Last week I heard a news story about the hospitals in the city of New York refusing to give formula to mothers who were able to breast feed but were choosing bottle feeding instead. All of the pundits and “experts” on civil rights started to weigh in on the topic. I found this most interesting in relation to the Supreme Court decision allowing the government to tax individuals and small business owners who choose not to purchase health insurance. This entire law is based on the assumption that health care costs are getting out of hand and the way to provide access to everyone is to make those of us who are not burdening the system pay “our fair share” so that those who choose not to be responsible for their health can have the care they need. This is not a sustainable plan and never will be.
Hospitals and doctors alike agree that the people who are most burdening the system are those who suffer health problems from a compromised immune system – our first and foremost protection against disease. How is the immune system compromised? Everyone would agree that our environment is full of toxins that we breathe in, drink or eat daily placing an inordinate burden on our first line of defense against disease. Constant exposure to these toxins eventually causes a break down of our defenses. I support government regulations that monitor our food and water supply and force producers to stop poisoning our water, air and food with chemicals and other toxins. Everyone has the right to access to clean water, fresh air and nutrient rich food that supports our immune system and helps keep it functioning to prevent disease. But everyone also has the responsibility to give every infant born in this country the best shot at developing a strong immune system in the first place – through the mother’s milk.
The immune system is not developed when a child is born – it is very fragile. A strong system results from the immunities passed to the child from the mother in the form of the mother’s milk. All doctors agree that, especially during the first six weeks of life, infants need to be breast fed. Six weeks is a minimum. My pediatrician recommend at least six months of nothing but breast feeding for my child so long as the child was thriving. I had scheduled check ups during those first six months as the doctor monitored my child’s overall health and development. My girls grew into healthy, strong adults with few health problems that required medical attention outside of letting their immune system take care of the problem. I also monitored their diets so long as they were under my control and limited their intake of foods I knew to be harmful to them. My pediatrician also recommended vaccines and the schools required that I have them vaccinated in order to attend public schools. I chose to obey that law, but now I am not so sure I would want vaccinations for my children, yet I wouldn’t be allowed to refuse because the medical profession has deemed it necessary. Therefore, my right to choose something different has been taken away. If the government can step on my individual rights for the overall good or to “promote the general welfare,” with so much medical evidence about the effectiveness of breast feeding as a true preventative and effective health care measure that everyone can afford, why not start there? Forcing women who are physically able to breast feed costs no one any money and works. It just seems to me that this is where we should start if we want the best quality of life and quality health care for everyone in this country.