The other day, I was outraged by something a friend in Ottawa had pointed out on one of the discussion boards I participate in - I was shocked that a body of government would stoop to such a low level of unabashed fear-mongering and outright lactavism. It is one thing to find such things on biased webpages (The Alpha Parent, The Feminist Breeder, Natural News, etc.), but quite another to find something on the Public Health page of a major Canadian city. I always believed that such organization would hold themselves to a much higher standard - that they would have people employed who were actually committed to the health and well-being of women and as a result would be more immune from this kind of garbage.
This is not about making an informed choice - that would mean encouraging women to have a discussion with their doctor about what is best for themselves and their babies in their particular circumstance. This is about fear-mongering and bullying moms into breastfeeding and that is wrong. The information on this page is exclusively about the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks of formula feeding. There are no sources provided or even statistics on what the actual relative risks are. According to this page, breastfeeding is the magic bullet that is the golden brick road to good health, and formula feeding is plagued with illness, obesity, tooth decay, cancer and death.
I can only imagine how such information would be received by a new mother - who like all mothers, only wants to do the best for her child. How this information might drive such a mother to make truly bad choices with regards to her own health and that of her child - including buying unscreeened breast milk from donors over the internet rather than feeding her child formula, or waiting until there is a health crisis to switch to formula - and then feeling terrible about it.
That is not good Public Health.
So I emailed the City of Ottawa (and would encourage you to do the same - they can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org ) the following:
Dear City of Ottawa -
I am a mother and I write out of concern about the following webpage: http://ottawa.ca/... that purports to encourage women to make an "informed decision" regarding infant feeding. I am disappointed that the City of Ottawa would consider such a webpage appropriate or helpful to mothers.
Many mothers, for whatever reason, find that breastfeeding is not appropriate for themselves in their particular situation. Some mothers do not make enough milk. Some mothers are survivors of childhood sexual abuse and find breastfeeding psychologically difficult. Some mothers must return to work in order to economically provide for their children and cannot accommodate breastfeeding. Some mothers are on medications that are not compatible with breastfeeding and pose risks to the infant. Some mothers find breastfeeding painful and inconvenient.
These women need to know that formula feeding is a safe and appropriate option for meeting the nutritional needs of their babies and they need clear instructions on how to formula feed appropriately.
The webpage by the City of Ottawa is nothing less than fear-mongering and does little to provide for the informational needs of mothers. Worse, the information provided by the City of Ottawa may inflict emotional harm on many women - as they are lead to believe that the choice to formula feed will lead to tooth decay, obesity, cancer and death.
All women deserve to be supported during pregnancy, childbirth, and the year post-partum - and the City of Ottawa has determined that it should make women who for whatever reason need to formula feed to feel worse than they already do. Please revise the information on your website to be more balanced and sensitive to the the emotional and informational needs of mothers.
Perhaps if more women take a stand against this kind of garbage - it can be treated as the toxic trash it truly is.