Me, you, and the boob.

So it’s time to hate on breastfeeding. I’m not going to include links because they annoy me but articles came out that have basically said this: Breastfeeding not all it cracked up to be, we put too much emphasis on it, no real benefits, and, according to the new formula commercial that everyone loves, breastfeeding moms are bitches who judge formula feeding moms.

I asked a friend (who formula fed) about the last part because I really don’t see that. I got quite the flip out in return. So because of that, you all get to read my thoughts if you care. If you don’t then move along, no worries. Having a blog allows me to have a little soapbox, right?

  1. Breast milk is the best food for babies. Every single reputable study has said and confirmed this. Breast is best is the tagline because it is true. That being said, it’s not the only option and it does not mean formula is bad. Best doesn’t mean the only thing that is good. Best means favored option. Now science recommends that a lot of things are best. It is best for my child to sleep only in his crib- He does not. It is best for him to sleep on his back until who knows how old- He did not. It is best for us to vaccinate on schedule- We do not. Best does not mean only way. Best does not mean best for everyone.
  2. I actually give zero fucks what other people feed their kids. If I cared, I can tell you what it would not be about formula. It would be about soda and candy and other sorts of things that I am not going to list because again, I actually don’t care.
  3. If I would not have had support breastfeeding I would not have been able to breastfeed. There were a lot of rough patches in our early breastfeeding days and I was lucky to have my midwife’s support. If we had been other places in the county, if Gus had been born in a hospital, I don’t know if it would have happened for us. If a woman wants to breastfeed I want to do everything I can to help her reach the goals she has for herself. If in the end she stops, that’s fine, but I want her to have support as long as she needs it.
  4. I think physiologically a high percent of women can breastfeed. I don’t know the numbers – I have a guess but won’t put that here. That does not mean all these women WANT to breastfeed from the start nor does it mean that all these women have the support they need or want to continue once start. All of that is fine. But again it to me is about making sure women have the support they need.

In my conversation with my friend she told me she didn’t know if I would support a friend who told me she didn’t plan to breastfeed. There is nothing I hate more than people telling me how I will react to something, especially when it is shitty. “Oh hey, I like you and we’re friends but I think you are kind of an awful person.” So for you, dear friends, I will make sure this is clear: I DO NOT CARE HOW YOU FEED YOU BABIES. But if you want to nurse them, I will do everything I can to help you be successful. If you don’t want to, cool and I’ll help in any way you need me.

In the midst of these attacks I’ve been a bit shocked because I honestly thought that most breastfeeding moms felt that way. I guess not.

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Posted on October 24, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 34 Comments.

  1. My brothers wife was bombarded by well meaning advice from both sides, but feeding a 9 lb baby is no picnic at first and of course they had to supplement. Even if they didn’t, there’s no reason why they should have been shamed by pro-breastmilk peeps. That’s just nobody’s business.

    It does probably harken back to the early days of formula when it was absolutely inadequate, but technology has advanced and now we are lucky to allow women to decide for themselves how to feed their kids. I think it’s the utmost in feminist parenting.

  2. 1. Yep. Feed your babies whatever you have determined is best or necessary for your baby and you. Just, you know, feed your baby!

    2. General breastfeeding thoughts not related to anything specifically from this post:

    a) A breastfeeding mother without nursing support is less likely to be successful in breastfeeding and more likely to need to use formula. A formula feeding parent without bottle-feeding support is likely to end up being successful at formula feeding regardless and not at all more likely to need to breastfeed.

    Support should be available for all mothers/parents. Babies are hard! Momming (parenting) is hard! But when it comes to feeding baby and sticking with the method that the mother wants to use to feed her baby, breastfeeding mothers absolutely need to have readily available messages of confidence, purpose, and resources for support.

    b) Support for mothers who want to nurse is not the same as bashing mothers who use formula. Pet peeve about so much of the crap online.

    3. Formula companies working to “end the mommy wars” – there is just not enough roll in my eyes to sufficiently react to that. (It made me cry a little, because talk about losing your babies will do that, but behind the wetness there was serious rolling)

    • I love that in the commercials no one ever says anything mean to breastfeeding moms. Nope, not a thing. I guess this last one did- someone thought it was weird she didn’t dress her child in gendered clothing. But beyond that we’re only the ones doing the judging.

