Worth the Trouble
I read with interest the letters from two readers who felt formula advertisements should continue as a source of information to parents who have to resort to formula. Big advertising is not information, it's promotion. Its goal is to expand the market for its product. Formula promotion is designed to turn breastfeeding mothers into formula buyers. For every mother who already uses formula and is persuaded by an ad to switch to Brand X, there are many other people getting the advertiser's fundamental message that breastfeeding is like sewing all your own clothes--nice if you can do it, but probably not worth the trouble. If your readers want actual information about different kinds of formula, then an article on the subject might be appropriate. Formula advertisements still do not belong in your publication and I am among the many who applaud your decision.
* Elise Morse-Gagne
Swiftwater, New Hampshire

Don't Feel Guilty About Your Best
I read of your new policy in Mothering magazine, and applaud you for your stance in supporting the WHO code, and not accepting advertisements for breast-milk substitutes. This letter is in response to Tami Sandberg's letter in the May issue, regarding this policy.
Tami states that "the benefits of breastfeeding were communicated to me during each pregnancy by doctors, nurses, parenting publications, and others." While I think this is wonderful, Tami should realize that this is not a common experience. Most women are simply asked if they're going to breast- or bottle-feed, and unless she says breastfeeding, the subject is usually dropped.
Tami describes how she was unable to breastfeed her son, and says, "The guilt and pain in not being able to accomplish this were overwhelming." I completely understand this, as I had difficulty breastfeeding my firstborn, and he weaned much sooner then I would have liked. However, guilt is not something that one person can make another person feel. Guilt is internal, it comes from knowing that you could have or should have made better choices. If Tami was truly unable to breastfeed, she should not feel guilty. She did the best she could, and that's all any of us can do. Guilt comes only from knowing you should have done something differently.
Tami says, "Through the efforts of doctors, nurses, parenting publications, and organizations such as WHO, we all know that breastfeeding is best." The message that most people actually get is that while breastfeeding may be best, it's really not necessary, and formula is just as good. The truth is that breastfeeding is not "best," it's normal, and it's what babies need and expect. Formula is inferior. Women need to be informed when they choose something that is not anywhere near equal to breast milk. According to the WHO, formula only ranks fourth on the list of what is best to feed babies.
Tami says that the "information provided through advertising and marketing is invaluable," and that "Doctors, nurses and parenting publications are not providing any information on breast milk substitutes. . . ." This is simply not true. Open up any mainstream parenting magazine, and you'll see ad after ad for formula. Turn on the TV and see commercials for formula. The overwhelming majority of OB/GYN's and pediatrician's give out free samples of formula along with all kinds of literature, free calendars, diaper bags, and other goodies to new mothers (other violations of the WHO code). They are paid to do so by formula companies. Formula is everywhere. Women such as Tami, who are truly unable to breastfeed, can and should get their information about infant feeding from their health-care provider, not from a slick ad in a parenting magazine.
You're doing a fabulous job with Minnesota Parent. Keep up the good work!
Angie Jacobsen angie@norrail.com
Rogers, Minnesota

There's No Place Like Home

I just wanted to write and applaud you for no longer running ads for breastfeeding substitutes! I was reading my issue of Mothering when I ran across the info. I am originally from Minnesota and cannot wait to return for reasons just like this. Thank you!
* Laura Wahlert
Washington D.C.

Birth is NOT PG-13
In her recent letter to the editor, Ms. Disney expressed concern about toddlers being old enough to understand the process of birth ("They Saw It All," January). This is an issue that we struggled with, and our discussion was based on our feelings of our own daughter's capability to deal with the whole birthing process. Obviously each child is different, and I think that each family must decide for themselves who they want to witness a birth. But I also feel that Ms. Disney is way off base in saying that a child will be afraid that her mother is dying. With proper preparation--watching videos, practicing birthing noises, explaining the various instruments used--they are just as capable as everyone else of understanding. The fact that birth is scary is something that society teaches us. At a young age children don't have preconceived notions, and in my humble opinion, are much more open minded than most adults.
I worry that in an effort to "protect" children from birth we are protecting them from life. Viewing birth as a natural process, one to be embraced and not feared, sounds like a radical step--one that many people are not willing to take--perhaps out of their own misconceptions surrounding childbirth. Birth is not necessarily painful and bloody as Ms. Disney suggests, although many outside interventions make it so.
Having siblings attend birth can be an incredible bonding experience, one that I think is worth consideration. Allowing parents to choose what is best for the whole family is essential, and blanket statements about those who make choices that differ from your own is insulting and saddening.
Elisabeth Pletcher-Harincar
Minneapolis, MN

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