Thursday, November 7, 2013

Breastfeeding Propaganda

Formula Isn't Poison - Breastfeeding Propaganda Is

The above is a link to a blog post that says some very timely things about breastfeeding advocacy. Who hasn't heard breast is best? Everyone knows. People are so confident about this, and some so zealous to the point of turning virulent on the topic of formula, that life has changed for new mothers.

Breastfeeding is pushed. Formula is at first discouraged, but then demonized. You get breastfeeding advice at the hospital, but even if your baby is losing too much weight, formula is not brought up. Even after a C section, you are roomed with your baby, providing all the care, regardless of how little you may have slept in the many hours or even days surrounding your labour and delivery.

I know I was woken repeatedly by nurses to check on my vitals, when in fact I desperately needed rest. My milk wasn't coming in and no one told me I could supplement. All this in the name of being baby friendly. It was not mother friendly at all. And I'm inclined to think what is unfriendly to mothers is bad for babies.

In the blog post, the writer outlines how on the Ottawa breastfeeding website, it lists all the advantages of breastfeeding and all the disadvantages of formula feeding. Thus, you are left with a lopsided view and you can't help but feel like a crappy mother if breastfeeding has not worked out, or if you just don't want to do it.

I know the Toronto story as well. A public health nurse came to my house and asked me questions about how I was feeding my baby. I told her about my two-day induction, C section, delayed milk, hives, uterine infection and resulting low supply. I said I was on medication to increase my milk, was pumping after feeds and with the help of my aunt (Who was washing all the dishes, bottles and pump parts) was SNS feeding as well. But so far, my baby was still getting mostly formula.

Her response was at first a look of understanding, but then she suggested I pump around the clock every 90 minutes. Then she handed me pro-breast/anti-formula pamphlets and flyers. 

I was stunned. Every 90 minutes? I was recovering from surgery! I still needed help getting out of bed. I had just got home from the hospital where I'd been hooked up to an IV for two days, where I'd not even been allowed to bend my arm or else the machine would BEEP BEEP for a nurse to come in and rejig it. What about getting some sleep and recuperating? My aunt needed to sleep at night so she could help me all day and my husband was back at work, so after feeding my baby, or setting an alarm to wake up regardless if he needed to eat yet, I was supposed to pump and then also clean my pump, and then try to sleep in... what? 20-minute increments all night?

And somehow this exhaustion and stress would improve my milk production? And how about that precious bonding breastfeeding is supposed to promote? Increasing my risk for PPD with all that pressure to succeed while not sleeping at all, this will make me love my baby more? Huh. Because at that point I was teetering on the brink of emotional hell. The only thing keeping me afloat was my aunt, who I had another week with before I was on my own and I was hell-bent on using her help to get my ass caught up on sleep so I could be as well as I could be to handle my baby alone all day.

That was my reality. My body went hugely overdue. I gave the natural way every chance to get moving and nothing happened except growing a massive baby that got stuck in an favourable position with no signs of labour. This depleted me entirely. Aside from the swelling, my limbs grew very thin. Surgery and not being able to move wore my body out more. Getting sick and more bed rest while postpartum frazzled me.

And still, STILL! Why wasn't I trying harder to breastfeed? Why wasn't I choosing to not sleep in favour of boosting my supply for an undetermined and indefinite period of time?

The breastfeeding agenda that was pushed on me gave zero shits about my wellbeing, about helping me become more confident as a mother, or about acknowledging my feelings or situation.

The pendulum has swung too damn far in the other direction. Formula used to be de rigueur. Now breastfeeding is the sign of good mothering, anything else be damned.

There is a middle ground here. It starts with understanding not every woman will be successful at breastfeeding for a variety of reasons. Secondly, not every woman will want to do it, again for a variety of reasons. For those women who want to, they will need medical, familial and societal support to feed wherever and whenever they and their baby require, no being shamed into the bathroom. They need to know what to expect and how to problem-solve issues. For those who use formula, they need information how how to do it safely, what to expect, and what sorts of formula is out there and what the differences are, and how to choose a bottle that works.

True informed choice means acknowledging that formula is good for babies. A baby will thrive, grow and become indistinguishable from breastfed babies on formula. There are no antibodies and you have to pay for it, but there are lifestyle benefits which may increase quality of life for mom and thus her baby by proxy, as well as other family members. Every woman is capable of assessing these decisions herself with the input of relevant members of her household.

Most moms I've met are breastfeeders. I see them feed in public with a cover, with no cover, whatever; they're aiming for three months, six months, a year, a wait-and-see timeline; some are combo feeding, out of necessity or preference; some are exclusive pumpers.  I'm supportive of them all. 

The real moms I've met in the city are supportive of me too. If any in my regular group judges me for formula use, I haven't detected it. Things are easygoing and there's a live and let live kind of attitude. This group has grown very popular and everyone looks forward to it. It's inclusive and friendly. Public policy would be wise to take note. Inclusive attitudes towards differing choices mothers make creates a sense of community, which benefits everyone.

Breast is not best. It is marginally better when life allows for it to work out. It's not as catchy, but at least it's honest.



Das ist fantastisch! Ich kann nicht glauben, dass noch niemand kommentiert hat, ich wette, das wird viral auf Facebook gehen :) Vielen Dank, dass Sie dies geschrieben haben!

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