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There’s No Such Thing as Free Breastmilk

Abigail Blanco at the American Institute for Economic Research

Photo by Lucy Wolski / Unsplash

oing to the grocery store over the past year has been an experience—and not a pleasant one. From inflation to supply-chain shortages that ensure my toddler will have a meltdown because I can’t find the “right” animal crackers, it’s a trip I dread every week.

But there’s been one aisle I’ve blissfully been able to avoid—the baby formula aisle.

Between supply-chain issues and recalls, baby formula is not only expensive, but also difficult to find. Out of curiosity, I’ve checked for the formula my kids used and have never seen it on the shelves. For parents who use formula exclusively or to supplement breastmilk, the prospect of not being able to find it is terrifying.

The shortage isn’t trivial. In the hardest hit states, out-of-stock rates have reached more than 50 percent. Babies have been hospitalized.

Some responses to the shortage illustrate how diverse people using social networks can come together to solve complex problems. I’ve seen several online mom sites where women post pictures of store inventories from Wal-Mart to Kroger to small drug stores. I’ve seen women offer to share with strangers. At a time when we’ve all been separated by politics and the pandemic, it made me feel like maybe, just maybe, humanity will be okay.

But some people are using the shortage to pressure women into “free” breastfeeding. There have always been such zealots. But the recent shortage has brought them out in droves. Even though I breastfed my children exclusively for six months each, this pressure makes me angry.

Claims that breastfeeding is free are awash in ignorance, the product of pernicious “lactivism.” They illustrate a critical failure to understand basic economics.

Read the rest at The American Institute for Economic Research