Friday's Wall Street Journal had a piece on the great breast milk versus formula controversy, called The Formula Follies. One aspect of the story that caught my eye was this little factoid:
While one government agency is promoting breast-feeding, however, another is handing out formula. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, administered by the Department of Agriculture, gives states grants to provide free formula, food and breast-feeding support to low-income women. Nearly half of all infants in the U.S. are enrolled, and 54% of infant formula in the U.S. is distributed through WIC.
I'm all for helping poor mothers provide their infants with proper nutrition, but I have a tough time believing that almost HALF the babies in the United States require this sort of government assistance. And 54% of the all the infant formula in the US is doled out by the government?
The fact that the program is administered by the Department of Agriculture leads me to believe that this is about more than helping poor mothers. I know it's hard to imagine those rugged individualists who farm bellying up to the public trough, but you think that the current size and scope of this program might just have something to do with the interests of the milk producers of America? It appears that cows aren't the only ones getting milked through the WIC.
UPDATE-- Bert e-mails to add:
Not just dairy farmers, but also....
1. The guys who make the stuff. It's a tremendous profit margin industry--count the number of "free samples" offered to new moms in hopes of getting them hooked.I usually get about a week's supply with each kid.
2. The child care industry needs a lot of formula-fed kids to induce moms to go back to work. Somehow "working outside the home" doesn't resonate with moms when baby is at the breast. (something like $10-40 billion annually for kids in their first year...yikes!)
3. Doctors get a lot of visits because formula doesn't have the antibodies that momma's milk has. One comparative anecdote: my kids' doctors visits before age 1; 1 or two except for growth checks. Formula fed: 10 ear infections or so. Add in ear tubes and such, and the Kaiser Foundation estimates that (~1999 numbers) formula adds about $1500 per child on formula to medical costs in the first year. Multiply that by 2 million formula fed kids each year and it increases medical costs by $3 billion annually.
4. Soybean farmers--not just for dairy feed, but also for soy formula when milk formula-fed babies get milk allergies. In fact, the gain in milk consumption due to formula is likely offset by dairy allergies developed from formula--plus the fact that Mom doesn't need to eat as much cheese and ice cream to keep up the pace.
5. And finally, worthless bags of--I mean bureaucrats benefit a lot by doing this, needless to say.
But seriously, something like 35% of kids these days are born out of wedlock, which statistically means that they're likely to be somewhat poorer. Sad to say, your statistic doesn't surprise me.
But I thought that most out of wedlock births were logical choices made by smart, career-orientated, "I can have it all," Murphy Brown-type women who need a man like a fish needs a bicycle. Are you saying that our entertainment culture has presented a skewed view on this matter?