Talking About (Blush) Breast-Feeding

It’s getting easier to talk about what breasts are actually for, but
not much. They’re for feeding infants and it’s important to breast-feed
newborns all the way through the first year and maybe more, because

It’s getting easier to talk about what breasts are actually for, but
not much. They’re for feeding infants and it’s important to breast-feed
newborns all the way through the first year and maybe more, because

Post) a comprehensive analysis by the Department of Health and Human
Services’ (HHS) own Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ)
of multiple studies on breast-feeding, generally found it was
associated with fewer ear and gastrointestinal infections, as well as
lower rates of diabetes, leukemia, obesity, asthma and sudden infant
death syndrome.

Whoa. Ear infections are the
nemesis of parenthood and intestinal infections are definitely not fun.
But diabetes, leukemia, obesity, asthma and sudden infant death
syndrome are not problems, they’re family disasters that a parent would
do almost anything to prevent.
Except perhaps to breast feed.
It’s inconvenient, and made more so by infant-formula companies who incessantly remind us
of the inconvenience. Conveniently left out of the argument is whether
or not their solution to all the ills (of actually giving an infant a
human nipple to suck) could kill your child.
There’s huge profit in over-sugared. Huge profits trump health
advice on a regular basis from the pages of our favorite magazines.

Use of infant formula has been decreasing in industrial countries for
over forty years as a result of antenatal education, increased
understanding of the risks of infant formula, and social activism. Most
major medical and health organizations strongly advocate breastfeeding
over the use of infant formula except in unusual circumstances.

there’s not much argument. When federal officials commissioned an ad
campaign to promote breast feeding, it should have been a slam-dunk
(will that phrase ever be the same?). Uncontested support quickly got
contested and proved how subservient the higher levels are to the lower
levels. The presidentially appointed advisory levels.

Kaufman and Christopher Lee, Washington Post Staff Writers) In an
attempt to raise the nation’s historically low rate of breast-feeding,
federal health officials commissioned an attention-grabbing advertising
campaign a few years ago to convince mothers that their babies faced
real health risks if they did not breast-feed. It featured striking
photos of insulin syringes and asthma inhalers topped with rubber

Wow. Now there’s a powerful campaign with a really
useful goal. I can’t wait to see the ads. Not everyone was impressed as
I and not everyone supported the campaign, excellent as it was.

to run these blunt ads infuriated the politically powerful infant
formula industry, which hired a former chairman of the Republican
National Committee and a former top regulatory official to lobby the
Health and Human Services Department. Not long afterward, department
political appointees toned down the campaign.

Infant-formula industry 1, United States Government 0. End of game and not even close.
The United States Department of Health and Human Services was
essentially steam-rollered into an alternative advisory position on a
major health care matter by political appointees, responding to
the offending industry.  That ‘political appointees ‘ tag sounds like
it might point toward Cristina Beato, who was then an acting assistant
secretary at HHS. She was only ‘acting’ because Congress refused to
vote on her confirmation. The complaint was that she had padded her
official resume (read that lied about her prior experience).
So our president made her a recess appointee.
Or the appointee label might apply to Ann-Marie Lynch, another Bush
choice who was then in charge of the agency’s Office of Planning and

Lynch, a former lobbyist for the
drug industry trade association PhRMA, reversed an HHS decision to
finance a $630,000 community outreach effort to promote breast-feeding,
according to an e-mail obtained by The Washington Post. Asked to
comment, Lynch said she never discussed “baby formula issues with baby
formula manufacturers” at HHS.

These are the people making decisions at HHS that work against your and your child’s welfare. But they are out there full-time, rearranging the furniture within the agency to suit Surgeongeneralcarmona
any and all commercial interests.

ads ran instead with more friendly images of dandelions and
cherry-topped ice cream scoops, to dramatize how breast-feeding could
help avert respiratory problems and obesity. In a February 2004 letter,
the lobbyists told then-HHS Secretary Tommy G. Thompson they were
“grateful” for his staff’s intervention to stop health officials from
“scaring expectant mothers into breast-feeding,” and asked for help in
scaling back more of the ads.

The formula industry’s
intervention — which did not block the ads but helped change their
content — is being scrutinized by Congress in the wake of last month’s
testimony by former surgeon general Richard H. Carmona that the Bush
administration repeatedly allowed political considerations to interfere
with his efforts to promote public health.

Rep. Henry A.
Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform is investigating
allegations from former officials that Carmona was blocked from
participating in the breast-feeding advocacy effort and that those
designing the ad campaign were overruled by superiors at the formula
industry’s insistence.

“This is a credible allegation of
political interference that might have had serious public health
consequences,” said Waxman, a California Democrat.

Dandelions and ice-cream scoops. The industry was meanwhile ‘grateful’
enough to Tommy Thompson that he was able to run (for a time) as a
presidential candidate.

top HHS official said that at the time, Suzanne Haynes, an
epidemiologist and senior science adviser for the department’s Office
on Women’s Health, argued strongly in favor of promoting the new
(breast feeding) conclusions in the media and among medical
professionals. But her office, which commissioned the report, was
specifically instructed by political appointees not to disseminate a
news release.

But the dandelion and ice-cream
campaign did go out. You may not have noticed the message among all
those creamy dandelion images, but the infant-formula folks sure saw it.

industry substantially increased its own advertising as soon as the HHS
campaign was launched. According to a 2006 report by the Government
Accountability Office, formula companies spent about $30 million in
2000 to advertise their products. In 2003 and 2004, when the campaign
was underway, infant formula advertising increased to nearly $50

Meanwhile the nation’s mothers spend
nearly $3 billion on breast milk substitutes.  Not needing breasts any
longer to protect kids’ health, they merrily spend another $1 billion
on enhancing them, so they look great.
All with the encouragement of your friendly Bush administration and their consumer-friendly motto: 

“Better Things for Better Living Through Dissembling.”

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