My wife subscribes to Mothering Magazine. In the recent issue (September/October 2007), they had an article entitled "A Quiet Place" which focused on the battle breastfeeding proponents face in the public arena. One section of the article had my wife reading out loud to me. I post it here for your consideration. It eliminated Mitt Romney from my "Potentially Receiving My Vote" list.
"In December 2005, Massachusetts became the first state to prohibit formula sample bags in hospitals, as part of an update of an update of the State's Department of Public Health regulations. Bot the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have called for an end to this practice(www.massbfc.org/news). Governor Romney pressured the Public Health Council to rescind the ban, but the council successfully resisted his pressure, until he fired and replaced three members just prior to a vote on it; the ban was rescinded in May 2006. Less than two weeks later, Romney announced a deal with Bristol-Myer Squibb, the world's largest formula manufacturer, to build a $66 million pharmaceutical plant in Devens, Massachusetts."
Sounds like a really interesting coincidence to me. In the best scenario, Romney is convinced that formula feeding bags should be distributed because corporations should have the freedom to distribute whatever they want in hospitals. In the most likely scenario, Bristol-Squibb Myer bribes Romney by saying if you allow our baby formula bags to be distributed in your hospital, then we will build the new plant we need to build in your state. In the worst scenario, Romney takes some person bribes from Bristol-Squibb Myer to allow the company to restart the banned practice of distributing formula bags in the hospital.
For those who have not had a baby recently, a formula bag is a nice diaper bag given to new parents in the hospital filled with coupons and all sorts of gifts. One of the main gifts is formula. Also in the bag are coupons for future formula purchases and pamphlets on the benefits of formula. We really liked the baby bag, but we did not use the formula until we added it to cereal after our babies were much older. The bags are provided to the hospital by the big pharmaceutical companies that manufacture baby formula.
The question of whether to allow these formula bags to be distributed is a difficult dilemma which seems to be representative of the current debate centered around the government's role in protecting the public from corporations. When a company continues in practices that are harmful to society, should the government make those practices illegal. Obviously, there is a point where we say that the government should step in an force the action to be stopped and make the company pay for damages to the people harmed. It is difficult in deciding where that line is. How harmful does an action have to be to initiate the process of penalties? Does the distribution of formula bags in hospitals to new parents cross that line? Distribution formula bags seems like a right of the pharmaceutical companies that should not be taken away in such a scenario, but it is a sticky situation.
Nobody is making money off of the much healthier practice of feeding your kids breast-milk, so breast-milk proponents cannot compete on the marketing field with the pharmaceutical industries. Despite being much healthier, breastfeeding is handicapped in the field of concepts when it comes to convincing people that they should breastfeed rather than formula feed.
This practice takes place in a publicly funded (at least in the state of Massachusetts) hospital. The pharmaceutical companies bombards new parents through their gift bags with the message that formula feeding is a "healthy" alternative when there really is nothing healthy about using that alternative. What this all results in is parents being told that formula feeding is a "healthy" alternative despite it not really being such. Breastfeeding proponents do not have equal resources to compete with the pharmaceutical company at the same level.
There are rare cases where formula feeding is necessary, but it is not even close to being equal to breast-milk on the healthy scale. It is a sufficient alternative meaning that it will sustain the life of your child till you get the baby on real food, but it is not a healthy alternative.
But should we take away the freedom of a company in order to protect individuals from doing what is not optimal for their baby?