The Sticky Files - Marisca Bakker

Shaming moms is not the answer to formula shortage

Marisca advocates for better support and more understanding amid baby formula shortage

I was able to breastfeed my three daughters quite easily and for a long time. I had enough milk to fill their bellies. I had wonderful nurses in the hospital who helped me and was able to visit a lactation consultant right away.

My doctor supported my choice. I was able to take a year off with each pregnancy so I was never far from my babies. I was lucky. Not all moms can breastfeed or have the support to.

In fact, a lot of moms can’t nurse and that is exactly why baby formula exists.

However, currently, Canada and the United States are facing a formula shortage made for infants with some medical conditions and allergies. An American manufacturing plant was forced to close recently after bacterial infections were found in infants who consumed formula from that plant.

It hasn’t been determined yet whether the infections were linked but the plant is closed while the FDA investigates.

This has caused panic buying and some store shelves are empty. I can’t imagine the heartache and the pain of looking for something to feed your baby.

I’ve seen numerous celebrities and politicians tell moms to ‘just breastfeed.’

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People who have the power to do something about the shortage and politicians who think the simple answer is just to nurse are not only wrong but spreading a hurtful message.

Baby formula exists for a reason.

What about the baby that was born prematurely and mom’s milk hasn’t come in yet? Or the babies born to surrogates or who were adopted? What about all the babies in foster care?

What about the mom who is forced to go back to work right away or the one suffering from postpartum depression and needs a helping hand?

And then there are moms that can’t breastfeed or those who don’t want to? What is the simple answer then? Let their babies starve? Or find a non-existent wet nurse?

Moms feel enough guilt on their own, we don’t need other people to shame us for how we feed our babies. Fed is best and currently parents who need to buy specialized formula for their babies are struggling to find some. Making them feel bad isn’t going to solve anything.

According to statistics, more than 90 per cent of all mothers start breastfeeding, but around half stop by six months and only 34 per cent breastfeed exclusively for 6 months, with lower rates among socially and economically vulnerable women.

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The numbers are even lower in the States, which likely has something to do with the significantly smaller amount of time allowed for maternity leave compared to Canada.

Instead of telling moms to breastfeed amid the shortage, let’s rally together. Let’s not panic buy formula, or resell it at higher prices.

I don’t know how to fix the formula shortage, but shaming parents is not the answer. Working together to find solutions, share our resources with other countries and put new rules in place so this doesn’t happen again are good places to start.