Addressing the Infant Formula Shortage
Sunday, May 22nd, “Operation Fly Formula” shipments of about 78,000 lbs. of baby formula landed in Indiana, USA from Germany to help as desperate moms struggle with feeding their babies.
It is no longer news that the infant market has been plunged into massive shortage of baby formula nationwide recently due to a voluntary recall by Abbott Nutrition of specific powdered formulas that were made at its Michigan facility after complaints that four babies who consumed products made from the plant got sick with a bacterial infection, and two of the babies died. Though Abbott, which controls 48 percent of the market, had since denied the charges claiming no evidence of direct links of formula to the deaths.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should have seen this coming since February this year so parents are better prepared for this. Mothers are more stressed out than ever over baby formula shortage. They are now seeking alternative ways of dealing with the situation. Networking with other moms to help in the distribution of formula, substituting X for Y where possible or being forced to purchase all kinds of dietary supplements to try to increase their own supply; mothers are under enormous stress trying to figure out how to feed their babies and dealing with the heavy toll it is taking on their bodies.
Breastfeeding Versus Baby Formula: A Binary Choice
Another factor is Americans dramatic failure to increase the number of breastfeeding mothers. This has only made the formula shortage worse and a topic that many of us are not talking about. It is almost like a taboo issue to talk about the need to increase breastfeeding. Now, let us not forget that (and I will be the first to admit) some mothers cannot breast feed due to one reason or another and some babies are allergic to breast milk hence, the need to be bottle-fed. Nevertheless, there are some benefits to breastfeeding your baby.
There is a self-induced age-long syndrome that we have as Americans from the under-utilization of breastfeeding. It is scientifically proven that breastfeeding is better for both baby and mother, yet within the first few days of life only 1 in 5 children will have formula and less than half of the babies at 3 months old are exclusively breastfed, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Barriers to Breastfeeding
There are some women who cannot breastfeed, and they should not feel ashamed or shamed for it, neither should they feel they are putting the nutrition of their babies below their needs. There is a physiological reason here why they cannot breastfeed but the issue that we have in this country is that more women are choosing not to breastfeed.
I breastfed my 3 daughters up to 12 months each with my last daughter pushing all the way to 24 months. I will be the first to admit that it is never an easy feat, there are a lot of challenges that we can speak to. I did it when I was in school and when I had to work. The challenges do need to be considered with making the decision to breastfeed but unfortunately, we are experiencing declining rates of breastfeeding moms, reports U.S. Department for Health and Human Services (HHS). There is this small subgroup think tank that will oppose when someone says breastfeeding is better, describing them as being insensitive to those who do not want to or are unable to, nothing could be further from the truth.
Ultimately, breastfeeding is better than baby formula for the child and mother. The medical community needs to have those conversations with their patients as well.
The CDC and Surgeon General have already made a call to action to try and increase breastfeeding rates in the U.S. and we have also seen a small increase but more needs to be done. Here’s what I think should happen: We have about 25% of working mothers go back to work within 25 days of their child being born, according to U.S. Department of Labor report.
It is very difficult for women to go back to work and breastfeed, no doubt. There has to be accommodations in the workplace and also going out to restaurants and other social events. We have to take away the stigma of breastfeeding and make sure that there are places or spots for women to go breastfeed those babies as well as encourage and allow them the opportunity to breastfeed without fear of labeling.
The Role of Government in Promoting and Supporting Breastfeeding
There is a role for the government and likewise a role for our culture to embrace motherhood and the benefits of breastfeeding a baby. We all can do a lot even individually, to support a breastfeeding mom. There is no shame in expressing the truth that breastfeeding is best, and we should not be shaming people who cannot breastfeed either, because there are reasons for it. Baby formula is a great alternative for people who cannot, and we have to encourage women to breastfeed if they are able to.
Breastfeeding & The Law
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) requires employers to provide “reasonable break time for an employee to express breast milk for her nursing child for 1 year after the child’s birth each time such employee has need to express the milk.” Employers are also required to provide “a place, other than a bathroom, that is shielded from view and free from intrusion from coworkers and the public.”
Research shows that women who receive support to express milk at work are more productive and loyal to the company. They also feel this support eases their transition back to work from maternity leave and allows them to return to work sooner. “When employees feel the company takes their interests to heart, they’ll also take the company’s interests to heart”, says Dr. Novelle Nelson, Clinical Psychologist and author of Make More Money by Making Your Employee’s Happy.