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Why I Hate Infant Formula Companies!

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Dr. Wendy Walsh: The recent recall of millions of bottles and cans of Similac infant formula has sparked a Senate inquiry. Iowa Senator Tom Harkin, Chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, issued a letter to Abbott Laboratories, the maker of Similac, asking why the company waited so long to issue a recall after discovering that their product was contaminated with beetle parts. Concerned parents had been making complaints to the FDA for weeks before Abbott did anything. Urgh!

mad looking woman
I hate infant formula companies. I should also tell you that I rarely use the word "hate". It's a word with no open door. "Hate" shuts down any chances for revision and interpretation that the phrase "don't like" hints at. But I also hate dead babies. 

Here's the deal: Corporations who make artificial infant food are never going away. Formula is vital to nursing mothers who are forced to work long hours and need to supplement their breast milk. It's a godsend for women who may have suffered sexual abuse and who have PTSD-like panic attacks when their breasts are touched. And it's vital for foster and adoptive parents. (Although I'm sure that if I ever adopted, I would take the money normally spent on formula and impractical frilly baby dresses and put some nursing mother in business as my own private dairy. But that's me.) Shouldn't those populations of mothers be enough for formula companies? How greedy must they be? 

What I hate about corporations that manufacture formula is how they tell lies and create markets for themselves, while putting infant lives at risk. The World Health Organization issued an international breastfeeding code that calls for, among other things, enforcement of honest advertising and product claims. It breaks my heart when a product so inferior to human breast milk is compared to it in any way. 

Formula is mostly protein, fat and water. Breast milk contains hundreds of nutrients designed by nature to fuel a growing body and brain. It cannot be replicated. But you wouldn't believe that if you read the label of most any formula bottle or can. That's only one small reason why I hate formula companies, though. I mostly hate them because of the "free" samples they give in hospitals. It's usually a two-week supply -- just enough time to dry up a mother's own milk and interrupt nature's most sophisticated system for infant survival. 

And as if that weren't enough, they do it in poor countries where mothers have little money to purchase the product themselves. So mothers water it down in an attempt to stretch out their free sample, or they mix the powder with contaminated water. Babies slowly starve or get terrible infections that kill them. And you know the most heinous thing about this inhumane capitalistic marketing strategy? In some of those countries, breastfeeding is the only form of birth control available to women. So formula companies contribute to the infant birth rate and the infant death rate. 

In their book "Milk, Money and Madness," Naomi Baumslag and Dia L. Michels give hard evidence. "This widespread use of formula means that worldwide, 1.5 million babies die every year because they were not breastfed," it says on page 93. "And this does not only happen in developing countries. One study estimates that four out of every 100 babies born in the U.S. each year die because they are not breastfed. That adds up to thousands of infant deaths a year that could have been prevented by breastfeeding." Naomi Baumslag is a clinical professor of pediatrics at Georgetown University Medical School, as well as the president of the Women's International Public Health Network. She knows what she's talking about!

Here's my advice for profit-hungry formula companies: If you must make money off mothers, manufacture breast pumps and accessories. Give those women in poor countries jobs sewing totally cute breastfeeding clothes and nursing bras. Manufacture nipple guards and breastfeeding pillows. Since you're a drug company, put money into research for drugs that might help a mother increase her milk supply or fight postpartum depression. Support nature. Don't interfere with it. Please. Babies' lives are at stake!

next: What If Your Kid's the Bully?
97 comments so far | Post a comment now
L October 6, 2010, 11:33 AM

I feel the need to correct some of the misinformed crap that is being posted in these comments

Breast milk is always superior to formula. If a mother has a crappy diet, the breastmilk is still the same as if mom has a perfect diet. The body will rob the mother of her nutrients to make sure the breast milk is perfect at all times. Mom consumes no calcium? the body will take it from mom’s bones/teeth to make sure the breastmilk has all that it needs every time.

Formula is not better because it is given to babies that are failure to thrive. It only helps the babies to thrive because mom couldn’t produce enough milk on her own. It didn’t help them to thrive because it was better.

It is amazing how many uneducated people are out there. I applaud this blog.

Sam October 6, 2010, 11:42 AM

Wow!! Jennifer, you are very offensive. Do you actually know what a ‘Nazi’ is??? Do you know how offensive that is? How dare you? How disgusting do you think that comment is to a Jewish person reading your comment? Especially if that Jewish person breastfed? Absolutely senseless.

Anonymous, your lack of knowledge and undertsanding of breastfeeding astounds me.

IF a mom’s milk was only ‘ok’ or superior to cows milk formula if she eats a really good diet, then how do COWS (for example) feed *their* young when all they eat is grass (and occasionally silage)???

How on earth can you believe that milk from our own species is inferior to milk from a COMPLETELY DIFFERENT animal???

