Gone too far?

Those who think that society has “gone too far” in supporting breastfeeding, that mothers who formula feed are demonised and breastfeeding mothers aren’t:

Show me the women who are losing their jobs for formula feeding.

Show me the women who are being kicked out of restaurants, swimming pools, gyms, childcare centres, and airplanes for formula feeding.

Show me the immigrant women whose babies are removed because, among other things, they planned to formula feed.

Show me the women who have been ordered to cease or interrupt formula feeding by family courts.

Show me the women who have been inappropriately ordered to stop formula feeding by doctors and child health care nurses because of concerns that the formula feeding is causing the baby to be too big, too small, too loud, too anything. Show me the Child Protection reports that ensue when mothers are sceptical and non-compliant with this uninformed “advice”.

Show me the people who, on seeing a bottle pulled out in a public place, will wrinkle their nose and say in disgust, “Are you going to do that here?”

Show me the people who won’t allow infant formula in an office fridge because it could be carrying disease.

Show me the people who insist that bottles of infant formula should be covered with a brown paper bag so as not to gross bystanders out.

Show me the people who insist that all bottle feeding should be covered with a blanket, you filthy sluts.

Show me the people who say that women who choose to bottle feed should just stay home until their child is drinking from a cup. They made their bed, so they should lie in it.

Show me the people who say that formula feeding shouldn’t be allowed in public because they don’t have time to explain such adult concepts to their children.

Show me the people who won’t allow formula feeding in an area because the area is designated “family friendly”.

Show me the women who have had a gun pointed at them for not stopping a bottle feed in a public building in which they’re entitled to bottle feed.

Show me the women who have been accused of formula feeding because they’re paedophiles.

Show me the mainstream media forums in which it’s just fine to call women “filthy”, “perverted”, “gross”, and “cow-like” because they formula feed.

Show me the women who have been followed back to their workplace and questioned by police for preparing a bottle of formula in a parenting room designated for that purpose.

Show me the shocked gasps and silences when a woman has a glass of wine, a second latte, or a painkiller while bottle feeding.

Show me the documentaries on “Extreme Formula Feeding”, followed by an outpouring of public outrage about how those kids will be psychologically and sexually fucked up for life.

Show me the explosion in unethical corporate advertising lies promoting non-formula-feeding on an unprecented scale. Show me the massive outpourings of free corporate-supplied breastfeeding support to developing countries and disaster zones. Show me the tens of millions of dollars donated by individuals and companies to urgently get breastfeeding support to women and children in need. Show me the giant hollow breasts used as money collection devices for children in need.

Show me the daycare centres who charge fifty dollars more per week for formula fed babies.

Show me all these things, and then we’ll talk.



Categories: health

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33 replies

  1. I am so glad you have said this. It needed to be said. I’ve shied away from saying it myself for the usual “omg she’s hating on formula feeding mums” type stuff. Which I realise is not so very brave. It’s true though.
    My personal circumstances at the moment are such that I’ve been really nervous about “extended” / full term breastfeeding in case it’s one of a bunch of slanders used against me in court by my angry ex. It makes me upset.
    Because it does happen.
    And then you hear formula feeding mothers are so discriminated against and made to feel so guilty and it’s like, you know what, possibly some are, and that *isn’t* right, no, of course it isn’t. But no one’s giving them this kinda shit either.

  2. *hooting and hollering*

    Fantastic.

  3. This is kinda an “add-your-own” post, too. I keep thinking of new ones to add.
    Bear in mind when doing so that some mothers are demonised for formula feeding or for bottle feeding by certain people – we all know that no matter what a mother does, she will be shamed for it by someone. This post is intended to combat the “Gone Too Far” notion; the folks who think that breastfeeding is 100% welcomed and supported institutionally and individually across-the-board a bit too much these days.
    [addit: or, what ruthmoss said]

  4. Scary stuff.
    I’d like to add:
    Show me the people who insist all public bottle feeding take place in public toilets.
    Show me the products marketed to assist ‘discrete bottle feeding’.
    (I went to the baby expo the other day and on more than once I found myself ending the conversation with “that’s okay, I’m not all that worried about discreetness”)

  5. Show me the formula-feeding mothers whose photographs have been removed from social networking sites.
    Show me the formula feeding mothers whose flickr photographs are regularly added as favourites by pr0nographers, or who have to make those photographs private / friends & family only.
    Show me the husbands of formula feeding mothers who tell her to stop formula feeding because they’ve been drilled into thinking her bottles are his property.

