Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Start of a Food Revolution

I watched Jamie Oliver's show "Food revolution" on TV the other night. I was shocked and horrified, but frankly not very surprised. Watching the show (and if you haven't yet you should) really made me think about how we (as a culture) feel about our food and what we know about our food. I wasn't at all surprised that the lunch ladies didn't feel that there was anything wrong with serving the kiddos processed chicken nuggets, and when Jamie asked them to read the list of ingredients on the package, the were not at all concerned about the paragraph of ingredients with unpronouncable names. "The first ingredient is chicken, it's fine". One lady said that if it wasn't ok to eat, the government wouldn't serve it to us right? Right.

This is what got me going. We expect the government to stand up for us little guys and protect us from the big bad corporations, but what we are expecting isn't reality. This is just not happening. AT ALL. Not in North America. We are all fools if we sit idly by and expect the government to save us from making choices that are killing us. In the food biz it may be hard to get at good information about the real value of what we are eating, but it is out there. We need to be responsible to ourselves and our families about what we put in our mouths. When we get this information we need to shout it from the roof tops.

This is the challenge. This is what Jamie is trying to do, and this is what I want you to do too. It might be hard, and we might feel regretful or even guilty examining some of the choices we have made in the past, but I feel like this is very necessary because we are KILLING ourselves and our children, and we should be FIGHTING for their health.

"I believe that every child in America has the right to fresh, nutritious school meals, and that every family deserves real, honest, wholesome food. Too many people are being affected by what they eat. It's time for a national revolution. America needs to stand up for better food!" - Jamie Oliver

Makes you think doesn't it? I love that Jamie is starting in the schools, and educating the children who don't even know what a potato is. I myself, being of a certain lactivist bent, wonder if we don't need to address the fact that this lack of real wholesome food starts with babies, how we feed them and how we feel about how we feed them.

So now I'm gonna start shouting. You may want to cover your ears, because it might hurt, but I feel that this is really vitally important.

We cannot ignore the connection between starting our children's lives on ultra processed food from a can and the growing inability to recognize healthy natural foods. A quick google search reveals over 300 referenced journal articles citing the increased risk of obesity associated with feeding artificial baby milks. One meta study published in the International Journal of Obesity finds a conclusive risk of obesity associated with not breastfeeding.

Another thing to consider is that breastmilk changes in taste, dependent on the mother's diet. So a normally fed baby experiences different flavors with each feed, while an artificially fed baby tastes the same processed mixture day after day. Consider the impact of sensitizing our children in this way from birth. It makes sense to me that if we start them off with mass produced unhealthy food from a can, children will have little or no choice to continue their life in this way. Especially if you consider how we feel about it.

"Formula is the same as breast milk" (or the next best thing)

"I was fed that way and I turned out fine." (with your glasses, obesity and asthma?)

It's terrifying to consider that our inability to feed our children NORMALLY as infant translates to an inability for them to eat normally as children. We do need to consider this, so that we can grieve, give our heads a shake and start to shout. Join me.

Lee-Ann Grenier


  1. Sing it, sister!!!! Jamie is a hero, every parent needs to be fighting to ensure their child is fed nutritious, additive free whole foods.

  2. That is SO TRUE!! I can't stand the food that they serve in schools, i wouldn't even eat it as a child. My Sons Preschool feeds them, but its such a small class the teachers cook everything in the back kitchen for the kids. But as for all the other years of school our children are getting fed garbage basically. And you're right, we start them off of crappy processed formula, so what do we really expect when we see Obese Asthmatic Adults?

  3. *sigh* I was totally with you until MY choice for MY baby's source of food was once again spit upon. I know and understand the benefits of breastfeeding. I still beat myself up over the fact that it didn't work for us. I completely agree with everything you said about feeding our children healthy, nutritious foods, versus processed "out of the box" foods. I'm just tired of being made to feel bad about myself because my son drinks a different kind of milk than yours.

  4. Erin, I am curious about your comment- if not breastfeeding is your choice, why would you feel bad about yourself when you read about processed cow milk not being the normal food for human babies?

