What Breast Milk Tells Us About America

Susan Kelley
4 min readMay 20, 2022

Wealth, Disparity, and Priorities in a First-World Country

Photo by Jaye Haych on Unsplash

I had the great privilege of nursing, or breast-feeding, all three of my children. The first, I was only able to nurse for the first couple of months before my exhausted, single-mother self relented and bought Similac. The second was easier, since I now had a partner and was a more experienced mama. I fed her from my body for a year. My third — well, that little one was so relaxed, and so was I, that I finally reached my ideal and fed him until we both were ready to relinquish that connection, which wasn’t until just shy of his second birthday.

The formula shortage in America today, and our national response to it, paints a very different picture than a journey to blissful breastfeeding.

One of my very good friends, whose kids are now in elementary school, simply opted not to breastfeed. A neighbor of mine is currently working so much that doing so would be impossible. She’d have to choose career or breast, and she shouldn’t have to.

But these women are, like me, solidly middle class, where options abound.

For millions of women, those options are not…options.

Thanks to a massive recall by a national formula supplier, millions of mothers are left without a choice. Ironic, then, that the removal of that choice aligns with the impending repeal of Roe v. Wade, the removal of another choice. Both stand to have great impact on the babies we meet this year, and not a good one.

Back in February, Abbott nutrition recalled baby formula produced at its Sturgis, Michigan factory. The factory was shuttered and production stopped. Just when you might be saying to yourself, “yeah…but it’s one factory…” it’s important to understand that this particular factory produces nearly half of Abbott’s supply, and Abbott is the largest producer of formula in the nation. It’s an astonishing amount. That means that, according to Datasembly, the US now shows 43% of retailers out of stock.

43%.

What a hideously tone deaf reply.

Women who need to purchase baby formula are likely to find it just under half the time.

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Susan Kelley

Susan is a runner, a mom of 3 grown children, and an avid traveler. She writes about humans, and wrote a book about false accusations of sexual assault.