Monday, July 10, 2006

10 July 2006
Open letter to:
Sen. George McGovern
Stevensville, MT

Dear Sen. McGovern:

With great respect for you, and for the causes you have defended, I was surprised to read your letter to the New York Times entitled, “Breast Milk and AIDS” 6 July 2006. You are well known for your support for women's issues, so perhaps it has not been brought to your attention that breastfeeding is an emerging women’s issue.

Human milk is the best nutrition, as you note, but it is much more than nutrition alone. Breastfeeding is probably saving more than 5 million lives today, and could save at least 1.3 million more lives every year. What other healthcare intervention can say the same?

There are so many breastfeeding-associated factors that protect infants and young children against disease and chronic ailments that it would be impossible to list them here. The result is that, in some settings, the risk of dying from not breastfeeding is greater than the risk of contracting AIDS from breastfeeding. In the United States as well, breastfeeding saves lives and, due to its immunological components, reduces disease significantly when compared to formula feeding.

Why is this a women’s issue? The common sense approach would be free choice. But, to make it truly possible for women to choose and to succeed with breastfeed in the United States-- without having to make significant socio-economic sacrifices or to fight their health care providers – we should level the playing field. This is do-able -- many northern European countries have accomplished this years ago -- with four actions: full, information on feeding options without commercial bias; social and political support for paid maternity leave; health worker education and standards of care that support breastfeeding; and third party payment for lactation support and care. Countries and societies have supported these changes so that women and families could freely choose what they know to be best for their children.

We claim to be the nation that supports “motherhood and apple pie”. Once we really begin to offer women and families a free and informed choice in this manner, only then can we claim that we are supporting their nurturance of the next generation, and taking a balanced, “middle of the road” approach.

Thank you for your ongoing support of women, and for all Americans who aspire to be all that they can be.


Miriam H Labbok, MD, MPH

1 comment:

MsTinkerbell said...

It is wonderful to see all these issues raised.
Please let me know if you get a response from the Senator!
Your eloquence in this and subsequent blogs is most enlightening!