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Alyssa Milano is asking formula companies to put breastfeeding first

ALYSSA MILANO
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Her petition, timed with World Breastfeeding Week, has collected 58,000 signatures so far.

Actress Alyssa Milano, a longtime breastfeeding advocate who has never been shy about posting photos of herself breastfeeding her two children, is taking her campaign to normalize nursing to the next level. The 45-year-old mom has partnered with the family advocacy group MomRising in starting a petition asking the big formula companies to be more responsible, and less profits focused, in marketing of formula to new mothers.

It might seem like a tall order: the formula industry is a $70 billion industry, which should not be surprise to any mom who’s gotten sticker shock at the average $30 price tag for a a 30-ounce container of formula. That’s $1 an ounce to feed your baby when you can breastfeed for free!

Still, big formula companies (Nestle and Abbott Labs are mentioned specifically in the Care2 petition because they are the biggest producers worldwide) have done little to encourage nursing as the better alternative — which stacks of research inarguably proves it is. Breastfeeding not only helps moms recover more quickly after birth, the antibodies and nutrients in early breastmilk especially have numerous health protective benefits for babies they can never get from formula.

And yet, the companies continue to market formula aggressively, partnering with hospitals who offer new mothers coupons and free samples, as well as making deals with influential mommy bloggers and ad campaigns in parenting magazines. Mothers in underdeveloped and poor countries, which are typically lacking the lactation consultants and other resources and support you find in wealthier places in the world, are also specifically targeted for choosing formula.

Breastfeeding naturally ensures that infants are getting the right balance of nutrients they need for healthy growth and development — all the more important in impoverished countries where healthy food and nutrition are not a given. Mothers in these situations will often dilute or ration formula because it’s so expensive, and there’s always concern that the water used to mix the formula is contaminated — this could spell a death sentence for a new baby.

And that’s why this initiative started by Milano is so important. While the actresses’ views on other social issues are controversial and definitely not something to celebrate or support, this is an issue where all women and mothers can come together and agree: breast is best.

According to the World Health Organization, in many countries less than a fourth of infants 6-23 months of age meet the criteria of dietary diversity and feeding frequency that are appropriate for their age.

Of course, popular culture doesn’t do a great job of promoting breastfeeding, either. Women’s bodies continue to be objectified, and public breastfeeding is often equated with indecency. Even talk-show host Wendy Williams once said, with Milano on her show, that: “I’m a mom also. But breastfeeding is only a particular amount of time. The rest of your life, your breasts are sexual things,” she said.

With thinking like that, we’ve still got a long way to go. Petitions like this are a good start.

You can hear more about the benefits of breastfeeding and the petition in the video below:

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