Archive for the 'Formula' Category

World Milksharing Week — Kristi’s Story, Recipient

September 26th, 2011 by MamaBear

By:  Kristi Autrey, Mom of 4 Wonderful Boys

I am a mom who suffers from IGT (insufficient glandular tissue), and have been able to nurse 4 babies to the best of my ability. Most moms in my shoes would have given up and gone to the bottle but I was determined to give my baby everything I could. As long as I made a drop of milk, I was going to give it to my baby! I went through a lot giving my baby the best I could: lots of doctors appointments for weight checks, lots of mouth from other people telling me to give up, that I was starving my baby to death. At times, I would think they were right. And then I would get up, latch my baby to my breast with the at-breast supplementer, and smile, for I was giving my baby the best.

Braden breastfeeding

I can only make about 15 ounces/day, maximum, so I have had to give formula in the past because I thought there was no other option. I have never had any one around me nurse. They all went straight to bottles, so the thought of getting milk from another mom was never a reality for me until I had my fourth son. He was 7 months old when I found milksharing. It has changed my life and the way I feel and think about formula feeding and why any mother would go straight to formula and not even try to nurse her baby. It is sad we live in a society that pushes formula as the mainstream way to feed a baby.  They always say “breast is best,” but shove formula in your face. Why could they not say, “There are donors who make too much milk for their babies and who are willing to give milk to yours if you can find one.” I think if they would, there would be more people breastfeeding their babies and the formula bottle generation would fade into the background. Then women at the store giving their babies a bottle would be the odd ones, not me, the woman with the nursing shawl and a baby attached to the breast while grocery shopping.

Braden nursing

My son was having serious issues with the formulas I thought I had to give him. He started on supplementary formula at 5 days old and from week 2 of his life went from pooping a lot to none at all. He would only poop once a week and when he did it was hard and black or dark forest green at times, but mostly solid black. He would throw up every time he had his bottle and it was not a little, it was half or more of what he ate. I was always covered in puke. His weight was very slow to gain and the doctor was constantly saying if he didn’t gain we were going to have to put him in the hospital. I had already been through this with 2 of my sons and history was repeating itself, but this time I had a computer and internet. When he was 5 months old we got it. Through talking to other breastfeeding moms who are like me and can only give their babies part of what they need, I got some support I badly needed. My husband and my mom were my only sources before and though they never gave up on me breastfeeding and I would not have made it without them, at times they would make me feel as if they were leaning towards the other side of giving up. Through these mom forums I found out about Eats on Feets, Human Milk 4 Human Babies, and Milkshare.

As soon as I found out milksharing was an option I went straight to the sites and posted my need on all of them. It took me a couple of weeks to find a mom who could donate to me so when I got my first shipment in the mail it was like getting brand new diamond earrings. That box was pure gold in my eyes. I took it in the house and opened it as fast as I could, worried that the milk had thawed in transit. Oh, the relief when I opened the box and took the lid off the cooler:  frozen solid. Yes! It made it to me! I thawed 20 ounces that day and started on my journey of providing donor milk for my son. Within 3 days of starting the donor breastmilk he stopped throwing up. After a week he started pooping every other day, at first, but he was pooping and it was not hard. It did not hurt my baby. No more bleeding; just to do the most natural thing: poop.

The difference in my son is nothing short of a miracle. The women who have provided milk for my son are angels. They will be blessed for the gift they have given me and my son. I could never repay them for this. He is doing great! I learned after taking my son off the formula that he was allergic to it and that all the intestinal problems and throwing up was because of that. My doctor said they did not tell me that because there was no other option for me besides formula, so they just kept switching him to different formulas and giving me medicines to counteract the problems the formula caused. My son is 10 months old now and has been on donor milk for about 10 weeks. His tummy is healing great and he is a brand-new baby thanks to all the moms who have donated to my little man. I cannot thank them enough for their love and generosity. I wish I would have known about milksharing from the first day I had to give any of my babies formula. I am glad it is there when needed but there should be doctors and LC’s telling mothers that are having problems with formula that there is another option and that milksharing is the best option. Their hands are tied and cannot tell us, so I am trying to get the word out about milksharing, so no mom has to dump her milk because it went bad, and no baby in need has to suffer because of formula intolerance!! I am thankful for milksharing and all the sites that provide the place for us moms to connect to each other. :)

Happy, Healthy Milksharing Recipient

World Milksharing Week:

Human Milk 4 Human Babies (HM4HB):

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No one said it was easy to walk the walk…

September 13th, 2011 by MamaBear

My previous post was about how and why Emma Kwasnica retracted her “momination” from’s “Moms Who are Changing Your World” contest.  Now has responded to this news through this post by Catherine Connors titled “Shame and the Mom:  On Formula, Lactivism and Why, it Seems, we Can’t Just all get Along.“  In the response, Connors starts off by saying she’s a former breastfeeder, former (and current) breastfeeding activist, and lists all the ways she has helped with the cause.  Then she explains that she is paid by and acknowledges that uses formula advertising to make some of its money (which eventually helps to pay for her salary).  So far, I understood and had no reason to disagree…  And then she writes the following:

“The money that I earn is, on this view, ‘blood money,’ because it comes from a company that accepts such advertising. Formula advertising is, after all, indisputably evil, because formula itself is evil.”

Stop right there.  Formula advertising IS evil, but it does not follow that the advertising for it is evil because the formula itself is evil.  Formula is simply a product, one that is sometimes necessary.  It is not inherently evil.  It is inferior to what it is trying to replace (FAR inferior) but that does not make it evil.  No.  What makes ADVERTISING formula evil is that because formula is so inferior, the marketing has to be so dang deceptive that it needs to dupe the consumers of said product that it’s “almost as good” as what it’s trying to replace.  The marketing tactics need to hoodwink vulnerable populations (more about this term later) into believing that formula is somehow necessary.  This advertising must be so subtle and so pervasive that it needs to pull the wool over the eyes of not only the direct consumers of this inferior product (mothers, fathers and their babies), but also society as a whole (doctors, hospitals, John Q. Public).  It has to convince humanity that not only is formula “okay” it’s “healthy,” even.  It has to convince women — mothers — to forgo feeding their babies what they know to be biologically appropriate, high-quality nourishment and replace it with low-quality artificial slop.  Formula advertising is, by its very existence, a LIE.

