If you’re a middle or upper middle class woman who is also a new-ish mom, chances are you’ve heard rumblings about how baby formula is about as evil as the devil. Breast is best! Breast is best! Breast is best!
But out there in the (more) real world, there are plenty of women who don’t have the luxury of time and money to worry about whether they’re able to nurse in public or breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of life because they’re struggling just to buy diapers and scrounging for money to simply feed their infants at all. Worrying about whether your boss will let you pump at work somewhere other than a closet, or a restaurant will relegate you to a restroom to nurse are things that never, ever cross the minds of plenty of new moms.
For some of those moms in the Chicago area, baby formula has been a blessing bestowed upon them for the past 30 years by a group of charitable women dubbed the “milk ladies,” marking one of those rare occasions when there is no shame associated with baby formula, at least as it relates to those in the throes of the breast vs. formula debate.
A group of eight women who have been friends for years started dropping off cases of brand-name baby formula to women in need ages ago, although now they are joined in their efforts by their own daughters and other relatives, according to Jezebel (via the LA Times).
They’ve raised $2.6 million through donations and grants in an effort to try and eradicate poverty and child hunger. While the group is officially known as INFANT (Infants Need to Find Adequate Nourishment Today) Inc., they were dubbed the “milk ladies” by child welfare agencies.
“I have eight [children] of my own. There’s nothing worse than to see a child hungry,” co-founder Barb Isaacson, 80, said to the LA Times. “We decided to do something about it in our own little way.”
In addition to formula, they provide more than 60 organizations with hand-woven blankets, infant clothing and diapers, as well as “small gifts” for the mothers — all for families in need.
It started in 1982 when one of the group’s founders heard on the news that women were diluting baby formula with sugar and water. After making their first donation a few weeks later, they learned the wide scope of the problem, such as lack of breast milk due to malnourishment or drug addiction, and waiting for welfare eligibility to kick in — all while babies suffered.
The milk ladies plan to keep on doing what they’re doing “until the money runs out and people stop helping.”
Regardless of your position on breast milk vs. formula, it’s hard not to see what these women are doing as just about the kindest work that can be done, which is helping babies who are hungry, to eat. We can debate all the livelong day about whether breast is best, but in the end, just eating at all is really what’s best, and for making that happen, these women are nothing short of angels.
To make a donation so the milk ladies can keep going, click here.
Photo credit: iStock
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