Breastfeeding Follow-up

After Saturday’s post about breastfeeding, Katina sent me a link to a recent blog post on the history of marketing formula and some recent legal changes, which I believe are for South Africa, concerning how formula can be marketed. It’s a bit long, but it is an interesting read. In particular, Sarah Emily’s post echoes the story I was told on Saturday:

This isn’t to suggest that women should have their choices about how they feed their babies curtailed – or that it’s only advertising which causes women to choose to use baby formula. Far from it. The problem, though, is that, particularly in poor nations, advertising or other promotional methods encourage breastfeeding mothers to switch to baby formula when it’s unlikely that they’ll be able to afford to buy more formula, and where they may dilute formula with too much water to make it go further. This water may not be clean, and it’s difficult to keep bottles and teats sterile without electricity or plumbing.

So, not only is the nutritional value of the formula decreased through dilution, but the risk of water-borne diseases is elevated.

During the question and answer session following my talk on Saturday, many women expressed concern at the very low average durations of breastfeeding in my sample, about 3 and a half months. Some people wanted to say this was so different than the norm in the rest of the world, but Sarah Emily suggests it’s not:

The cause for these new regulations and other measures introduced internationally to encourage mothers to breastfeed for the first six months of life, is a concern that rates of breastfeeding remain low in comparison to what they were during the early twentieth century. For all the good that the Code and other laws have done, it remains the exception, rather than the rule, for women to breastfeed for such an extended period of time.

She also has a great old advertisement. My only caveat to add would be that while supporting breastfeeding as a healthy choice for mothers and babies is important, it’s also critical that we not demonize women who simply cannot breastfeed. Supplying those women with formula and reducing the stigma there is important, just as it is important to create more accepting spaces for mothers to breastfeed their children.


Author: ekfletch

I am an independent researcher on issues of gender, labor, violence, education, and children.

4 thoughts on “Breastfeeding Follow-up”

  1. Hi! Thanks so much for the references to my post. I just wanted add that I could not agree with you more about not judging women for choosing how they feed their babies. In fact, the point that I was trying to make at the end of the post is that many policy makers and pro-breastfeeding campaigners have a strange tendency not to consult with mothers. Which seems a little counter-productive.

    Oh, and yes, the law is South African.

    1. Thanks for writing it and commenting here! It was so informative and relevant to issues I study as well. It seems that not consulting women and mothers about policies that affect them is not a uniquely American or South African problem…

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