Step back for a minute…  Imagine a totally different world than the one we live in.  Imagine that formula were not used except in cases of rare metabolic disorders.  What would we as a society do?  Well, for starters, most women would breastfeed.


There would be no controversy with breastfeeding in public or extended nursing.  Everyone would intuitively understand that babies and toddlers need to be fed, and this is how you feed them, with mommy’s breasts.  Hand-expression would almost certainly be commonplace.  Pumping as well.  Doctors and other health professionals would be well-versed in troubleshooting breastfeeding problems (instead of encouraging moms to give up).  But what about women who didn’t have breasts?  Or who had insufficient glandular tissue?  Or couldn’t produce enough milk (for whatever reason)?  What about their babies?  Well…  What’s the next best thing?  Another lactating woman, of course!  And since most women who have babies would be breastfeeding their own, there would be plenty to choose from, should a family need to hire a wet-nurse (the term used to describe a woman who nurses another person’s child).

In a world like the one I just described, an alternative to breastmilk would only be truly necessary for those babies with metabolic disorders (galactosemia and PKU), less than 1/100 of 1% of all babies born.  Formula would be necessary for their survival, yet it’s easy to see that advertising for it would be completely unnecessary.

In fact, formula advertising is unnecessary NOW in our current world.  Everyone knows formula exists.  Everyone knows where to buy it.  Everyone knows what it’s for, and anyone who is curious can read the ingredients list to see what’s in it.  There is no need whatsoever for advertising for this product, and in fact, advertising this product has shown measurable harm (reduced breastfeeding rates in entire populationsinfant death, etc.).

Remember that term “vulnerable populations?”  It conjures up images of third-world countries and starving people with no access to safe drinking water with which to mix their peddled formula.


That is ONE interpretation.  Here’s another (just as legitimate):  newly post-partum mothers, exhausted, unsure, delirious with sleep-deprivation, and extremely sensitive to any suggestion that their baby might not be thriving immediately at their breasts.

tired mom

This describes very nearly 100% of all new moms.  It’s an extremely vulnerable population.  And it also happens to be the primary target demographic for formula advertising (along with pregnant women, of course — gotta get ‘em thinking about it early).

Formula is not evil.  Formula advertising is.  Check out Jodine’s new post about her take on Catherine Connors’ defense.  The screen shots of the advertisements on are enough to make your skin crawl.

Before I forget, I’ve gotta say this:  Connors implied that Kwasnica was somehow “shaming” mothers who formula feed.  How is that, exactly?  She started a worldwide network to connect moms who need breastmilk for their babies with those who have extra breastmilk to give.  How is that shaming?  She found an elegant, real-world solution for the problem of attaining breastmilk for those babies whose mothers couldn’t produce enough for them.  No one else before her had done anything like this.  She’s STILL working tirelessly every single day, so that more communities around the world are connected and more babies are getting the human milk that is their birthright.  She does it for free, because it’s the right thing to do, because it makes the world a better place.  She’s not taken any money from any formula company, and I’ll bet she sleeps very well at night because of it.


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“Momination” retracted by “Mominee”

September 12th, 2011 by MamaBear

Remember my last post?  In it, I talked about Emma Kwasnica, how awesome she is, how she was “mominated” for an award by  Turns out has lots of formula ads.  So, the money that Emma would have won, had she won, would have been, in part, funded by formula “blood money.”  When Emma found out about this, she decided to take a stand and retract her “momination,” even though she was in the top ten and a solid contender for the win.  So the links to her “momination” in my previous post don’t work anymore.

Ph.D. in Parenting wrote an excellent piece about this.  Go read it.  Jodine Chase, the fabulous woman who “mominated” Emma Kwasnica in the first place, also wrote about it from her perspective.  The consensus all around is that Emma’s actions solidify why it is we love her:  she lives her principles.  We salute you, Emma Kwasnica!   Keep being awesome.

Emma Kwasnica

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MREs and Truth in Advertising

December 2nd, 2007 by MamaBear

When I was an adolescent, the country I was living in got caught up in a war situation, to put it mildly. Without revealing too much of myself I’ll say that my adolescence was not spent in the United States.

During the occupation the country I was living in experienced, which resulted in thousands of casualties, most of them innocent civilians caught in crossfires (as is the case with most, if not all, wars), the country’s economy shut down for a few months. Most grocery stores closed, and the tiny corner shops with food that had enough unlooted merchandise to sell would sometimes open, but only sporadically, and with very limited, mostly canned, products. Most supplies didn’t get to most places, so most places couldn’t open for business (not to mention most of the goods had long been ransacked from most stores during that time).

As a consequence of this, the United States military (which was there, and played an active role in the occupation) would issue to the general civilian population (of which my family and I were a part) MREs. What are MREs, you say? MREs are “Meals, Ready to Eat.” They are a food source, issued by the United States Armed Forces, that is ration-quality. At the time, my family, though thankfully not poor, was having considerable trouble finding places that sold food. So the free MRE packages, which consisted of food and other items hermetically sealed in brown plastic with no-nonsense black lettering describing the contents inside, came in pretty handy. We were grateful for them. Now I know in the military (and from talking to American military men and women who had to subsist on MREs), MREs are not popular. They are ration food, after all… Meant to be used in emergency situations, like wars (which should be rare, but sadly, are not).

My family and I ate the MREs; like I said, we were grateful to have them. They kept us from starving for a few days, weeks, however long it was that we ate them… But we also recognized that we could not subsist on them forever (they are not recommended for use beyond 21 consecutive days, probably because of the high sodium and other health reasons). Once the food supplies started coming back into our city, we were able to buy real food again, and we stopped eating the MREs. The ones that were left in our home became novelties (unopened and uneaten novelties, which we passed on to other people who needed them more than we did) after the real, fresh food started to come in.

