I listening to your program on whether breastfeeding is “creepy.” I thought that it was a very interesting program and that the exploration of the issues surrounding why women in a country like the UK might choose not to breastfeed was valuable. However, I thought that because the BBC World Service is broadcast worldwide that there was a responsibility to ensure that it is made clear that while the “choice” to formula feed in the UK or Western Europe might be one that can be made with limited negative impact on child and mother that this is simply not the case in much of the world- that (as Morgan Gallagher tried to communicate) that formula feeding commonly results in death in much of the world. This is a message that MUST be broadcast.
In two months I will be conducting training at a meeting convened by UNICEF in the Philippines on infant feeding in emergencies. One of the things I will be talking about is how whenever there is a natural emergency, media reporting drives the literal flooding of emergency areas with donations of infant formula- usually sent by well meaning individuals and organisations that are simply unaware of the risks associated with formula feeding in resource poor contexts. Programs like yours, that presented formula feeding as a simple, legitimate and costless choice add to this problem. They cause harm. Increased infant morbidity and mortality results directly from media reports that present infant formula as something that will help infants, ignoring the risks. Health ministers and aid orgs like UNICEF and Save the children working in countries affected by emergencies tear their hair out trying to stop the container and truck loads of formula arriving in emergency aid arriving and being distributed.
Please, could you consider actually having a world view in your programs and understand that what might be OK in the UK may not be OK in India or in Botswana or Peru. Could you please consider having interviewees who know what they are talking about- are experts on infant feeding, on the marketing of infant formula, on the support needed by women to breastfeed, on the relative importance of infant feeding decisions in developed vs underdeveloped contexts?? The cultural blinkers of living in a privileged environment with good sanitation and health care were evident in your interviewer.
If you did consider doing something on this I could certainly put you in touch with a variety of such experts and would be happy to be interviewed myself.
Dr Karleen D Gribble BRurSc PhD
Adjunct Research Fellow
School of Nursing and Midwifery
University of Western Sydney