Sunday, November 9, 2008

"Breasts is Best for Babies"

I read this slogan on an advertisement by the Cambodian Ministry of Health, UNICEF and World Health Organization. This campaign to promote breastfeeding came at a time when China is facing a huge scandal on tainted milk product. 53,000 infants are sick and four have died from drinking milk powder tainted with melamine, a chemical used to make the level of protein higher than it really is.

China has tried to hush up this scandal and those parents who are seeking compensation by filing lawsuits against Sanlu, the milk company responsible for this, have been ignored.

What is more bizarre is how parents are now fighting to get their babies breast fed by other women. It seems that some women have agreed to breast feed other babies for a handsome sum of money. Many have raised the ethical issues behind this; whether it is morally right to sell breast milk in light of this tragedy.

To be honest, I don't really see what's wrong with this. If you have a "product" to sell and someone is willing to pay you for that, it's called business unless it is illegal substance such as drugs, weapons, etc.  Many would probably  condemn the fact that breast milk should not be  regarded as a profit-making business. My only reproach towards this is when mothers have abandoned their own babies in order to feed others for money, which apparently some mothers are doing in China.  In order for them to reserve sufficient milk for other rich parents' babies, they have substituted their own babies' diet with rice water.

The other disconcerting thing I find with all this is why many women refuse to breast feed? There are so many benefits to breastfeeding, not only for the baby but also the mother; decreases the risk of breast cancer, reduces fertility, helps mothers to return to their pre-pregnancy weight and it saves money.

With all the marketing strategies by milk powder companies, many women have been fooled into thinking that milk powder is superior to breast milk. Well, it is no wonder because breast milk does not come in packaging that says rich in calcium, amino acid, etc. to help develop babies' brains so on and so forth. However, it does come in a more attractive, warm and feminine package, don't you think?


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  2. It is an interesting issue. Here in the UK things have completely switched over the last few years: advertising baby formula is now pretty much banned (they can advertise it but only in an 'indirect' way, eg if there is a tv ad you never see anyone feeding a baby with a bottle) and there is so much 'official' encouragement to breastfeed. I think people pretty much assume that breastfeeding is 'normal' now (which of course it is - what can be more natural?). Even supermarkets aren't allowed to give loyalty card points with formula purchases. All perfectly sensible, but I've heard from friends who have children of midwives forcibly removing clothing and putting a child to the breast when the woman has decided to breast feed - which is surely a gross invasion of the woman's rights and privacy! I agree with as much education and persuasion as is humanly possible but women shouldn't be forced to breast feed if they decide against it, or made to feel guilty if for whatever reason they or the child can't feed this way.