December 7, 2009

What’s In That Bottle?

Disclaimer: we’re talking about boobies and the things they do. If that makes you squeamish, stop reading here.

jhan338l First off, let me say that I *heart* the Bad Moms Club, and I *heart* its founder, and her other blog. She’s very clever, witty and I love her perspective, and read every one of her posts. Recently, there was a post about breastfeeding, and more specifically about an opinion piece in the Huffington Post reviewing bad toys, and specifically a dolly that allowed children to breastfeed (which, for the record, I thought was fine, if not a little strange to look at… certainly less horrific than Baby Pole Dance).

The author makes a valid point about societal perceptions of breastfeeding but includes a few statements about the evils of the formula companies. But, ohhhh, I gotta weigh in on this one. The whole breastfeeding debate makes me squeamish, simply because it's so polarized. If you'd asked me about it before I had a child, I would have steadfastly stood on the side of breastfeeding and sworn up and down that no woman should ever have to use formula, and that it's a cop out. And then I had a baby. And then I had problems breastfeeding. And then the only thing that kept my baby healthy was formula, after countless weeks and months of crying and stressing and herbs and drugs and breastfeeding training and consultation, and finally having to let it go.

Was this my choice? No. Was it my preference? No. Do I now understand just how hard and trying and stressful it can be to feel eternally guilty that I couldn’t do what nature intended, and had to resort to the much hated and villainised formula companies for help? You betcha. However, anyone who has not gone through this hell does not get how crappy us moms feel when the world out there who breastfed with no issues (or has never had a child!) gets on soapboxes and makes us feel like bad moms because we couldn’t do what our babies needed, no matter how hard we tried. I’ve made peace with it now, and my child is healthy and thriving, but it doesn’t hurt any less to be marginalized by what we have been perceived to have decided (or, even worse, have been brainwashed into doing).

I get it, breastfeeding is best and I would encourage any new mom to try hard to get it right. I will try again with my next child, and pray I don’t have to go through the anxiety I did the first time. I know more now and can try something more creative if it doesn’t totally work out, which I could never have known the first time when everyone was so religious about one method or the other. But please realize that there may be more to a woman walking around with a bottle and formula than her giving in to the formula marketing, or just being too lazy or vain to want to breastfeed.

So, back to Her Bad Mother’s point, get your heads out of your collective backsides if you think it’s gross or offensive to breastfeed in public. There is rarely a time I’ve seen a woman letting it all hang out with abandon. For the most part, women are discreet rather than exhibitionist. The more we cringe at the idea of public breastfeeding, the more we make it hard for those women who are a bit shy about the whole thing.

Just be careful to never judge a woman who feeds her child a bottle full of formula. It may not have been her choice, and even if it was, so be it. Whether you believe formula is bad or good, it is nutrition, and has fed multiple hundreds of thousands of millions of children with no noticeable detriments to their health. Some of us haven’t had the luxury of being able to worry about the politics of the situation, we needed our babies to be fed and stop losing weight.

Quite frankly, given my memories of the first few months of newborn life, I guess I should be happy I never resorted to whiskey in that bottle instead.

Addendum: After re-reading this post, I realise it may appear that I am rebutting Her Bad Mother’s piece, which I am not. In actuality, a couple of her comments simply sparked memories of another debate, which I know we both understand well. I am supporting her assertion that society is still scared to embrace breastfeeding. The rant about formula is driven solely from my own experience and is not related to anything she said in her post.


Nicole said...

Awesome. I couldn't have said this better myself- especially from someone who is *guilty* of feeding her 2 daughters the infamous poison- I mean formula.

Her Bad Mother said...

I actually totally agree with you here - I hate the polarized character of the debate, too. I actually linked to a post that I wrote about that subject, and said that the bigger issue, for me, is moms' right to choose how they nourish their babies. And I deliberately did not use more inflammatory examples about formula being poison - because I don't think that it is. I used it myself. (That formula companies HAVE abused their marketing power, especially in developing countries, is, I think, an issue separate from the use of formula itself, when that is the better choice for a mom. Which, as I said in the post that I linked to, it sometimes is.)

Anyhoo. I'm glad you raise the issue, because it's an important one, and one that I *did* want to draw attention to in referencing my own post. Healthy, happy moms and healthy, happy babies: all that matters.


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