When Republicans natter on about being pro-life, and wanting to save babies, they’re really referring to undeveloped fetuses. The dewy smokescreen of theoretical babies is designed to hide, to themselves if no one else, what they are actually doing: trying to impose their 16th century sexual mores on the unwilling, using American law to force religious dogma upon women who vigorously reject it.
When it comes to actual babies in the living world, however, they don’t mind if our government contributes to the death of babies, particularly babies who are darker skinned and in nations other than our own.
At first, the United States balking at joining an international effort to encourage breast-feeding seems like just more Trump administration water-carrying for the short-term interests of large corporations, long-term implications be damned.
The ghastly situation was outlined Monday in a front page story in the New York Times: World Health Assembly officials were stunned when the U.S. tried to water down a resolution encouraging breast-feeding.
But look more closely, and you realize this is not an abstract, economic issue. Just as cigarette companies, faced with shrinking American markets, turn to the less-informed abroad, so infant formula companies push their products in poor countries, where it is often mixed with polluted water.
Tens of thousands of real babies die every year because of infant formula marketing now being boosted by the United States.
The story was so damning that our president hurried to dispatch his usual deceptive tweet.
The failing NY Times Fake News story today about breast feeding must be called out. The U.S. strongly supports breast feeding but we don’t believe women should be denied access to formula. Many women need this option because of malnutrition and poverty.
Nobody suggests women be denied formula. And needless to say, Trump has the rest backward. Few, not many, women are so malnourished they’re unable to breastfeed.
“You have to be basically starving to not produce enough breast milk because of under-nutrition,” said Sera Young, professor of anthropology and global health at Northwestern University.
And formula poses the greatest risks to the poor.
“It’s worse not to breastfeed when you’re living in a low-income country,” said Young.
Breast-feeding was squelched for a century in America, part of a grotesque de-naturing of the childbirth process. Women gave birth under general anesthesia to infants they were hardly supposed to touch.
“Babies under six months should never be played with,” L. Emmett Holt wrote in a best-selling early 20th century guide for mothers, “… and the less of it at anytime the better for the infant.”
Breast-feeding was considered unhygienic.
“By the 1930s and 1940s breastfeeding was no longer an issue,” Jessica Martucci wrote in a book on the history of the practice. “Mothers by that time simply assumed bottle-feeding as the norm.”
It took decades for medicine to realize: human milk is far superior.
“There’s unequivocal evidence that demonstrates human milk is the best source of nutrition for human babies,” said Summer Kelly, executive director of Mothers’ Milk Bank of the Western Great Lakes, in Elk Grove Village. “The components found in human milk are unique. Human milk has functional antibodies that provide passive immunity to a child, also living white blood cells have an anti-microbial effect. Formula doesn’t have any of that.”
In a country where the bottom line of gun manufacturers trumps the lives of children, and the wishes of coal-producers outweigh the fate of the earth’s climate, we can’t be surprised that the health of babies loses to the desire to sell more baby formula.
“It’s horrible that this is even a debate,” said Young. “This is a no-brainer, even if you only care about the financial part. It makes so much economic sense to have healthy infants, and infants who get breast milk are healthier in the the long term. Their mothers too. I thought that this was a fundamental principle that could unite us all.”
Wrong. Among the many bad things our government is doing on a daily basis, it is undermining the health of babies and mothers to help international conglomerates.
“They don’t need any help,” said Kelly. “Moms and babies need help. Infant help should be our priority.”
But it’s not. A point to bring up next time someone rhapsodizes their passionate concern for babies.
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