Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Let me be clear: I didn't vote for that man.

Well, if you ever wondered about the power of the money-heavy special interest group in politics, here it is: Governor Mitt Romney overturned a ban on the formula freebies given to new mothers when they leave the maternity ward. This ban was proposed by Romney's own Department of Public Health, and is clearly a move influence by the International Formula Council. Romney's spokesperson said something vague about the rights of the formula feeding mother...Hm. When I needed to supplement with formula, I knew exactly where to get it. When I needed to train my eldest to extract milk from the breast, well, help was harder to find.

So, Romney, how much money did they put in your war-chest, eh? I'm not sure where to turn here: should I be disappointed that Romney didn't listen to the AAP, the CDC, the WHO, and the small army of acronyms who urge breastfeeding as a way to save money, improve health and generally make the world a happy mammary place? Or should I be disappointed that Romney's willing to tromp over his own Department of Health and undercut them for political purposes? Or should I just cock a cynical eyebrow and assume that any country that values early mother-child wellbeing as little as ours (ever do a country by country comparison of maternity leave? I wouldn't recommend it without a nice big scotch in your belly) would continue to screw over the new mother.

Bottom line: the formula feeding mother doesn't need any more than a pamphlet to get basic education about formula feeding. A mother who can't breastfeed for medical reasons will be guided by her doctors, as will the mother who chooses formula for personal, social or economic reasons. On the other hand, the nursing mother needs nurturing, an education that will undo the urban myths about breastfeeding, and time. Lots of time. All of that and she won't make a dime for a major corporation... So are the formula feeding mother's rights being infringed upon when you ban the formula freebie bag? Nope. Are the breastfeeding mother's rights being dented when you give her the bag, endorsed by the hospital as a Thing To Have? I'd say yes. But she's not profitable, so don't you mind her none.

And what about the baby? You can't tell me that formula will reduce the chance of bedwetting, or shape healthier preemies. It'll sustain, even nourish, but no man-made substitute can really be a substitute when we're still learning about the original. So the smart choice for Romney would have been to bow out of the subject altogether, deferring to the doctors. And their position is abundantly clear. So who is making the choice for the American family: the doctor or the politico?

Don't try and sell me formula by dressing up the sales pitch in a diaper bag. Me and my boys, we're not buying. All I can hope for is that the hospitals in MA who have rebelled against the bag (the place where our babes was born had already begun the revolt as of 9/11/05) will continue. May medicine continue to refuse to be shaped by commercialism, and instead be shaped by the needs and preferences of the consumer.

For the curious: the group leading the fight to reevaluate the formula industry's role in early maternal-child feeding is the pithily named:

And for another perspective, try the Opinion Journal because yes, they've got one on this..


joy said...

It was actually quite funny when my nurse brought me the bag. She announced first that she in no way wanted to influence me and fully supported my breastfeeding, that it was a sealed bag that had formula in it and I was free to toss it out or do whatever I please but it's a plastic-locked bag so she couldn't just give me the bag, and then she carefully put it in the farthest corner of the room. As she headed out, she told me it was a pretty nice bag and didn't have any logos or garbage on the outside anyway. I'm pleased to have the freezer packs that came with for pumped breastmilk. Take THAT Emfamil/Similac/Whatever.

mama o' the matrices said...

Really? Our hospital cut them open and yanked out all of the formula stuff, replacing it with leaflets about feeding choices, mama and papa support groups.

But then again, our hospital is one of the ones voluntarily following the international protocols about the marketing of artificial babymilk. Hmm.