'World News' Uses Debated Health Claim to Promote Breastfeeding

      Even something as natural as breastfeeding gets used by the media to attack business.


     The New York Public Hospital System has stopped offering samples of baby formula as part of an effort to promote breastfeeding, according to an August 6 ABC “World News with Charles Gibson” story.


     But, ABC didn’t tell both sides of the story and this report could cause mother to worry or unnecessarily feel guilty, according the International Formula Council, a group the represents the baby formula industry.


     “The American Academy of Pediatrics says unequivocally that women should breastfeed the first year of a child's life and research is overwhelming,” said ABC correspondent Gigi Stone. “Babies who are nursed are less prone to stomach problems, earaches and chronic conditions such as diabetes and obesity.”


     However, the claim breastfeeding prevents obesity has been disputed, as IFC pointed out.


     “An independent study conducted by Harvard Medical School researchers, published in the July edition of the International Journal of Obesity, finds that women who were breastfed did not have lower incidence of overweight or obesity in adulthood when compared to women who were not breastfed,” said the IFC in a release.


     The ABC report also gave credence to the idea banning free samples would encourage breastfeeding, something that’s not true according to Mardi Mountford, the executive vice president of the IFC.


     “Fuelling the movement to ban free samples of formula are studies showing new mothers given free formula are less likely to stick with formula,” added Stone.


     Mountford said the samples have been in hospitals for 25 years.


     “The present trend of increasing breastfeeding has been going up, even when the infant formula samples were offered” Mountford told the Business & Media Institute. “We’re talking about a little bit of product. To say that is going to change a woman’s mind – a decision she’s been probably thinking about for months is silly.”


     Mountford agreed that breastfeeding was the healthiest option, but breastfeeding isn’t always possible and mothers deserve a choice.


     “The reality is lots of women start out breastfeeding, but the problem is when the moms go back to work,” Mountford added.


     Mountford said the ABC coverage was prompted by this week being “World Breastfeeding Week.”


     But the ABC reported also used the occasion as an opportunity to attack business; suggesting employers might make it difficult to breastfeed, even though most states have laws on the books protecting a woman’s right to breastfeed.


     “If you say to a new mom you need to breastfeed because it's good for your baby and then her employer makes it impossible for her to do that, all you've done is give her a guilt trip,” said Kim Gandy, president of the National Organization for Women. “You haven't really accomplished anything.”