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  6. *rolling my eyes* I'm tired of tip-toeing around formula feeders. I'm tired of worrying about hurting someones feelings or making them feel guilty because they didn't breastfeed... whatever the excuse. I'm tired of standing in line at the grocery store behind a fat family with fat kids and a cart full of pop and chips and frozen pizzas. I agree with Jamie, its abuse. Feeding children fake food is bullshit.

  7. Wow, and here I was trying to be civil...

  8. Hey, Erin, I really appreciate your comments, & your honesty!! We need to be honest about the effects of formula, but I also think it is important to own a choice when you have made one...your comments totally relate that :)
    I think when mamas are aware of the potential negative impact of formula, that allows them to mitigate it by making healthy choices when their kids are eating solids.

  9. I'm sure it's more beating myself up than anything else. I tried, but I just wasn't one of those moms who could push through the pain, and misery, all while listening to my screaming baby. I already beat myself up on a regular basis, but I am 100% determined for my child to eat healthy, nutritious foods. When I already feel so guilty for my decisions, and constantly read about the crap I feed my kid, it just makes it so hard to get past it.

  10. Oops, I tried to delete my 2nd comment because it had my last name, but my name is still there! =P

    Arie - thanks. I completely agree that we need to educate ourselves about the best choices for our children. I understand that your goal with this blog is to educate moms on the benefits of breastfeeding, it's just a very sensitive topic to me. I should probably just stay away! =)

  11. @Erin - I don't think you should feel bad or guilty that you couldn't breastfeed. It happens. But I do think that following formula with healthy, nutritious solid food is essential. So it looks like you're on the right track and you shouldn't feel bad even if others criticize your decision to use formula - they haven't walked in your shoes. The important thing is that you are committed to doing the best that you can for your child. Keep up the good work, Mama!

  12. @ Erin and Squirrelgirl - I would encourage you to stop beating yourself up about your feeding choice, and wonder why you had no alternative to feeding your child this unsafe unhealthy crap we call formula. We should be mad as hell that there isn't a safer alternative than what's currently on the market, and more access to milk banks for all babies who need them. When we stand up and demand this, and the necessary cultural and societal supports for breastfeeding and access to breastmilk then we can be happy with our feeding choices.

  13. Really directed at all formula feeding moms.. If you tried breastfeeding, got help when you ran into trouble, and still couldn't make it work, relax. Formula is there for a reason. You knew it wasn't the best choice, that's why you tried so hard to make breastfeeding work. All the anti-formula stuff isn't directed at you, it's directed at people that haven't actually thought about it. The decision to stop breastfeeding, after you've tried and tried and TRIED, is a really hard one - and you made it because you couldn't see any other way to be a mama to your baby.

  14. @fruitkakechevy - I appreciate your comment. It's nice to know that not everyone is quite so narrow-minded and self-righteous.

    Regarding the post - I'm so happy to have you tell me, yet again, how unhealthy my child is destined to be. It's a real weight off my shoulders to know that since I formula-feed, I don't need to ever worry about exposing my child to new or different foods...she's doomed and will never enjoy anything other than processed chicken nuggets and french fries for the rest of her life. I guess I can stop making all the wholesome, healthy baby food that I have stored in my freezer. Thanks so much.

  15. Becky, I wonder why your response is hostile? The fact that you are feeding wholesome food to your baby does not negate the fact that formula is processed & unhealthy. There are real health issues associated with formula feeding. That needs to be discussed so parents can make a truly informed choice & so they can continue to mitigate the negative effects of formula by offering nutritious, fresh foods once their child is eating solids.

  16. Very interesting thread. I was a formula fed baby and turned out right. I am now a breastfeeding mama who loves to see my kids eating the vegetables, fruits and occasionally processed food I bring on the table. Balance, education and flexibility works for us.

  17. If my response was hostile it was because I'm tired of self-righteous posts that make formula-feeding mothers feel like they're poisoning their children. Yes, if it were a perfect world, my strong preference would have been to nurse my child for a full year. The world is not perfect and I had to make a decision to do what was best for my child. A decision that was supported by my child's and my doctor. I refuse to feel like less of a loving and caring mother because of it.

  18. I don't see anything suggesting you are a less loving or caring parent- why would you say such a thing? The topic is on our children's health.

