When I was in school, my drama teacher told the class a story about women in Africa who’d been given Nestle formula milk samples shortly after they’d had a baby. They used the samples, believing that formula was superior to their breast milk, which led to their milk drying up. They were then forced to buy formula they couldn’t really afford, preparing it ‘watered down’ to make it last longer. In worse case scenarios, babies died either of starvation or of improperly prepared bottles1.
Out of ignorance, I assumed that these women were stupid believing that their breast milk was inferior, and promptly went out and bought a KitKat.
10 years later, I’m nursing my own child, and I come across this image:
Pakistani woman breastfeeding her son, bottle-feeding girl; picture taken by UNICEF
Unless you’ve seen this image before, it may shock you to realise that these babies are twins. The woman was told that she would not be able to sustain both babies, and so breastfed the male twin and had her grandmother bottlefed the female.
The girl died the day after the picture was taken.
After seeing this image, I bought The Politics of Breastfeeding2 so that I could learn the true extent of the problems of artificial feeding in undeveloped countries. As it turns out, the women affected by the free formula samples weren’t stupid… they were misled.
Misled by Nestle, primarily; misled by their saleswomen dressed as nurses telling new mums that Nestle artificial milks were the superior infant food; misled by health care professionals who were given kickbacks for encouraging mums to bottlefeed; misled by labels on cans of formula claiming “protects”, “more calcium”, “brain building blocks”, “brain nutrients” etc etc.
Despite multiple bans on various aspects of Nestle’s marketing, they continue to directly approach new mums, continue to market their artificial milks unethically, and continue to make misleading ‘scientific’ claims about the ingredients in the milks. Babies continue to die3 because of these milks, fed because of companies like Nestle.
And so, I boycott Nestle. I no longer knowingly buy any Nestle products (and there’s a lot of them!) No KitKats for me.
I’ve received criticism for supporting this boycott. “It’s a woman’s right to choose to feed her child how she wishes.” I totally agree. I am, and always have been, pro-choice. However, I believe in an educated choice. I believe that women should know both the implications and consequences of choosing to either a) breastfeed or b) formula feed. If ‘educated’ women like Sarah Jones (quote: “
Bottle feeding is just as natural as a mother being able to breastfeed. It has the same nutrients and everything.“) think that formula and breastmilk are on par, we cannot expect women in undeveloped countries who many not have access to the array of information that we have, to be able to make that choice properly. Why? Because of the marketing of companies like Nestle.
ETA: If this entry touches you, please consider supporting Baby Milk Action: protecting breastfeeding – protecting babies fed on formula.
1 To prepare bottles properly you need access to clean, hot water. Hands must be washed. Bottles, teats etc must be cleaned and sterilised. Hands must be washed again. Boil water to prepare the formula with, letting it cool to no lower than 70 degrees C (powdered milk is not sterile, it needs to be that hot to kill the bacteria). Add the water to the bottle, then add the exact amount of formula. Cool the milk to the desired temperature by running the sealed bottle under a cold tap or by placing it in a jug of cold water. The whole process can take up to 45 minutes.
2 The Amazon link is ‘clean’; it does not contain my affiliate tag. I didn’t think it appropriate somehow.
3 WHO estimates that 1.5 million infants die around the world every year because they are not breastfed.