Breastfeeding in the News: April 21st – 30th, 2010
In a move straight out of a Hollywood movie leaflets denouncing Nestle’s flagrant disregard for the WHO Code dropped through a hole in the ceiling of the Palais recently and floated onto the table in front of the startled Nestle executives below. Nestle indignantly responded by insisting that they abide by the law in all countries and that in fact they had received very few complaints about their marketing of infant formula. “Governments are not making these calls, Nestle abides by the law in every country.” This should serve as a reminder to the rest of us that it is the law of the land that carries the greatest weight. Unfortunately thirty plus years of boycotting hasn’t even made Nestle blink.
The incident reminded me of a meeting of Human Resource executives that I attended a few years ago. I was there pitching a lactation support program for businesses. After enthusiastically touting the benefits of supporting breastfeeding mothers in the workplace (“Companies save $3 for every $1 spent on breastfeeding support.”), one HR woman interrupted me and asked point blank, “Is there a law requiring this?” There was no law, and the discussion was quickly dropped.
Happily today there is a new federal law but as I mentioned before the details still have to be worked out. It is interesting to note that prior to this law the issues of work breaks was covered by state laws only. “Until this amendment, rest break requirements had been the subject of state regulation.” So this is new territory for federal law makers. Luckily state and local laws will still supersede the federal rules which means that Oregon’s $1,000 fine for each missed “breast milk expression session” will still stand, and employees in Monterey will still receive extra training and support.
In science news HAMLET a component of breast milk now believed to kill 40 different types of cancer cells including bladder cancer is being touted as the next big thing in cancer research. HAMLETs which are formed by “combining alpha-lactalbumin in the milk and oleic acid which is found in babies’ stomachs,” are remarkable not just for their ability to kill cancer but also the way they leave all healthy cells intact. In other science news another study noted that babies who were breastfed showed better lung capabilities which were still measurable at 8 years of age. A study showing that obese women who got extra breastfeeding counseling not only breastfed longer they their babies had fewer fevers and upper respiratory infections and were “3.5 times less likely to be hospitalized during their first 3 months of life.” Across the pond the Brits just held their first conference exploring the benefits of breastfeeding for babies with developmental disabilities! I would love to see more of that done here.
In Uganda they noted a suspicious rise in breast cancer in younger women. The same article noted that, “Breastfeeding also changes the make-up of a mother’s breast cells, making them more resistant to cancer.” And that “Breastfeeding will also rid the breast toxins like carcinogens that are likely to cause cancer in the future.” While I’m glad to see them put in a plug for breastfeeding I’m not entirely sure they got this exactly right. Can any of my more knowledgeable readers set me straight on this? And while we’re talking about Uganda I’m happy to report that the issue of breastfeeding mothers in prison has been looked into, and that mothers now receive their own special cells. This is one of those times when the child’s rights supersede the mother’s.
For years we’ve been pushing for more breastfeeding using evidence based studies as our strongest ally, but we tend to ignore any evidence showing that breast milk often contains toxin. One author insists, “Were it regulated like infant formula, the breast milk of many US mothers would not be able to be legally sold on supermarket shelves.” We find ourselves in the delicate position of ignoring the canary in the mine (canaries would die from the poisoned air before the effects on miners could be noticed), and still trying to convince society to accept breastfeeding as normal. As blogger Anna Fahey puts it “The choice is a personal one, but a choice there should be! And it should never be a question of choosing the lesser of two evils. We have a shared responsibility to safeguard the basic human right to grow up untainted by damaging chemicals.”
An interesting study in Australia showed that positive interest in breastfeeding did not mean that mothers would breastfeed longer. And to answer the question, “What do women really want?” the answer was clearly that they wanted more support. In fact, “It is not important what people close to them think about their decision to breastfeed, what is important is the support they receive.” This may sound like a conundrum but I totally get it. My mother constantly questioned me about my decision to breastfeed but at the same time she did everything she could to help make it work. She even vocally defended me against all nay sayers as she would not tolerate any criticisms from others. That was her job! (Speaking of grandmothers I totally applaud a local health department’s decision to host a “Grandmother’s Tea … to educate, influence and encourage Grandmothers’ support of breastfeeding.”)
As always the conversation about breastfeeding continues. From car seat analogies, to letters to tv news producers (by the way ABC news got slammed for using a doctor known for accepting money from formula companies as one of their “expert opinions” on a breastfeeding piece), to books for fathers (“Breastfeeding Facts For Fathers” Platypus Media), to celebrity complaints about breastfeeding police everyone has an opinion. What is most interesting to me is the way the conversation is being portrayed in the movies and on TV. As breastfeeding infants becomes more accepted there has been a trend towards making more jokes about breastfeeding the older child. One piece took this to the farthest extreme with a really funny bit about a mother nursing her 30 year old son (“I Want My Bitty”). And I have to admit I loved Pam’s return to work on the “Office” and the moment when she realized she was feeling engorged. Not being able to find her breast pump (a non-lactating coworker had slipped off to the bathroom to give it a try -“Wow. This is like the Cadillac of breast pumps!”) her coworker Dwight who was brought up on a farm offers to assist her with hand expression, “Three squeezes and I would drain you.”
But if you only have time to read one story today make it “A Unique Challenge to Breastfeeding” by Michael Wuebben a CBS News producer. He tells the loving story of how his own child was born with a rare medical condition that left the baby physically unable to move his facial muscles, and how the child’s mother never gave up on breastfeeding. It is beautifully written and adds a potent counter weight to all those stories we hear from mothers who “had to give up” for reasons x, y, and z....
HERE to read the Entire Curious Lactivist Article with links to original news stories