Thursday, May 13, 2010

"Visit your Pediatrician", starring SCP and ¿Nestlé?

For those that read Spanish:

For those that don't:

This is an announcement for a campaign called "Visit your Pediatrician" co-sponsored by the Chilean Pediatric Society and Nestlé.

Everyone should seek health care for their child. We can all agree on that. The part that has my blood boiling is that the Chilean Pediatrics Society is co-sponsoring this campaign with NESTLÉ and the insinuations in the text that Nestlé (and its formulas) are a benevolent presence in the field of pediatrics.

Let’s step back to understand the context: This is a country where the C-section rate is around 70% (purportedly the world's 2nd highest after Afghanistan). Women are contiually misled by medical professionals about their ability to nurse: They are told that they don’t have enough milk, their milk is too thin and doesn’t satisfy the babies hunger.

Side note and True Story: I met a woman this week whose doctor asked her for a sample of her milk (at Clinica Indisa for those who care) to see whether or not it was “good” (WTF did he do? Taste it??)

I am pro-breastfeeding. It’s true. But, I am even more pro-mother. Some moms just don’t want to nurse and I respect that. I believe very strongly that the vast majority of mothers are capable of making the best decision for their families. I just want to know that mothers are being given the chance to make the choice independently of Nestlé´s influence or the perks the pediatrician receives for perscribing a certain brand of formula.

I am fed up with doctors who lead women to needlessly doubt their own bodies. I’ve talked to many new moms and the story is the same, with hardly any exceptions: New moms are instructed to nurse their baby every 3 hours for 10/15/20 minutes on each side. Sometimes, that just doesn’t cut it for their baby. Baby cries for more. Mom sticks to the doctor’s instructions because they’re the expert, right? Baby doesn’t gain enough weight by the next check up and mom is told she needs to supplement. Most women report bawling and feeling like failures at this point.

Of all the women I’ve talked to who were told to supplement, not one doctor recommended cue feeding. Not a single one asked to observe a nursing session to make sure the latch was good, or that the baby was even swallowing. NOT ONE! Why? Because the vast majority of pediatricians have no idea what to look for!

Pediatricians in Chile can tell you anything you might desire to know about formula-feeding (thank you Nestlé reps and training sessions!), but they are practically clueless when it comes to nursing. There are two ways to feed a baby, just as there are two ways to give birth. Would OBGyns be allowed to specialize incesarean delivery, ignoring vaginal birthing techniques? Why then, are pediatricians allowed to remain ignorant in what is, arguably, the more "medical" way of feeding a baby?

If pediatricians believed in woman’s natural ability to nourish her child and educated themselves accordingly, Nestlé’s profits would suffer. Instead of allowing that, Nestlé holds conferences and webinars, makes office visits, and gives out perks and free samples. The underlying message seems to be “Mother´s milk is best blah, blah, blah, but you can’t trust her body to REALLY do the job. So, when she fails, try this…”

I don’t blame Nestlé. They are a food company and as such, their mission is to turn a profit. I do, however, find tremendous fault with the Chilean Pediatrics Society whose mission is “… to encourage, care for, and recover the health of children…”, as they´ve teamed up with and allowed themselves to be influenced by a multi-national with a blatant conflict of interest; thereby forgoing their own education in nature’s way of sustaining a baby.

Now, please hear me when I say this: I’m not against supplementing if it’s the mother’s choice or if it is truly medically necessary. I am, however, staunchly opposed to: doctors who fail their patients (or make their patients feel like failures) by not actively seeking the information necessary to effectively support breastfeeding mothers; advertising campaigns that paint Nestlé as a benevolent presence in the world of healthcare; and Nestlé having any ties to my pediatrician’s education, income or professional associations.

Nestlé: Please continue making food. Please step away from my pediatrician.

Chilean Society of Pediatrics: What are you thinking? How has your vision become so clouded that you, as a group, accept a multi-national FOOD company as a co-sponsor in a health campaign?

Oh, and thanks for the miniscule letters at the bottom of some of campaign’s posters reminding us that breast milk is, actually a perfectly fine (and by that I mean perfect) food for our children.

...and this is the seed of the next project, I think. Although, this one will take alot longer than 80 weeks!


  1. Wow, this is so surprising to me, since here in the US breastfeeding is all the rage right now. There are signs in hospitals and in pediatrician's offices that say "Breast is best" and I've heard many mothers who formula feed say that they feel they're looked down upon. It sounds like it's the complete opposite in Chile!

    Like you, I'm very pro-breastfeeding, so I find it sad that women aren't getting the support they need to continue. Breastfeeding is not easy the first few weeks anyway, & if your doctor is telling you that your body isn't doing its job, I can definitely understand why women feel they have to make the switch.

    I'm not knocking women who formula feed AT ALL-- I'm a huge proponent of doing whatever works for you. But you should be doing it because it's what works for you, not because you felt pressured into your decision by your doctor or some company.

  2. Kerri,

    Pediatricians here "talk the talk", but they don't "walk the walk". There's a big push to BF here, but the docs haven't done their part to learn to teach moms how to be successful. Nursing is a kind of medical no man's land here- in part thanks to Nestlé's role in MD education.

    If I hadn't lucked upon LLL there is no way I would have been successful. It upsets me that not everyone has the same support I had. My pediatrician was "supportive", but he didn't have the knowledge to help me when I ran into trouble. To his credit, he did send me elsewhere instead of jumping to formula. But, I think pedis in general are doing us all a disservice by not being experts in both ways to feed a baby or, at the very least, realizing that the "rules" of formula feeding don't apply to nursing.