Monday, April 12, 2010

A Rant about Breastfeeding


OK, I'm pretty sure I'm going to piss some people off with this.  I'm going to make someone feel guilty, even though that's the last thing I want to do and is not my intention.  But there's been a lot of talk flying around the Internets the last few days because of the study published online last week in Pediatrics (the official journal published by the American Academy of Pediatrics).

I hear a lot of moms defending their use of formula instead of breastfeeding using a lot of different reasons.  But they mostly boil down to an inability to produce enough milk and/or returning to work making it too difficult.  I will never, ever, ever judge the decision that an individual mom has to make for herself and her baby.  They have to live in the here-and-now.  No mom should ever be made to feel guilty about the use of formula vs. breastmilk.  Formula is NOT a bad word.

But we, as an entire society - women and men, parents and childless, singles and couples - don't support breastfeeding like we could.  And that's on all of us.  The idea that women have the legal "right" to breastfeed anywhere they are is just a tiny drop in the proverbial bucket.  It's so much bigger than that. 

Why aren't women given a year of paid leave after having a baby?  Why aren't lactation consultants readily available at every pediatrician's office the same way nurses are?  Why aren't workplaces set up for moms to have access to their nursing babies instead of relying on pumps (which don't work well for many, many women - myself included)?  Moms should be able to bring their babies with them to work or be given onsite care where they can go to their baby to breastfeed every few hours.  If we, as a society, were willing to make the investment this could be done in just about any type of workplace.  Yet companies are still complaining that having to provide a non-bathroom private room for their employees for pumping is too costly and too much of a burden.  What a supportive culture we have here.

Why is breastfeeding seen as an all-or-nothing proposition?  Why do we not talk more about using a combination - nursing when you can, and using formula when you can't? 

And, why is formula the only alternative to a mother's own breastmilk?  Why do we not have easily accessible milk banks available to all women?  I personally have many, many, many bags of breastmilk in my freezer that my now-1-year-old baby won't use (she only wants it straight from the tap) - why am I thought to be deviant for wishing I could give that to another mom and baby that could use it?  Wet nurses were the norm until not very long ago (if a mom didn't have enough milk, you found another nursing mom who could also feed the baby), yet our society now thinks that's disgusting.  Despite a few stories over recent years about groups of nursing mothers banding together to provide breastmilk to dads who tragically lost their wives in childbirth and are left to care for a newborn on their own.  Why is formula considered better than breastmilk from someone other than the baby's own mother?  Why is formula the only option other than a mother's own milk?

Of course, the formula companies will say that they're pouring all that money into research to make their products more like breastmilk to make life easier for moms.  What would happen if all that money went to finding ways to pasteurize breastmilk without affecting its nutrition?  But there's no profit in that...

These are the kinds of large-scale societal shifts that would have to happen to change the percentage of mothers still nursing at 6 months.  It's not just about giving us the freedom of "choice" - most of us aren't even thinking about the choices we don't yet even have the option of making.

1 comment:

rebecca's rainbow kisses said...

Preach it sistah! I totally agree! I worked VERY hard to nurse all three babies. I pumped and stored and defrosted and transported milk for 4 months and I am sooo glad that I did. I wish that they could have had your pumped milk when my body finally said, "enough"! Insted, I had to go find the right formula for each unique child. This was not an easy task and very expensive too! I remember days past when the Leche League offered breast milk to mothers who needed it for their babies. Too bad politics got involved. What's up with America's fascination or obsession with breasts?! This may be the underlying reason why companies pitch such a fit when an employee wants to breast feed their child. Drama! It is so simple. Let the Mamma do what she needs to do to care for her baby, whether is it from the bottle or the breast!
That's my two cents :)
R