  3. I’ll guess the number of women who physiologically can breastfeed for you, my guess would be really close to 100%. Historically, if you were unable to feed your infant, it would die. That would be the end of that faulty gene.

    • I think about that a lot, since we’ve ended up supplementing our baby with formula despite some serious effort on my wife’s part to increase her supply – I wonder, what would happen if we didn’t supplement?? I doubt our baby would die, but she probably wouldn’t thrive, either. I’m sure that most women are physiologically capable of breastfeeding, but I’ve heard a lot lately about other people with supply issues as well – which I guess means not making enough milk to meet today’s standards for infant growth. We’re pretty ambivalent about supplementing with formula, but I am also glad that it is an option so that we can keep our kid hovering in the 10th percentile.

  4. Well, this is timely. I just got into it with a breastfeeding mom on Facebook who was insisting that once you got past the first few weeks, it was all sunshine on roses. I truly think people just can’t step outside their own experience to acknowledge that their experiences are not universal. I mean, intellectually, they know it, but they can’t see how it colors their interactions with other people. And I think that’s true with all the hot button issues across the board–infertility/loss, the birth experience, feeding, sleeping, schooling, you name it, really. But then, I also think a lot of the perceiving in-fighting, judginess, etc. may well be media hype–pitting parents against each other to sell products, feel superior, etc. And it’s easy to do when the issues are so charged and sensitive. Parents who wanted to be in one camp and didn’t have the resources/child/circumstances to make it happen are more likely to be defensive about it and sensitive to what [they think] others are thinking about
    where they did end up. Or something like that.

    I’ve been reading Emily Flake’s book–I want to write a post recommending it–but I just got to the section of breastfeeding vs. formula feeding and I think what she had to say resonates fairly well with this post: “Breast is great, I’ll give it that. The nutritional profile is great. Free milk is great. But best? What’s best is having a happy, fed baby, and minding your own beeswax.” Mama Tried ladies and gentleman. Available on bookshelves now.
    I want to write an entry

    • “But then, I also think a lot of the perceiving in-fighting, judginess, etc. may well be media hype–pitting parents against each other to sell products, feel superior, etc. And it’s easy to do when the issues are so charged and sensitive. Parents who wanted to be in one camp and didn’t have the resources/child/circumstances to make it happen are more likely to be defensive about it and sensitive to what [they think] others are thinking about where they did end up.”

      Yes, this! I’ve been trying to articulate a similar thought and totally failing (because sleep deprivation is robbing me of my ability to put words together). I know that for my wife and I, the formula-hating mob is really just us, judging ourselves, because we thought that our baby would never be formula-fed. We over-explain why our baby is not exclusively breast-fed, and keep our bottles out of sight as if we’re secretly feeding her coca cola, but I’m pretty sure we’re the ones who care most what she eats.

    • I totally agree. It seems to me that the camp who cares formula vs. breast is not the camp who never cared to breast. I also think it’s hard for me to let go off my own shit- I worked hard for breastfeeding and still do so yeah, it stings when some opinion piece says “eh, doesn’t matter.”
      I think about the knowing all experiences are not universal, too. I can tell a friend here’s what it was like for me but try to stress I don’t know what it’s like for them. I totally see this not working on the book face though.
      I’m going to check out the book!

  5. I’m with you on this SO much. Did you know that “breast is best” line was created by a formula company? I honestly think so much of the supposed wars are manufactured by formula companies. Who, lesbereal, stand to profit substantially from all the bullshit made up animosity about feeding babies.
    I needed support in the beginning, and the stats about the number of moms who report not meeting THEIR breastfeeding goals clearly indicate that additional support is needed.
    Fed is always always best, but my fucking good, I’m sick of the trumped up crap being leveled at breastfeeding advocates.

    • It just seems to me that the only ones making a big deal about this is formula companies. I know my perspective is skewed as we breastfeed but I’m over hearing how evil we are. I do think breastfeeding women push other women but because they want to offer support to women who need it. I had people tell me to give formula before my milk even came in (which was quick) and I would have so regretted it. I get it’s a fine line between support and pushing but support is so so important.

