My blog is going to make some strong assertions about how we feed our babies. You may or may not agree with my assertions, but please be assured that I am not attacking you, your choices, or your opinions. I want to state that up front. Future posts in this blog will provide information about breastfeeding that may discourage you, or anger you in light of what your experience has been. I join in your anger if you felt circumstances prevented you from meeting your breastfeeding goals. I do not accept being made a target of your anger if my speaking the truth offends you.
Maybe you fed your babies formula (artificial baby milk, or ABM), and you assume that I think you don’t love your children or that you should be put in jail. Maybe you were in one of those heartbreakingly tragic situations where your body, for whatever reason, didn’t make milk for your baby, and you assume that I think you didn’t try enough, or you weren’t smart enough, or …
I totally *get* that there are anatomical and hormonal reasons why some mothers don’t produce milk (in fact, this has become an area of specialty for me), and that supplementing with ABM or donor milk is how your baby stays alive. I *get* that there are cultural and social reasons that lead mothers to choose against breastfeeding. I also totally *get* that it’s possible to love your baby as much as I love mine and freely choose to not breastfeed. I certainly don’t imagine that I’m in a position to determine what’s right for your family.
But I am in a position to declare this: no one makes any money when you breastfeed your baby. OK, there are products that are companions to breastfeeding, products that, when the normal course of mothering a baby is disturbed, can support and continue the breastfeeding relationship, but ultimately, all most mothers need are a baby and a breast. Yes, one breast can often get the job done!
There is a TON of money to be made if you don’t breastfeed. And, our very society is built upon the ability to make money … it’s called capitalism and it allows us to enjoy “The American Dream.” So, where’s the return on the investment of educating medical students about human lactation? Doctors know painfully little about breastfeeding yet they’re on the front lines when mothers and babies have the most trouble. Have you ever been to a medical school? Check out the benefactors, the people, companies, and organizations they name libraries, auditoriums, and instructional wings after. Have you ever been on a mother-baby ward? What’s your labor nurse using to hold her ID tag? Who donated her pen, or that little card for your baby’s bassinet that says “I’m a boy?” That growth chart your pediatrician is looking at to determine whether your baby is thriving … where did it come from? Did anyone tell you that breastfed babies grow at different rates than ABM-fed babies? Or that the World Health Organization growth charts were produced with the biologically/normally-fed babies’ growth pattern as the average standard … so maybe your body DID make enough milk for your baby, and she was growing at an appropriate rate?
Undermining breastfeeding, marginalizing it, downplaying its normality is big business in the United States. Because of this, I believe that advocacy for informed consent is necessary, that ABM be treated as a medical intervention with full disclosure of what the risks of not breastfeeding are, where ABM comes from, and what the alternatives are to using it. Then, a family that chooses not to breastfeed goes in with eyes wide open. The freedom to choose is still there, but the choice is completely informed.
When we have informed consent, our expectations are raised, and we seek help when breastfeeding doesn’t work, or we seek preventive action so that breastfeeding WILL work, and we educate ourselves as a society. We accept what is biologically normal as culturally normal — not a lifestyle choice, not a trendy behavior for the counter-culture. We stop questioning whether it’s OK to feed our babies in public and we stop trying to contort babies’ needs to fit our expectations. Instead, we fit our culture around the needs of our youngest, most defenseless members, and we expect more from society.
Please click on the links in this post! There are statements above that were inspired by others, and the links direct you to their work or further define the concepts I shared.