I’m hesitant to even touch this subject because I know it’s far more complex than I want to deal with. Suffice to say that everyone agrees (or at least gives lip service to the idea) that breast milk is the preferred food for infants. The reality is somewhat different.
There’s an interesting story in today’s NYTimes about the maker of Similac formula putting its logo on 300,000 copies of a book from the American Academy of Pediatrics. The book, which will be distributed free to new mothers, advocates breast-feeding.
“For those of us who wrote the book, this is thievery,” said Dr. Lawrence M. Gartner, the former chairman of the University of Chicago’s pediatrics department and chairman of the academy’s executive committee on breast-feeding. “The impression that people have when they see the book is that Ross is a supporter. This corrupts efforts to promote breast-feeding.”
It turns out that this sort of thing is not unusual. Drug companies routinely put their logos of stuff that they give away to interested parties; the practice even extends to medical textbooks.
The World Health Organization and the pediatrics academy both have a policy that discourages hospitals from giving free samples of formula as going-away gifts to new moms. The policy is almost universally ignored.
There are three big players in the world of baby formula:
- Ross, a division of Abbott Laboratores, makes Similac
- Mead Johnson, a division of Bristol-Meyers Squibb, makes Enfamil
- Nestle makes Carnation Good Start
Breast-feeding advocates aren’t wild about any of them, but Nestle — probably because of its global reach and strong presence in under-developed nations — appears to have attracted particular wrath, including a long-running boycott.