      • Well, I think Medela (and companies like it) are also pretty invested in the game. But honestly, with the exception of the old-school pediatrician we saw when our regular one was on vacation, the professionals I’ve been most frustrated with have been the lactation consultants. They’re just so full of “one true path” advice, mist of which conflicts with advice given by other just-as-knowledgeable lactation consultants. I was so overwhelmed by the contradictory messages I was getting that I seriously considered throwing in the towel and blaming them for it. Perhaps if the experts don’t agree on how to properly feed the babies, there might be a chance that any given parent doesn’t hold the answer either? Maybe just maybe?

      • Yeah, I totally agree with that about lactation consultants. You have to find a good one and only go to that one. I do think medela has a ton to gain, yes, they just aren’t feeding into it the same way. Maybe they are behind the scenes, sure, but I’m not sure I buy it.

      • Yes, you’re probably right about Medela. I think I might just still be in shock about how not-free breastfeeding turned out to be. 😉

    • Oh also, my friend told me I was being offensive by believe breast is best (in the way I previously stated” because the phrase is triggering to her. Not quite sure I’m going to change my beliefs…

  6. My SIL never even attempted to nurse both her kids because the idea of it gave her the creeps. Ok by me, so long as you feed them. The only reason I made it a point to breastfeed for as long as I did (there were SO MANY days I wanted to just say fuck it) was because its free, and I’m not working.

  7. Charlotte is 3 months old today and I was sitting in the nursery earlier SOBBING as I gave her a bottle because she flat out refused my breast and there was so much screaming that I thought she might be in serious pain. I have an appointment with an LC on Monday because I still need support. Breastfeeding is HARD. Maybe not for everyone, but certainly for me. I wouldn’t wish my experience on anyone. If a friend were in my shoes I would tell her to break out that can of formula. I wish the breast vs bottle conversation could just stop. The best way to feed your baby is the way that gets your baby fed. And the way that mom is comfortable with. At this point, I’m actually jealous of moms who exclusively formula feed.

    • I think of you a lot. How hard you are working but also how smart you are. I hope that pressure aside when you think it’s time to stop you’ll stop. I mean, of course I hope things work well and you meet your goals but this shit is hard and why can’t we just leave it at that?

      • I go back to work in a few weeks and I have no idea how things are going to go then. I’m trying to mentally prepare myself for the end. Everyone in my life thinks I’m crazy for working this hard to breastfeed, so at least I have support if I do throw in the towel and go the formula route. I probably need to write a blog post that better explains why I’m making myself so crazy. I know there are a number of people out there that think I’m doing this because I’m anti-formula or something, but I swear that’s not it!

  8. The only person that gave me a hard time about not being able to breastfeed my child was me. Everyone else was supportive of both my desperate attempts to try to make my body produce 4 ounces of breast milk a day for 6 months and when I stopped. It’s unfortunate that other women have not received that support and instead faced judgement, but diminishing the value of breastfeeding and making false enemies of fellow moms is misguided. I don’t know if this “argument” will ever end- the media continues to fuel it; I don’t think very many people actually care or think about it that much. Now that I’m through the infant stage, I’m not as emotional about it, but I wouldn’t have been able to handle posts or articles like this a year ago without being angry, resentful, and end up sobbing uncontrollably. The postpartum hormones contributed a lot to it, but I was in a very dark and hateful place for a period of time.

    • ❤️❤️❤️ I can only imagine how you felt and am so glad you had good support. I often wonder how much of this struggle is internalized. I suppose it is different for everyone.

      • Thanks. I agree with your post though. The danger of these articles is that women might not get the support they need to breastfeed successfully if they are struggling. My pediatrician didn’t really explain the to my son’s tongue and lip tie to breastfeeding, so I didn’t realize if he couldn’t transfer the milk out of my boob my body wasn’t going to produce any milk. If more doctors were trained on how to better support breastfeeding moms or moms who are struggling by want to breastfeed or pump it would hopefully make things easier in those critical early days.

