Your Voice

May 1, 2005

Breast is best-but for every mother? Although I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics's new policy on breastfeeding ("Breast is best-you better believe it!" Updates, March 2005), I think it is also important to support mothers who formula-feed their babies, which a substantial number do for medical or personal reasons. Many people in the medical community equate nursing with being a "good mother" and formula feeding with being a "bad mother." As pediatricians, we need to provide guidance and nonjudgmental counseling to all of our mothers about their choices. We need to remember that nursing may not be the best way to feed every baby.

Breast is best-but for every mother? Although I agree with the American Academy of Pediatrics's new policy on breastfeeding ("Breast is best-you better believe it!" Updates, March 2005), I think it is also important to support mothers who formula-feed their babies, which a substantial number do for medical or personal reasons. Many people in the medical community equate nursing with being a "good mother" and formula feeding with being a "bad mother." As pediatricians, we need to provide guidance and nonjudgmental counseling to all of our mothers about their choices. We need to remember that nursing may not be the best way to feed every baby.

Mark H. Stein, MD Indianapolis, Ind.

Crime, caution, and the price that's paid This is a complaint. On behalf of American children, on my own behalf, and for others. I register it here in response to "You have a role in preventing child abduction" (March 2005), because of the article's personal implications for you and me.

So, for many years, it has been part of my personality to smile at children who I do not know, talk to them, kitchy-koo the tiny ones-the loving things that loving adults do with children.

But-and that's a big but-there's another part to this. With the increase in child abuse and the activities of child molesters and predators, child-rearing practices have changed. Today, parents rightly warn their children about talking to strangers. You know the drill. They do it because the safety of the child is utmost, and they are right. But because of this, today's children are deprived of this special attention: the affectionate smile and talk of child-loving adults-yes, strangers. And, to a certain extent, I and many other adults are deprived of the opportunity to make these kids smile or laugh-with both of us enjoying it immensely. Playing with a child is, after all, one of life's great pleasures.

An example: I was in a hotel when I spotted a cute 3- or 4-year-old sitting at the bottom of the stairs leading to a restaurant. As I passed, and without thinking about it, I did one of my little "flirty" things (like, "That's a beautiful dress" or "Who combed your hair so nicely?"). She smiled back and gave me some sort of reply. End of story, except that as I walked away, I heard the mother say fiercely (and correctly) to her, "How many times have I told you not to talk to strangers?" Another lovely encounter destroyed. Oh, what that child will miss. Oh, what I will miss (or someone else-maybe you).

Unfortunately, both children and loving adults are losing out on this kind of personal interaction-interactions that send a message that the world is really a good place.

What to do? Well, I'm not going to stop. I will continue to smile and talk to children. With added caution: I will be a little less physical than I would otherwise want to be (not chucking the chin or patting the head) until I see what kind of reaction I get. And I will stop immediately if I see any disapproval on the part of the parent.

The added caution won't stop me from enjoying myself, but at the same time I'll feel just a little sad-sad for the children and sad for myself.

Arnold Melnick, DOAventura, Fla.

This letter was adapted by Dr. Melnick from an essay he wrote that was published in the fall 2004 issue of PULSE, the newsletter of the American College of Osteopathic Pediatricians.