Something you ought to know… They add several times more the RDA of vitamins and minerals to infant formula… BECAUSE ARTIFICIALLY MADE AND ADDED VITAMINS ARE MOSTLY PASSED OUT OF THE BODY AS WASTE!!!

It’s called bio-availability. Look it up.

Here’s another FACT, if a mom’s diet is lacking in anything, her body will MAKE sufficient amounts of it for her breastmilk, as well as depleting her own stores of the said vitamin. There’s only one person who will ‘lose out’ - mom! Everyone ought to try to eat well and balanced, and have plenty of fruit and veg, for their OWN health and wellbeing. But if a mother does not, her milk is still far superior to formula, and will still contain everything the baby needs.

Oh, and if exclusively breastfeeding (no bottles or dummies) then breastfeeding is a 95% effective form of contraception for at least the first 6 months.
If you breastfeed at least every 4hrs, the return of periods can be delayed for months, if not years (as well as delaying or halting ovulation).

Please, if you do not believe what you are told, do your own research rather than presenting mis-informed opinion as fact, you just make yourself look dumb.

Here’s one article BTW, but there are many more like it

Jennifer October 6, 2010, 11:46 AM

So….if a mom in Africa has malaria or typhoid, her milk is still better than formula? I fail to believe that.

I think it’s great that a lot of people breastfeed, but I didn’t, and I was made to feel incredibly guilty as a direct result of that. And there is something seriously wrong with that.

There is this group of militant moms- not unlike the ones arguing back and forth about whether it’s better to be a WOHM vs. a SAHM- who insist on telling you if you feed formula to your baby, you’re poisoning them. Oh- so I’m supposed to believe that b/c someone wrote a book about it then it must be true…well I’m pretty sure I can find some really old literature that points to the earth being flat…and a mere 50 years ago cigarettes were advertised for being “healthy”. So, we shall see.

Rachel October 6, 2010, 11:48 AM

I breastfed and I’m hoping my body lets me do it again, but I understand that there are women out there that can’t. It’s crazy though that these formula moms are so quick to defend their choice that they don’t seem to be bothered that there is a company out there that knew babies were being fed bug parts AND DID NOTHING RIGHT AWAY.
If you are going to formula feed, that’s fine, but hold your formula companies to better standard because I GUARANTEE that bug parts is not part of balanced diet…..

nursing nurse October 6, 2010, 11:51 AM

Wow…the ignorance in some of the comments is absolutely laughable. I want to post some info to refute them, but what’s the point if it’s only going to fall on deaf ears? Instead I’ll just leave a link for anyone wanting to learn more about breastfeeding:
The “myths of breastfeeding” in particular is really great.

As for the article, LOVE IT! It was right on point. The production and marketing practices of formula companies are unethical and just, well, ridiculous. It makes me sick to think of the lack of standards and testing out there for infant formula.

Jennifer October 6, 2010, 11:51 AM

nazi (def.): derogatory term for a person who is fanatically dedicated to, or seeks to control, some activity, practice, etc.

Denise October 6, 2010, 12:16 PM

Jennifer-you really need to look at some great RESEARCH. Comparing the latest studies with cigarettes and the world being flat really shows just how misinformed your are. Literature is not research.

Anonymous October 6, 2010, 12:22 PM

It is amazing how many uneducated people are out there

And L is uneducated #1

Memee October 6, 2010, 12:25 PM

WOW, I could respond to all the FF nazis out there and try to educate you on how WRONG your statements are, but it would be wasting my breath. YAY to all the enlightened BFers out there!! Nice to know that there are some out there that can think independently and not blindly trust whatever society tells them (and we live in a formula feeding society where even the DRs are bought off by companies to promote it, so it is no wonder that sheeple will fall for the bullsh*t).

Kara October 6, 2010, 12:28 PM

Jennifer -stand your ground, don’t let the nursing nazis get you down.

I think it sad and completely void of logic the way breast feeders act superior and think it their right to attack those of us who choose not to or unable to breast feed. If you are so very happy and confident in your choice to use, “superior” breast milk -good for you, but really, it makes zero difference in your babies life. I am a teacher, and in a room full of 5 year olds you can’t tell the difference between a bfed kid and a formula fed one

I proudly give formula to my babies!! They were healthier, more alert, better sleepers and generally happier than all of my friend’s breast fed babies. Depsite those FACTS I never once attacked my friends choices. I think nursing nazis (not breast feeders) have a LOT of MATURING to do.

Anonymous October 6, 2010, 12:32 PM

Hey Angry MeMee this statement is so off the mark - at least anywhere on the east coast “we live in a formula feeding society where even the DRs are bought off by companies to promote it” Dr. and nurses are insane about breastfeeding!!

Abbey October 6, 2010, 12:36 PM

Thank you Kara for pointing out that there is a difference between breast feeders and nursing nazis!!

