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After the Similac Recall — Should Formula Be Available by Prescription Only?

similac recall, similac recall 2010

After the Similac recall – is it time to rethink formula?

A shocking new story is coming out of Melbourne, where a midwife is “calling for infant formula to be made available only by prescription,” according to ABC News Australia.

Dr. Jennifer James says she “wants infant formula banned from supermarket shelves” in an effort to promote the beast-is-best mantra.  She says this move is not meant to make formula feeding mothers feel guilty, but rather to “ensure that they see health professionals when problems arise.”  James believes “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.”

But what if your goal is not to breastfeed your baby?  What if your goal, from day one, is to have a formula powered tyke?  James’s suggestion that formula be available only be prescription is no less outlandish than Gisele’s proposed worldwide breastfeeding fatwa.

The question is: can you force women to breastfeed their children?

Dr. James obviously feels women should only be allowed to use formula after they’ve tried everything when it comes to breastfeeding.  She says, “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.”

Certainly, after yesterday’s Similac recall, parents will be thinking twice about formula use.  But what about mothers who have trouble breastfeeding?  What would this proposed prescription requirement do to their self-esteem?

Mara Lee, editor of Australia’s Practical Parenting Magazine, calls the proposal “outrageous and deplorable,” adding, “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.”

Just as you can encourage people to drink water instead of soda, but you can’t require a prescription for Diet Coke, you can inform parents of the benefits that breastfeeding provides, but you cannot make them do it.  We prevent the use of illegal drugs because they’ve been proven harmful to individuals and society, but to lump infant formula into that category is an undeniable mistake.  Breastfeeding advocates may be uncomfortable with the idea that a woman would choose not to breastfeed her children, thus they point fingers at formula as a corrupting influence.  But for many moms, formula use comes as a much-needed respite after months of struggling with breastfeeding.  The idea that someone – a doctor - should be a gatekeeper to that place of rest and should ostensibly have to legally approve a child’s diet is unthinkable and insulting to parents everywhere.

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