I wanted to bestow upon you this image that I came across on thealphaparent.com.
It’s a gem.
It’s pretty amazing, huh?
Amazingly fucked up.
First of all, the image is not original or creative. It’s one of the lactivists most frequent comparisons: Formula as fast food. Formula as junk food. Formula, essentially, as poison.
I haven’t read very much of The Alpha Parent blog. It’s pretty hard to stomach — my pregnancy is making me nauseated enough.
But I did come across this gem from 2011 titled: Why the way you feed your baby is MY business. I know, right? A typical, blatant, mean-girl title that’s meant to garner as much attention as possible.
Well unfortunately, this title caught my attention.
I will summarize her blog post for you. Because it’ll be fun.
The way you feed your baby is HER business BECAUSE:
1. If you use formula, you’re saying YES to dead babies in developing countries. Because these evil formula companies (and I acknowledge that they’re not very ethical — they ARE big business after-all) force their food on the poor, illiterate women who end up mis-using the formula. Tragic and awful? YES. Is it prevalent enough for me to go through even more agony so I can provide breast milk that only has marginal benefits compared to formula? NO.
And if this is a major concern for you, research your formula companies. Or go for local formula companies such as Vermont Organics infant formula.
2. She finds the way I feed my baby offensive because she cares about all the diseases/illnesses/bacteria he will acquire from such junk food.
As I don’t use formula you may wonder why I’m troubled by this. However just because I did not give birth to the children suffering or put at risk because of formula feeding, this does not prevent me from feeling compassion for them. I find it short-sighted and self-centred that people expect me to care only for children to whom I have a genetic link.
Essentially — she cares about my children more than I do. Because I put them at risk by formula feeding. By the way, I’m still waiting for my almost three year old to get an ear-infection from all the formula I gave him.
Yeah, still waiting.
Oh, nothing yet? Okay, well now I’ll wait for another (insert horrible disease here.) In the mean time, I’ll cry myself to sleep every night because she cares about my children more than I do.
3. Formula feeding mothers are ruining the environment. I’m honestly just too tired to deal with this one. That must mean I don’t care about the environment. I hate myself!
4. If you use formula, you’re not a feminist.
Excuse me while I have a laughing fit.
Okay, I’m done.
Consider her far-reaching reasoning:
Furthermore, a common conception of formula is that it aids a woman’s economic mobility through strengthening her role in the workplace. She is no longer tied to a dependant infant and can instead pass a bottle of formula to grandma and return to being economically active. However this perceived benefit is negated by the fact that formula fed children are significantly more likely to fall ill, and numerous studies have shown that a child’s illness commonly results in the mother rather than the father taking time off work (Journal of Early Childhood; Weimer.J; Nursery World; Mother and Baby;Working Mums Magazine). Thus when a woman is taking more time off work she is seen as a burden by her employer. This does not strengthen the role of women in the workplace. Consequently women of childbaring age are viewed as liabilities. This is not to mention the strain on employers caused by their employees sick children results in lower incomes for working families, thus reducing income tax revenues which pay for government programs and services that benefit everyone.
So I’m trying to understand what she’s saying here. Is she saying women should just stay home and nurse their babies to further the women’s lib movement? Or we should be chained to breast-pumps to mitigate any illnesses that MIGHT happen? I have an interesting piece of anecdotal evidence (yes I know this is not considered “real” evidence), but my two breastfed children had far more illnesses than my formula fed child. My daughter who was exclusively breastfed, had numerous ear infections as an infant and toddler.
Dear Alpha Parent — perhaps just the act of bearing children is considered a liability — not HOW they’re fed.
So, in essence, you must feed your babies through your bleeding, cracked nipples to prove that you’re not a slave to formula companies. This makes you a strong, independent woman!
Thanks for your concern, Alpha Parent!
5. By formula feeding my child, the Alpha Parent is concerned that I’m contributing to the puritanical idea that breasts are strictly sexual and not for breastfeeding — that breastfeeding women shouldn’t nurse in public. I’m kind of flattered that she thinks that I’m contributing to all these problems — and to my country’s distorted view of breasts. I think Alpha Parent needs to take a deep look at herself and wonder if maybe — just maybe — part of this backlash of nursing in public is related to the lactivists smug, self-congratulatory, mean-girl status — and their scathing judgement on those who don’t breastfeed.
By the way, I think nursing in public is awesome and should be done more often.
6. She’s concerned about my child’s intelligence. She’s worried he’ll be stupid or some such shit.
The following quote is pretty hysterical:
But why do I care about the IQ of other people’s children? As formula feeding lowers the IQ of the population, this means less scientific advancements. We’re talking about cures for cancers and other diseases, new amenities, new technologies, strategies to combat global warming, and so on.
Ah yes, the Baby Boomer generation produced nothing but dunces — no scientists, literary geniuses, lawyers, politicians, mathematicians, doctors, etc, came out of that generation — all because most of them were formula fed.
7. I’m more likely to abuse my child because I use formula. Apparently. Or something like that. You know, because I don’t care about my child.
