Boycotting WIC

I’ve decided I am boycotting WIC (Women Infants and Children). For those who do not know, WIC is a government program that gives vouchers for specific foods to low income pregnant women, breastfeeding women, babies, and children.

As you know, I am poor. I have been counting the days until Curtis graduates and I’m not poor anymore (December! Yay!), but until then I need a way to feed my family. Therefore, we are on food stamps and WIC. As of right today, I’ve decided to boycott the latter. Here are my reasons.

1. The number one reason I’ve decides to boycott WIC is concerning my last visits. During my consultation, they weighed and measured Peanut. She is right in the middle on all of the scales of percentiles–which she has been since day one–so all is good. After going through all this info, the WIC employee says “Wow, she’s doing so well for being only breastfed.”

Are you kidding me?!? WIC, a program that claims to support breastfeeding and has even recently decided to give more foods to breastfeeding moms and babies (for problems with that, see Reason 2) is telling me my daughter is doing well for being exclusively breastfed? As if they expect her to be deficient?

Of course, the woman who was obviously embarrassed and realized she misspoke immediately retracted the statement by saying something along the lines of Imeanyouneverknowwithbreastfedbabiesbecauseyoucan’ttellhowmuchthey’regettingandthemommighthavealowsupply. But the damage was done (and don’t even get me started on the problem with the second statement.)

2. WIC has decided to give more foods to moms and babies who breastfeed. Yay! They’ve also decided to give baby food to babies instead of just rice cereal. Yay (for other moms who aren’t doing baby-led weaning)! So get this brilliant idea, babies who are breastfed only not only get fruit and vegetable baby food (like formula fed babies do), they get meat baby food too. Yay?

They tried to play it off as this awesome benefit for my baby since she’s breastfed, but I saw right through it. You think my baby is iron deficient. Yes, this happens RARELY to breastfed babies. Yes, formula fed babies need not worry because their yummy iron-fortified formula. But seriously?

Just because I’m breastfeeding means my baby is iron deficient. Just like it means my baby is vitamin C deficient. Gah! Anger noises!!! Ayubtezhfegudvmi!!!!!!!!!1

3. Now we move on to the lactivist reason. Before my recent visit, I had been feeling iffy about staying on WIC out of principle. WIC gives free formula to low income moms + breastfeeding is hard at first = why not just give up and formula feed? I mean, all of those ads say that so-and-so’s formula is the closest to breast milk, implying it’s just as good as breast milk. GAH MORE ANGRY NOISES!!!!

I understand that women were feeding their babies powdered milk and that’s why WIC was created, but if it’s FREE isn’t that a bit too easy? Charge something. Even if it’s one dollar per can, at least it won’t be free. Or as _breastfeeding said on Twitter, charge the same price as powdered milk.

4. Last, but not least, going into WIC makes me feel sad. Every time I go in and see all of those babies being formula fed (I’m always the only breastfeeding mom) I get heavy in my chest. You know that feeling when you are about to cry? I feel so sad for all of those babies who will have more problems–both emotionally and physically–through childhood and into adulthood than my Peanut. I wish I could change things for them. It really puts an unneeded stress on me.

I don’t think this is the right option for everyone. I have means of providing this food for my family without WIC (through budgeting, family help, and food stamps). Though WIC would definitely help my situation, I am willing to go through a little more hardship to stand up for something I believe in. I plan on going in and returning my packet and explaining why I don’t want to receive their benefits anymore. I’ll let you know how that goes.

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19 thoughts on “Boycotting WIC

  1. Good for you! I was in a similar situation and also chose not to use WIC, we are on Medical and they really try and push WIC which would be very helpful for us but it never felt right when they kept trying to sell me with the free formula talk after I told them repeatedly that I was bfing exclusively! (btw Im not breastfeeding anymore, my daughter weaned at 15 months.) Great post Lactating girl!

