My son told me about something that happened in his high school classroom today. They were discussing population growth and birth rates in the United States compared to other countries. The teacher noted that, though the birth rate in the U.S. is as low as in some other countries, our population growth is higher due to the greater number of people who immigrate to the U.S. In addition, according to the teacher, larger families are more common and highly valued among some immigrant cultures because more children are needed to make the family successful. Our American culture may value smaller families because of the high cost of raising a child in our society.
So what makes it so expensive to raise a child in the United States? The teacher went on to say part of the issue is companies marketing unnecessary products to new parents. As an example, companies often provide a few weeks’ or months’ worth of free formula to new parents. To really hook those new parents, the companies send literature warning them about possible ill effects associated with changing formulas - at the very time the flow of free formula has ended, with the goal being that the baby will be fed the formerly free formula, now sold at a premium price. The teacher went on to say that it made no sense for a parent to buy expensive brand-name formula when ... wait for it ... generic formula is just as good and less expensive!
Of course, that was NOT the ending to the story that I had expected. I was sitting there, waiting for my son to tell me about this great teacher who used a moment of class time to teach high school kids that breastmilk is the optimal infant food and it is free! Cultural barriers to breastfeeding are all around us, and this was a shining example. I wished that my son had stood up in class to give a mini-lecture on why breastmilk is even better than generic formula! But I understand that it isn’t culturally accepted for a teenage boy to be an outspoken advocate of breastfeeding. He may have been subject to ridicule for even speaking the word breastfeeding. How crazy is that?
I’ve tried to think of all of the ways he could have spoken up. But the moment has passed. I do feel confident that in a few years, when he has a friend tell him that he is going to be a dad soon, that my son will not hesitate to encourage the dad to support breastfeeding within his new family. I am hopeful that he will help promote breastfeeding one mom or dad at a time. And maybe someday there will be a teacher who uses breastmilk as the example of the optimal, free infant food.
Sara is the Social Media Administrator at MilkWorks.