Solve any problem by throwing breast milk at it

Evidently for lactivists there is no problem so great that it can’t be solved by throwing breast milk at it. Looking at the horrific recent earthquake in Haiti you and I might see death, injury, homelessness and the threat of disease. Lactivists saw a breastfeeding problem. They embarked on not one, but two separate inane campaigns to promote their favorite cause instead of focusing on the real needs of children in Haiti. It is difficult to imagine how people can be so self absorbed.

Haiti is in desperate need of baby formula, but the lactivists actually mounted a campaign to stop shipment of formula to Haiti. Salon’s Broadsheet ran a piece entitled Formula for disaster; do donations of artificial milk help or hurt Haiti’s babies? As the piece reported “RadicalLactivist” Cassaundra Blyth embarked on a Twitter based campaign:

PLEASE! don’t send formula to Haiti! The women & children shouldn’t be victimised twice! Breastfeeding during emergencies is VITAL to health.

That’s right folks; in the midst of the greatest natural disaster in decades, lactivists are concerned that aid workers will use their precious time and even more precious formula to convince breastfeeding mothers to switch to formula. Are these people insane? Haven’t they heard that 150,000 died and hundreds of thousands more are injured. Hasn’t it occurred to them that among the dead and severely injured there are likely to be thousands if not tens of thousands of breastfeeding mothers? How are those infants to be fed?

Breastfeeding is no longer an option for these babies. The ONLY option is formula feeding. Yes, powdered formula can cause harm if mixed with contaminated water. Yes, it would be safer to give those babies pre-mixed formula. But at the moment babies are starving for lack of milk of any kind. Far more babies can be fed with shipments of powdered formula than with pre-mixed formula. Time is of the essence if starvation is to be avoided, and a group of grown women is trying to stand in the way of feeding these babies.

But the inanity does not end there. Lactivists began calling for donations of breast milk:

When lactation consultant Faith Ploude heard that babies in Haiti might need donated breast milk, she made sure to get the word out to her classes at Mercy Hospital in Miami — and her database of more than 1,000 nursing moms.

The La Leche League and the Human Milk Banking Association of North America made similar pleas.

Let’s leave aside the issue that breast milk donations would be pathetically inadequate; one thousand donations of breast milk would feed one thousand infants only once. Consider that buildings from the meanest shack to the Presidential Palace have crumbled and are uninhabitable. People are living in tents if they are lucky or in the open air if they are not. Where are the refrigerators to store the milk? Obviously there are none, and breast milk will spoil immediately if it is not refrigerated, becoming undrinkable and potential dangerous in a matter of hours.

And how is the breast milk to get to Haiti? It has been a nightmare shipping in even the most basic supplies. Breast milk that must be frozen if it is to survive until it reaches the babies.

Red Cross workers are appalled:

“Tell them not to send it,” said Eric Porterfield, a spokesman for the American Red Cross, “I’m 100 percent sure we didn’t ask for that.”

The international Emergency Nutrition Network has asked one group, the Human Milk Banking Association of North America, to retract a press release this week that issued an “urgent call” for breast milk for orphaned and premature infants in Haiti, saying the donations contradict best practices for babies in emergencies.

Such donations pose problems of transportation, screening, supply and storage and create an “unfeasible and unsafe intervention,” according to a statement from the Office of U.S. Foreign Disaster Assistance, or OFDA.

Lactivists embarked on a campaign to interfere with delivery of formula to Haiti and to send breast milk to people who couldn’t possibly use it. Was this well meaning naivite? That certainly played a role, but the lactivists were never thinking about what the infants of Haiti actually needed; they were thinking of themselves and their personal obsession with breastfeeding. They viewed this as another opportunity to self actualize by promoting their pet cause. The human tragedy of the devastation in Haiti was just another venue to showcase their belief that every child must be breastfed. The actual needs of Haitian babies were never considered.

Lactivists need to get a grip. A horrific natural disaster is not an opportunity to highlight the benefits of breastfeeding. It is a tragedy that obligates us to send the people of Haiti what they need, not simply what we’d like to give.

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