  19. Awww...I have glasses and I was breastfed!

    But I was the only one of my three siblings to be breastfed. The other two have asthma and are overweight. My brother's asthma is so severe it seriously limits the amount of activities he can do.

    I read a blurb that said that the increase of people with myopia was related not to breastfeeding but to the amount of time we spend inside. Kids who play outside in the sun are less at risk to require glasses in the future.

  20. It's my sense that this argument begins (yet again) because the posts on this blog posit breastfeeding against formula feeding. This might be why women who choose to formula feed are feeling bad? Perhaps not so much about their choice as they are about their choice being posited as a negative one? For example, why call formula unhealthy crap from a can and such things? We're wondering why women who formula feed their babies are telling us they feel guilty or bad, or feel they're being made to feel guilty or bad. Could it be the language some lactivits are using here actually contributes to their feeling this way? Lactivists need to take responsibility for what we put out and how it affects other women and their families. Yes. The research is telling us of the benefits of breastfeeding and the risks associated with formula feeding. There are also benefits associated with putting out love and support and risks associated with putting out things that bring people down. And I don't just mean energetically. Our physical, mental and spiritual health depends upon not only healthy food, but also healthy environments. Can we all come to some sort of agreement around making this space more healthy?

  21. Mother Bearth
    I'm not lobbying against women choosing formula, I'm arguing for more access to milk banks, AND a wake up call to make formula more safe and healthy. Formula is tainted, contaminated and recalled at a most alarming rate. New ingredients are added, and not tested, regulated or controlled. It is unhealthy. Like cigarettes, and fast food. Sometimes people choose these things, and sometimes they feel guilty. I'm not responsible for how anyone feels, and I'm not about to tone down my language to placate anyone else. THE TRUTH IS THAT FORMULA IS UNSAFE AND UNHEALTHY. If that makes you or anyone else feel guilty, DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT.
    I usually feed my family organic, vegetarian, hand made foods. Somedays I am tired and in a rush, or just plain lazy. We order take out, or visit the evil McDonald's. I choose to feel guilty about that, or not. The feelings are my choice and my responsability. I know that fast food is crap, and not at all nutritious. Someone else telling me that (thank you Morgan Spurlock)doesn't make me more or less guilty, unless I CHOOSE to feel that way.
    And by the way this is "Fierce Momma's", not "sugar coated everyone should like me mommies"

  22. Gosh, Lee-Ann. I don't know if the Internet is just a not so good forum for discussion or what, but 'speaking' with you is like getting a slap in the face. I'm wondering if you have it in you to imagine, for one moment, that what you say just might have an effect on others. I think everyone is willing to accept their feelings are their own here. I find people who are not willing to examine how they are implicated in marginalising others tend to tell others their feelings are their own choice. What I'm wondering is whether you are willing to take some responsibility for your part here? Yes. This is fierce mamas. However, through posts, I have come to the realisation that to be fierce here, a mama must be like the authors of the posts here. By the way, you can speak to research on breastfeeding without sugar coating it and also without marginalising women who formula feed. Being mean is not being truthful or stating the facts. It's simply being mean. I'm not expecting you to tone down your language. You can use strong language without being hurtful. Please re-examine your motives. Self-reflect for a moment. What is the purpose of your writing?

    Arie, what is the purpose of Fierce Mamas? I need to be clear in order to continue to support your blog. I was under the impression it was about women becoming and staying fierce, about women advocating for their children and themselves during pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and parenting, about making choices based on knowledge, intuition, and informed choice (not fear). It's what you've written at the top of your blog. It's my sense this is not what is happening here.

  23. I stand by this post. A Pediatrics study was just released that tells us that more than 900 babies are dying each year in the US because they are not breastfed. Extrapolated for the Canadian population, we can assume that means about 90 babies per year dying here. They are dying because they are not breastfed and they are dying because the formula they are being fed causes their health problems.
    We have a significant problem in our culture. Access to healthy food is a human right that a large percentage of our children do not currently enjoy. Until the time that they do, we will continue to talk about the dangers that are posed by infant formula.
    I am sorry you are not a fan of the tone of the posts. I take exception to the statement that in order to be fierce, you must be like the post authors. This is a blog made of of contributors from all over North America, with a wide variety of experiences. The reason for that is because we want to share stories from women who do not typically have a forum to do so. We are happy to accept submissions, I would welcome one from you if you feel you can better say what we are trying to.

