Sounds crazy right? But according to a report published by the charity Save the Children, that's all true and is exactly what should happen. I'm not going to link to them but you can look them and their report up if you want to.
I read through the report, not all 75 pages of course, but I did read it. I focused mostly on the section where they talk about the makers of baby formula. Here's what I gleaned from my read-through.
- The evil manufacturers of baby formula have to figure out a way to get women to buy their clearly inferior product.
- They are competing with a product (breast milk) which is not only superior in every way, but is free. So they really have their work cut out for them.
- These evil companies are resorting to dastardly tactics in order to accomplish this goal.
- These dastardly tactics include
- Advertising their products. (the horror)
- Giving free samples to midwives and new parents. (how dare they)
- Giving free gifts with the company logo to health care workers, i.e. pens, pads of paper, and such. (round them all up and throw them in jail now)
- Something must be done to keep these evil companies from promoting their "poison" onto new mothers.
- One reason something must be done is that these companies are offering something that costs money and many people don't have the money to buy this evil baby formula.
- After all, breast is best.
A huge label that shouts, "You are a terrible mother/father if you feed this to your baby!" "If you feed this to your baby you will probably ruin his/her health for life!" "So you better pop that boob back out and try again, because if you can't breastfeed then you are damaging your baby forever!"
Ok, I'm sure the label won't say those words specifically. I'm sure they will be all official and much more scary. I also know that the result of those words will make Mothers like me, who were unable to breastfeed feel even more guilty and horrible than we already felt the first time we opened a package of formula for our babies.
Plus, baby formula packaging already contains a disclaimer that says breast milk is best and that formula is a breast milk substitute. In fact, on the website for the brand I use (Aptamil) you have to click a disclaimer that says, "Breastfeeding is best for babies and provides many benefits. It is important that, in preparation for and during breastfeeding, you eat a healthy, balanced diet. Combined breast and bottle feeding in the first weeks of life may reduce the supply of your own breastmilk, and reversing the decision not to breastfeed is difficult. The social and financial implications of using an infant milk should be considered. Improper use of an infant milk or inappropriate foods or feeding methods may present a health hazard. If you use an infant milk, you should follow manufacturer’s instructions for use carefully – failure to follow the instructions may make your baby ill. Always consult your doctor, midwife or health visitor for advice about feeding your baby." before you can even view what products they sell. So why the need for a bigger warning label?
I know that this charity mostly focuses on women and babies in the developing world and I think a lot of the work that they do is pretty great. But the things they recommend should (in their opinion) apply around the world. Which means these warning labels would be placed on all baby formula packaging in the UK and Europe, and in America as well.
Reading through their report I learned that in some places women don't know they should try to breastfeed within the first hour. In some of these countries they think they should feed their babies all kinds of strange things. There are also cultural issues that prevent women who may want to breastfeed from doing so. So I get the focus on education and the idea that breastmilk is best.
I also read in the report that the baby formula companies are targeting the developing world as new potential customers. They seem to spin this as a travesty. My opinion is that if women in the developing world have trouble breastfeeding, like I did, then isn't it wonderful that there is another option for them? That instead of these babies being fed cow's or goat's milk, or something else that is unsuitable for newborns, they can obtain a formula that will sustain their baby?
If a woman can't breastfeed and lives in a place where no suitable breastmilk substitute is available then what happens to that baby? My guess is that he or she will eventually die of malnutrition. So what's wrong with advertising an available option that could be the difference between a healthy baby and a dead one? And considering that the slogan for Save the Children is, "No Child Born to Die," you would think that they would want families to have every available option to be able to feed their children properly. Instead, they seem to be pushing the "only breastmilk will do" agenda.
I don't normally get involved with what I consider to be controversial issues here. Partly because it's not really that kind of blog and partly because I don't always want to "stir the pot" or in any way contribute to the drama that surrounds these kinds of debates. Especially when the debate is about breastfeeding vs formula feeding.
My take is that people should do what works best for their family. Not every Mother can breastfeed, and not all babies can either. Some women opt for breast feeding only, some opt for formula feeding only, and some do a combination. In some cases these are conscious decisions, and in other cases there was no option. In my opinion, these are very personal decisions and it disgusts me when people get all high and mighty and preach that their chosen way is the only way.
So the idea of putting a warning label on baby formula that is at least one third the size of the package? A label that lists all the things that are wrong with feeding your baby formula? A label that will make parents who are doing everything they can to take care of their babies feel awful? A label that would have made me feel even more guilty and inadequate about not being able to breastfeed than I already did? A label that at the moment is only put on things that are poisonous? A label like the kind you find on a carton of cigarettes?
I don't think so.