I think of infant formula as MREs for babies. Both MREs and infant formula have most of the necessary nutrients, the baseline needed for survival, but they are not meant to be used exclusively when a better option is available (which in most normal situations, a better alternative usually is). The thing is, baby formula is a ration-quality product intended for special circumstances (mainly, the inability to breastfeed or pump). People were not meant to subsist on MREs for extended periods of time, not unless there is no other recourse (but if you had to subsist on MREs for a year or two, it probably wouldn’t kill you — you would likely survive). The same can easily be said for formula: babies were not meant (biologically) to subsist entirely on infant formula for extended periods of time.

Since it’s clear to me that infant formula is substandard infant nutrition (compared with the biological norm, breastmilk), and since it’s also pretty clear to me that way too many people in power (doctors, nurses, hospital administrators and personnel, etc.) seem to be confused about this, because they aren’t assisting new mothers with breastfeeding the way they should be upon the birth of their babies, and too many of them, furthermore, PUSH the use of infant formula inappropriately, I thought I’d start to make things a bit more truthful with a proper label.

Here it is:


Compare it to a can of formula anyone could buy in any supermarket in the United States:


The difference in visual information is huge.

Here are some caveats about my label: The label I created does not contain any nutritional information. I probably should have put that on there, but since I’m not actually selling formula, I don’t have to. :) I was going to give away some extra cans of formula to a shelter here, but I didn’t feel good about leaving the labels intact with all that formula marketing on them. I also didn’t feel good about ripping the labels off because then people wouldn’t know what was in the cans and might throw them away. I couldn’t bear to think of that waste, so instead, I created an alternative label that wouldn’t offend me as much. I simply designed it, printed it out, and pasted it on top of the existing label. That way, if anyone cares to look, they can still find the other one underneath, but they will first have to have read a differing point of view. I took a few artistic liberties with the part that says “Price,” where I said that it was free but available by prescription only. I got that idea from one of the commenters on this blog. The label I have on my download page for anyone to download is slightly different from the one pictured here because the final version has the volume information on it just under where it says “Cows’ Milk-Based.”

Anyway, I thought some of you might want to have this label as an option, so that you could, whenever Freecycling or donating excess cans of ready-to-feed formula to people who might need them, print some truthful labels out and paste them (or tape them, whatever) onto existing formula cans. But please be sure the information is accurate. Most routine formulas are 20 kCal/fl oz and cows’ milk based, so if you’re giving away soy formula or formula that is made with a different formulation, please do NOT use my downloadable label. Feel free to design your own alternative, truthful formula label, and please tell me about it so that I may link to your site and have others see your awesome ideas. Keep in mind that whatever label you create needs to mention that the biological norm is breastfeeding, and that formula is an MRE for babies, not an ideal food for long-term, exclusive use.

Also, I want to say that I welcome constructive criticism of any of the content on this label. If you feel that something on it isn’t accurate enough or may be portraying infant formula or artificial baby milks in too favorable of a light, I need to know that so that I can alter it, or at the very least draw attention to that so that others will be aware of this. Thanks.

Here’s the label itself, which you can download off the download page here at


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Parenting Book Reviews: The Baby Book and Unconditional Parenting

November 12th, 2007 by MamaBear

(Welcome, Carnival of Breastfeeding readers! :) This Carnival of Breastfeeding, about parenting/breastfeeding book reviews, officially starts on Tuesday, November 27, 2007, but I wrote mine a little early because of personal commitments I need to make sure I’m keeping…)

There are a couple of parenting books I believe have really helped me along in my parenting journey. One of them is a general reference book, more of a refresher/affirmer of a lot of things I already knew (and some things I didn’t). This one is The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. I will be reviewing it here.

The other book I’m reviewing was more of a revelatory, spiritual-experience, mind-altering sort of parenting book. The book’s title is Unconditional Parenting, and it’s written by a man named Alfie Kohn.

First I’ll talk about The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears. This parenting guide is written in the same spirit as the legendary Baby and Child Care book written by Dr. Benjamin Spock that was first published in 1945 under the original title The Common Sense Book of Baby and Child Care. The major difference between The Baby Book by the Sears and Dr. Spock’s baby book is that the Sears book is much more mother and child-centered, whereas the Dr. Spock book, while it contains a wealth of information and was quite possibly the best parenting book available in 1945, is a little dated now in some of the assumptions it makes and the language it uses. For example, Dr. Spock’s book treats breastfeeding as important, yes, and highlights many advantages to the mother and child, but it also treats breastfeeding and formula-feeding as though they were pretty much equivalent choices. At one point in the breastfeeding chapter, Spock writes, as one example, “You may have heard that the baby gets some protection against disease from the colostrum. It may well be so, though it has not been conclusively proved.” Statements like this indicate to me that perhaps not enough attention and credit was given to the benefits of breastfeeding during that period of time, that the power of women’s bodies was, as a matter of cultural habit, dismissed, and this is reflected in the way Spock wrote about it. By contrast, the Sears book (original copyright 1992) states, “Colostrum, the first milk you produce, is the highest in white blood cells and infection-fighting proteins at the most opportune time, when your newborn’s defenses are lowest… Consider colostrum your baby’s first immunization.” This is a much more positive, life-affirming take on the very same subject!

The Baby Book by the Sears is clearly pro-breastfeeding, pro-mom, pro-dad, pro-baby, and pro-family. It goes into great detail talking about many of the known beneficial properties of breastmilk with reverence and awe at the miracle of human biology while also including discussion of the very important psychological benefits of lactation (for both mother and child). What’s even more remarkable about this book, though, is that it does all of this without alienating moms who should, for whatever reason, feed their infants formula. There is a chapter in the book dedicated to “Bottlefeeding with Safety and Love,” and it gives very good general advice regarding the proper and safe way to bottle-feed (breastmilk or formula).

Since The Baby Book is a book on general baby care, though, and not a book specifically on breastfeeding, the Sears have included lots of other really useful family-centered advice, particularly the advice on parental attachment to their children (and vice-versa: children’s attachments to their parents). It was the Sears family (not sure which of them — William or Martha — or both together) that coined the term “attachment parenting” sometime during William Sears’ career as a pediatrician and father before the first publication of their first book. Since the coining of this term, the philosophy of attachment parenting has evolved into a worldwide parenting movement, an organized yet relatively informal collaborative community effort among parents everywhere who agree that the attachment of the infant/child to the parent is tantamount to the child’s success at becoming an individual, independent being as an adult.