  6. I can’t think of a pithy way of saying this, but you know that people don’t really care about breastfeeding when they push new mothers out of maternity wards, without support, within a day or two of birth, well before breastfeeding is established.
    BTW: I’ve done both – breastfed my eldest for a year, bottle fed my twins (because of reasons). It was lose lose. No matter what I did, it was wrong. Sigh.

  7. Yes! Yes! Something to read that makes me punch the air with delight!

  8. I really compare this ‘well formula feeders face oppression too!!’ response to the cries of ‘reverse racism’ when talking about how ppl face racism in, say, the workplace. Yes, SOME white ppl may be discriminated against by SOME ppl of colour, but POC lack the system & institutional power to be capable of actual racism (using a shorthand def of racism as: prejudice + systemic/institutional/societal power.)
    Yes, SOME women who feed their babies w formula get comments/looks/etc, and that sucks, and is not right. But they do not face SYSTEMIC oppression for their feeding choice, and that makes all the difference.

  9. Deborah, I guess you could say something like this, if you wanted it in the style of the post:

    Show me the women whose requests for best-practice use of formula advice are met reluctantly and from whom all available medical and community formula knowledge is totally withdrawn in the middle of the process of establishing feeding of a newborn.

  10. I think really the bottom line of it all is BREASTs make MILK for a reason! We don’t control it and if we’re lucky it happens all by it’s self-amazing! It’s sad because this is one of those things that shouldn’t be controversial, it’s just life. I have no problem with formula or the women who chose to use it…how lucky are we to live in a time in which we have a choice. If woman band together and support each other no matter what the choice the world would be a much happier place. We are our own worst enemies. Just think if we all stood together…the things we could do!

  11. Ovation.

  12. Yes, it really hits home when the point is made in this way. Nice work, lauredhel.

  13. (here via: wannabehippie.com)
    Amen courtneyeckard!
    I was just eating lunch with a friend and our two nearly 6 week old boys. We were eating outside in our pretty liberal community. Her boy started to fuss and I said, “Isn’t it interesting that if you popped out a boob right now to feed him someone would undoubtedly say something and if I pulled out my bottle (of expressed breastmilk) to feed my little guy (still can’t latch, 4 lactation consultations later) someone else would feel they should say something. We can’t win.”
    I want to breastfeed, I really do. And in fact, we do what I call “nursing for fun”, but I know he isn’t getting what he needs, so I also pump and bottle feed. I do think things have gone too far when a woman is made to feel bad for her choices by a lactation specialist who is there to “help”. Or by other mothers who don’t know the situation.
    I think we are damned if we do, and damned if we don’t (literally). But so are we in the “working moms/SAHM” debate.
    I do love this post and I am shocked at some of the examples you gave. I can’t believe those kinds of things happen in the 21st century. It is just a body part after all, a magical, amazing body part.

  14. I agree very much that the systematic anti-breastfeeding/anti-boob bias is in evidence and sucketh mightily, but I just wanted to note this:
    From lady.strathconn.com:
    Her boy started to fuss and I said, “Isn’t it interesting that if you popped out a boob right now to feed him someone would undoubtedly say something and if I pulled out my bottle (of expressed breastmilk) to feed my little guy (still can’t latch, 4 lactation consultations later) someone else would feel they should say something. We can’t win.”
    and from Deborah:
    I’ve done both – breastfed my eldest for a year, bottle fed my twins (because of reasons). It was lose lose. No matter what I did, it was wrong. Sigh.
    I think the whole “no matter what Mothers do, somebody will demonise us for it” just totally sucks. Parenting is a job you get no training for and have to do by the seat of your pants in an unswimmable flood of usually-conflicting information. I am hard pressed to think that any parent who honestly does their best should be demonised … and the ones who honestly don’t care are few and far between, and we have child services to deal with that.
    It just makes me angry that we expect parents to do this basically-impossible job perfectly when there’s not even a definition of “perfect” that anybody agrees with! And for the record, I’m not a parent – just an ardent supporter of all those who are. Sorry for the topic swerve … back to breastfeeding now.

