Sunday, April 11, 2010

Suck It Up!

Last week, a new study published in the Pediatrics journal: The Burden of Suboptimal Breastfeeding in the United States: A Pediatric Cost Analysis, concluded that if 90 % of U.S. women breastfed their babies for the first six months of life, over 900 infant lives would be saved each year, along with 13 billion dollars in associated medical expenses each year.

One of my dear clients, (who obviously thought my blood pressure wasn’t high enough!) alerted me to the Newsweek blog by Mary Carmichael, entitled: Most Women Stop Breast-feeding by Six Months. Whose Fault Is That? Needless to say, I braced myself for yet another negative, self-serving response or should I say, excuse to why women in American just can’t nurse.  She refers to the above study as, “the next round in the never-ending slugfest over the health benefits of breast-feeding.”  I refer to it as, the next round in the never-ending denial and "udder" ignorance of Americans over the health benefits of breastfeeding, to the point of shame and embarrassment.

Furthermore, Ms Carmichael states half-heartedly, “Yes, breast-feeding does have health benefits (although we could argue all day about the magnitude of those benefits, especially given how complex and multifactorial the diseases listed in this article are—breast-feeding prevents leukemia?) OMG, she didn’t do her homework! (a simple google search would have sufficed!) FYI- Babies who are breastfed DO have a lower risk of developing childhood leukemia, according to an analysis of 14 STUDIES by researchers at the University of California, Berkeley.   Bring it on, Ms Carmichael!  Nay-sayer!

What do you think prompted the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendation over 10 yrs ago? Namely that “babies be exclusively breastfed (no water, juice, tea, formula, or other liquid or solids foods) until they are at least six months old and that breastfeeding continue for at least one year and as long thereafter as is mutually desired.” It was the overwhelming studies that could no longer be denied. Yet, the majority of physicians in the US, as we well know in NJ, advice otherwise, putting our children and mothers at risk everyday.

How do they get away with it? Does the term, INFORMED CONSENT, mean anything? Why do doctors and hospitals protect new parents from the knowledge of the risk associated with infant formula use? This phenomenon is not seen in any other area of health care. Could it be their contractual association with the infant formula industry?  Women are told of the risks of alcohol and cigarettes to their unborn children. Smokers are told of tobacco's hazards to their health and to those who breathe their second-hand smoke. Yet the known dangers of formula feeding are never discussed or if they are mentioned, it’s not in a straightforward way. The fact is, concealing risk is unethical and violates the principles of informed consent.

But instead, parents hear about the "benefits" of breastfeeding, as though they are “extras” above and beyond what a mother could want for herself and her child. These "bonuses" are measured against the poor health outcomes of formula feeding–-outcomes so common in the US that they are seen as the "norm" by which we measure all babies.

I could comment on literally everything she wrote but it just gives me a headache so only one more quote, Ms Carmichael concludes her blog with this statement: “Breast-feeding has some health benefits, but we shouldn’t blame mothers who don’t manage to do it long term because not everyone can. Sometimes that is the fault of hospitals and corporate workplaces and formula makers. And sometimes—it may be unsatisfying to say it, but it's true—there really is no one to blame.”

Well, it satisfies me to say, “that is not true and just a cop-out!” I am sick of the irresponsible behavior and excuses surrounding this critical health issue. Ms Carmichael wishes us to casually dismiss the blame for the fact that 88% of mothers in this country are formula feeding by 6 months? No one should be held responsible for the 13 billion dollars in extra health care costs or over 900 infant lives lost each year? This is simply unacceptable!  There's blame all right,and everyone has a share in it, including her.

Trust me, I would be first in line to force the medical establishment, government, corporations and formula manufacturers to take responsibility for the damage done but that won’t happen. Even educating the public, about breastfeeding, is often watered down and minimized, taking a back seat to almost any other health issue. Tons of money is poured into programs to promote and support nursing but they still cannot compete against the resources, greed and unethical practices of the formula industry.  Let's face it, there is no money to be made in breastfeeding. Thus, no commercial value placed on worth what-so-ever? 

Well, I for one, am not standing for it!   I implore you, MOTHERS OF AMERICA!!!! It's up to us. We have the breasts and thus bear the ultimate responsibility for the health and well-being of our own children. No excuses. No regrets. We can no longer afford to let others interfere or negatively influence their decision and commitment to breastfeed. Our babies are depending on us to provide what is best and that should be our only priority, first and foremost. Future generations are counting on us to reclaim and restore this basic right, as nature intended.
So let’s make our babies proud, healthy and happy...let's breastfeed, no matter what, the hell with everyone else!  Breasts and Babies Rock!!!