It is all of this together that makes this book, The Baby Book by William and Martha Sears, my #1 pick for a baby shower gift, especially for a first-time mom. No matter what a new mom may think of infant feeding before she has a child (even if it’s not her first), this book is an excellent, gentle encouragement in the direction of breastfeeding, without guilting, without shaming, and without any negative peer-pressure, especially since there’s so much more in it than just infant feeding. It’s got a lot of really valuable factual information that will help parents to trust and feel proud of their natural parenting instincts, and do it in a well-informed way.

Now for the other book… Unconditional Parenting by Alfie Kohn. This book talks about a very radical approach to child-rearing (when compared to the current dominant authoritarian paradigm), about how imposing contrived punishments and rewards as conscious disciplinary tactics is not helpful for growing children into adults who think for themselves. I went through a lot of mind-blowing realizations as I read the book, and I found myself wanting to disagree with a lot of it at first, but ultimately, I just couldn’t really refute the logic behind the intent of what Kohn was saying. I don’t think the book is perfect. Perhaps he could have worded some things differently, and maybe he could have provided more real-world examples of what an appropriately respectful parental response would be to a child in a situation that required parental guidance. But I’ve found now that I actually like the book better the way it is, without too many examples. I think specific examples would interfere with the message, because this isn’t so much a parenting guide of “What to do when X happens.” It’s more of an open-ended philosophical guide that informs you of the long-term (and short-term!) negative consequences of using punishments and rewards to try to manipulate your children into bending to your will… And then it assumes you the reader are intelligent enough to figure out how best to do that for yourself and your family. Really refreshing!

A brief summary of what I learned from it is: Teach your children to be considerate, thoughtful human beings without using punishments or rewards. “Because I said so,” is not enough for us as adults, so it shouldn’t be for children either. Teach your children to question all authority, even your own. You should be able to explain to them (or at least to yourself) logically and reasonably why you’re taking a certain course of action. If you can’t, then why are you not permitting them to do X thing? The beauty of thinking in this way is that it gets you really in touch with your own motivations as a parent. It forces you to think if a certain course of action is being done because you’ve always done it/seen it/observed it that way or if it truly is what is best for a given situation and a given individual child. The natural result of this is that if you explain everything to your children (within reason, of course) from the beginning, they get an intuitive feel for your reasoning and internalize this logic and love into their own psyche. The logic, love, and acceptance becomes their own, and it results in genuine morality from within instead of just parroted, robotic moral pantomiming that relies on perpetual, extrinsic motivation (reward or punishment) to continue to exist.

These are tough realizations to ponder, and if you dare to read the book Unconditional Parenting through to the end, you will probably arrive at more questions than answers. And that’s the whole point. :) It is a very worthwhile read, but only if you’re ready for it. It’s not for everyone, but it was great for me, and I highly recommend this read for all mothers and fathers who wish to parent conscientiously.

Happy reading! :D

More Carnival of Breastfeeding blogs to whet your reading appetite:

  • The Motherwear Breastfeeding Blog discusses and recommends several parenting resources, including one I’ve been meaning to read: What Mothers Do, Especially When it Looks Like Nothing.
  • Hobo Mama explores Our Babies, Ourselves: How Biology and Culture Shape the way we Parent.
  • Mama Knows Breast reviews Boobs: A Guide to Your Girls.
  • BreastfeedingMums talk about several parenting and breastfeeding books, including the visually stunning A Child is Born.
  • On School Street analyzes Blindsided by a Diaper, which discusses some of the changes relationships naturally undergo after a couple have a baby.
  • Tales of life with a girl on the go writes about The Best Gifts, a beautifully illustrated and touching children’s book.
  • The True Face of Birth reviews Mama Knows Breast, a pretty comprehensive, user-friendly breastfeeding primer.
  • Breastfeeding 123 covers Baby Matters, a parenting guide that answers the “why?” of attachment parenting by explaining the science behind it.
  • Crunchy Domestic Goddess asks, “What do babies want?” (Review for the book What Babies Want.)

Ladies, all these books sound fabulous! :D

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The “Women’s Choice” Myth

October 13th, 2007 by MamaBear

This post is not about abortion. If you want to read about abortion, Google “abortion,” but don’t expect to read about it in this post. Nope, this post is about another “women’s ‘choice’” issue.

Ever heard of Me neither, before about five minutes ago. But after a quick perusal, I now know everything I need to know about it. is a website created by the International Formula Council (an infant formula lobby group). In it, you will find much lip-service about how “breastfeeding is best,” blah blah blah more politics, etc. They have a very craftily worded page dedicated entirely to “Support for Breastfeeding.” They have another one totally about “mother guilt.” (How’s that for political?) …But the main crux of the site is to convince the world that women WANT to feed their babies formula, and by golly, they have every right to, because women have rights! And freedom! And women need their formula! They WANT it! They ask for it! (Sounds kinda like what you hear some rapists say when speaking of their victims, coincidentally enough. Or is it a coincidence…?)

Let me be crystal clear about something: of course women have the right to feed their babies formula if they want to. But I’m going to spell this out just in case my point is lost: the formula “choice” debate isn’t about women’s freedom. It isn’t about feminism. It isn’t about women’s rights or even consumer advocacy. Women will always have the choice to feed their infants infant formula. isn’t about that, though, as much as they want everyone to believe it is. It’s really about rallying support for formula manufacturers in their quest to disenfranchise women and infants of their rightful biological norm by convincing everybody that what women really want (and spend all their time thinking about, apparently) are those “awesome” infant formula gift bags in hospitals. After all, everybody else is doing it. And furthermore, [insert some other contrived reasons here].

