This is a story about two boys, brothers, born of the same mother, the same father, in the same city, the same hospital, and according to their father, the same bed. These brothers share a love for roughhousing with each other and any comers. You can find them challenging each other in kickball and arguing over which restaurant to share a meal or who can talk the loudest. Together they have moments of mutual satisfaction laced with more than just a few conflicts.

One brother amazed his pediatrician when at eight months he showed up in his office, an overwhelmed mom and dad at his side. "What seems to be the problem?" the standard line given to parents who do not have a clue. "Well, he has been crying all morning, we’ve tried everything, and don’t know what is wrong." "Well, how does he act when he isn’t feeling well?" replies the pediatrician, with a what-a-bunch-of-morons nod of his head. Mom glances at dad, who glances right back. "You mean sick? He’s never been sick." Now the doctor looks up, interest peeked. A never-been-ill eight-month-old? Who knew such a child existed? First-time parents, we thought baby Tylenol was for teething.

The second time around, we learned that weeks-old babies could develop ear infections, that visits to the doctor could become routine, that asthma is a serious thing. Two brothers, one so healthy he dares fate to cast an illness his way, the other tied to nebulizers, graduating to inhalers, plans filed with the nurse’s office, medicine and its accompaniments always kept on hand. Two boys, one healthy, one less so, one breathing clearly, one listening for that little rattle, one confident in his health, one anxious that his medicine might be left behind. One breastfeed, one not.

While health professionals have promoted the benefits of breastfeeding for a number of years, the actual number of women who choose to breastfeed has declined. Common sense would suggest that, as women become aware of the benefits of breastfeeding, at least some increase would emerge. So why the decline?

The Washington Post National Weekly Edition reports on one possibility, government strongarmed by industry. According to their investigation, the infant formula industry hired guns — Clayton Yeutter, agriculture secretary under George H.W. Bush and Joseph Levitt, former director of the Food and Drug Administrations’s Center for Food Safety and Nutrition, which regulates, you guessed it, infant formula — to protect their interests when faced with new, viable research supporting breastfeeding.

As the health and science community completed research indicating that non-breastfeed babies are up to 250 percent more likely to suffer respiratory diseases, the Federal Office on Woman’s Health geared up for a hardhitting ad campaign, featuring a baby bottle nipple attached to the end of an asthmatic inhaler as well as a syringe-topped baby bottle. Images designed to wake up moms to the possible consequences of choosing formula over breast. The promotion of consequences versus benefits is not new to government advertising — think Ad Council campaigns on drunk driving — yet it is an approach, when taken with breast versus bottle feeding, that leaves behind the idea that both are equally healthy and simply a lifestyle choice.

In a "Dear Tommy" letter to former HSS secretary Thompson, Yeutter used mom’s guilt to promote the toning down of the proposed ad campaign. After all, he asked, "Does the U.S. government really want to engage in an ad campaign that will magnify that guilt?" Well, while I can’t speak for all of the moms out there who have chosen to use formula over breastmilk, I can tell you what I think. Yes, I feel guilty that I didn’t endure the painful tearing of my nipples (onionskin comes to mind) when my youngest had difficulty latching. Yes, I feel guilty that I let the fact that I wanted to return to work influence my decision to bottle feed. Yes, I am guilty of putting my own needs over my child’s. I am reminded of that choice every day when I open the kitchen cabinet, the glove compartment of my car, the upstairs closet, and bits of my son’s asthmatic life appear.

I am also frustrated with a government that would promote immediate dollars over the health of its children. Of course encouraging moms to breastfeed means not only damaging the infant formula industry, it means supporting moms in the workplace. It could mean longer paid (what a concept) maternity leave, on-site childcare, or alternative workplace locations. Like a line of tipped dominoes, a hardhitting ad campaign on the consequences of not breastfeeding starts alone, only to knock its universe on its backside.

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