Infant formula was the great liberator for working moms who wanted to have careers but in the last decade there has been a backlash against it, often adopting the veil of scientific legitimacy.
But the same flawed epidemiology that leads activists at the International Agency for Research on Cancer to declare hot dogs and coffee carcinogens is also used to declare that babies will be dumber or less healthy unless they are breastfed. If you don't breastfeed, you are a bad mom, is the implication. While it has often been considered just shoddy, agenda-based misuse of health statistics, some have argued it is also a war on feminism. Breastfeeding keeps women in the home.
Dr. Phillip Baker from The Australian National University, writing in the Public Health Nutrition journal, is doing his part to keep women out of the workforce, not just in Australia but globally, by advocating that government needs to curb marketing of baby formula and companies should be forced into such onerous rules that women simply won't get hired in the first place. Including in China and Southeast Asia, where he claims millions of babies are in peril because mothers use formula as they enter the modern work force.
Mom enough to sacrifice your career for the same epidemiological method that declared sausage as hazardous to your health as plutonium? Credit: TIME
The World Health Organization recommends infants are exclusively breastfed up to six months of age, with ongoing breastfeeding for up to two years of age and beyond, based on dubious meta-analyses. Baker wants that to remain in place, even though in poor families it will mean remaining poor. Developing nations are simply not going to force companies to change rules for breastfeeding women.
"Competition among companies selling formula is also reaching fever pitch. We estimate that the industry's global marketing spend exceeded $US4.48 billion in 2014, a figure comparable with the World Health Organization's annual budget. The decision to breast feed or formula feed should be an informed choice made in dialogue with a health professional, not by the marketing of a formula company," Baker says in their release.
He is worried about the growth in formula sales worldwide. As more developng nation women entered the work force, sales grew by 41 percent, from 5.5 kilograms to 7.8 kilograms per infant/child between 2008 and 2013, a figure predicted to increase to 10.8 kilograms by 2018.
This global sales boom applies not only to infant formula for infants aged up 0-6 months but also to follow-up formulas for children aged 7-12 months and toddlers aged 13-36 months, which can displace ongoing breastfeeding.
Baker didn't do any original research but insists formula-fed children experience poorer health and developmental outcomes than breastfed children, with increased risks of pneumonia, diarrhoea, obesity and type-2 diabetes, ear infections and asthma, ignoring the numerous confounding factors and instead blaming marketing.
"Marketing by these companies powerfully shapes what parents consider best for their babies by portraying formula as a symbol of modernity, as comparable or superior to breast-milk and formula feeding," Dr. Baker said.