During the week a humanitarian airlift took place to deliver vital food to a desperate group of people. No, I am not talking about Christian Aid doing their great work in parts of Africa or even Oxfam delivering aid to Ukrainians fleeing war. I am talking about 35 tonnes of infant formula being delivered to the United States from Europe. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/av/world-us-canada-61544313
A plane carrying baby formula arrived in the United States from Europe to help ease a critical shortage caused by the closing of a factory that produced at least 40 per cent of America’s formula. Safety and other supply chain issues were cited as the reason. This has caused a crisis for some mothers in the US.
I have been blessed to have been able to breastfeed all of my children including my 9-month-old, but I can only imagine the panic and the nightmare that mothers in the United States must face knowing that they rely on formula milk yet cannot find it. The most primal and fundamental role a mother has is feeding her child. The fact that so many mothers in the Unites States are now struggling to do this should give us all pause for thought.
It greatly saddens me that this attack on mothers and their children has occurred in the month of May, the month dedicated to Our Lady. “During this month Christians, both in church and in the privacy of the home, offer up to Mary from their hearts an especially fervent and loving homage of prayer and veneration. In this month, too, the benefits of God’s mercy come down to us from her throne in greater abundance.” (Paul VI: Encyclical on the Month of May, no. 1). Our Lady knows the suffering a mother must endure, and this is a great suffering occurring in the richest country on earth.
In Catholic tradition, mothers have been honoured and held in high esteem, to such an extent that it attracted criticism as an underhand way of “trapping mothers in the home”. This is clearly not the intention of Catholic tradition. The intention was to recognised the vital role mothers have in caring, teaching and raising the next generation of Christians and citizens.
Saint John Paul II once said, “Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the new-born child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.”
I believe that this recognition of the vital role of mothers has been greatly undermined in the modern world, to such an extent that mothers in the Unites States are now driving around looking for formula to feed their child. Such a thing would never have come to pass in a country of such abundance if mothers were truly cherished.
If mothers were supported then the US would not have such a low long-term breastfeeding rate which would mean fewer mums are reliant on formula milk. A mother needs support if she is to breastfeed her infant. Mothers at the very least need maternity leave so she can establish feeding with the new child, something which does not exist in America. Mothers also need the help and care of her husband, family and friends, but in today’s atomised world, where adult children often move away from their immediate family, these support networks no longer exist.
For those mothers who cannot breastfed their children for whatever reason, the need for love, care and support is just as strong. First, governments should not allow a situation to arise where mothers are struggling to find formula to their little ones. As always, it is those with the least who will suffer the most with some desperate mothers watering down formula or making their own, both of which can be very dangerous.
This shortage of formula milk demonstrates once again how society can do better when it comes to supporting mothers and infants. We must continue to pray that in the short term this shortage ends and in the long term governments recognise that without mothers and their children, there is no future.
Laura Perrins is co-founder and co-editor of The Conservative Woman
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