Breastfeeding my children has been one of the greatest joys in my life. I am so proud that my body was able to provide them with the sustenance and comfort they needed to grow and develop during their first months of life.
Decades worth of studies have shown that the benefits of breastfeeding are tremendous. Breastfeeding helps protect babies from illness, and helps moms heal following childbirth. It leads to a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and certain types of breast and ovarian cancer. Breastfeeding also reduces the rate of infant and child mortality in places with food shortages and lack of clean water.
Formula should always be easily available for women who cannot breastfeed or choose not to, but my goal and the goal of public health advocates around the world is to make it easier for new moms to feed their children with their bodies. This means normalizing breastfeeding, educating women about its benefits, and providing them with much-needed support. Unfortunately, it also means going up against the $70 billion baby formula industry dominated by Nestlé and Abbott Laboratories.
Many of the women who are targeted in developing countries can't afford the recommended amount of baby formula, so they water it down to make it last longer. This has resulted in widespread malnutrition. And in places where women don't have access to clean water to mix with formula powders, babies and children are dying from waterborne illnesses. A recent study found that universal breastfeeding could prevent about 800,000 child deaths every year.