A REPORT in the local newspaper this week revealing an Australian Breastfeeding Association counsellor told expectant parents at a Brisbane education class "formula is a bit like AIDS" has sparked strong criticism from the medical fraternity and prompted a retraction and investigation from the ABA.
The counsellor also said "every 30 seconds a baby dies from infection due to a lack of breastfeeding" and breast milk was fundamentally responsible for higher IQs and preventing other diseases.
The whole affair has reignited the often-virulent breast versus bottle debate or, as it's becoming known, the Milk Wars. Forums, online commentary, newspapers, TV and water-cooler gossip have women (and men) sharing their feeding experiences as well as the encounters they've both endured and enjoyed with the ABA, similar organisations, hospital nurses and other mothers.
Mums told: Baby formula 'like AIDS'
For such a private issue, it's one that receives a great deal of public attention. Breast versus bottle is, like many parenting matters, an area that generates judgment, guilt, frustration, stigmatisation, fear and a very strange and aggressive pro-breastfeeding-at-all-costs attitude that's often disguised as "support" and "best for the mother and baby". No one is denying that, in an ideal world, breastfeeding a newborn is the optimal arrangement for mother and child. The World Health Organisation recommends breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby's life.
But so many women don't have the ability or desire to breastfeed. The reasons are many, from milk drying up, repulsion at the notion, a recalcitrant or sick baby, mastitis, abscesses, time, preference, etc.
While unequivocal support for a choice may be too much to hope for, there's a female-centric and powerful, almost politicised, culture upheld by associations and, above all, women, that advances breastfeeding no matter what sometimes at the risk of a mother and child's wellbeing.
"The counsellor also said every 30 seconds a baby dies from infection due to a lack of breastfeeding" and breast milk was fundamentally responsible for higher IQs and preventing other diseases"
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