Home' Australian Pharmacist : Australian Pharmacist Oct 2013 Contents Australian Pharmacist October 2013 I © Pharmaceutical Society of Australia Ltd.
Katie Butt is a freelance journalist and
former editor of Retail Pharmacy.
More than 30% of
Australian babies are
given infant formula
within a month of birth
initiatives that aggressively
discourage its use continue
to ostracise women.
Katie Butt, explores why
this is happening and how
It’s almost 6pm and a man rushes
into a small community pharmacy in
Sydney’s eastern suburbs.
‘I need formula for a newborn please,’ he
pants. The pharmacist points to a corner,
‘It’s over there’. Overwhelmed by choice,
the man selects the most expensive brand
assuming it’s the best, pays and leaves.
Communication between the pharmacist
and the man is minimal. The pharmacist
is getting ready to close for the night
and assumes the man knows what he
is looking for. The man assumes the
pharmacist is too busy to help him and
anyway, he is in a hurry.
What the pharmacist doesn’t know is
that the man’s wife is sitting at home two
blocks away, in floods of tears from pain
and frustration. Her breasts are throbbing,
her nipples are cracked and bleeding,
and her head is pounding from stress and
having slept in two-hour bursts all week.
Their week-old baby is screaming from
hunger and its own frustration at not
being able to feed properly from its mum.
The man feels completely overwhelmed
and helpless at not being able to calm
either his wife or baby.
While the woman sterilises the bottles
they had already purchased, the man
reads the tin to determine the accurate
powder/water ratio for the tiny child,
who had lost more weight than the
accepted 10% in hospital. Unsure of how
to bottle-feed, the woman awkwardly
cradles it in her arm and pushes the bottle
into its mouth. The baby latches onto the
teat immediately and sucks angrily. Finally
there is calm.
In coming days the baby thrives, gaining
weight and sleeping for longer than
one hour at a time. The woman’s health,
however, begins to deteriorate. Because
she stopped breastfeeding abruptly due
to the pain she was told was normal,
the woman has developed mastitis and
is readmitted to hospital with a severe
infection. She receives IV antibiotics
for two days and is sent off to lactation
classes for a second time to determine
where things went wrong.
Having seen the huge improvement
in her baby after it was given formula
she has no intention of resuming
breastfeeding and tells the midwives so.
‘No problem, it’s your choice, but we
do have to tell you that breast is best,’
the lactation consultant says and walks
away. The woman is offered no advice or
support, and other than to change her IV,
the nurses leave her alone.
Once home, the couple turn to the
internet for information on formula
feeding: frequency, amount, and how
to manage wind and reflux in a baby.
In seconds they find advice and assurance
that not one single health professional
had provided at any point in their journey.
A common problem
This couple are not alone in their
experience. Despite aggressive
promotion of ‘breast is best’, infant
formula use remains high in Australia.
In 2010, by one month after birth 30%
of Australian babies were given breast
milk alternatives, according to figures
from a national infant feeding survey
by the Australian Institute of Health and
Welfare.1 Most women (96%) had set out
to breastfeed but by four months only
36% of babies were exclusively breastfed
and by six months the rate had dropped
to 15%. The reasons most cited for not
continuing to breastfeed were ‘not
enough breast milk for the child’ (56.3%),
‘child not attaching properly’ (25.2%),
‘baby is too unsettled’ (24.2%) and
‘breastfeeding is too painful’ (18.4%).
Until recently, it was thought that
only about 5% of women had genuine
insufficient milk supply, so when women
did experience difficulties, it was often
put down to poor technique. However,
well known US paediatrician, Dr Marianne
Neifert, believes the number is closer
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