"Use my picture if it will help" said this mother. The children are twins, the bottle-fed child is a girl who died the day after this photograph was taken by UNICEF in Islamabad, Pakistan. Her brother was breastfed and thrived. The mother was incorrectly told she could not breastfeed both children. This horrific picture demonstrates the risk of artificial infant feeding, particularly where water supplies are unsafe. The expense of formula can lead to parents over-diluting it to make it last longer or using unsuitable milk powders or animal milks. In all countries breastfeeding provides immunity against infections. Despite these risks the baby food industry aggressively markets breastmilk substitutes encouraging mothers and health workers to favour artificial infant feeding over breastfeeding. Such tactics break marketing standards adopted by the World Health Assembly. Nestlé, the world's largest food company, is found to be responsible for more violations than any other company and is the target of an international boycott.
SCN News May 1991
This picture tells two stories: most obviously, about the often fatal consequences of bottle-feeding; more profoundly, about the age-old bias in favour of the male. The child with the bottle is a girl - she died the next day. Her twin brother was breastfed. This woman was told by her mother-in-law that she didn't have enough milk for both her children, and so she should breastfeed the boy. But almost certainly she could have fed both her children herself, because the process of suckling induces the production of milk. However, even if she found that she could not produce sufficient milk - unlikely as that would be - a much better alternative to bottle-feeding would have been to find a wet-nurse. Ironically, this role has sometimes been taken by the grandmother. In most cultures, before the advent of bottle-feeding, wet-nursing was common practice.
The Lesser Child
The photograph on the cover is horrifying. Another baby girl dies unnecessarily. The department of child development, Government of India, with assistance from UNICEF, has produced a compelling account of the plight of the 'Lesser child'.
"In a culture that idolizes sons and dreads the birth of a daughter, to be born female comes perilously close of being born less than human. Today the rejection of the unwanted girl can begin even before her birth: prenatal sex determination tests followed by quick abortions eliminate thousands of female foetuses before they can become daughters. Those girls who manage to survive till birth and beyond find that the dice is heavily loaded against them in a world that denies them equal access to food, health, care, education, employment and simple human dignity.
"Born into indifference and reared on neglect, the girl child is caught in a web of cultural practices and prejudices that divest her of her individuality and mould her into a submissive self-sacrificing daughter and wife. Her labour ensures the survival and well-being of her family but robs her not only of her childhood but also of her right to be free of hunger, ignorance, disease and poverty.
A baby dies every 30 seconds from unsafe bottle feeding.
One and a half million babies die every year in poor/underdeveloped countries because they are not breastfed.