The Decline of Reason
Sorry to Bother You

Breast is Best

By Jonathan B. Wight

I’m getting to this late, but this is really important for ethics and economics.

There is a product that is very profitable for private producers, who naturally want to promote it. That product is vitally important for a few people, if used properly. But that product is fundamentally worse than a free alternative for most people, and in some countries is improperly used much of time, causing avoidable deaths.

That product is infant formula milk.

Nestlé was famous for pitching this product in sub-Saharan Africa as a modern woman’s product. Billboards suggested that if you really loved your child, you’d give them the best—manufactured infant formula milk—rather than simply a mother’s own milk.  Mothers were bombarded with pamphlets by hospitals and doctors on the take.  And once a woman becomes "hooked" on using infant formula, there's no going back--her own breast milk dries up.

Problem is, a mother’s own milk is usually the best source of nutrition and protection against disease. Poor mothers who use the infant formula often use contaminated water in mixing it, thus resulting in death by diarrhea. Other mothers dilute it, to save money, contributing to malnutrition.

Infant formula milk is desirable and lifesaving in a minority of cases where a mother cannot produce milk. Health workers can and should promote health literacy, which includes endorsing and promoting a woman’s own breast milk, if possible, before considering alternatives. Yet the Trump Administration opposed such a resolution at a recent World Health Assembly, using threats against countries who were going to promote it.

I’d love to be a fly on the wall of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) as they were formulating this attack on women, babies, and health science. Was anyone  in the room getting texts or calls from the infant formula industry? Was a political appointee from the industry involved in spearheading this fight?

Profits are good, provided there is good consumer information. In this case, illiterate women being swayed by aggressive marketing to buy a product they don’t need and that can kill their child, is obscene. 


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