The news about the U.S. shortage of baby formula is driving me absolutely bonkers. One the one hand, yes, this shortage is terrible and terrifying–I cannot imagine not being able to feed my infant–and on the other, today’s coverage on DemocracyNow.org, “David Dayan on the Baby Formula Shortage & Monopolies in the Age of Corporate Power” had not one word to say about how formula companies have been subverting breastfeeding and chestfeeding (aka “nursing”) for decades, both here and abroad, in the interest of selling products which are inferior to human breastmilk. Talk about a most pernicious form of capitalism! People who may want to nourish their offspring the good old mammalian way are instead taught to distrust their own bodies and are convinced to line the pockets of formula companies instead.
Back in 2015 and 2016, I took the Lactation Education Resources course, hoping to work as a Lactation Consultant when I moved to Hawai’i Island (incorporating it into my sexuality counseling and hypnosis). I never did do any work in this area, though I wanted to at least offer hypnosis to support chestfeeding and breastfeeding parents. I’ve refreshed some of that coursework since returning to the West Coast, but honestly so much time has passed, I would need to really retake the whole course if I wanted to renew my intention to work in this area. Why do I bring this part of my background up? Because, in a lifetime of progressive, radicalizing education experiences, NOTHING has ever come close to radicalizing me (in a good way) than learning about the elegance of breastmilk production, the profound benefits to infants, and the ruthless ways that formula companies, along with medical professionals, have discouraged people from feeding their children in this utterly natural, completely sustainable way.
Am I totally against baby formula? No, it has its place — in my opinion, as a last option. I also acknowledge the enormous workplace and attitudinal barriers to nursing. When you live in a culture (or social group or family) that doesn’t support nursing, and does everything it can to subvert and discourage it, formula can seem like the only real choice, especially for people who are poor. But there’s a trade-off in expense and also, for some, less robust health. I’ve trained and worked as a post-partum doula, many years ago, so I do have experience to draw upon, not just my own (I nursed both my children until they chose to wean themselves.)
So. Relactation. It can be a radical act, given the society we live in. But it’s possible. Here are some resources and information about relactation and nursing in general.
La Leche League International. Relactation
Centers for Disease Control. Supporting Families with Relactation. cdc.gov, last reviewed June 4, 2020.
Unicef-The Baby Friendly Initiative. Maximising breastmilk and re-lactation guidance. UNICEF.org, March 23, 2020.
Elizabeth Hormon and Felicity Savage. Relactation : a review of experience and recommendations for practice. World Health Organization. 1998.
Transgender & Gender Expansive Chestfeeding
Sage Agee. What To Know if You’re Transgender or Nonbinary and Considering Chestfeeding. Parents.com, May 9, 2022.
Simone Marie. What is Chestfeeding? Healthline.com, Sept. 9, 2021.
Trevor McDonald. Transgender parents and chest/breastfeeding. Kellymom.com, Jan. 15, 2018.
La Leche League International. Transgender and Non-Binary Parents. LLLI.org, n/d.
Olga Khazan. The Epic Battle Between Breast Milk and Infant-Formula Companies. The Atlantic, July 10, 2018.
Jackson Segel. The Breastfeeding Battle: How the Infant Formula Industry’s Political Power is Putting Babies at Risk. Brown Political Review, Dec. 5, 2018.
Shannon Dell. Breastfeeding Is the Universal Way We Nurture. Here’s How Formula Companies Are Breaking That Apart. Matador Network, n/d.
Noemi Weis. Watch trailer for Milk (Documentary).
Indigenous Breastfeeding, FACEresources.org.
Jessica. Reclaiming Latino/Hispanic birth and breastfeeding traditions. OurMilkyWay.org, Sept. 10, 2017.
Nursing Mother’s Counsel Resource Page (amazing collection of links!)