But Alpha Parent cares. She cares more than me.
8. My formula feeding choice effects Alpha Parent because I’m producing the spawn of satan. Essentially — my child will be the next Charles Manson — or something along those lines.
9. My baby is going to get her baby sick. And she cares about that because it effects other children as well. Pretty soon my baby will be getting everybody sick. It’s gonna be like that movie Contagion up in here, folks!
10. She cares that my child will be getting colds and the flu or some such shit. Because breast-fed babies don’t ever get sick, remember?
11. Giving my children formula means that I’m uneducated and will continue to have babies, perpetuating the cycle of poverty in this country. Maybe she’s right! I AM having my fourth child after all.
12. She’s concerned that formula fed babies are going to take all the doctors away from her children.
13. Apparently she thinks I’m anti-breastfeeding, and that I’m hurting other women’s chance at breastfeeding successfully. I won’t dignify this accusation with a response.
14. My child is a drain on the medical community.
And hilariously, Alpha Parent concludes with this:
Just to clarify, I fully defend a woman’s right to chose how she feeds her baby IF that choice is fully informed, free from bias and backed up with adequate support…
I find this statement laughable after she lambasted all formula feeding mothers for being uneducated, selfish, and anti-feminist.
Excuse me while I tend to my suffering, wasteful, unintelligent, abused, juvenile delinquent, germ-infested, medical doctor hogging offspring. I have a lot of work ahead of me to “fix” my children so they can be contributing members of society.
Thanks, Alpha Parent, for showing me the error of my ways.
If you read my previous post on breastfeeding, you’ll know that I was very successful with nursing my first two babies. Just to do a quick recap — I breastfed my first two for over a year — almost to the 18 month mark. I had basically zero issues except for some minor pain in the beginning. My babies latched perfectly.
So when I became pregnant for the third time, I expected the same ease — the same loveliness and warmth with breastfeeding that I had with my first two.
It never occurred to me that I might have problems. There was just no question in my mind.
I kept thinking: I’m a good, educated Mom. Of course I’ll breastfeed.
Before you hate me for my smugness, let me tell you my breastfeeding story.
Breastfeeding my third baby was pure fucking hell.
In the hospital, the lactation consultant figured I knew how to breastfeed since I was successful with my first two. She basically came in, looked at me, and said, I see you’re experienced. Everything looks fine! And then she walked out of the room. She didn’t even look at my baby’s latch.
And he was latched all wrong. I could feel it. And no matter how I tried, he just wouldn’t open his tiny little mouth wide enough. He would just take in the very tip of my nipple. And this became excruciating.
By day four postpartum, my breasts were hard as rocks and on fire. I remember looking down at my left breast and thinking, Huh. That’s weird. What’s that big huge red streak doing there? By evening I had a fever of 103 — and full blown mastitis. My mom and my aunt were experienced nursers and encouraged me to continue nursing through it. Every article I read said to continue nursing to relieve the clogs in the glands.
So I did.
And I cannot even BEGIN to tell you how much it hurt. I would throw my head back and wail in pain as my mom and my aunt helped him latch to my bleeding nipples. My precious newborn was literally sucking the life and blood out of me.
Let’s just put it this way. My nipples looked like ground beef. Yes. I want you to visualize that so you can see what women go through to give their baby the “very best.” And of course, since mastitis is an infection, I had to go on antibiotics. And this was when I discovered that I was allergic to Penicillin.
I broke out into an itchy, painful body rash. It was on my face, neck, arms, tummy, legs — you name it. So there I was with bleeding nipples, a horrid infection, a full blown body rash and raging postpartum depression — not to mention, I was recovering from my third C-Section. After a week, I was able to get out of bed, but the rash was still there. After two weeks the mastitis was back again full force. I had to go on another antibiotic and I soon discovered that I was allergic to Cephalosporins. Yes. I broke out into ANOTHER full blown body rash.
All through this, I kept nursing and pumping. Pumping and nursing. Waking up every two to three hours to pump because my breasts were so engorged — and because I wanted to keep my supply up.
I didn’t want my husband to see my breasts because they were so mangled — like open wounds.
By week number three I had to go to the dermatologist to get something for my rash. She prescribed a steroid and told me that I could never take Penicillins or Cephalosporins again — because I could die from an allergic reaction. She basically said that the rashes were my body’s way of warning me to stop taking them.
After the appointment, I got into my car — and cried. Sobbed. Wept.
I was exhausted. I couldn’t enjoy my baby. I couldn’t enjoy my children. Plus I was still recovering from a C-section.
And I thought —I’m done. I’m so fucking done.
So I called my husband, and through my crying hiccups and snot and tears — I told him to buy some formula.
And I felt like a piece of shit. A failure. Yes, folks. After all that pure fucking hell, I was still being hard on myself — like it was my fault that I couldn’t breastfeed.
But you know what?
