Last Wednesday Abbot Laboratories announced that it was recalling some of its Similac brand powdered infant formula. After one of their production plants found that a beetle infestation had contaminated the production line.
Shortly there after, social networks lit up with chatter about the recall. Much of this chatter was from a few in the breastfeeding community who used it to attack the formula company. Unfortunately, as often happens in these instances, the attack turned personal.
I understand the sentiments. I understand that the idea of a child, or anybody, unknowingly ingesting insect parts is shocking and nauseating to many of us. I understand that the marketing campaigns of these companies that continually misrepresent their products as ‘just as safe’ and ‘just as healthy’ as breast milk are frustrating and understand the instinct to point our fingers and say ‘There! You see!’
But I also understand that the way many chose to express these sentiments was hurtful to mothers who choose to feed their babies formula.
Yes, this recall does present a valuable opportunity for lactivists. Not the opportunity to say ‘I told you so’ or to use words like ‘poison’ or ‘evil’, it is not an opportunity to guilt women for their choices with comments like ‘Isn’t it great that MY baby has NEVER had formula’. These comments do nothing to promote breastfeeding, they do nothing to support women, and they do everything to perpetuate the stereotype of the smug and judgmental ‘breastfeeding Nazi’.
The opportunity that this recall presents is much more positive. This recall has presented the opportunity to educate women who cannot or choose not to breastfeed of feeding options other that artificial milk. It is the opportunity to call attention and support to programs like milk share and human milk banking.
This recall is the opportunity to fight for higher health and safety standards for the producers of artificial human milk, to ensure women who don’t have a human milk option can still have access to a safe alternative. It is the opportunity to further stress the importance of the WHO code. By limiting the marketing of artificial human milk, and preventing formula companies from handing out millions of dollars worth of free samples, they could bring down the cost of formula and make prepared formula (a more sterile but also more expensive formula option to powdered formulas) more accessible to lower income families who may need it.
I think we can all agree that taking this opportunity, and others, to speak and act in a more positive and understanding way would be a much more productive course of action. Breastfeeding activism, as Connected Mom Jenn stated on Twitter not long ago, is not about shaming women, it’s about giving women the resources to succeed. If a woman chooses not to breastfeed, then she still deserves the resources to provide her child with clean, safe, and healthy food choices. We CAN fight for both. We CAN put an end to the hurt and misunderstandings. We CAN come together to ensure that every woman has the opportunity to feed her child however she chooses without booby-traps, without judgment, and without guilt.