Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Things that should go without saying usually should be said

I found a website today about proudly formula feeding mothers. And why wouldn't there be a blog for that - there's so many damn militant lactivists sites.

It's hard to talk about infant feeding without becoming defensive - arguing that formula isn't so bad or that your promotion of breast feeding isn't meant to put anyone down.

Sooooo much wasted energy. 

Formula isn't bad. Mothers who feed their infants formula aren't bad.  It isn't poison.  Telling mothers it is poison is mean, wrong, and stupid.

All mothers, regardless of whether their kid is clamped to a boob or a bottle, should turn their energy toward the culture and PUBLIC POLICY* that guilts them for formula feeding but does nothing to build the community, public interest, or public policy support to enable sustained nursing relationships between moms and babies.  We're not enemies, that's our enemy.

The same site, above, posits that maybe in trying to promote breastfeeding and hide the potential problems from poor, easily dissuaded mothers, we're ignoring actual medical problems that could be remedied with accurate, timely diagnoses or additional research. Here's a long quotation pulled from an even longer post:

What if our initial failure to nurse altered my second stage of lactogenesis, so that my casein/lactose was out of whack? (This might explain why certain kids with MSPI can tolerate breastmilk, while others cannot, despite their moms cutting all potentially offensive foods out of their diets.) I can't help but wonder if we are not just "missing the diagnosis", but missing the mark altogether. Breastfeeding might be natural, but our lives are not. We have children later, are exposed to all sorts of chemicals and toxins, and spend years filling our bodies with synthetic hormones and altering our menstrual cycles. Many of us were only able to conceive with help from medical science. Is it really that impossible to believe that these factors might be increasing lactation problems, or creating new ones altogether?
I can't speak for everyone, obviously, but the idea that knowledge of potential difficulties could undermine my confidence or dissuade me from nursing is hogwash.  We are a nation of moms who over-research everything: maybe we've de-medicalized birth and nursing, but we've substituted the internet - Twitter, blogs - and parenting "theories" for the pediatrician of yore. We crave information. We seek guidance. We are equipped to handle much more complex ideas than ever before. The women I know who have tried and failed to breastfeed are a tough bunch; we can handle the truth.

This might mean allowing science and medicine back into our postpartum lives, just a little bit. It might mean admitting that breastfeeding may not work for everyone without a bit of intervention, rather than accusing women of "faking" lactation failure to assuage their guilt. That has to stop. Because when it comes down to it, a lack of knowledge, and a fear on the part of physicians and researchers of appearing "anti-breastfeeding", is a booby trap too. By acknowledging that these problems exist; by not being afraid to bring these types of studies to light - studies that can legitimately save lives, not in a theoretical sense - we can help more women to nurse successfully.

As deliciously tunnel-visioned lactivist Jack Newman maintains, the only women who feel guilty about formula feeding are those that wanted to breastfeed, and failed. Let's get to work making sure that they don't fail, shall we?
It's not any mother's "fault" (fault being a dumb word to use) when breastfeeding doesn't work out.  It's a collective failure on the part of culture, public policy, and medical professionals.  We should stop blaming and arguing and just move along already.

*I think policy is the missing link here for many truncated breastfeeding relationships.  We might not be able to change culture very quickly, but you know what can help change culture? Public policy.  So ladies, let's run for office more and vote more and win more. And if we don't feel like running, let's demand more from our husbands, brothers, fathers, and friends who hold office - better policy would eliminate many booby traps.

1 comment:

  1. Also - check out some great comments -
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