Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Breastfeeding in the Developing World

This famous and tragic picture we discussed in one of my classes. This photograph was taken in Pakistan, with the mother's permission. I can't find out what year it is from, but it has since been used by UNICEF to illustrate the dangers of bottle feeding versus breastfeeding. The infants are actually twins. The mother was mistakenly told she could only breastfeed one. The child on the right did not survive long after the photo was taken.

Formula feeding can be dangerous in countries where access to clean water is limited. Formula can expose infants to contaminants present in unclean water. Another problem is that, while breast milk is free, formula is expensive and mothers are sometimes tempted to dilute it to make it last longer. This can lead to starvation.

Breast milk is full of the very nutrients infants need the most. It's one thing if a woman cannot produce milk, but formula will never be better than breast milk. Mothers should research before deciding to formula feed. Formula should not be promoted in countries where it can actually put infants' health at risk. Diarrhea is the number one killer of infants worldwide and formula can be directly linked to many of these deaths.

New data is now showing that it isn't just that breastfeeding is better, but that not breastfeeding can actually put infants at risk. In the US we need to change laws to make it easier for working women to still give their infants the very best.


abigail.armstrong1 said...

I'm a tulane student too. what class used this picture?

Heather said...

Dr. Mason showed this picture during a lecture for our 605 International Health class. He used it to illustrate the dangers of bottle feeding in the developing world.

Ashlee said...

Go Salma! I've seen this picture before, it's horrifying but gets the point across. I've never heard of women not being able to produce milk at all. Do you know of any conditions that might prevent a woman from producing milk? I had a friend that had a difficult time breastfeeding due to a breast reduction during adolescense, but during that procedure glands and tissue can easily be damaged. She was able to breastfeed some.

Anonymous said...

This is a famous picture and an powerful image on the crimes committed by the formula industry by promoting their product at the expense of millions of lives. It is important to remember formula has a significantly measurable detrimental impact wherever it is marketed in the world, including industrialized nations. Formula is estimated to kill over 7000 children a year in the United States alone. This does not include the number of children who develop long term health problems because they were not breastfed. The impact of these corporate crimes is far more veiled in our society, but it's still there and should be pointed out. It's easy to look at these images and believe we, in our comfortable homes, are immune to these travesties, but we are not, and it's only prudent to educate the public to this fact as well.