Be Alert to Baby Formula Advertising
It is generally accepted nowadays that breast milk is the ideal food for babies, and that breastfeeding is the best method of infant feeding. Even baby formula companies admit as much in their advertisements. "Breast is best" is a phrase commonly heard, and with good reason: it is easily digestible for babies' immature gastrointestinal tracts, it contains the perfect balance of nutrients specific to babies, and it lowers a baby's risk of the following: respiratory and ear infections, allergies, type 1 diabetes, and possibly SIDS. For mom too, there are apparent benefits - breastfeeding has been linked to a decrease in the risk for breast and ovarian cancers, and protection against osteoporosis.
Yet, mothers hear that not all women produce enough milk to be able to breastfeed successfully. Even for those who succeed at it, there comes a time, moms are told, when a baby needs to graduate to formula in order to ensure the enriched nutrition that he or she requires for proper development. At that point, moms are advised, baby formula should be introduced.
It is important for mothers to understand that infant formula and baby food sales is a huge for-profit business. The interest of the companies that produce these products is simple and narrow: it is to make as much money as they can. Infant food companies invest exorbitant amounts of money in order to convince parents that their manufactured products are just as good as the breastmilk supplied by nature. There are formulas with added components such as DHA and ARA (fatty acids found in the fat of human breast milk). While slick advertising campaigns seem to be providing parents with medical information, what they are really doing is trying to get people to buy something – whether or not it is necessary, and whether or not it is in their best interest.
Ads often give the impression that it is not easy to breastfeed, or that babies require nutrients beyond what breast milk provides. These subtle messages cause women to start feeling unconfident, and to turn to formula – which increases sales for the companies that produce it.
New moms in many hospitals are provided with complimentary packages that can include coupons for free or discounted formula. These innocent looking packets may also contain items such as growth charts, baby hats or refrigerator magnets, all advertising a particular company that manufactures infant formula. These starter kits often present new mothers with formula samples. At a time of physical weakness and neediness, parents receive the subtle psychological message that the hospital endorses the purchase and use of these products, and that they are necessary for the newborn's development and parents' comfort.
Mothers are less likely to give breastfeeding the thorough chance it deserves when they are bombarded by formula advertising. If nursing presents any difficulty, an authentic breastfeeding counselor can be consulted to provide personal, specific and professional advice. With adequate knowledge and support, breast feeding can even be combined with returning to work. Many working moms pump and store their breast milk to feed baby when they are away at work.
Be alert to formula advertising so that you can make a clearheaded decision about the best way to feed your baby. Your precious child's health, and your own, is worth it. When breastfeeding is established securely and with confidence, mother and baby experience a unique, intimate bond that no plastic bottle can replace.