To help illustrate this, they have a whole page dedicated to “What do moms say?” Here’s a little gem from that page: “…mothers approve of receiving infant formula samples, and they do not believe samples have much, if any, impact on a mother’s decision as to what to feed her baby…” Replace “infant formula samples” with “free packs of cigarettes” and “as to what to feed her baby” with “to smoke” and see how it sounds: “…mothers approve of receiving free packs of cigarettes, and they do not believe the samples have much, if any impact on a mother’s decision to smoke…” Hmmm…

The thing is, marketing research demonstrates definitively that receiving free anything impacts consumer use, even if the consumer doesn’t believe he/she is being influenced by the free item(s). That’s why companies do it — because it works! They wouldn’t waste their time and precious money on paying to distribute free samples if they didn’t think it was going to result in returns ($$$) on their investment. It doesn’t really matter what the product is, if you receive a free sample of it, you’re more likely to try it (and if you’re a health care worker, you’re more likely to recommend it). For a lot of products, that’s not necessarily harmful, but for a product like infant formula (or cigarettes, or pharmaceuticals), it can (and often does) have disastrous consequences to the consumers. It does not matter if the consumer perceives the sample doesn’t affect them; the fact remains that receiving free samples DOES affect resultant consumer behavior.

What a lot of people don’t understand is that formula manufacturers are very well-versed and well-educated about breastfeeding. Formula executives learn about it, their companies even pay for research on it, so they “know their enemy” (their enemy being their most threatening competitor: breastfeeding) very, very well. Formula executives (those in charge of making marketing decisions) are very well aware of the deleterious impact on breastfeeding of interfering with a newly born infant’s suckling reflex by introducing an artificial nipple, and of separating infants from their mothers. They use this knowledge to push baby-unfriendly hospital practices — which they know will sabotage breastfeeding — to get the majority of their customers by marketing through the health care industry. Magazine and television ads are just marketing icing on the cake for them. The marketing cake for formula corporations is: the samples handed out by doctors during prenatal check-ups, the routine formula bottle-feeding of newborns separated from their mothers that hospital workers engage in every day in hospital nurseries, the free formula gift packs given to exhausted, convalescing postpartum moms, and last but not least, WIC program contracts with formula manufacturers which ultimately encourage formula use (WIC is responsible for over 50% of formula sales in the United States (PDF)). That’s where formula manufacturers get the bulk of their customers, ironically from the very people that should be encouraging breastfeeding the most! Formula executives push to short-circuit the breastfeeding learning process from the very beginning, encouraging mother-baby separation immediately after birth because it ensures them sales in the future — at least a year’s worth of formula sales, per baby! That is a lot of money, and whatever it cost the formula companies to provide the free samples in the hospital, per baby, is easily a write-off, after the first week or two the baby’s parents buy formula. The rest is pure profit (minus the tiny cost of manufacture and transport — miniscule in comparison to the profit), since formula is so grossly overpriced (even the “cheap” powdered stuff).

Recommended reading:

So now you know. is full of marketing lies designed to convince the general public that the formula industry should be allowed to keep marketing to health professionals by fighting to keep formula samples in hospitals.

There is another website also full of lies you should know about: It is also paid for by the International Formula Council to further convince the general public that marketing through health care workers (doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, and WIC employees) is not only OK, but that moms WANT it, and that therefore this woman-unfriendly and baby-unfriendly status quo should be maintained. Absurd, ridiculous, and completely diabolical are words that come to mind when I see websites like this, but what can you do? At the very least they’re open about their funding, which is more than I can say about some researchers who conduct infant feeding studies.

Actually, that’s a good question: What can we do as lactivists to make things better for other moms and their babies? At the very least, we should work hard to get the Breastfeeding Promotion Act passed, which is something every American over the age of 18 can do (link provides ideas and plans of action). Beyond that, it is possible we can beat formula companies at their own game. They “know their enemy.” We should (at least) do the same, so that we become aware of what we’re up against. Knowledge is power. Let’s put the knowledge (power) about destructive formula marketing practices in the hands of women so that they can make truly informed, REAL choices for themselves and their babies. Let’s promote real breastfeeding education so that the formula pushers don’t win.

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Why I Do Not Recommend Using Powdered Infant Formula

October 11th, 2007 by MamaBear

I’ve used powdered infant formula maybe two times in the entire time I have supplemented for my daughter (I have supplemented with formula for over a year, out of necessity due to breast hypoplasia and breast surgeries). The main reason why I was never keen on using powdered formula is because of the theory of free radical damage from using a powdered reconstituted animal product. Now, I don’t know if the ready-to-feed and concentrate forms of infant formula I’ve been using contain reconstituted powder in them. If they do, I’ll probably feel like the world’s biggest schmuck. But the more research I do on the subject, the more I realize the oxysterol powdered-milk theory isn’t the only reason why using powdered infant formula isn’t a good idea.

Powdered infant formula is the most affordable form of infant formula there is. Every other form (concentrate, ready-to-feed cans and bottles) is significantly more expensive. This is why most people who for whatever reason decide not to continue lactation (or who can’t easily lactate because of a physical barrier which impedes it — think adoption or breast surgery) usually decide to buy powdered infant formula. It’s not cheap, but it’s cheaper than the already prepared stuff. Many people who would otherwise be able to breastfeed or pump milk for their babies for a lot less money (the price of renting a hospital grade breast pump can be as little as $35/month, or less; the service of a lactation consultant is often cheaper than the cost of one month’s supply of formula), instead buy the powdered infant formula because it is erroneously perceived to be a “cheap” and “good” alternative. There are many barriers impeding the success of breastfeeding for new mothers, but one of the biggest ones is the fact that it is easier (and less taboo) to learn how to prepare infant formula than it is to learn how to breastfeed or pump (also, figuring out how to prepare infant formula can be done easily in public; figuring out how to breastfeed, topless, for example, is unfortunately not acceptable in most places — and trying to figure out how to breastfeed while wearing clothing is like trying to figure out how to swim by practicing in a bathtub — it’s not very effective). Formula companies exploit this whenever they can, seducing women with the promise that formula is “just as good” for their baby and much easier to figure out than breastfeeding in the middle of the night when holding a screaming, hungry newborn and without anyone to help you.

Unfortunately for most mothers, formula companies don’t actually care (in deed; they always pay lip-service to “caring”) if the product is prepared properly or if it’s even safe before preparation. They feel that’s “not their problem,” legally speaking, so they sleep easily at night, even if infants who use their mislabeled products die.