  24. Arie,

    I'm totally in agreement with your first paragraph. In fact, totally well written and sums it up exactly. It's just not what's been said in the posts that have caused disharmony among women here. Standing by Lee-Ann's post is not standing by what you've written in your response to me. Two totally different things. You have not been only talking about dangers of infant formula. You have also been marginalising women who do not parent the way you do. How do I know that? Because women have been telling you how they feel when they read your blog. Are women responsible for how they feel. Yes, of course. Are you also responsible. Yes, you are.

    Arie, I do not feel like I can say better than you and never implied that. In fact, I'm unsure what you are trying to do here, which is why I asked you to clarify. I think you might also misunderstand what I am saying. I am not disagreeing with your stance on breastfeeding. You know that I am a lactivist. I am disagreeing with marginalising women in order to make a point. Period. Breastfeeding aside. You could be writing about anything. But as long as women are telling you they are feeling attacked, whether you mean to attack them or not, whether you think you are attacking them or not, they are telling you they are feeling attacked. Is it not possible to accept that feedback from women and self-reflect. You may continue to disagree and that's obviously ok. Or, it might move you to speak differently to women. I suspect speaking differently might motivate women to hear you better. And, if I am beginning to understand the point of your blog.... and I already know of your passion for breastfeeding.... then what better way to work for change than to work with women. We are stronger together, no?


  25. Suzanne, I want to understand this- what is being said that is marginalising?

  26. It's an interesting debate. Mamas sure take the "Bad Mother" hat and wear it. You are not a bad mama if you formula feed. Are Lee-Ann and Arie saying that? I don't think so.

    However, if you have that hat of "Bad mother" on, then perhaps you hear it differently. What shocks me (and totally ticks me off) is the extent to which society-at-large holds up this fight of good mom vs. bad mom.

    You aren't a bad mama if you formula feed. Does that mean formula isn't bad? No. Formula can still be bad and the mama is good. I think that's the point of what Lee-Ann is saying.

    I truly don't believe in bad mamas. (And I am a social worker by training and have worked for child protection services.)

    The reason I don't believe in bad mamas is because I think that every woman (mama) makes the best decision she can with the information and resources available to her at the time.

    You want to meet marginalized women? They are off reserve First Nation Canadian mamas. They are poor women or young or single mamas. They are lesbian mamas. They are mamas who have been sexually abused or drug addicted. It is a mama who has chosen abortion rather than have a third child. Or a mama who stays in a violent relationship to have some financial support.

    There are so many more "kinds" of mamas who are marginalized in the world than formula feeding ones. Simply being a formula feeding mom makes you "normal" in this country... far from marginalized, really.

    That doesn't mean that you are a bad mama- it's a hat you choose to put on.

    I think Lee-Ann is 'harsh' in her language, but sometimes THAT is what it takes to change the world.

    Mamas good. Formula bad.

    My LONG 2-bits. :-P

  27. My brother's (now) ex-wife never breastfed because her mother thinks it is "the most disgusting thing." (They were living with her in the middle-of-nowhere, Utah and I couldn't do anything living in Florida...)

    My husband's sister just had her first baby (at 39) and her husband's family is not a big supporter of breastfeeding at all (they all live down the street or next door). She does manage to get away to visit her mom (my MIL) - who lives about four hours away from her and just half an hour from me - and when she is in town she breastfeeds as much as possible (she can't pump at work - Walmart...) and I take up the slack and wet nurse once or twice :)

    Maybe if we get back to what everyone else still does around the world or what Americans did just over 50 years ago - wet nursing - American babies could stand a chance!

  28. @HeatherMackay
    Love your comment-- love this thread.

    And I love that Arie and LeeAnn stand by themselves and what they believe in.

    Formula feeders should demand better milk alternatives- in order to make change, direct your anger and guilt to make a change!

    And don't ever feel bad about your decisions- if it was the best decision for you at the time, then that's the decision you had to make. No one can make you feel guilty but yourself.