  15. YES! YES! YES!
    Standing ovation coming to you from the Toronto, Ontario suburbs and some significant fist pumping!! EVERYONE needs to read this post!!!
    Thank you!

  16. This is possibly the best collection of thoughts on this topic…EVER! I absolutely love this. Thank you Thank you lauredhel!
    Our ignorant society has created this stigma.
    Show me the sweaty hairy overweight shirtless guys kicked off the public bench in the park while bottle feeding their baby!

  17. I appreciate your passion, StorkStories, but please, no fat-shaming here.

    Thanks for all the other positive remarks!

  18. hey..I’m sorry..wasn’t trying to fat shame.. only make an analogy that someone may find it gross to see a man shirtless… yet acceptable and a women breastfeeding may be to some…gross and also unacceptable.
    peace

  19. People elsewhere are linking to this, most notably on forums which include things like “10-16 bottles” amongst their Must!Have! layette items to buy while pregnant; and they’re saying “What? I formula fed, and the glares and stares go both ways!”
    I guess they didn’t read the post. The glares and stares go both ways. As I’ve noted, over and over and over, including in this very thread.
    The other stuff, though? Not so much.
    Which was my entire point.

  20. Show me the mums who turn up to demonstrate bottle feeding their babies who get turned away because parental permission wasn’t granted for the (year eight) students to see such explicit material.
    http://www.essentialbaby.com.au/parenting/baby/natural-or-nasty-breast-debate-rages-20090629-d1ta.html?s_rid=theagearticle:rainbowstrip:content2:30-06:eb_rbow_breast:debaterages:natural,nasty?

  21. I haven’t read all the comments, but let me say, hear hear. Let me add one on:
    Show me the formula feeder who is told the only reason she is formula feeding and defending it is to feel superior and more-natural-than-thou than other moms.
    Show me the formula feeder who is told not to discuss her formula feeding choices because she is putting down other moms.
    One of my biggest pet peeves is when formula feeders paint themsleves to be the underdogs. The omnipresent, majority underdogs.

  22. For those people elsewhere who are sceptical that a woman ever had a gun pointed at her for breastfeeding, here’s the story.
    Immigration Officer Points Weapon at 11 Week Old Breastfeeding Baby

  23. sing it sister!!!
    well said. thanks, that was inspiring.

  24. I’ve been pleasently surprised at the support I’ve been getting. I live in CA (not sure if that helps), but when I tell people I’m still breastfeeding my 7 mo old I usually get a “Great for you!!!” and “That’s the best thing for him.” I got this on a recent Amtrak trip. I nursed the way down and back with no comments or odd looks. I was slightly discrete, let the shirt flop down a little, but I can’t use a nursing cover or blanket as my son HATES them and why push it. I find my husband is more squeamish about it than I am (but he wasn’t with us).

  25. Thank you for this post. Powerfully written. Is it alright if I link to it from my blog?

  26. One of my biggest pet peeves is when formula feeders paint themsleves to be the underdogs. The omnipresent, majority underdogs.
    Yes… but one of the times I have most felt that I had failed as a mother was when because of reasons, I couldn’t keep on feeding my infant twins, and had to bottle-feed instead. It took me months to stop feeling guilty and wrong and bad. I didn’t take the girls out much because I didn’t want to have to feed them in public, because I felt that people were judging me to be a bad mother. On the other side of that, there are many, many mothers of twins who are breastfeeding and don’t go out, because there seems to be no way that they can feed in public.
    However, no one told me that I was dirty or freak or that I shouldn’t do that here or I shouldn’t have a cup of coffee. No one actually policed my behaviour; it was more my own internal voice that harangued me – what the nuns would have called my conscience.

