Should Legislation Restrict Formula Use?

[Editor's note: This article is an opinion editorial piece to discuss the concept of legislating formula. Pregnancy.org believes that breastfeeding is the best choice for your baby and follows the WHO initiatives in place. The opinions expressed by the author are their own and not necessarily those of Pregnancy.org]

by Julie Snyder

In my opinion, formula should be available by prescription only. I understand formula is a chemical substance, while breast milk is the natural and optimal substance for infant nutrition.

Since formula could be a necessity for the growth and development of many of our nation's children, legislating the availability of formula would help ensure these children a healthy start on life.

Legislatoin could additionally benefit our society in several ways:

  • First, it would help promote a more realistic view of formula - a last choice for infant nutrition
  • Second, it would provide insurance coverage to families that required formula.
  • Restricting formulas' accessibility by requiring a prescription for its purchase would remind people that formula isn't a normal food for infants, but instead a nutrition replacement. This step could encourage a woman to move beyond the "breastfeeding is best" knowledge level and on to discover why breastfeeding is best and to learn what factors can make her succeed in breastfeeding her baby.

In recent years, dozens of studies have demonstrated the superiority of human milk over formula. Breastfed babies are at lower risk for SIDS, they demonstrate a slightly higher IQ's, they're less likely to become overweight, and they're less likely to develop allergies, asthma, diabetes, ear infections, and certain life-threatening illnesses.

Breastfeeding should not be presented as a lifestyle choice. It is a health-related concern. Because the choice between breastfeeding and formula feeding is a medical issue, healthcare professionals have a duty to provide the information necessary for informed consent. The facts pertaining to breast milk and breastfeeding need to be presented as expert medical guidance toward health.

I am not against formula. Instead, I am thankful that we have available a relatively safe substance for babies who need it. There are medical situations that necessitate the use of formula. Some women aren't able to lactate because of a physical or emotion condition. Others haven't understood the dynamics of breastfeeding and have had their milk supply slowly dwindle. And rarely, an infant has a congenital condition, such as galactosemia or PKU, in which he/she can't digest breast milk.

Under these conditions, manufacturers and distributors of formula have an important role in infant nutrition. In general, babies are able to thrive on breast milk and women are able to nurse their babies. I don't have an issue with a woman making the choice not to breastfeed as long as that woman is fully informed of the extensive research showing that breast milk and breastfeeding should be the first choice.

When breastfeeding support professionals try to initiate legislation, they are often labeled fanatics and are generally and sadly ignored. While the USA has signed the WHO (World Health Organization) statement on infant feeding, congress hasn't acted on its recommendations. Legislature requesting restrictions on formula access would be apt to meet the same end. One step we can make is to begin and assist grass root movements supporting the process of making this a law. It takes a lot of people to push for the right kind of votes. Please join in.

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