+
Parenting

Touting the benefits of breast milk during a formula shortage isn't helping anyone

There are times and places for breastfeeding advocacy. This isn't it.

babies, breastfeeding
Photos via Canva

A formula shortage crisis is not the time to push breastfeeding advocacy.

By now, you've likely seen news stories about the baby formula shortage in the U.S. According to CBS News, the formula shortage has been coming for months, with supply chain issues, labor shortages, product recalls and inflation creating a perfect storm and hampering manufacturers' ability to keep up with demand.

The shortage is causing intense stress for families that rely on formula as retailers resort to rationing purchases and customers find store shelves empty of major brands.

It's genuinely a crisis. And unfortunately, some breastfeeding advocates are using the shortage to tout the benefits of breastfeeding: This isn't a problem if you breastfeed!It's "free!" It's "readily available!" It's nature's perfect food! It's "what God intended!" It'll never be recalled!

Folks? Now is not the time or the place.


To be clear, I'm an enormous fan of breastfeeding. My mother is a retired lactation consultant and I was raised in La Leche League meetings. I breastfed my own three kids through toddlerhood and pumped breastmilk to feed my adopted nephew. I've written articles and made videos defending breastfeeding in public. I am enamored with the miraculous way our bodies can grow a whole person and also create food for that person. It's amazing. Breastfeeding is awesome in my book.

But I also live in the real world. I know that breastfeeding doesn't always work out for a huge variety of reasons, none of which I have the authority to judge. I know how most moms agonize over every decision they make and how easy it is to feel shamed for not doing what people tell you is "best." I know that baby formula saves lives.

For years now, there's been a slogan battle between "breast is best" and "fed is best," when really neither statement is really accurate. The "breast is best" idea is a simple way of stating that breast milk is the most nutritionally beneficial food for most babies. That's not a judgment; it's the medical consensus. The "fed is best" idea is a simple way of stating that the most important thing is that a baby is fed. That's not a dismissal; it's reality. But neither statement encompasses the complex truth, which is that there's a lot of bad information out there that makes informed decisions difficult and that there are millions of individual circumstances that can impact how a baby ultimately gets fed.

However, none of that matters when there's a baby formula shortage. Babies that rely on formula need it. And they need it immediately. Period.

Now is not the time to advocate for breastfeeding, no matter how passionate you feel about it. Parents impacted by the formula shortage are already worried enough; adding to their stress with messaging that might induce guilt or shame is an entirely crappy thing to do at this moment. It's like saying to someone who fell off a boat and is floundering in the water, "See, this is why people should learn to swim." That's not advocacy—it's cruelty.

I know that some people will take any and all mention of breastfeeding as a slam on formula feeding, and I'm not of the mind that people should avoid talking about the benefits of breastfeeding in general. But there are times and places for advocacy and education and there are times and places where it's not helpful at all. We're in the latter time and place right now. This formula shortage might naturally push some new moms toward breastfeeding, but it's not a situation that should be exploited to convince people to breastfeed.

If we want to be helpful, the best thing we can do at the moment is to offer advice and support that may actually help. Dr. Steven A. Abrams, MD, a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, suggests the following when a parent is in an urgent need situation. These are things we can help with:

  • Talk with your pediatrician and ask if they are able to get you a can from the local formula representatives or one of the charities that has some. Your local WIC office may also be able to suggest places to look.

  • Check smaller stores and drug stores, which may not be out of supply when the bigger stores are.

  • If you can afford it, buy formula online until store shortages ease. Purchase from well-recognized distributors and pharmacies rather than individually sold or auction sites. Do not import formula from overseas, as imported formula is not FDA-reviewed.

  • For most babies, it is OK to switch to any available formula, including store brands, unless your baby is on a specific extensively hydrolyzed or amino acid-based formula such as EleCare (no store brand exists). Ask your pediatrician about recommended specialty formula alternatives available for your baby.

  • Check social media groups. There are groups dedicated to infant feeding and formula, and members may have ideas for where to find formula. Make sure to check any advice with your pediatrician.
Experts are warning parents not to water down formula or make homemade formula, as neither is a safe option, so do not share recipes for formula that are circulating on the internet.

The best support people can offer right now is locating formula for a family who needs it. That's it. Let's save the breastfeeding education and advocacy for people who are actually seeking information, not for those who are dealing with an already stressful crisis.

Photo courtesy of Girls at Work

True

Girls are bombarded with messages from a very young age telling them that they can’t, that is too big, this is too heavy, those are too much.

Keep ReadingShow less
Pop Culture

14 things that will remain fun no matter how old you get

Your inner child will thank you for doing at least one of these.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

Swings can turn 80-year-olds into 8-year-olds in less that two seconds.

When we’re kids, fun comes so easily. You have coloring books and team sports and daily recess … so many opportunities to laugh, play and explore. As we get older, these activities get replaced by routine and responsibility (and yes, at times, survival). Adulthood, yuck.