  9. So I thought again about my experience in light of this post and I realized that one huge factor for me was that my first breastfeeding experience was with my second child. That helped immensely, even though I kept wanting to compare myself to my wife, who probably could have been a poster child for the “breast is best” campaign, given the ease to which she and her nursling took to the process. Had I been the one feeding our first child, the problems I encountered (assuming I would have had the same difficulties I had with the one I did carry) I would have been way more stressed out. Not that my experience was stress-free of course (it was pretty stressful, as my “dairy queen” tag will attest) but having known via experience that they all (parents and babies alike) come out of it okay, I didn’t feel nearly so much “you’re doing it wrong” pressure or put stock in “you’re a failure if this doesn’t work out” messages. Don’t get me wrong–it was and is hard–but with the second kid, I feel way more cognizant of the fact that there are many valid outcomes for every situations and also have way less free time to stress about it. Kid’s gotta eat somehow and big sister also has needs, so let’s just get it done, by any means possible, y’know? With so many other demands on my energy and so many data points of what worked and didn’t work for Clem’s peers (most of whom are fairly well-adjusted kids), I do think it was easier for me to draw lines about how far I was willing to go to make my preferred course of action happen and be okay with a wider range of outcomes.

    I feel like I’m just recommending books willy-nilly here, but I read How to Have Your Second Child First before Clem was born and while not great, it provided a useful perspective going into my first-ever new parenting experience. I’d actually be curious to read it now that I’m my first-time postpartum parenting my second child.

  10. I’m not even sure how I made all of those typos. Too many to correct lol.

  11. I am about to write something fairly similar to this. Nail on the head.
    I am 31 weeks pregnant. We will be formula feeding from day one. There’s lots of reasons why, but the main one being that I just don’t want to breastfeed. I have a lot of trauma from a sexual assault and I know it would be detrimental to my mental health.
    What amazes me is the amount of people who say “couldn’t you just try…” No. No I can’t. Why? Because I have to look after me as well. “Couldn’t you pump..?” Which is usually said by women who have never pumped and don’t realise how much of an undertaking it is. “But breast is best…” Yes. As you quite rightly said. Breast IS best. Breast is what nature intended. That’s what boobs are there for, after all. However, formula won’t harm my baby. Formula won’t decrease their chance of being healthy. Formula is pretty damn good actually.
    Also, living in the country is “best” and eating all organic is “best” and being a good weight for your height is “best”. There’s lots of things that are “best” that we don’t necessarily adhere to, like you rightly said.
    I’m sick to death of the judgement either way. I don’t understand why people think it’s their business how other mums feed their children. I’m tired of “mummy wars” over everything from breastfeeding to sleeping to circumcision and whether you pick them up when they cry.
    I don’t understand why we can’t just support one another. There are mums out there who DONT feed their children. Let’s hate on them.
    At the end of the day I believe that every mum, regardless of the decisions they make, is doing their best. And that should be applauded. We should all support one another without prejudice because honestly, whether another mum breast feeds or not really doesn’t affect my life, same as my choices don’t affect their life.

  12. I never understood how hard breastfeeding can be, no matter how much people said it was; I just couldn’t fathom the complexities. It looks easy!

    I planned to breastfeed from the start, but we had issues and I ended up using formula for about a month while desperately pumping and barely getting anything. I never thought I’d catch up to fully breastfeed, and even our pediatrician didn’t expect it to happen. I felt like a failure, and I can’t pinpoint exactly why I felt that way, but mostly I was just amazed at how easily our situation changed in spite of our plans. At the same time I also kind of liked formula, because I could have a glass of wine and not worry about breastfeeding. But it was a MASSIVE pain in the ass to prepare a bottle, feed the baby, AND pump. And I was nervous about obviously preparing formula in public, because I thought especially in a place like Eugene, somebody would give me a hard time for not breastfeeding. But no one ever did.

    I think there are a lot of people who are REALLY into breast is best, just like there are vegans and people obsessed with organic and so forth. There’s a big purity cult associated with food, and breastfeeding is part of that. But I think the majority of people are moderate and not judgey. It just doesn’t seem like it in the media.

    • That being said, my mom was “very worried” for me not breastfeeding. I don’t know if there’s a generational aspect to the issue or if judgey moms are just judgey moms.

  13. Hi! I stumbled over here from the NW forum (patienceisavirtue).

    I just thought I would tell you that I binge read your blog over the last few weeks! I love everything about it and seriously cannot wait for more posts.

    (Ps…I Hope that didn’t come off as creepy. Promise I’m not a creep.)

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