Friday, November 9th, 2012
Sweden’s government has drafted legislation that would prevent images of babies from appearing in formula ads, the Huffington Post reports. Ads for formula would only be permitted in scientific journals, and free samples or discounts on the product would be prohibited, as well. Supporters cite research lauding the health benefits babies derived from breast milk, including antibodies associated with fewer colds, healthier digestive systems, and decreased likelihood of developing allergies. Critics argue that reiterating the idea that “the breast is best” is harshly judgmental towards women who are unable or choose not to nurse. If the bill is passed, the law would take effect in August 2013.
Image: Baby drinking from bottle via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 17th, 2012
Measures that would prohibit hospitals from distributing free samples of infant formula to new mothers–a move some hospitals in Oklahoma, Massachusetts, New York, and Rhode Island have already adopted–could soon become standard policy at hospitals nationwide, if an advocacy group achieves its goal. The advocates say that the free samples may tempt some new moms to formula-feed instead of breastfeeding. The New York Times has more:
The debate over formula samples isn’t about whether breast-feeding is healthier. Even formula companies acknowledge that “breast milk is the gold standard; it’s the best for babies,” said Christopher Perille, a spokesman for Mead Johnson, which makes Enfamil formula.
Breast-feeding decreases babies’ risk of ear infections, diarrhea, asthma and other diseases, and may reduce risk of obesity and slightly improve I.Q., experts say. The question is whether samples tempt mothers who could breast-feed exclusively for the recommended six months to use formula when they’re exhausted or discouraged if nursing proves difficult. The C.D.C., the World Health Organization and breast-feeding advocates say samples turn hospitals into formula sales agents and imply that hospitals think formula is as healthy as breast-feeding. Health experts warn that even small amounts of formula dilute breast-feeding’s benefits by altering intestinal micro-organisms and decreasing breast milk supply, since women produce less when babies nurse less. They say that while some women face serious breast-feeding challenges, more could nurse longer with greater support, and that formula samples can weaken that support system.
“We’re not anti-formula,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, a founder of Ban the Bags, a breast-feeding advocacy group, which reports that one-fifth of the country’s nearly 3,300 birthing programs have taken more comprehensive steps of banning samples and logo-emblazoned bags for all mothers. “If a woman makes an informed choice to formula-feed, the hospital should provide that formula. But hospitals shouldn’t be marketing it.”
The industry and some mothers say samples provide a healthy alternative and offer relief if nursing causes pain, fatigue or frustration. They disagree that samples can shake the resolve to breast-feed exclusively.
“Babies grow fine on it,” said Mardi Mountford, executive vice president of the International Formula Council, who breast-fed her baby exclusively. “And moms tell us they like getting the samples.”
Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock
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Wednesday, October 3rd, 2012
A cow named “Daisy,” who was genetically engineered to produce a hypoallergenic milk, has apparently succeeded in giving milk that is absent a protein called β-lactoglobulin, which causes allergies mainly in infants. From LiveScience, via MSNBC.com:
“Since the protein is not produced in human milk, it’s not surprising that this protein may be recognized as a foreign protein in infants and cause allergies,” study author and scientist at AgResearch in New Zealand Stefan Wagner told LiveScience.
Studies show that about 1 in 12 infants develops an allergic response to whey, but most infants are able to outgrow their allergy.
For decades, food manufacturers have broken up whey protein, a mix of about 10 proteins including β-lactoglobulin, in milk products through a process called hydrolysis in an effort to decrease its allergenicity.
“Infant formula uses hydrolyzed milk, which is supposed to be much less allergenic, but there is still residual risk to exposure of allergies,” Wagner said.
Some outside researchers expressed concern because while the milk produced by Daisy does show much less β-lactoglobulin, it held more of a non-whey protein called casein, which is also responsible for allergies. “We wouldn’t think that this has any relevance to milk allergy; whey protein is one of many, many proteins that people can be allergic to,” said Robert Wood, allergy and immunology chief at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, who was not involved in the new research.
Image: Cow, via Shutterstock
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Friday, August 3rd, 2012
In the wake of an announcement by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg that infant formula will have to be “signed out” in the same way that medication is has led to an outcry among parents who say the stance is punishing to those who cannot or do not wish to breastfeed. The initiative is intended to encourage more women to breastfeed their babies, city officials maintain. Reuters reports:
State health commissioners announced on Tuesday that letters highlighting the importance of breastfeeding were being sent to hospitals, reminding them of regulations limiting unnecessary formula feedings for breastfed newborns.
The state initiative coincides with Bloomberg’s call for hospitals to lock away their baby formula and have nurses encourage new mothers to breastfeed.
Under the mayor’s plan, slated to start September 3, the city will keep a record of the number of bottles that hospitals stock and use. Formula would be signed out like medication.
The pro-breastfeeding campaign has drawn the ire of some women who argue it stigmatizes infant formula and interferes with a mother’s choice of what to feed her child.
A number of the city’s other health initiatives — including cracking down on large-sized sodas and banning smoking in public places — have attracted similar criticism from those who accuse the mayor of creating a “nanny” state.
Image: Infant bottles, via Shutterstock
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Friday, July 13th, 2012
Massachusetts has joined Rhode Island in prohibiting maternity hospitals from distributing “gift bags” containing samples of infant formula to new mothers, in a move that proponents of breastfeeding applaud as sending the message that breastfeeding is the best, healthiest way to feed newborns. The state’s 49 hospitals are banning the practice voluntarily, according to The Boston Globe:
“We applaud the effort of all of the hospitals to make this explicit statement of their support of breast-feeding here in the Commonwealth,” said Dr. Lauren Smith, the public health department’s medical director.
Back in 2005, Massachusetts tried to end the free formula practice with a statewide ban instituted by the Public Health Council, but that decision was overturned several months later when then-Governor Mitt Romney replaced council members who were in favor of the ban.
More than a dozen studies have shown that breast-feeding mothers who received free formula samples after they left the hospital were less likely to be breast-feeding by the time their infant was one month old. “Using formula without a medical reason is one of the biggest predictors of breast-feeding failure,” said Dr. Melissa Bartick, chair of the Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition.
But infant formula makers responded that formula giveaways have been inappropriately blamed for women opting out of nursing because it’s, for example, to difficult to maintain when they head back to work. “Some critics of formula samples claim research has ‘consistently shown’ that samples in discharge kits negatively affect duration of breastfeeding,” the International Formula Council, an industry group, said in a statement. “In fact, the research results have not been consistent. Some studies show an effect, while others do not.”
Image: Baby bottle, via Shutterstock.
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