Many of us want to have more fun, but making time for it still doesn’t come as easily as it did when we were kids—whether that’s because of guilt, a long list of other priorities or because we don’t feel it’s an age-appropriate thing to long for.

Luckily, we’ve come to realize that fun isn’t just a luxury of childhood, but really a vital aspect of living well—like reducing stress, balancing hormone levels and even improving relationships.

More and more people of all ages are letting their inner kids out to play, and the feelings are delightfully infectious.

You might be wanting to instill a little more childlike wonder into your own life, and not sure where to start. Never fear, the internet is here. Reddit user SetsunaSaigami asked people, “What always remains fun no matter how old you get?” People’s (surprisingly profound) answers were great reminders that no matter how complex our lives become, simple joy will always be important.

Here are 14 timeless pleasures to make you feel like a kid again:

Keep ReadingShow less
All images provided by Adewole Adamson

It begins with more inclusive conversations at a patient level

True

Adewole Adamson, MD, of the University of Texas, Austin, aims to create more equity in health care by gathering data from more diverse populations by using artificial intelligence (AI), a type of machine learning. Dr. Adamson’s work is funded by the American Cancer Society (ACS), an organization committed to advancing health equity through research priorities, programs and services for groups who have been marginalized.

Melanoma became a particular focus for Dr. Adamson after meeting Avery Smith, who lost his wife—a Black woman—to the deadly disease.

melanoma,  melanoma for dark skin Avery Smith (left) and Adamson (sidenote)

This personal encounter, coupled with multiple conversations with Black dermatology patients, drove Dr. Adamson to a concerning discovery: as advanced as AI is at detecting possible skin cancers, it is heavily biased.

To understand this bias, it helps to first know how AI works in the early detection of skin cancer, which Dr. Adamson explains in his paper for the New England Journal of Medicine (paywall). The process uses computers that rely on sets of accumulated data to learn what healthy or unhealthy skin looks like and then create an algorithm to predict diagnoses based on those data sets.

This process, known as supervised learning, could lead to huge benefits in preventive care.

After all, early detection is key to better outcomes. The problem is that the data sets don’t include enough information about darker skin tones. As Adamson put it, “everything is viewed through a ‘white lens.’”

“If you don’t teach the algorithm with a diverse set of images, then that algorithm won’t work out in the public that is diverse,” writes Adamson in a study he co-wrote with Smith (according to a story in The Atlantic). “So there’s risk, then, for people with skin of color to fall through the cracks.”

Tragically, Smith’s wife was diagnosed with melanoma too late and paid the ultimate price for it. And she was not an anomaly—though the disease is more common for White patients, Black cancer patients are far more likely to be diagnosed at later stages, causing a notable disparity in survival rates between non-Hispanics whites (90%) and non-Hispanic blacks (66%).

As a computer scientist, Smith suspected this racial bias and reached out to Adamson, hoping a Black dermatologist would have more diverse data sets. Though Adamson didn’t have what Smith was initially looking for, this realization ignited a personal mission to investigate and reduce disparities.

Now, Adamson uses the knowledge gained through his years of research to help advance the fight for health equity. To him, that means not only gaining a wider array of data sets, but also having more conversations with patients to understand how socioeconomic status impacts the level and efficiency of care.

“At the end of the day, what matters most is how we help patients at the patient level,” Adamson told Upworthy. “And how can you do that without knowing exactly what barriers they face?”

american cancer society, skin cacner treatment"What matters most is how we help patients at the patient level."https://www.kellydavidsonstudio.com/

The American Cancer Society believes everyone deserves a fair and just opportunity to prevent, find, treat, and survive cancer—regardless of how much money they make, the color of their skin, their sexual orientation, gender identity, their disability status, or where they live. Inclusive tools and resources on the Health Equity section of their website can be found here. For more information about skin cancer, visit cancer.org/skincancer.

People share experiences with intrusive thoughts.

When I was younger I used to think I was dying or that I would get kidnapped by a random stranger, but I kept it to myself because I thought something was wrong with me. I thought that telling people would confirm this fear, so I kept it inside my entire life until I was an adult and learned it was part of ADHD and other disorders, such as OCD and PTSD. But it doesn't have to be part of a disorder at all—a vast amount of people just have intrusive thoughts, and a Twitter user, Laura Gastón, is trying to normalize them for others.

Keep ReadingShow less
via Lewis Speaks Sr. / Facebook

This article originally appeared on 02.25.21


Middle school has to be the most insecure time in a person's life. Kids in their early teens are incredibly cruel and will make fun of each other for not having the right shoes, listening to the right music, or having the right hairstyle.

As if the social pressure wasn't enough, a child that age has to deal with the intensely awkward psychological and biological changes of puberty at the same time.

Jason Smith, the principal of Stonybrook Intermediate and Middle School in Warren Township, Indiana, had a young student sent to his office recently, and his ability to understand his feelings made all the difference.

Keep ReadingShow less