    • Though they try to be pro-breastfeeding, WIC deals mostly with formula feeding moms. Since this is what they’re used to, they cater towards them. The benefits that they are giving to breastfeeding moms and babies obviously isn’t enough, so they need to give penalties (in the form of charging a small amount) to formula feeding moms. As long as the majority of the families in the program are formula feeding, they can not truly be breastfeeding friendly.

  2. Sorry, but don’t they give out powdered milk for free on WIC? I know this isn’t the point, but why would they charge for formula? WIC is a program designed to provide mothers and children with adequate nutrition supplement. I know it isn’t perfect, but is any government program? They reward those who do breastfeed: why boycott it? Why not just take the free food that’s offered?

    • They don’t give powdered milk at WIC (they do give cows milk to mothers and children), they give formula to babies. Mothers used to give their babies powdered milk instead of formula because of cost and that’s why WIC was started. Formula lacks many nutrients breast milk has, does not provide immunities, etc. and many babies die each year because they are formula fed instead of breastfed. I do not believe that formula is “adequate nutritional supplement.” They should charge for formula so that is isn’t free, therefore mothers will be more inclined to breastfeed.

      They do reward those who breastfeed, but in a very backhanded way. I am boycotting because of the reasons I listed above. I feel strongly enough about this subject that I do not want to take their food. I also do not buy products that I know are manufactured by children in third world countries. It’s out of principle.

      • Some of the things you say make sense. I’m not sure if California WIC is different from the state you’re in but we do have an option to use our Milk checks for powdered milk. The office I go to encourages breastfeeding so much that they supply us with a free brand new breast pump as our due date approaches. They handed out a lot of material about how important breast milk is for a baby and even business cards with our state law that indicates we have the right to take time from work to pump milk.

        I agree breast milk is far superior to formula. I hope your state comes to terms with encouraging the right thing to do.

  3. Sorry for your bad experience, but I’m on WIC also & had a completely different experience! They were really encouraging when I was pregnant & talking about breast feeding. And the rep at the hospital was just overjoyed when I told her I planned on breast feeding exclusively.
    While breast feeding is definitely more beneficial for mom & baby, there’s no need to punish mothers who use formula. Some women CAN’T nurse for many different reasons and it’s not fair to punish them for that. And if there’s some evidence that breastfed infants have lower iron than babies who get iron-fortified formula, I don’t see the problem with offering meat. You don’t have to give it to your baby if he/she doesn’t need it, but some babies do. My baby probably will because my iron is always lower than expected even though I take supplements.

    • The reason that I think they should charge for formula (a very, very small amount, just so that the word FREE isn’t involved) is that most moms CAN breastfeed and give up because formula seems so easy.

      As for the iron thing, I just don’t like being treated like I’m deficient. Breast milk has everything my baby needs and it feels insulting that they’re telling me that mine doesn’t… if that makes any sense.

  4. My qualm with offering meat is that I am not sure I want my infant to be a carnivore.
    That said, as an aenemic, I wouldn’t be shocked if my child weren’t getting as iron-ied as I’d like.
    I do disagree about charging a dollar a can for formula. There have been times in the last year where I’d have had to beg for the dollar for the formula were I formula feeding, and I think that since there is real destitution out there, it would put babies at greater risk. I think they should offer the equivalent or better for nursing moms. Offer a package worth as much as the formula so that it makes a huge difference as opposed to a small one, and quit trying to give us all mercury poisoning with the damn tuna already.
    I am also frequently baffled that wic gives nursing moms peanut butter. Seriously. New zealand and the uk recommend avoiding pb when nursing as the protiens do pass into the milk. So why do we push it on nursaing moms here? Just sayin.

    • Nursing moms get more food now, but I don’t think many moms are going to think whole grain bread and vegetables are a huge benefit. Miracle Pending said that the California WIC gives breastpumps to new moms. That would definitely be a good benefit.

  5. I see what you’re saying, but leaving WIC won’t help the situation. By going there and talking to them about breastfeeding or simply doing it when the rest of the crowd isn’t is a way to teach.

    And about the meat, I don’t see that. I understand what you’re saying, but honestly it’s just jarred meat. You don’t have to buy it.

