It has been known and recommended for some time now that breast milk is the best food for a new born. However for mothers who cannot breast feed, this has been a serious issue related to guilt and anguish. The controversy took a new turn as a Melbourne doctor of midwifery called for infant formula to be made available only by prescription. RMIT University expert Dr Jennifer James wants infant formula banned from supermarket shelves.
For her this move is not about making mothers guilty but to help them by ensuring that they see health professionals when problems arise. She said many new mothers have trouble initiating and/or maintaining breast feeding and despite the knowledge of what good breast milk can do for the baby opt for formula. She also pointed out that many mothers give up too soon on breast feeding due to problems like pain, lack of milk or when their baby fails to properly attach. It is for these mothers that professional help can do wonders.
She said, “It's about looking at ways of ensuring that women get the support and the education they need when they need it…Having to get some sort of prescription ... then the woman is sitting with a health professional who can go through her breastfeeding problems and set up a plan of action to help her achieve her goal of successfully breastfeeding her baby.” She urged women to give breastfeeding their best shot before switching to formula. She added, “Artificial formulas have to meet food safety standards, but they are at best basic nutrition. They don't provide anywhere near what a mother's own breast milk can provide…So they're a substandard product. We know that children that aren't breastfed exclusively for at least six months run, have higher incidences of chronic disease in the long term.”
In yet another study in the Journal of Paediatrics and Child Health a major factor contributing to a woman's decision to breastfeed was the attitude of the father, being either pro- or anti-breastfeeding.
This proposal by Dr. James has stirred up controversy. The editor of Practical Parenting Magazine, Mara Lee, says the proposal is outrageous and deplorable. She said, “What this move will do is further promote the notion that formula is poison and is not safe for infants and mothers shouldn't have access to it…What that does to mothers who are already struggling with guilt, with fatigue, with mastitis, with babies who simply aren't being sustained by breastfeeding is it's making them feel that they have no choice and locking them into a cycle of despair….That to me is pretty deplorable. I already see enough mums who are really struggling to make feeding work and I don't think we should be trying to make it harder.”
The Australian Medical Association also did not agree with Dr. James. AMA Victoria president Harry Hemley said requiring a prescription for infant formula would be very inconvenient for new mothers. Dr Hemley said, “There's no doubt that new mothers need more support to make sure their children are as fit and healthy as possible…Breast feeding is the best option for most new mothers, but not for everyone.”