This is one of the best things I’ve seen come out of the government in a long time.
The Surgeon General has issued a “Call to Action in Support of Breast Feeding”, which (from my quick look) is pretty sweeping in its arguments for giving mothers more breast feeding support and in its suggestions for how to do that. It’s a long read, and a lot of it is common sense (but apparently somebody has to say it – it’s not happening otherwise!) but there are a couple of parts worth looking at.
I’m particularly excited about pages 43-45, which suggest that formula companies ought to back off with advertising and giving of free samples, and that doctors should clear their offices of advertisements, free samples, pens, and the like which promote formula usage. What happens when the hospital sends a new mother home with no support and a free sample of formula? End of breast feeding. I don’t dare to expect formula companies to stop advertising in “Parenting” magazine and the like, but I sincerely hope these recommendations are put into effect immediately, at least on the part of health care providers. We have been watching Similac commercials in the OB’s office for the last few weeks, and I would certainly not miss them. (If only they would do the same with prescription drug advertising, particularly contraceptives…but that’s another long discussion!)
The other exciting part is the call for employers to expand paid maternity leave and opportunities for mothers to nurse or pump at work. (See pgs. 50-53 of the PDF.) With as many women working as there are today, this would make a huge difference in how long many of them are able to continue breast feeding.
So it’s nice to see that somebody in D.C. is doing something that might just be worthwhile. The hitch, of course, is that most of the actions recommended are voluntary, so there is still a ton of grass-roots work to be done. But maybe this will open a few eyes to what they could be working on, and it certainly gives mothers a new tool for discussing these issues with their employers and health care providers, who tend to care about these sorts of documents.