When it comes down to it, I didn’t WANT to breastfeed anymore. I could’ve kept going. Could’ve kept pumping to keep my supply up — but at this point, my baby was just nursing out of my right breast because my left breast was so painful. He wouldn’t even latch on to my left breast — would just straight up refuse it. And he was probably refusing because I would stiffen up every time he tried to latch. He could feel my anxiety.
So my husband bought some formula. I continued to nurse my boy out of my right breast for an additional three months, but we supplemented heavily with formula. Then one day, he didn’t want the breast anymore. He was done. I tucked my right breast away — this time for good.
And he became strictly a bottle baby.
When I made that decision to start giving formula — I grieved for a week. Yes, dramatic. But I did. I cried my heart out. I thought I failed my boy. I was giving him something “second rate.” I was reading blogs that compared formula to fast-food.
I was made to feel that what I was doing was equivalent to child-abuse or neglect.
But you know what happened? Because I didn’t need to pump, I started getting more sleep. My son became a good sleeper (and yes, I know the lactivists say this is a negative thing,) and my breasts healed. I became healthy and happy again — and wouldn’t you know it — my son was healthy too.
He’s two and has been sick twice in his life. I know this is purely anecdotal evidence — but fuck. The breastfeeding movement needlessly scares the shit out of mothers.
Oh, and he’s not “less intelligent.” He’s barely two and recognizes all his letters and knows their sounds. He knows all his colors and shapes. He counts to ten and sometimes beyond. In addition, my first born — who was breastfed for 18 months — has severe learning disabilities and ADHD.
I’m not saying there are no benefits to breastfeeding. What I’m saying is — there are no guarantees either way you slice it. Whether you choose breast or bottle, there are other factors that play a more significant role in how your child develops.
During my grieving phase, I found a website that made me smile again. The Fearless Formula Feeder was my go-to blog for awhile — because posts like this made me feel like I wasn’t alone. It made me feel normal — like a mother who just wants the best for her baby regardless of how he’s fed.
Because anguishing over breast milk vs. formula should NOT be on our to-do list as new mothers. We have other shit to worry about — especially if there are older children to take care of.
Especially because — as women — we need to take care of ourselves.
- How To Give Up Breastfeeding And Not Feel Guilty About It: Part 1 (porchphilosophy.com)
- How To Give Up Breastfeeding And Not Feel Guilty About It: Intro (porchphilosophy.com)
This week I will be doing a series of posts on breastfeeding.
And as you can see from the title — I’m sure you know where I’m going with this.
My feelings on breastfeeding are a bit complicated. I nursed my first two successfully for well over a year. And I was quite smug about it. Things changed with baby number three. It was a struggle that made me re-think my entire philosophy on breastfeeding and how breastfeeding is yet another guilt – inducing choice that women have to make. And the conclusion I came to when I went through my breastfeeding hell with my third baby was this:
Breastfeeding culture is not friendly to women — it’s coercive.
And here’s where it gets complicated — because I’m not anti-breastfeeding. I’m a breastfeeding advocate. A breastfeeding advocate who thinks it’s a woman’s choice as to whether her breasts will be used as a feeding device. And perhaps the term “feeding device” is not correct — because the breasts are also a source of nurturing for the infant — an experience — that if it all goes smoothly — is actually quite lovely.
But when it’s not a lovely experience, then the whole nurture aspect goes out the window. If mommy is stressed, then baby is stressed.
A woman should not have to make excuses as to why she’s not breastfeeding. A woman doesn’t “give up”. She comes to the conclusion that:
- It’s not for her. Period.
- She gave her body up for nine months and for the love of god she just wants it back.
- It’s none of your damn business what she does with her boobs.
- She gave it a go but complications arose and life is too short to worry about feeding her baby from her boobs when there’s a perfectly acceptable alternative — formula.
The F word.
Formula. It ain’t poison. It’s food. And whether you believe it or not — if prepared correctly — it is a perfectly acceptable and nutritious alternative to breast milk.
For the next week I’ll touch on how my idea of breastfeeding has evolved from a you-must-breastfeed-your-baby-even-if-it-means-martyring-yourself mentality to the idea of breastfeeding as it relates to feminism, choice and Total Motherhood.
Total Motherhood being an ideology held up by society that is, according to Joan Wolf a professor of Women’s Studies at Texas A&M University, a “moral code in which individual mothers are ultimately held responsible for any harm that befalls their children.” A code that, essentially, expects women to anticipate any and all harm that may befall their children, and eradicate it. If a mother fails, then she is made to feel guilty — perhaps not directly, but indirectly in the form of mommy blogs, articles, and mommy forums that reflects a general message pervading our society:
That mothers hold the key to our children’s well being, and if we choose not to breastfeed, we are throwing away the key. An idea so fucking backwards that it essentially throws women under the bus all over again.
I mean, really. Don’t you think women have endured enough? Aren’t you tired of being made to feel guilty about every decision you make?
Tomorrow I’ll touch on my past beliefs on breastfeeding and the difficulties I faced with a baby whose hunger for life literally mangled my breasts — and how a certain blog helped me through it.
Until then, may you feel empowered with every decision you make!