Dear Editor: This administration’s promotion of baby formula over breastfeeding in developing countries is just plain stupid and cruel. Based on my Peace Corps experience in a public nutrition project in northeast Brazil, here’s what I know. Our participating families had at least one malnourished baby or toddler. We worked with the mothers for several months, supplying them with food supplements and basic nutrition training to help the kids get back to a healthier weight. Encouraging breastfeeding was a big part of that program. One problem we ran into was named Nestle. Even in the poorest areas, posters promoted baby formula as a better alternative to breastfeeding. Now, what mother doesn’t want to do better for her children?

Whether breast milk or well-prepared formula is healthier is another debate, but let’s look at the economics and our assumptions about formula feeding. Using formula effectively requires an initial investment in: bottles, nipples, drying racks, sterilizing containers, clean prep and storage spaces, and an ongoing investment in a dependable supply of safe water, fuel for sterilizing equipment and preparing the formula, and a sufficient supply of formula. For a family subsisting on a starvation income, even buying rice, beans and an occasional egg or vegetable to fill the pot is a struggle.

The most heartbreaking thing was seeing formula-fed babies dying of malnutrition and diarrhea because the mothers did not have potable water, couldn’t read directions, and couldn’t afford it. 

Better for baby when the mother nourishes herself to increase her supply of clean, healthy breast milk. But, better for American business if she chooses formula. Doesn’t it make you proud ?

Barbara Schultz

Madison

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