The Thinking 

The Nursing Mother

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A Mother Who Declined Government Formula

August 19, 2011


CONTINUING THE discussion of subsidized infant formula and the culture of breastfeeding (see previous entries here, here, and here), Kimberly writes:

When I was a brand new housewife with my first baby boy, two old men in a coffee shop asked me if I planned on going back to work sooner or later. My response was sincere and unplanned. “No, I would rather work for love than for money any day!” I said, with a big grin. The old men smiled big, amused, and what looked like almost grateful smiles.  Read More »


A Defender of Human Milk

August 15, 2011


DARCIA NARVAEZ, an ethicist and psychologist, recently did an excellent, lucid series of posts for Psychology Today on the many benefits of human milk for babies and young children. Afterward, she was subject to a ruthless pummeling by female readers, who accused her of mental illness, of writing “garbage” and displaying gross insensitivity to fragile mothers. One would think Narvaez, in her defense of breastfeeding, had asked women to scale the Himalayas on behalf of their children. One reader wrote:

Opinions like these are better kept to yourself, as an expert in Ethics I wonder if you are aware of the ethical implications of sharing such biased opinions….

Another reader wrote:

I am very disappointed in Psychology Today. I think that it should produce the research to back up these claims if this piece is allowed to remain in it’s content. It is a journal intended to help people, and this article only hurts. It is judgmental, opinionated and one-sided. It does not take into account the damage that it can have on a vulnerable, depressed, anxious mother.


Read More »


More on Infant Nutrition

August 14, 2011


GEORGE KENT, professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, writes:

I was very pleased to see your recent piece, “The Welfare State and Mother’s Milk.” Very well done! I appreciate your very positive response to what I’ve said.

I’ve now put my 2006 critique of WIC into a broader context, viewing it as a failure of governmental regulation, not just in the U.S. but worldwide. I have a book on regulating infant formula now in production at Hale Publishing. I hope it will be out in a few months. I will be giving talks about it in Europe in the fall.

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The Welfare State and Mother’s Milk

August 10, 2011


Percent of U.S. children who are exclusively breastfed for three or six months, according to CDC National Immunization Survey

THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT has sounded the alarm in recent months. The state of infant nutrition in America is in disrepair. A number of reports have been issued, including a “call for action” in January from Surgeon General Regina Benjamin and one just last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

An army of facts and numbers has been gathered on the plains of bureaucratic warfare to document a serious public health problem: The vast majority of mothers are not breastfeeding their babies enough.

That this is a public health problem is indisputable.  Even to the public health geek, who sees all through the lens of statistics, human milk is irreplaceable. Children are seldom dying without it (the mortality rate attributable to formula feeding involves about 1,000 cases a year), but their well-being in many instances is seriously undermined and the effects have been documented. Ironically, though manufactured formula is costly, low-income parents are much more likely to use it.

What is also indisputable is that the federal government is a major cause of the problem and is seemingly hell bent on keeping it that way.

For all the expense and effort that has gone into the call for action, one would think officials really wanted to see more infants healthy and well-fed. In their heart of hearts they do, but their minds and intentions are clouded by self-interest, political orthodoxy and misguided liberal paternalism. The public effort to encourage better infant nutrition is a window onto the welfare state and its inner workings, a case study in the inability of our federal bureaucracy to overlook its own interests, commercial pressures and ideology on behalf of children.

For the most important and necessary step to improving the incidence of breastfeeding is never mentioned by the Surgeon General or the CDC: The federal government should get out of the business of supplying millions of mothers with free infant formula.

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