    About the formula bit, my son it formula fed. I have a health condition that severely affects my milk supply. No amount of meds, pumping, supplements would help. My son is not unhealthy and not dying. There are parents out there that need it and if we all don’t know the reason why the parents formula feed then we shouldn’t judge.

    • I didn’t just leave, I wrote them a letter explaining why I no longer want to be a part of the program and I wrote this blog to get the word out.

      As for the meat, yes, it is just jarred meat, but I feel that it is saying that mother’s milk is not nutritionally whole, which it is. I know I don’t have to buy it, but that isn’t really helping the situation, now is it?

      I understand that some moms can not breastfeed, but back before formula was created moms would help each other by providing breastmilk for moms who can not breastfeed. Ideally, there would be milk banks for moms who can not breastfeed and there would be no need for formula. I’m not saying that your child is in some way deficient or can not be smart. I don’t feel that I judged anyone.

  6. Pingback: Top 5 Most Viewed Posts of 2009 « The Adventures of Lactating Girl

    • Applause for taking the time to let them know why you left, as opposed to just leaving without explanation! The “doing so well for being exclusively breastfed” comment would have irritated me to no end as well. I agree that the recent changes in the food packages have drawbacks as well as benefits. Personally, I donated most of the baby food and cereal, as I made homemade baby food and cereal for my third baby (cheaper and healthier) although I did find that my 3 year old liked the applesauce in the small containers — for her, it made a nice snack. I will say that I’ve been somewhat impressed with my WIC office this go-around. They provided me with a new double electric pump free of charge when I was ready to go back to work (on the down side, no one there told me they would do this and I’ve never seen it advertised… I asked after hearing that WIC offices in other locations did this and it turned out that mine did too. It would be great if this were more widely known about.) The nutritionists are supportive, and even encourage BFing beyond the first year (too bad they don’t extend the BF package past the first year.

      And this: At my last appointment, on Dec 28th, I was supposed to recertify baby #3 as a 1 year old, although he won’t actually be 1 until January 5th. I FULLY expected to leave with checks for him and for my 3 year old, and none for me, since the breastfeeding packages end at one year. However, the WIC counselor looked at the dates, asked me if I was still fully (as in not using formula)breastfeeding. When I yes, she proceeded to make sure that I got one more month of checks, since I was technically still BFing an under one year old. And it wasn’t easy, either — the computer didn’t want to issue breastfeeding checks to the mother of a child certified as a one year old,(even though the birthday is a few days away) nor did it want to issue one year old checks to the child of a fully breastfeeding mother — his one year old checks and my breastfeeding checks were just not compatible. She wound up getting a nutritionist and a supervisor in there with a big book of codes, and tried tons of them before something finally worked. It took quite awhile, and she kept insisting “she’s still nursing, the baby is not yet one, and she is entitled to these checks.” She really made an extra effort on my behalf, and it was totally on her own initiative… I never asked, because, as I said, I’d fully expected not to receive any more once he was certified as a one year old.

      My point, I guess, is that there are some great WIC workers out there, and there are some good policies too. There are also things that need changing, and I’m glad to know there are others out there who recognize that and are willing to say something — I think WIC, as an agency, may be open to positive suggestions for change. Keep up the good work.

      • I agree that lots (if not most) WIC offices are better than mine. I hope that they take my complaint seriously and change.

  7. WIC is headed by the USDA, not the Health Department. Their goal is to boost sales, especially of MILK based products. Formula is milk based and makes them money, your breast milk makes them no money.

    It is a neverending cycle there. They have no real motivation to make sure babies breastfeed- it’s all lip service.

  8. I agree with you that the WIC counselers comment was innapropriate, but perhaps she deals frequently with mothers who have low supply or were having other breastfeeding issues and that is why she said that? Regardless, that was a pretty inappropriate thing to say and could undermine a woman’s confidence in breastfeeding if she isn’t very informed.

