On Facebook and on chat forums it has been both applauded and ridiculed. Some view it as an uninformed and misguided opinion while others praise the author for targeting perceived bullying and judgement by "lactavists".
One particular person who felt the need to correct some misconceptions that they felt Mia Freedman's article generated and perpetuated was author Tara Moss. She is an ambassador for the Australian Baby Friendly Health Initiative (BFHI).
After reading Mia's Article in the Sunday Telegraph Tara felt it necessary to forward this response to Mia via e-mail, as well as post it on her blog.
On Facebook and on chat forums Tara's response was praised for coming from a place of information and education rather than from pure opinion. Many have also praised Tara's tact and eloquence in her response.
It got me thinking about the whole
While I respect every mother's right to make an informed decision about what is best for her baby, I think people living in developed countries lose sight of the issues that Tara raises about formula and bottle use having the potential to increase infection and disease.
I live in a country where infants, children and adults contract illness, and can die, due to poor water quality. And where parents will spend hard earned money on formula only to mix it incorrectly and with substandard water to give to their babies because they honestly believe that a store bought "white man" product is best for their child.
I have seen sick, malnourished infants, and poor formula practices this with my own eyes, and it's enough to break your heart.
People in Australia and other developed countries mustn't lose sight of the fact that the BFHI is a GLOBAL education initiative, and not simply one facility or organisation being paternalistic. It is not about opinions. It is about evidenced based education.
The World Health Organisation has a global hand hygiene education initiative. It is an evidence based initiative which stems from research and proven theories that hand hygiene reduces the transmission of disease and rates of infection and illness. This initiative has been adopted by institutions and governments world wide, and is viewed to be the basis of good hygiene and disease prevention not just in medical settings but also in the home. Many of us wouldn't dream of not washing our hands after using the toilet, or before eating, because we have been educated as to the risks associated with poor hand hygiene. We don't view this as paternalistic, so why should a global initiative to educate about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks that may be associated with the use of formula and / or bottles as being such?
Step 6 of the 10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding, as promoted by the BFHI, states "Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk, unless medically indicated".
"unless medically indicated" - Voila! There is the key phrase that people are overlooking in this whole "breast politics" debacle. If a mother is unable to produce enough milk, if cracked and painful nipples are inhibiting ones ability to feed, if a baby is not gaining weight as they should be... All of these are medical indications that complemantary feeds with formula, or exclusive feeding with formula would be appropriate interventions! It is up to medical professionals to get behind the BFHI initiative and identify when there are medical indications that may necessitate something other than breastfeeding.
It is not about creating a one rule for all scenario. It is about giving people the right information to allow them to make an informed decision about what is right for them.
What people chose to do with that information is then up to the individual, and that informed choice should be respected, even if it is not the choice that you personally would make.
Well done Tara for bringing some evidence and information to the table to help balance Mia's (less informed) opinions.
Mia printed an apology following Tara's contact, somewhere in the comments section of the Mamamia post. I do think a more identifiable correction might be in order in a more acessible place on the site!