Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Decrease of Breastfeeding in China Exacerbated Tainted Milk Scandal

As a big supporter of breastfeeding, it horrifies me that the tainted milk problem in China is exacerbated by the decline in breastfeeding among Chinese women. In September, at least 54,000 Chinese children became sick from formula and other milk products that 22 dairy companies deliberately contaminated with the industrial chemical melamine. Can you imagine the outcry in the United States if that many children became sick from anything? That’s an incredible number. According to the Washington Post, one of the main reasons Chinese women are not breastfeeding as much is because they are working more and workplaces do not accommodate breastfeeding. Moreover, formula companies have aggressively marketed formula. The marketing has successfully convinced many women that formula is actually better for their babies than breastmilk. Of course, this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

China Infant Formula Scandal Highlights Decline in Breastfeeding
by Julie Bhatia, Sept. 24, 2008

Behind Milk Scandal, a Decline in Breastfeeding, Maureen Fan, Washington Post, October 25, 2008

Behind the Tainted Formula Pomfret's China, Washington Post blog, Sept. 17, 2008


Julie Riddlebarger said...

You know, that's the first thing I thought of when I heard about this: Why aren't those babies being breastfed?

Of course, I's the semi-militant La Leche mom who was ready to beat down the perv who was trying to get a glimpse of whatever while I was nursing my son at the mall... LOL

But I was lucky enough to be able to stay home with my son and never had to worry about how to deal with nursing, pumping, storing, etc. All that must make it so much more difficult. I was very pleased to see here at my school a sign asking nursing mothers to contact Student Services for information about a nursing room. Actually, I was thrilled. I wanted to go find the room and encourage all the moms to keep up the good work!

crabbyanne said...

Thanks for leaving a comment! This is all terribly sad. At least in the US breastfeeding seems to be on the rise, although the sooner women go back to work, the more difficult it is. I stayed home with my son also (although I did work for 2 weeks and pumped at my office - it was a pain and I didn't get much milk), so didn't have to deal with all the pumping, etc. When I encounter a mother who isn't even interesting in trying to breastfeed, I'm mystified (I've met a couple of such women). I know a lot of people who tried and had problems - I understand giving up when it's really difficult, but not even trying is crazy to me. It's so much easier than formula!

Gina Boling said...

The formula companies have a long history of discouraging women from breastfeeding – it’s their job. Anyone remember the Nestle "scandal" that caused people to boycott Nestle products back in the 70s? If you haven't read it, I highly recommend the book "Milk, Money and Madness" by Dia Michels. It gives a history of how we began using human-milk substitutes, and the cultural and political reasons that women choose not to breastfeed. It also goes into detail to describe the awful tactics formula companies have used in other countries. While the rates are up in the U.S., I still think that under 20% (may be as low as 15%) of U.S. babies are still receiving any breast milk by 6 months. A shame.

Vero said...

Is that the scandal where they shipped formula to Africa where people were mixing it with non-drinkable water and it made the children sick?

I remember an incident when my first son, Julian, was an infant. We had a very rough beginning with b-feeding and it was only the second or third time I was nursing in public. I was self-conscious and nervous and this smiling older Asian man comes up to me and looks me in the eye for a minute. I was mortified! Then he says, 'You are doing a great job with your baby. Mother's milk is the best thing for him. Keep it up!" and he walks away. It made me cry and I swear it got me through the next few weeks of pain and frustration before we settled into a routine.

That's the kind of societal support that will make women want to try it (that and humane maternity leave policies!)

crabbyanne said...

Gina, that sounds like an interesting book. Yes, it seems that China is at the stage the US was in the 50's or 60's. My mother wanted to breastfeed, but there was absolutely no support for it at the time (that she knew of).

Vero, great story and yes, I think the Nestle thing was in Africa.

Thanks for commenting, everyone.

Gina Boling said...

Yes, the Nestle thing was in Africa. Mothers were told to use formula, which was then mixed with bad water. Also, they could not afford enough formula, so they were diluting it. Hence, many sick babies. Of course, their milk supply dried up, so they were left with only one option -- formula. Fortunately, we now have much better support systems than we did back in the 50s and 60s. Thank goodness for LLL! Now we just need to get the hospitals to stop pushing formula "gifts" on new moms.