I do not recommend infant formula use at all unless there’s no other feasible option, but I especially do not recommend the use of powdered infant formula. Powdered infant formula is not sterile. Infants have already died from contaminated powdered infant formula (even when prepared according to the manufacturer’s directions). The United States’ Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration advise against the use of powdered formula in hospitals because of the contamination risk it poses. It is impossible to sterilize powdered formula in the factory in the same way that liquid formulas can be. Furthermore, if preparing the powdered formula with boiling water to kill the bacteria, some of the vitamins in the formula may be damaged beyond even what the sterilized liquid formulas undergo.

Even when prepared according to the manufacturer’s directions, however, powdered formula never dissolves completely. You can shake the powdered formula with the proper amount of water in a baby bottle until the cows come home (this is what the directions on most if not all powdered infant formulas say to do — shake the measured scoops and water together in the baby bottle), and you will inevitably be left with undissolved lumps in the resultant liquid mixture. These lumps mean the concentration of formula in the liquid is less than it should be, and the lumps often stick to the sides of the baby bottle and never get consumed like they’re supposed to.

In addition to powdered infant formula not being sterile, the possibility of free-radical cell damage from oxidized cholesterol/fat from the formula powder, and the problem with the formation of lumps upon reconstitution, there is also the very real possibility that the directions on the can won’t be followed properly. Most women in the third world don’t have schooling beyond primary school. Consequently, a basic understanding of weights and measures (like liquid measure and powdered formula scoop measure) is often not understood very well. This sometimes leads to formula being prepared at too high of a concentration if the powder is measured before the water is, or it sometimes results in a too-dilute preparation if the woman in question is trying to save money by using less powder than is called for on the can. A too-concentrated formula can lead to dehydration, renal failure, and death in the infant. A too-dilute concentration of formula can lead to malnutrition and a lifetime of health problems, in addition to the possibility of eventual death by starvation. While it may seem “affordable” in the short-run to provide a third-world woman with “free” formula for a time, in the long-run, the results are disastrous and not worth the true, human, cost. The woman dries up, no longer produces milk with her own body, and becomes needlessly dependent on a far inferior, even dangerous product. It becomes like a drug, then. A woman will do anything to get more of it for her baby, because it’s the only feasible option left to her for nourishing her baby once her milk dries up (her milk will start drying up as soon as she starts supplementing with formula if she does not provide stimulation to her breasts — often the woman is not aware of this consequence because not many people are aware of the supply-and-demand aspect of breastfeeding). Over more than one generation, this dependence on infant formula will lead to a loss of knowledge of breastfeeding for a given society (and increased breastfeeding ignorance), leading more women through the generations to become dependent on an external, purchased product rather than trusting their own bodies. It is unconscionable to provide formula to third world countries for free for these and other reasons. It’s also immoral to encourage people to buy “cheap” powdered infant formula when the truth is that the female body can produce a far superior (and practically free!) product, if only the proper education were disseminated about it.

Maybe if everyone had to pay the price of liquid formulas when choosing to formula feed (which is what would happen if everyone knew just how inferior — and even dangerous — powdered formula was), perhaps then breastfeeding and pumping wouldn’t be seen as “gross” and “too much trouble.” It would definitely incentivate a lot of people who erroneously believe formula and breastmilk are “just as good” as one another to at least try breastfeeding and/or pumping before the “easier” formula-feeding, and it may motivate new moms to stick it through the tough times for longer. At the very least, if no one were to buy the powdered formula anymore, it would incentivate those in the formula industry to charge less for their liquid “premium” products, which would be better for everybody — (except, of course, for formula manufacturers and their shareholders).

Formula does not have to be part of the cost of raising a child. It’s not a necessity like a car seat is (for those people who own a car). It is an artificially created need, artificially created through baby-unfriendly hospital policies, aggressive marketing tactics, and the unofficial endorsement of many health care workers (doctors, nurses, hospital administrators, some midwives, etc.) the world over. This artificially created need causes needless illness and death, and it’s all for the sake of making a buck. It is never about the health and well-being of mother and child.

The use of infant formula (homemade or commercially prepared) should be the option of last resort, to be used after all other (better) options have been exhausted. Breastfeeding should always be the first choice, except for the very rare case of severe galactosemia. Powdered infant formula should just never be used at all — babies have better options no matter where in the world they are; much of the time, it’s just a matter of allowing breastfeeding to succeed. Too often breastfeeding is sabotaged by the inappropriate introduction of formula by health care workers, misinformed and exhausted postpartum moms, or well-meaning but misguided family members.

Due to all the health risks associated with consumption of any type of formula, moreover, it is completely inappropriate for any hospital employee or volunteer to feed newborns infant formula routinely unless the mother of the infant is dead, has abandoned the baby, is HIV+, or does not have functioning breasts. And actually, for extreme cases like that, the infants involved should be fed donor breastmilk whenever it’s available (in the case of an HIV+ mom, the mom can try manually expressing her milk into a clean container and flash-pasteurizing the milk to kill the HIV before feeding it to her infant — it would still be far superior to any formula). Funny that if breastfeeding were considered as routine as formula-feeding is now, more healthy donor milk would be available to feed babies whose mothers cannot… Imagine that: A world where every baby is fed breastmilk, and where no corporation is profiting off the sale of human milk. That would surely be a beautiful thing.

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Long Live The Zoops!

October 10th, 2007 by MamaBear

Hathor the CowGoddess made a YouTube version of her original Story of the Zoops. From the first moment I read the story, I thought it was brilliant, and believed it would become a cult classic among breastfeeding advocates everywhere (I still do, now more than ever). With her permission, I’ve embedded the video version here, for your viewing pleasure:

Enjoy! :)

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The Story of Ranjit Chandra

October 2nd, 2007 by MamaBear

In order to understand the present and what the future might bring, it’s crucial to be aware of what’s happened in the past. History has a tendency of repeating itself, though not always in exactly the same way.

