Yes, I’m a dad… and yes, I’m about to talk about breastfeeding. I realize I’m treading into dangerous territory. For a variety of reasons many of you reading this did not or could not feed your babies breast milk. The last thing in the world I want to do is make someone feel bad over choices they made in the past, or a situation in which perhaps they had no choice. That would be pointless.
That said, if it’s possible for a mother to breastfeed, I am a very strong advocate of that choice, versus giving formula to ones children. I’m not a doctor, nor do I play one on TV, but the evidence concerning the health benefits to a child at this point are overwhelming. Simply do a bit of research on breastfeeding online or read the many studies if you need more evidence.
The thing is, you probably either agree with me already… or are in the process of dropping me as a friend for having the nerve to write this. So why am I even posting this blog? I’m writing it because at least for those of you who agree breastfeeding is preferable to feeding a baby formula (if it’s an option), there is a conversation I’d like to have; and something I’d like you to do.
Here goes any lucrative sponsorships I might have been offered by infant formula companies… breastfeeding doesn’t have much of an advertising budget. What really bugs me is that hospitals are at least partly culpable in the adoption of unhealthy practices by new parents. When my little girl was born the nurses immediately started pushing the use of formula to feed our baby.
Looking back it makes me sick at heart I was too uneducated, too tired and too selfish to push back when the nurses sold me on feeding my baby the free formula they provided. The nurses and I are the ones who gave it to my girl, not my wife. She breastfed at the hospital, and when we got home we fed our girl breast milk, including pumped milk so I could help with feedings.
“Hospitals need to greatly improve practices to support mothers who want to breast-feed,” Dr. Thomas Frieden said last month in releasing a CDC report card on breast-feeding. It showed that less than 5 percent of U.S. infants are born in “baby-friendly” hospitals that fully support breast-feeding, and that 1 in 4 infants receive formula within hours of birth. I’m sad to say ours did.
A nationwide study of more than 3,000 U.S. hospitals and maternity centers published last year in the Journal of Human Lactation found that 91 percent sent new moms home with free formula in 2006-07. A smaller 2010 study of 1,239 hospitals suggests that the practice has decreased, although most — 72 percent — still offered formula. That study is being released Monday in October’s Pediatrics.
Up above, I said I wanted to start a conversation, and wanted to ask you to do something. Here’s the deal (very much like my blog about the conspiracy of silence surrounding miscarriages) I’d like you to be more open (yes, you guys, too!) to talking about breastfeeding. Get over your embarrassment and talk with your new parent friends. Help counter all those parenting magazine ads touting the health benefits of their latest DHA enhanced baby formula.
And tell your hospitals who are taking in big “donations” from those formula companies that they need to start putting their patients’ (in this case the most innocent and helpless patients possible) needs ahead of corporate greed. You can probably tell I feel strongly about this. Let’s also continue this conversation in the comments. I know not everyone agrees, so let’s talk about it (respectfully).