The impact of the shortage of breast milk substitutes once again exposes the structural problem faced by mothers in the U.S.
The lack of infant formula on supermarket shelves in the U.S. and the first cries for help from parents have sparked a public debate about breastfeeding. People have been saying things like, “Why are mothers even complaining about having too little baby formula? They should just breastfeed their babies!” In doing so, they once again lay the blame for the crisis on those who are already carrying multiple burdens.
The reasons why a woman might not breastfeed her baby after birth are numerous. Some women simply don’t produce enough milk, which is particularly common after premature births. Other women have a medical problem affecting their breasts that makes breastfeeding impossible. Alternatively — and this problem should be solved — women are unable to breastfeed their newborn due to their job situation. Especially in the U.S., paid parental leave is something exotic. Mothers in low-income households need to get back to work as quickly as possible in order to earn money. As a result, they simply do not have time to pump, chill and feed their baby milk for approximately 20 minutes every couple of hours.
Because almost half of all breast milk substitutes produced in the U.S. are financed by the government, poor people are particularly affected by the infant formula crisis. It is time for the U.S. to create an environment in which women can decide for themselves whether to breastfeed.