I’m going to relate to you now the story of Ranjit Chandra. Ranjit Chandra was a world renowned professor at Memorial University at Newfoundland. He is rumored to have been nominated for the Nobel Prize in Medicine, twice. He was the recipient of the prestigious Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honor, for a career of medical and scientific excellence. He has been lauded for his brilliance and intellect for over three decades.

There’s a lot of information the Order of Canada probably didn’t know about Ranjit Chandra when they issued that honor.

In 1989 (possibly 1988), Ranjit Chandra accepted money (estimated at over $50,000) from Nestlé to fake a study on their new infant formula, Good Start. (There is no hard proof of this — no one has found a check stub with “Nestlé” made out to Ranjit Chandra –, but there is overwhelming reason to support it, including testimony from Marilyn Harvey, Chandra’s assistant and whistleblower who was in charge of gathering participants for the study.)

Good Start was a formula previously owned by Carnation, but Carnation got bought out by Nestlé in 1989 and Nestlé wanted a way to draw attention to their new investment by citing “scientific” studies in their promotional material that claimed it protected babies against allergies when compared to another formula (Similac). They were planning on making these allergy-protection claims already, but the FDA wanted scientific studies to back these claims up by a certain deadline, so Nestlé “made” the “science” happen toward this end by bribing Chandra.

Those studies were never actually conducted, but they were written up by Chandra and published in several medical journals. They remain there to this day, even though they have been debunked by other scientists, including researchers who were members of a secret panel formed by Memorial University in 1994 (a committee created specifically to address the possibility of scientific fraud committed by Dr. Chandra). Anyone visiting and typing “Ranjit Chandra” and “breastfeeding” and/or “formula” will find studies by him, more than likely faked. Here’s another one that’s fake. It’s a five-year follow-up to the first fake study, which never had any data gathered for it. Notice how there’s nothing denigrating about breastfeeding in either study. (Both studies can be reasonably assumed to have been paid for by Nestlé; the first one definitely was, and the second one — well, Chandra would have had no reason to write it at all if he hadn’t been paid for it, too, so that’s why I think the second one was paid for by Nestle as well.) Not denigrating breastfeeding is not a guarantee that a given study is truthful. These studies Chandra faked, while they say nothing bad about breastfeeding, DO denigrate Similac, a formula competitor, and that got Similac’s attention. A representative of Similac, Mark Masor, investigated to see what the problem was, and he discovered that fraud had been committed.

Here’s some food for thought: If Nestlé should bribe a researcher to denigrate breastfeeding, where is the breastfeeding representative that will investigate the researcher on behalf of lactating mothers? Where is the Mark Masor of breastfeeding? Oh, I see, breastfeeding has no commercial representative to defend it. Breastfeeding has no advocate because breast milk is freely produced by a woman’s body and not by companies that foster perpetual dependence on their product. So, if you think the results of a breastfeeding study (or any kind of study) are suspect, your best bet is to do your own investigating to see if the study is legitimate or not. Remember, even if Ranjit Chandra had collected data for his studies, they would still be fraudulent, because he accepted more money from Nestlé than he did from Similac, so he was inclined to see things Nestlé’s way (hint, hint) at the expense of Similac (Similac did pay Ranjit Chandra $50,000 to conduct a study for them, but apparently Nestlé paid more because Chandra told Masor that Similac didn’t pay him “enough” to “do it right.”)

In probably the most ironic twist ever (in retrospect) one of the people who spoke out against Ranjit Chandra was a certain Dr. Michael Kramer from McGill University. He wrote a three page paper in 1997 to Health Canada (the Canadian government), explaining why one of Chandra’s studies was suspect (for one thing, the control group was almost identical to the experimental group, which in reality is unheard of in a study like the one Chandra was conducting — a virtual impossibility in the real world). The reply Kramer received was that Health Canada could do nothing because it hadn’t funded the study. Kramer thought about pushing it further, but in his own words, “…it just didn’t seem like it was worth doing,” so he dropped it. Lesson learned = it’s too much trouble for any individual acting alone against a prestigious scientist to get the scientist’s studies investigated, even if there is reason to suspect that said prestigious scientist might have committed fraud. At least, that’s what I’m learning from all of this.

From 1989 (when Chandra published the fraudulent Nestlé Good Start study) to 1997 (when Dr. Michael Kramer, independent of Marilyn Harvey’s testimony, took the initiative to report Chandra), is eight long years. Even though Memorial University, Health Canada, Dr. Michael Kramer, Nestlé, Similac, and Marilyn Harvey all knew Dr. Ranjit Chandra was a phony, nobody outside the world of academia was alerted to anything about this. And the Good Start studies remained in circulation. Did I mention they still are? Did I forget to mention that the original fake study has been cited in 83 publications? And that the fake five-year follow-up to the original fake study has been cited in 137 publications? The term “cited,” for those of you who aren’t familiar with it, means “referenced.” These studies are being used, right now, as references to help back up other studies’ claims. The “findings” from them are being taken seriously. Most of the scientific community, even though Ranjit Chandra has been proven without a shadow of a doubt to be a fraud, is not aware that these studies they are citing (or have cited) are fakes. So, imagine if they had actually contained data! Wow, then they’d probably be considered legitimate, right? I guess if you’re not looking deeply enough, yes. But I know better than to trust a study’s conclusions just because it contains real data. It’s not only important to find out if there is data for a particular study. Yes, that’s important. But it’s also important to find out what a researcher’s motivations for conducting a particular study are, what conclusions the researcher is motivated to come to, as well as a thorough examination of the data (which, let’s be real, what government entity has time for that?).

It wasn’t until 2001, when Chandra tried to publish another fraudulent study (not about formula or breastfeeding) in the British Medical Journal, that he caught the attention of then-editor Richard Smith. Smith was alerted to the suspicious study upon its submission by one of his astute statistical reviewers, who said the study had “…all the hallmarks of being entirely invented.” The study was eventually rejected by the BMJ after Smith tried to get in contact with Chandra numerous times and got nothing but vague circuitous answers to his questions (or no answers at all). That didn’t deter Chandra. He submitted the fake study to another journal, Nutrition, and got it published. It stayed published there until 2005, when it was finally retracted due to the overwhelming suspiciousness of the findings (still no hard evidence, though).

