Safe Feeding

Urgent situations will happen and we’re wise to be prepared. Families are still vulnerable to emergencies beyond supply shortages. A case in point: the Abbott facility in Michigan was closed again due to contamination from a flood.

The crucial issue is safe feeding practices. Here are two things every body should understand.

  1. Even when it’s not an emergency, you need boiling water to sterilize powdered formula and to clean the bottles. Otherwise, babies can get diarrhea and become dehydrated. (Liquid formula is sterile though more expensive.) The question to answer is: What do you do when your water supply is contaminated (think Flint, MI) and there is no way to boil water?
  1. Breastfeeding is absolutely the safest way to feed your child. Providing breast milk protects the baby against illnesses and contamination, it is complete nutrition. In addition, it enhances the mother’s health and, usually, there are no bottles to wash.

 

Avoiding contamination and reducing risks for illnesses are two good reasons to make breast milk and breastfeeding more accessible. I fully understand that not every one can, or wants to, breastfeed. I also understand that many obstacles can sabotage a family before they’ve had a chance to get started. In general, two of the biggest obstacles are limited access to health care and misinformation.

It’s the first two weeks postpartum that are most important for building a milk supply. Once that is established, a parent then has the option to continue exclusive, partial or no breastfeeding. Frustratingly, there is a lot of misinformation about breastfeeding that derails families from the start. Everyone (not just pregnant women) needs accurate, reliable information.

The United States of America can take a positive step forward and sign the W.H.O International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes. The Code does not stop families from buying or using formula, nor from companies selling it. The purpose of The Code is to protect families from misinformation.

There is a long history of deceptive marketing of breast-milk substitutes (formula). These tactics include: misleading, inaccurate scientific claims, pictures of a happy bottle-feeding pair compared to an aggrieved breastfeeding pair, sending samples to families (even before the baby is born), free gift bags at the hospital, incentives to medical practices. Reaction to exploitative practices led to the original Nestle boycott in 1977, the 1980 Infant Formula Act and, forty years ago, the establishment of this WHO Code. The struggle continues.

Recently, we saw policy changes for formula distribution. It’s also important to advance Lactation Friendly strategies.

  1. Hospitals that are designated “Baby Friendly Certified” have committed to ten steps that promote and protect breastfeeding. It includes prenatal education, early skin-to-skin and feeding time as well as links to support beyond the hospital stay. This has proven to make a difference in breastfeeding rates.
  2. Employers should provide a private, clean space and (unpaid) time for a parent to pump. There are laws for work place policies that  support parents who want to continue providing milk.
  3. Due to the Affordable Care Act, a parent can get a pump through insurance sent directly to their home. Though who will help with their breastfeeding questions? We still need community clinics with qualified lactation support for counseling and education. We still need insurance coverage (rather than reimbursement) for IBCLC home visits.

Families deserve the education and the opportunity to reach their own breastfeeding goals. By providing practical skills and support, more babies can be breastfeed and that lessens the emergency issues.