    But I really have to disagree with you on the meat baby food supplement somehow being insulting to breastfeeding mothers. Mothers of lower socioeconomic levels are more likely to have low iron and to give birth prematurely, and if they are breastfeeding this puts their babies at risk of having low iron. WIC exists to prevent vitamin and mineral dificencies in American children, ergo, they are going to supplement with the kind of foods that help achieve this. Also, babies take to solids at different rates and even if a mother’s milk has plenty of iron if the baby is eating lots of solids they might still become iron deficient.

    If they didn’t supply meat vouchers maybe your baby would be fine, but others wouldn’t. Iron deficiency is very serious in babies and has lots ramifications, so it’s best to err on the side of caution. If you don’t feel your baby needs pureed meat then don’t give it to her, I don’t give my son the juice we get on WIC because I think it’s just sugar water and he gets plenty of vitamin C from his diet, but other kids might not and it is an easy way to get Vit. C into them so I see why WIC supplies it.

    Also, I just wanted to say your constant jabs at FF moms and your patronizing sympathy are very petty and unjustified. Just as you don’t appreciate WIC thinking your baby is iron deficient just because you breastfeed and you are low income, I don’t appreciate you thinking all FF babies will have significant emotional and physical problems lasting into adulthood, an assertion no research supports. Or that I am no longer breastfeeding because Enfamil go to me and I am so stupid as to believe everything I read on a can. Just because something is statistically true for the whole population doesn’t mean it always applies to a certain individual. I think that the majority of the FF babies at your WIC office are doing just fine and don’t need to be pitied.

    I am happy your child is growing on breastmilk but I would count yourself lucky because the same is not true for everyone, even if they do breastfeed on demand and do everything right. I know that breastfeeding is hard for everyone but for some it is so hard as to be impossible. Supplemental feeding has existed in some form since ancient times.Have you ever heard of pap? That is what was given to babies before the invention of formula. Your idea that everyone who isn’t able to nurse should be fed donor milk is completely unworkable. First of all, who is to decide who tried “hard enough” to breastfeed and gets donor milk? Second of all, most moms struggle to keep up with their own kid’s supply, never mind pumping for another child. How many ounces have you personally donated? I am willing to bet not many.

    By the way, formula is not free on WIC. You get a certain amount of vouchers for it but it is meant to be a supplement for the formula you buy yourself, so it is still much more expensive than using powdered milk. I gather from your post that you don’t feel WIC has rewarded you enough for breastfeeding but WIC isn’t here to make you feel better about breastfeeding or to punish and reward. It is here to fill a need that exists in the population and would will continue to exists even if WIC decides to try to punish women into breastfeeding.

    • I understand your point regarding the fact that I could just not give Peanut the pureed meat (or really any of the pureed foods for that matter). I could choose to just not use the vouchers that they give me, but that feels like I’m wasting the vouchers that another mom could be getting if I weren’t letting mine go to waste.

      I never said that you formula feed because Enfamil “got to you”, I say that formula companies do their best to make moms feel that formula is the same as breast milk. The research does support that breast milk is better than formula in every way, shape, and form. I would also like to say that your comment about “most moms struggle to keep up with their own kid’s supply” is entirely untrue. A great majority of women do not have supply issues and if they do, it’s likely because of other reasons such as poor latch. No, I have not donated an ounce of breast milk. There is no breast milk bank in my state and it costs a small fortune to send it to other states. If we had a system that was meant for all babies to eat breast milk, there would be a bank closer to me and therefore I would donate breast milk.

      Thank you for educating me on the policies of formula vouchers and WIC. I misunderstood how that part of the program works. I also do not think that WIC should “punish” moms that formula feed, but they certainly could encourage breastfeeding more.

  9. Hey, it just sounds like you have a poor WIC office. They’re not all like that. WIC supports bfing by giving more benefits (food) to bfing moms. WIC also supplies breast pumps. WIC also varies state by state (yes, there are overriding federal rules) so maybe your state could improve. Talk to them. They should be willing to listen and improve.
    Also, babies have a great iron supply until about 6mos which is when most start solids and get iron that way. You can try to add iron drops if you’re concerned. No need for formula.

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