Thursday, May 17, 2007

Government Anti-Breast Policies

Cato is reporting on the government program that distributes baby formula to poor mothers despite every government agency and private expert claiming that breastfeeding is healthier for a baby. Apparently this WIC program (women infants children) is responsible for half of all formula consumed in the United States. This news comes courtesy of International Breastfeeding Journal, although "as a scholarly article, it had no photos." This program drives up the cost of formula for others, since it artificially raises demand, and counter acts all of the government efforts to encourage breastfeeding.

Cato sums up the argument:

I would favor the whole WIC program be terminated. Unfortunately, like many federal aid programs administered by the states, WIC has a vigorous lobby group –National WIC– made up of the thousands of state and local government officials that run the program.

The group’s 2006 legislative agenda is entitled “WIC at RISK! A Healthy, Strong America in Jeopardy!” The document predicts dire consequences if Congress doesn’t go along. Unfortunately, most members buy into such doomsday rhetoric and aren’t regular readers of the International Breastfeeding Journal.

More's the pity.


Alaina said...

The article in the International Breastfeeding Journal is very interesting. It says the the purpose of WIC is to provide nutritious food, etc. to pregnant women and mothers and their children until said children are 5 years old. So really, there is no reason for them to provide formula. In my experience, there are two main reasons for people to switch to formula: 1) medical problems with breastfeeding, and 2) inability to work and keep up with breastfeeding. The first reason is not all that common, and the second could be easily remedied if the WIC program supplied breast pumps (costing much less over time than a year's supply of formula.)

Sadly, it seems like many low-income mothers get formula from WIC because it's a free handout from the government -- not because they have an overarching preference for that form of nutrition for their children.

As a side note, this particular debate, formula vs. breastfeeding, is very inflammatory. The article from the International Breastfeeding Journal stopped just short of saying that children die because they are given formula. While breastfeeding has been known to keep babies healthier, I seriously doubt that formula normally causes illness and death (or a tendency to commit crimes, as I've read in other works on the topic). So please take that rhetoric with a grain of salt.

History Scribe said...

Some 26 years of interest in health issues, driven mainly by a desire to raise healthy children, have led me to various understandings of health, healing, the medical establishment and the government. While the article deals with a US situation, these issues are world-wide. Rhetoric is worthless, but facts can be overwhelming. There is nothing like the interests of her own children to stimulate a mother's search for truth. The following links may spark an interest in your own research.

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