Breastfeeding vs. Formula: Navigating the Choices in Real Life

I’m a mother who works for a cancer prevention charity. I’m a mother who knows that breastfeeding is one of our strongest weapons to protect both the mother and child from cancer later in life. And I’m a mother who struggled to follow AICR’s recommendation to breastfeed infants exclusively up to six months.

What’s made me think about this is New York City’s initiative in participating hospitals to restrict access to infant formula in an effort to encourage breast feeding, and whether this is helpful or intrusive? Here’s one article on the program.

On paper – promoting and encouraging breastfeeding is an easy public health fix. Breast milk is free, portable and always at the right temperature. The reality is more complex.

First, not all women are able to breastfeed – infections, sick infants and difficult home environments are just some of the barriers that make it impossible. Second, our physical environment does not always support women breastfeeding outside the home. The dearth of appropriate facilities and sometimes hostile attitudes makes it difficult for mothers – especially those with older children who cannot be housebound. Third, many women simply cannot afford to be without a paycheck for 6 months and manage the considerable challenge of pumping and freezing sufficient breast milk. Continue reading