I proudly breast fed both daughters exclusively. Did I do so because I thought it was better than formula -absolutely not! I did it simply because it was easier and cheaper and I was being “lazy” - as “lazy” as we can be with newborns - ;) At any rate I’ve never preached about it to any other mother because it’s none of our business. Even when asked for advice by friends I always said whatever makes YOU happy is BEST for YOUR baby, PERIOD.

I proudly breast fed but this new generation of nursing nazis attacking other mothers sickens/embarassed me as a mother.

Anonymous October 6, 2010, 12:39 PM

Why does ANYONE care how other mothers choose to nourish their babies? Seriously, everyone needs to take a little reflective time and examine why you get so up in arms…

Penny in TX October 6, 2010, 12:42 PM

Those of us who counsel mothers who have chosen to breastfeed are frustrated by the stumbling blocks put in the way of such women by these *businesses* that make billions and billions of dollars each year. Currently, the majority of babies in the US are bottle fed to one extent or another. While around 75% of mothers try to breastfeed at least once, by 6 months of age, only 40% or so of babies get any breast milk; by one year, it’s down to around 20%. And many of those “breastfed” babies are also receiving some formula. So around 85% of all US babies are fed formula. And yet that’s still not enough for these companies, who only make money when breastfeeding fails or mothers buy the ridiculous lines I have seen spouted by too many posters here today.

Think on this: if the formula companies stopped sending samples to mothers who have indicated that they want to breastfeed, the price of formula will go down, since formula-feeding families will no longer be subsidizing these freebies to individuals or hospitals, not to mention the cost of all those breastfeeding education pamphlets and the latest ploy, free telephone “help” from “lactation consultants.” You all should be writing your favorite formula company asking them to lay off the freebies and pass the savings along to you, the faithful customer!

Lactation consultant October 6, 2010, 12:42 PM

Thanks to Sol and L and everyone else who backs their comments with science, not opinion.

And breastfeeding mothers do not think that THEY are superior. They know that their MILK is superior. They do not think that YOU are inferior. They know that FORMULA is inferior.

This is not about feelings or people. This is about science.

And I, as a lactation consultant, had a child who was failure to thrive. Guess what his problem was? An allergy to milk (through my breastmilk). I used hydrolized formula (formula does have its place) for a week while the cow’s milk protein got out of my system. A week later (because of pumping) I was able to resume breastfeeding while on a milk free diet and he gained weight.

It is not the breast milk that causes FTT. It is a secondary reason. My child on standard formula would have been FTT aslo.

And to whomever wonders why I do what I do? Because I love to help people, plain and simple.

Memee October 6, 2010, 12:56 PM

Oh is the poor majority (formula feeders) feeling repressed or attacked by the minority (breastfeeders)?! Get over it people. The comments by the majority of the formula feeders here really do prove that ignorance is bliss.

Another Rachel October 6, 2010, 2:21 PM

Wow. Moms who formula feed their babies attacking a blog about how terrible formula COMPANIES are…

Lets just ignore the fact that a major recall by said formula comapnies was just announced because of INSECT parts in their product. And lets just forget that apparently, it took a little while and a lotta bit of parents complaints, for them to even issue it.

Nah, lets pick on breastfeeding women instead. Quit feeling inadiquate about yourselves, and FRIGGIN PICKET the formula companies to become accountable. Cause yes, formula does fill a gap, AS THE AUTHOR STATED, but again, as she stated, it and the companies that make it NEED to be held accountable for their product, so that stuff like this (beetle parts, anyone?) WONT HAPPEN.

Me? I’ll be over here, breastfeeding my 14.5 month old daughter, with breastmilk that doesnt get contaminated by foreign pests.

Andrea October 6, 2010, 2:45 PM

WOW! I see the message in this but this is just making me feel worse about not going on with my breast feeding.( not that we ever got it down) I tried but with little support at home and another child running around. I just gave up knowing there is Formula.
That is what is sad. I just gave up becuase I knew there was an alternative out there.

Cassandra October 6, 2010, 3:11 PM

#1 The W.H.O. has nothing to do with the USA.

#2 Who cares whether people breastfeed or not? Breastmilk/Formula… it’s really all the same — it nourishes your child & helps him/her grow. Formula may not be the BEST food, but do YOU really make it a point to always eat the BEST food? Do you eat 100% organic, 100% all natural, 100% unprocessed, ALL CLEAN food? Doubt it…. Sure, you’re breastfeeding now, but I bet in 12months you’ll be feeding your kid goldfish crackers, spaghettios, & chicken nuggets.

Trisha October 6, 2010, 5:36 PM

It will always be this way, and it makes me so sad. Women will always defend formula, and the formula companies will always be rich. I was forced to formula feed my first….does that mean she’s not smart? No. Does that mean that formula is as good or better than breast milk? No. I understand the need to defend our choices, but arguing against breastmilk makes no sense. Please ladies…for once, let’s not be our own worst enemies, and stand up for common sense!

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