Friday, October 28, 2011
Does fearless breastfeeding exist?
There is a blog called "Fearless FormulaFeeding: standing up for formula feeders without being a boob about it." Cute, catchy and oh so "rational" about the need to protect infant formula. Yes we must protect infant formula from the judgmental breastfeeders of the world. Okay, okay, the goal of the blog is to support, protect, and encourage infant formula mommys from the judgmental breastfeeding community. Yet, I am fascinated by the design of this blog. The use of words, large and small, "guilt," "father." Oh the psychological games we can play when we have a PR industry in our back pocket. I wonder who really created this blog? A PR company? With who's backing?
The blog states, "that breastfeeding is not useless," but "Its turned into something we have to do, rather than want to do...." I turn these words around and around in my head. Of course we have to do it, it is biology. We have legs and we walk (unless we are crippled), we have eyes and we see (unless we are blind), we have ears and we hear (unless we are deaf). We have mammary glands and we make milk for our babies. "Yes Sally, you have legs but you have a choice about using them. Our society has changed since days of old where walking was normal, natural. Walking is worth it... but so it your sanity, health, and sense of autonomy." (the blog stated, "Breastfeeding is worth it. But so is a mothers sanity, health and sense of autonomy.")
Choice is the holy grail of infant feeding. We must have choice because we are liberated women. Liberated from what? Our biology. Yet while we are liberating ourselves from our biology, our industry and institutions are making claims on the magic of the mammary gland and its milk. How peculiar that seems to me. The Fearless FormulaFeeding blog believes "mothers are well aware" of the benefits/advantages of breastfeeding (and obviously tired of hearing about it). Yet I see no discussion on this blog about the patenting of human milk components by the infant formula industry. So let's take a step for honesty to mothers. If you don't breastfeed, you will be giving your infant the genetically engineered equivalent of human milk...cough-cough... they have yet to know all the components and clone them for use. Where is the discussion about the safety of genetic engineering of formulas for newborn and premature infants? This blogger presumes that infant formula is the safe option. That presumption is based on ease of access to medical care, availability of good sanitation-clean water, etc. It is predicated on the belief that manufacturers of infant formula do not make mistakes in the processing of infant formula ( we know this is not true because of the number of recalls and deaths/hospitalizations of infants who consumed contaminated infant formula).
Why does feminism require a choice regarding the nurturing of our infants? Why is breastfeeding idolized, romanticized? It's biology. It can be a beautiful experience but it is also like anything we do with our body. It can be tiring, boring, painful, blissful, uplifting, repetitive, annoying, fun, funny, irritating, enjoyable, peaceful, sad, and on and on. It's life with babies.
Motherhood in the USA is judged and not just with breastfeeding. Most of us have felt judged, tried, and convicted when dealing with a toddler who is having a meltdown in a public place. The eyes of condemnation by others who believe you haven't been strict enough or loving enough. You can't win whatever you do because there will always be someone who judges you as inadequate at this mothering game. Why do we believe that mothers should just know how to parent because they are mothers? Why does half our society believe that a good spanking is all that is needed for the toddler or child who cannot behave in public? Why does the other half seem to ignore their misbehaving child?
I have never seen a mother condemned for infant formula feeding in public (I am sure it exists but I have never heard anyone speak badly about a mother who bottlefeeds her baby). But I have heard the words of disgust from people when a mother breastfeeds in public. I have been given the evil eye for nursing my 2-week old baby in public. So it is very hard for me to view the blog on Fearless FormulaFeeding as other than a public relation blog designed to influence mothers to bottlefeed without fear. The design is to put breastfeeding up on that marble pedestal and make us believe that we have actually made a choice to bottlefeed. Choice in actuality is a stacked deck that only works to protect infant formula feeding.
Copyright 2011 Valerie W. McClain