I have had a horrible week and it is something I can’t talk about with fear of being dooced. So, I want to talk about another topic that generally falls into the same category. Namely, how my country completely devalues mothers and children all while under the guise of “family friendly” initiatives.
I recently read this post over on Fearless Formula Feeder’s blog (FFF, btw, say that 3 times fast). I really love her blog because I think she is an amazing lactivist “despite” (or a better word might be in addition to) being a formula feeder. She agrees that “breast is best” but not at the cost of lack of choice or bullying of mothers.
The article at hand concerns the recent news that UK hospitals, in their zeal to be baby friendly, are not supplying formula to new mothers. If a mother chooses to formula feed she must bring her own supply with her to the hospital. I see this as a great step in forwarding WHO’s breastfeeding initiatives which have been shown to increase breastfeeding rates – something that is good for all of us. It reminds me of bringing my dad a hamburger when he was in the hospital for this heart [1. Although not the best comparison - I'm not saying giving your baby formula is like feeding him hamburgers all the time.]. The fact is that in the US you are much more likely to hear a nurse say “let’s give him a little formula so you can get some sleep” as she hands you the Similac Freebie Bag Full of Useful Breastfeeding Tips (Ignore That Formula Sample in the Bottom). Mothers who know that these attempts can interfere with the establishment of breastfeeding have to take the initiative to plaster the isolette with “BREASTFEEDING ONLY! No artificial nipples” and be vigilant that their wishes are followed. This should not be the case. If the medical establishment agrees that breast is best then why are they helping to market artificial milk products? It is an inherent conflict of interest and I’m glad that part of the Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative is to eliminate all free formula-company handouts[2. I recently had a mother ask me how to get free formula samples and I wondered how NOT to get them. At 19 mo. still bfing I continue to get samples in the mail!].
However, creating an environment that is breastfeeding friendly is not the same thing as creating an environment that is formula antagonistic. The woman in FFF’s article was harrassed plain and simple. She had just been through the harrowing experience of bringing a life into the world and suffered through days of abysmal medical care.
I stopped using the pain meds as much sub consciously and I didn’t ring the bell for the nurses/midwives unless I was totally desperate for help. I would do more than I should of moving wise because I didn’t want to explain again and again or have them sigh as they went off to find boiled water. I didn’t want the bell to be rung and then look up at the screen and think ‘oh its that bottlefeeder in room 1 again’.
The situation basically left her traumatized and unsure if she wants to have more children.
So, here’s how I see this situation:
It is bad medicine
Bon Jovi songs aside – this is bad medicine. The hospital staff need to be knowledgeable about many feeding methods even if they are “promoting” just one. Would they have been as useless with a woman who was a double mastectomy. I can’t imagine my father being treated this way during his heart problems. The doctors obviously recommended procedure A but if he had chose to go with procedure B I can’t imagine them giving him attitude, bad advice, and poor care. He made a choice and it is the medical professions’ job to provide the best possible care within those parameters.
As a non-vaccinating family I understand and respect that the medical establishment is not going to agree with me. I don’t expect the pediatrician to say “no hep B? That’s awesome!!!.” I even expect to be pitched their perspective. However, I do not expect to be belittled, fear-mongered, or sub-served because of my decision. When I refused vitamin K for Aellyn the pediatrician really disagreed with that and she said as much. I told her I appreciated her input but felt comfortable with our decision. That was that. If (God forbid) Aellyn had a hemorrhagic bleed would it have been ok for her to say “well you deserve it so you’re on your own”?
Same with breastfeeding. I think formula feeding moms need to be prepared to hear (without undue defensiveness) the breast is best spiel without complaint – after all the medical establishment says it is best and as medical professionals it is their job to make sure you are informed. But, only if it is offered in a non-threatening, medical manner. Responding with “we’ve made our decision but thanks for the information. Could I have some information on safe formula preparation please?” should be the extent of the conversation. The nurse/doctor/midwife that had this conversation should relate it to others and the conversation should not need to be repeated ad nauseum.
It is Misogyny
I really can’t imagine this happening to a man. For some reason women’s health is plagued with a dominating, forceful, choice-less, rhetoric that claims there is one way and thou shalt submit. In pre-conception, pregnancy, and parenting the shame and fear tactics have become the norm. Where is the abiding respect for free will, personal choice, and parental rights? Families are sometimes turned in to authorities for failure to vaccinate (which is as far as it goes since it is a protected right) are we looking at a future where women who want homebirth are arrested? Imprisoning bottle feeders? Taking children away for use of homeopathy? Forced vegitarianism? There are a lot of things besides breast that are considered “best” but let them remain “best choice.”
I’ve always felt that if abortion were a male issue it wouldn’t be an issue. Bodily autonomy is accepted for men but it many cases, despite outward appearances, women are still chattel. Our bodies are not our own and our decision making process is automatically suspect. This is not family friendly, mother friendly, baby friendly, and definitely not woman friendly. It is just plain unfriendly.
This isn’t what lactivists want. We want to remove barriers to breastfeeding not erect ones to formula feeding. Right?