It is well-accepted now in certain circles (though not all of academia, unfortunately) that all Ranjit Chandra’s work is under suspicion. It’s hard to know which studies were faked or otherwise compromised by outside interests (bribes and/or pilfered grant money), and which ones were legitimate. Was Ranjit Chandra always a faker? Probably not. He probably published some real studies in his lifetime. It’s even possible that most of the studies he published (upwards of 200) were legitimate. There’s no way of knowing without examining every single one (a daunting task for anyone), but with the conflict-of-interest of receiving money from corporate interests to fake studies (like Nestlé, who apparently “outbid” Similac in the Good Start study), it’s reasonable to conclude that none of his studies (for which he is the principle investigator) should be cited in future publications, and that furthermore, none of the studies he’s published after 1989 should be taken seriously. But they are.

From where I stand, it looks like Nestlé won’t stop trying to convince the world that formula doesn’t cause allergies (or that breastfeeding provides “no protective effect” against allergies when compared to formula — eh, same thing). I, for one, am not buying it. Though I am loathe to use analogies because they are incomplete, I will use one here: I will be the Mark Masor of breastfeeding, even if no one else will be. If I suspect that a study was conducted improperly or if there’s even a hint of a whiff of conflict-of-interest, I will come after you like it’s a murder investigation, because as far as I’m concerned, with formula manufacturers and their marketing tactics, that’s exactly what it is. If no fraud has been committed, if you’ve got nothing to hide, I’ll figure that out — I can give the benefit of the doubt like the best of them. I’ll probably find out either way, so make sure, all you researchers out there (principle investigators, especially), that you cross your t’s and dot your i’s, because I am watching your breastfeeding study “results” and your motivations behind them like a hawk.

By the way, anyone wondering what disciplinary action was taken against Chandra, after so many people in academia discovered that he was a fraud and had taken money from Nestlé to fake formula studies? Well, in a nutshell, none. Nothing happened to him. He was not arrested. He was not fired. He was not even fined or formally reprimanded by anyone. He retired from Memorial University in 2002, just around the time the shit started hitting the fan when the BMJ started asking questions. He moved to Switzerland (or India) and hasn’t really been heard from since. He’s still selling his nutritional supplements, the same ones he claimed in his fake study could cure dementia (the one that got the BMJ’s attention).

You know what I would think if I were a Canadian researcher upon witnessing all of this academic and scientific corruption (circa 1997-2002)? Well, first I’d think: “Man, I work and work and work and am an honest person, an honest researcher, and I don’t make more than $150,000/year. Whereas, this asshole (Chandra) is a dishonest fuckwad, fakes data, and has over $2 million in secret accounts all over the world, in addition to the salary he gets from the university… And NOTHING happens to him!” This would lead me to think one of two things (1) Fuck it, I’ll make some real money too, then, if it’s so easy… But I’ll do it better than him to preserve my reputation and good name and I won’t get caught because I’ll use real data; or (2) C’est la vie. Just ’cause he’s unprincipled doesn’t mean I have to be, no matter how much money is to be made.

I am making it my job to see which of those two conclusions is the right one. Dear readers, you don’t have to join me in my quest. I’m not asking for help (though I welcome any and all kinds of questions, leads, etc., even if they disagree with or contradict my own findings). If you have nothing to contribute, just sit back and enjoy the ride. I think it’s going to be an interesting one.

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Required Consumption

September 30th, 2007 by MamaBear

I’ve been talking lately about corporations and corporate interests (regarding some of my posts on Prolacta and Nestlé), and I think a lot of what I say may be misinterpreted by some, and some of it may just not be registering at all for others. I have had the blessing of being educated by incredible influences in my life, and it is part of my life’s mission to impart some of this wisdom to the world. It’s one of the reasons why I blog. I am not trying to sound arrogant. If anything, I want to make sure there’s more equity in the world by making injustices be known so that they can be corrected. I always try, whenever possible, to include links to references so that you may be the judge of what I say. Ultimately, I want my readers to assess for themselves if what I’m saying is true. Don’t just take my (or anyone else’s) word for it.

I want to make sure that everyone is on the same page before I continue with my blogging, so in order to do that, I want to make sure you know what I know. I’m embedding this video, of a documentary called “The Corporation,” as a primer for starting to understand how things work in the corporate world. Incentives and motivation are key in people’s lives, for both individuals and corporations. While it is really hard to distill into one thought the wealth of information contained in this documentary, I will say that one of the important lessons I learned from watching it is this: “A corporation has all the rights of an individual, but none of the responsibility.” It’s a very powerful statement, and an apt assessment.

Please note: I don’t think there is anything wrong with making money. Money (and having to make a living) are necessary aspects of life. I have a problem with hurting others to make money, and I do not think it is necessary to hurt others in order to make a living. “Hurt” can be a matter of interpretation, where “deception” may be considered by some to be perfectly reasonable and not the same as “hurt.” That’s for you the viewer to decide. Personally, I think it depends on each individual situation (in some cases, “hurt” is pretty clear-cut and in others, not so much).

Also, some required reading (if you have the time after sitting through the whole 2.5-hour-long documentary): Blink (a book that is essentially an analysis on Occam’s Razor), The Tipping Point (about ripple effects), and Freakonomics (Yes, Jill, I know he’s your friend, but it’s a really good book on some of the hidden economies of life, so I’m recommending it despite that). ;)

“The Corporation” (first there’s a brief commercial of sorts, where the filmmakers ask for monetary donations for the film; after that, the film begins). Film is in two parts, both embedded here:

Part 1 lasts one hour, 26 minutes and Part 2 lasts almost exactly one hour. Total time is about 2:30 hours. Dedicating the time to watching it is time well spent. Cheaper than a college course, way shorter, and almost as informative (actually, depending on the course, probably more informative). You owe it to yourself to watch this.

Edited to add:  I’ve found some transcripts on some of the interviews seen in “The Corporation” on the official website.  I apologize in advance that I can’t find anything better for my Deaf and hard-of-hearing readers.  I wish closed captioning were available in the video itself.

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