In the interest of being transparent, 1,000 Days is posting publicly the message our Executive Director, Lucy Sullivan, sent today to the co-founder of the Fed Is Best Foundation. 1,000 Days has joined over 40 other organizations to request a meeting with the co-founders of the Fed Is Best Foundation. Our hope is to engage in a constructive dialogue to discuss the concerns they have raised with respect to our nation’s infant feeding recommendations and associated health care practices.
Dear Dr. del Castillo-Hegyi,
Thank you for your message.
In the spirit of moving forward with a constructive dialogue, you have my apologies for the social media post that caused you offense. There is no benefit to divisive messages. To clarify, the comments I made were in response to this post shared by your organization, the Fed Is Best Foundation, on Facebook on February 15th, promoting the use of infant formula in Africa:
As I mentioned in my response to your organization’s post (captured in the screenshots that you sent me in your email and pasted here again), promoting the use of infant formula in developing countries where clean water, good sanitation and hygiene practices are often absent is deeply irresponsible.
In fact, the aggressive promotion of infant formula in sub-Saharan Africa and other impoverished parts of the world in the 1970’s led to a rise in infant deaths and horrific cases of malnutrition. This became an international scandal when the UK charity War on Want published their ground-breaking report “The Baby Killer” in 1974 which detailed how “more and more Third World mothers are turning to artificial foods during the first few months of their babies’ lives. In the squalor and poverty of the new cities of Africa, Asia and Latin America the decision is often fatal.”
The Baby Killer goes on to note that a significant part of companies’ efforts to promote the use of infant formula is the “confidence trick” which emphasizes “when a mother’s milk is not enough, our product will help to make up the difference”. The report asks: “In a Third World context, is that approach really ethical?”
It is the same question I would ask today.
While opposing the aggressive and unethical promotion of breastmilk substitutes, 1,000 Days supports the safe and appropriate use of infant formula when necessary in accordance with the World Health Organization’s infant feeding recommendation. Moreover, 1,000 Days believes that women have the right to decide how to feed their children, to full and accurate information and to the conditions that will enable them to carry out their decisions—rights that are not yet fully realized in many places throughout the world.
I understand if you do not wish to meet with me or 1,000 Days because of what I wrote in response to the aforementioned post. But please do not let that be the reason you decline the invitation to meet with the 43 other organizations that represent parents, physicians, health professionals and volunteers working tirelessly to help families give kids the strongest start to life and that signed the letter sent to you seeking a constructive dialogue with the Fed Is Best Foundation. In no way does 1,000 Days speak for these organizations. 1,000 Days does however stand together with these groups in genuinely wanting to explore if there is common ground with the Fed Is Best Foundation when it comes to providing families with accurate and unbiased information on infant feeding.
Since the letter was sent to you last week, there have been several new requests from other organizations wanting to sign-on to the letter inviting you to discuss your concerns. An updated letter reflecting the additional signatories will be sent to you in the coming week.
Finally, in the interest of transparency, I plan to make my apology to you public by sharing the content of this message on our website. I trust that you will not object to this as you indicated that you wanted a public apology.