  27. fentonslee: Glad you liked it. It’s always ok to link; just not to quote in its entirety.

  28. Deborah, can I ask you something? I am sure that guilt and disappointment with problems with breastfeeding are very real and emotionally painful.
    Here in the United States,11% of women exclusively breastfeed for 6 months. (I would imagine this number is lower in women with multiples). Did you know how common it was to use formula when you felt that way? Would it have mattered?
    I just wonder why there is such a sense of isolation, such a sense of needing to hide in shame from many women. When 89% of women are in this situation, why is there a sense from some (not all by any shot and not by your comment) that people who use formula are some ostracized minority?
    I don’t think that we should ignore women’s pain from having trouble breastfeeding. However, in some situations, in fact in most discussions I have participated in on breastfeeding in a setting that is not specifically pro-lactation (almost all parenting sites, for example) has involved someone pretending that formula feeders have some sort of veto power over public promotion of breastfeeding’s benefits, citing that formula feeders are a sensitive, triggered minority that cannot hear such hurtful things, no matter how sensitively they are couched or how non judgmentally they are presented.

  29. @MomTFH
    It was very much an internal matter. I had good reason for not being able to breast feed twins (only one working breast due to lumps being removed, very small breasts so it was physically difficult to hold two babies, partner who was not coping, lactation consultant who despite repeated requests didn’t turn up until day four!, a houseful of people the day I came home (also day four), on tenterhooks waiting to hear about my PhD dissertation so very little emotional energy, one small weak baby who didn’t latch or suck well). I had previously fed my elder daughter for a year with no problems – it was a joy for both of us. As you can see, all the reasons for stopping breast feeding were personal, not social, except for the lactation consultant. And I couldn’t help thinking that if only I had tried a little harder, maybe we could have managed.
    I genuinely think that my guilt and disappointment was very much an internal matter. It was a standard I had set myself, and I didn’t meet it. My Plunket nurse (in-home nurse visiting service in New Zealand) was supportive, as was my doctor, and my obstetrician. They all said, more-or-less, that yes, it was a shame that I hadn’t been able to breast feed, but the girls were doing very well, and they had all the other things you could possibly wish for.
    So there you have it. It was an internal standard, not an external judgement. No one else seemed in the least bit upset that I was bottle feeding my twins. At the same time, I wanted to hold up a sign saying, “I tried. I really did!” On the other hand, I would endorse the benefits of breast feeding, every single time. There’s no doubt that it is better than bottle feeding. Maybe bottle feeders, including me, just need to get over it. Bottle feeding done well is fine, and babies will do well enough on it. It just not as good. And there’s a distinction between “not as good” and “bad.” Bottle feeding done well is the former, not the latter.

  30. I think that while the vast majority of women may use formula, in certain circles, it is far from the majority. I live in a very crunchy granola area (and I mean that in a positive way) where most of the people I know are very into attachment parenting and extended breastfeeding. I didn’t know ANYONE in my area who didn’t breastfeed and my mom breastfed my brother and myself for around 2 yrs each. I didn’t even have bottles at home when I gave birth to my son. So when I had problems nursing and had to supplement with formula while also pumping, I felt like the worst mother in the world. Also, I think a lot of middle and upper-middle class educated women don’t talk about using formula because they’re embarrassed, creating a situation where future women feel alone because they think they’re the only ones who went through these problems and chose formula. When I recently wrote about my problems with breastfeeding my son, I got so many responses from friends telling me they’d had similar problems and ended up supplementing or totally formula feeding. I think it’s great that there is such a strong network of support for women breastfeeding, but I wish I’d had some support for my choice to supplement with formula and pump, which ended up being the absolutely best thing for my son. I just think people are too embarrassed to speak out and support other women struggling with the same issues. And I’m not saying that anyone should feel sorry for folks who choose formula, but I think there should be more support for people who struggle with breastfeeding, choose another route for their child’s and their own health, and probably mourn the loss of that nursing relationship. There’s a lot of support for women with problems nursing until they make the choice not to nurse. And then what?

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