Will infant formula tins be the new cigarette packs?
I wasn't going to breastfeed my child. I had vomited for what felt like forever, I had stopped eating sushi and I had given up my ankles and I just knew that I wanted my body back after my baby was born. I din't really understand the importance of breastfeeding before I started going to ante-natal classes.
And then I had my son 10 weeks early and he was sick. Very sick and really ridiculously small. Ethan was whipped away into the Neonatal intensive care unit and I was transferred to high care. We were both sick it seemed. But him more so and before long a midwife was standing by my bed giving me instructions on how to express milk for a son that I had never touched or held.
There was no option it had to be done, and to be honest I was desperate and afraid in this very instensive medical setting and I did whatever the doctors/nurses/people wearing official uniforms said and I expressed. They told me repeatedly that breast was best. And by now I had heard the message loud and clear.
I was happy to be doing SOMETHING for my child, anything because all his other needs were being met by machines and medical staff. So I persevered and I pumped and I expressed and luckily he was only on 2ml feeds and I could manage just about that. (I was really bad at expressing )
It didn’t really go so well though. Ethan failed to gain weight. The hospital added Human Milk Fortifier to his feeds (yes like formula but added to the breast milk!) and he didn’t handle that well. So he was taken off feeds and put back into intensive care. He got sicker. He required a blood transfusion. You get my drift – he was really unwell.
But he got stronger and better (just not much heavier) and after 2 months we left the hospital with my beautiful son weighing 2kgs. Boy was I proud of him.
And then he was sick – all the time. He could not put on weight. Repeated and hideous invasive testing eventually showed that he was severely lactose intolerant. Breast milk is full of lactose.
What does a mother who has been told that “Breast is Best” for 8 months do? When for 8 months every day you hear people repeating the mantra “at least you are able to feed him, you are doing the best thing for him” Repeatedly. For 8 months. And then your doctor tells you to stop breastfeeding THAT DAY because you are damaging his stomach lining?
I know that my situation was extreme and that breast IS best for most babies. I know this.
But I also know that sometimes it’s not. Sometimes formula is best – sometimes for the baby and sometimes for the mother. Because I also know that the mother’s mental and physical health is extremely important.
Today news.com reports
"Mothers may see stronger official warnings on baby formula labels about the risks of not breastfeeding.
The nation's food watchdog is seeking feedback on whether "breast is best" messages should be changed to clearly spell out the health benefits of breast versus bottle.
Under current law, manufacturers point out that "Breast milk is best for babies. Before you decide to use this product, consult your doctor or health worker for advice".
Food Standards Australia New Zealand deputy CEO Melanie Fisher said some public health experts had suggested altering labels amid concern over poor breastfeeding rates.
"Some stakeholders have suggested that the breast is best warning statement be amended to a risk-based statement about the risks to infant health of not breastfeeding," a consultation paper notes.
"These stakeholders state that such a statement would reflect a body of evidence showing that compared to formula feeding, breastfeeding is associated with lower incidence of infection and some chronic diseases, and evidence for improved cognitive development in the breastfed infant."
Most mothers face so much guilt and stress over ever decision they make for their babies- often starting before they even conceive - you don’t want to be at an ante-natal group when the subject of folate comes up!
The Breast is Best message is strong. It is accurate (in most cases). If mothers choose not to breastfeed then their choice should be respected not questioned. Let’s allow mothers to make informed choices without making them feel frightened. Let's never equate formula feeding with cigarette smoking.
The day they propose plain tin packaging on formula tins you can expect to hear from me again.
And my son? He went on to formula eventually. He is a happy, healthy and gorgeous 11 year boy. He’s grown out of his lactose intolerance and is still very underweight. But Good Lord he’s magnificent.
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