The Elephant in the Room

I have yet to hear a single word  spoken on the media or anywhere about the obvious cause and solution to the baby formula shortage in the States… Breast Feeding.  There are variable stats but none are great

One site says: “At 6 months only 15% of infants are exclusively breast fed in the US.  (Barriers to Breastfeeding: Why U.S. Breastfeeding Rates Are so Low – WeHaveKids).”

Another sites says:   “83% started to breastfeed, 17% of breastfed infants received formula supplementation within the first 2 days of life, 58% were breastfed at least some of the time at 6 months, 25% were breastfed exclusively at 6 months, and 36% were breastfed at 12 months.”  CDC: 25% of infants breastfed exclusively at 6 months | AAP News | American Academy of Pediatrics

What is recommended?  “The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that infants be exclusively breastfed for about the first 6 months with continued breastfeeding while introducing appropriate complementary foods for 1 year or longer.1 The World Health Organization also recommends exclusively breastfeeding up to 6 months with continued breastfeeding along with appropriate complementary foods up to 2 years of age or older.”

Of course women who are currently bottle feeding can’t just suddenly start breast feeding, it doesn’t work that way. But if the guidelines were being followed there would be very few children under age one year who were bottle feeding.

In Canada we are not that much better than the US. We have 37% exclusive breast feeding at 6 months whereas the US has 25% .  One benefit of living in Canada is women get  a full year paid maternity leave so having to go back to work is not a barrier to breast feeding for 6 or 12 months if desired. In the States the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of unpaid leave.  And I know there are other reasons besides having to go back to work that result in babies having to be fed formula… breast problems etc. However, perhaps if the States had one year maternity leave more women might be breast feeding and there wouldn’t be a baby formula problem because so few babies would be on formula. Which of course would be a problem for the big companies who make their money off infant formula.

This probably boils down to a Republican/Democrat issue again. Republicans wouldn’t agree with a year off for maternity leave and they certainly wouldn’t want to do anything that might interfere with the money big companies make….even if it is better for babies health.

But back to the elephant in the room …. breast feeding.

The problem is not a shortage of infant formula, the problem is a shortage of breast feeding.  But is the CDC’s lofty goal of exclusive breast feeding for 6 months achievable? As far as I know there is no country that has 100% exclusive breast feeding at 6 months, But …

  • Bolivia 50%
  • Egypt and Iran 56%
  • Uganda 57%
  • Eritrea 59%
  • Peru 71%
  • Malawi 72%
  • Cambodia, Solomon Island, Nepal 74%
  • Sri Lanka 76%
  • Rwanda 90%

I doubt there is a shortage of infant formula in Rwanda — they rarely use the stuff.

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