. If formula has significant health risk avoid by BF'ing and these health risks translate into increased healthcare and other costs to society in the form of higher healthcare premiums, government funded healthcare costs, or lost productivity by working moms, then that it's not simply a lifestyle choice. A lifestyle choice would be something like wether you watch TV, take up golf, plant a flower garden, or travel around the world not an activity that can have health effects for babies and moms. When she asks "How on earth is it anyone's business other than the mother's?" she is confusing a voluntary recordation made to moms in general with someone unfairly butting in on a person private decision outside of an situation where such advice would be expected, such a doctors office. She seems to somehow think that the AAP's recommendation is actually some sort of mandate when moms are actually free to ignore it and AAP has never advocated forcing moms to BF.

She argues that "there's already enough unnecessary pressure put on moms to breastfeed their babies, even when they are physically or emotionally unable to do so." but I don't see that as being quit as true overall as she thinks. yes, to some degree the pressure to BF has gone up somewhat in the last few decades but their are still many moms who experience little pressure to BF, especially in certain communities where BF'ing rates rates very low. There are still many doctors who don't push BF'ing or are very weak in support of BF'ing and some even seem to discourage it. As far as mother who can't BF for physical or emotional reasons, I see very few BF advocates making the mistake of pushing such moms to try to BF even when it's impossible. Unfortunately, a tiny percentage of BF advocates fault to realize that some moms can't BF for various reasons or may simply assume that any mom who is not planning to BF is doing purely by choice but advocates are smart and considerate enough to not advocate BF'ing to such moms. You should never assume that just because a BF advocate does not include a disclaimer excluding moms who can't BF from her advocacy that moms BF their babies that she doesn't recognize that not all moms can't BF.

Finely, I find her statement that "It's a matter of a mother taking care of her own child and basing her decisions on what works best for her and her baby." to be forgetting one important fact. In order for a mom to make a good decision on what works best for her and her baby she must make a fully informed decision, something that too many moms IMO are not doing already. The AAP BF policy statement is just one tool to help with this goal. Unfortunately, this mom seems to not be willing to accept the health risks of formula, largely due to improper use of anecdotal evidence, that underlines a key reasons she blast the AAP's attempts to help moms make an informed decision about BF'ing vs FF'ing. It really sounds like she doesn't went to feel guilty for FF'ing and thus doesn't want the AAP informing her and other moms like her about the risks of formula. She is like an ostrich with it's head in the sand. Unfortunately, reading all the many comments posted to the article, I see that their are many others who seem to also not want to know about or believe the six decades of research that supports that formula has health risks and that doesn't change simply because one doesn't want to BF or feels FF'ing works better for them for reasons outside of health/nutrition.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 06-23-2009

When it is a public health issue is when the mother puts contaminated water in the formula. (in foreign countries)

Another health issue if the mother has Aids or Hiv.


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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

While it may seem superficially that when it comes to AIDS and breastfeeding, formula is a no-brainer. After all, AIDS is life threatening. Formula is allegedly "perfectly safe".

Unfortunately, that erroneous perception has led to some ill-informed public health decisions. The reality is far more complicated and the advice for mothers with HIV/AIDS is dependent on a lot of factors and it is continually changing.

http://www.avert.org/hiv-breastfeeding.htm

http://www.anotherlook.org/index.php

My point is this: HIV/AIDS and breastfeeding is a complex issue, and therefore is not a well-chosen defense for the use of formula.

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010

welcome

Welcome to the debate board. It's wonderful to see you posting here and I hope that you will stick around and post more often.

It's also a public health issue when formula is recalled and babies are harmed - that happens right here in North America.

I am sorry to hear your daughter is having pain - I don't know if she has already read this or tried these things, but I thought I would include this link just in case:

Recurrent Mastitis or Plugged Ducts

http://www.kellymom.com/bf/concerns/mom/recurrent-mastitis.html

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008

When it is a public health issue is when the mother puts contaminated water in the formula. (in foreign countries)

While it's true it's a much greater public health issue in third-world/developing countries, that does not mean it still not a public health issue even thought the risk are not as great. The risks of formula in third world countries for poor mothers are too often death throughout contaminated water and serious malnutrition do not not being able to afford enough formula and thus they water down what they can afford to stretch it out. This is generality not the case in Western countries but that does not mean it still not a significant public health issue. The risks of formula in developed countries have still been shown by over 6 decades of research to be significant enough to call it a public health issue, even if it's only rarely deadly. Risks like increased ear infections, increased asthma risk, and increased breast cancer risk in the mom, are still significant enough to justify the AAP calling it a public health risks rather then simply a just a lifestyle choice.

Another health issue is if the mother has Aids or Hiv. That would be passed on through the breast milk.

While AIDS would certainly, at least in Western countries, be a reason why the government and health groups would recommend against BF'ing for a mother that does really change whether it's a public health issue or a lifestyle choice. When it comes to public health issues, most reconditions have acceptations where it's recognized that what is would normally be in the best interest of a person may not be in special circumstances. For example, the AAP recommends that toddlers consume cows milk as part o their diet but they also recognize that some toddlers don't tolerate dairy so they would not expect the mother of such a child to follow that recordation though they would recommend that she find a substitute source of calcium and fat such putting off weaning from BF'ing beyond a year (if BF'ing) or substituting another source of calcium and fats the child can tolerate. When the AAP recommends BF'ing as a public health issue, they recognize that some moms can't BF for medical or other reasons so they accept that for those moms and babies formula is the best choice of the remaining available choices (unless banked breastmilk is considered the preferable alternative such as in the case of premies). The recommendations with regard to public health is are just reconditions which in some select cases may not apply as other factors may change the overall picture. You can a good example of this with regard to AIDS in Africa and BF'ing. In Western countries where even the poor can generally safely feed formula due to access to clean water and a welfare system that provides either free formula or at least money that can be used to buy formula, you generally don't have to worry about formula feeding being deadly so the mothers who have AIDS are expected to FF to prevent any risk of transmitting the virus through their breastmilk. In third world countries in Africa, FF'ing can be deadly for babies due to lack of clean water and lack of sufficient means to be able to provide adequate enough formula so the don't tell mothers with AIDS in those places to not BF. Instead they push them exclusively BF (no formula whatsoever) while taking antiviral meeds because this has been shown to reduce the risks of the baby contracting aids to little or none. Aid agencies like the U.N. have to work with the special conditions mothers with AIDS face in the third-world/developing countries of Africa.

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