News: Stop Fanning the “Mommy Wars”: Enough with the “Breastfeeding Bullies” Articles, Jezebel!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008
News: Stop Fanning the “Mommy Wars”: Enough with the “Breastfeeding Bullies” Articles, Jezebel!
6
Sun, 09-09-2012 - 10:41pm
Stop Fanning the “Mommy Wars”: Enough with the “Breastfeeding Bullies” Articles, Jezebel!
September 7, 2012 By Sharon

By Sayantani DasGupta

I could hardly believe it when I saw the headlines:

The pressure to breastfeed is getting out of hand”! and “Sorry – You can’t guilt trip me about bottle feeding my kids”!

It’s not that I’m surprised by anti-breastfeeding attitudes in the U.S. After all, this is a country where, women are still prohibited from breastfeeding in public in many places, where the broader culture fetishizes women’s breasts, and a lack of family leave and on-site daycare make breastfeeding, even when initiated, very difficult to continue.

What shocked me was that the anti-breastfeeding articles appeared on Jezebel.com, a site which I had previously considered feminist or at least woman friendly. I, like this blogger, had to ask myself: Why does a supposedly feminist site keep posting anti-breastfeeding articles, articles which only, like that recent infamous Time Magazine cover about prolonged breastfeeding, fan the flames of the so-called “mommy wars”?

These Jezebel articles are similar to many op-eds, FB posts and personal essays I’ve read recently that equate breastfeeding friendly initiatives like Mayor Bloomberg’s new “Latch On NYC” program with “breast feeding bullying.” Many of these articles are by mothers, who actually tried to breastfeed but found – for a variety of reasons – that they couldn’t.  And, understandably, they don’t want to be made to feel guilty for their parenting choices.

Parenting in general, and breastfeeding particularly, are touchy subjects, I get that. No one wants to think that they did less than “best” for their child – and that’s exactly what “breast is best” type campaigns seem to communicate to some women. Yet, to me, this trend in personal essays/articles is part of a larger phenomenon, a perspective that tends to focus blindly on the issue of free will and “choice” (ie. this essay which urges “Breastfeeding is a choice, let’s treat it as such”) – approaching issues like breastfeeding from an individualistic perspective rather than a systemic one.

These incessant articles about “breastfeeding bullying” are creating a dangerous problem (that might not actually be there), and feeding into the destructive notion of “mommy wars.”  “Bullying” implies power. Yet, despite the American Academy of Pediatrics’ recommendations to breastfeed until 12 months, per the CDC, less than 50% of babies in the U.S. are breastfeed through 6 months and more like 25% are breastfed through 12 months. The long and the short of it is, unlike almost every other Western country, many more babies in the U.S. are formula fed in the first 12 months of life than not. So where does the “bullying” coming in?

So let’s talk Baby Friendly Hospitals, which seem to be the target of a lot of this recent anger. Bloomberg’s policy suggests that all of New York City’s many hospitals (where I had my two children as well!) voluntarily become Baby Friendly institutions. What does that mean? Well, among other points (see my previous post here on Adios for a full list), Baby Friendly Hospitals help mothers initiate breastfeeding within one hour of birth, give newborn infants no food or drink other than breastmilk unless medically indicated, practice “rooming in” – allowing mothers and infants to remain together for 24 hours, and encourage breastfeeding on demand.

And this isn’t something that Bloomberg made up, people. It’s a global public health issue. Despite being recommended by Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move Campaign,” the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, the American Academy of Pediatrics and others, as of May 2012, the United States has only 143 baby friendly hospitals, or less than 3%. Compare this to approximately 100% of hospitals in countries such as Sweden, Mongolia, Eritrea, and Namibia (and increasing numbers in many other countries) and it’s pretty embarrassing.

But the critical issue here is that Baby Friendly Hospitals are a systemic way that breastfeeding initiation can be enhanced. People complaining about “breastfeeding bullies” keep talking about the issue of choice. Yet, the ways that most maternity wards operate in the U.S. actually reduce all women’s choices across the board – whether you ultimately choose to breastfeed for any amount of time or not.

The truth of the matter is, issues such as insufficient milk production, a failure to latch on properly, and resultant problems such as infant weight loss are often tied to immediate post-birth practices — practices that are determined by the policies of the particular maternity ward. These are systemic failures, NOT the so-called “failure” of individual women.

Read the rest of the article here: http://www.adiosbarbie.com/2012/09/stop-fanning-the-mommy-wars-enough-with-the-breastfeeding-bullies-articles-jezebel/

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iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008
I found this opinion piece very much on the mark IMO. I have to very much agree that the fanning the "mommy wars" really does hurt mothers more then it helps. Much of the problems the myriad of moms who comment favorable on these anti-BF "stop the mommy war" articles suffer from a common problem in that often don't have an accurate understanding as to why BF'ing did not work for them. They often lack adequate info on BF'ing as well as wrongly assume doctors and nurses are better trained in BF support and knowledge then is often the case. As such they are not in a position to know if they could have done things differently and likely had better results or not. They also are very susceptible to claims that LC's, BF advocates, and fully pro-BF doctors/nurses go to far and are anti-formula which can lead them to question advice they get from them at times. I think there is also a motivation on their part to sometimes discount claims they would have done things differently because they feel like they would have to take responsibility for not knowing better. No one wants to think they where victims of bad advice or wrong assumptions. I wonder if some mom's faith in doctors would be shaken if they accepted that doctors may not be that well trained or supportive of BF'ing and that didn't need to supplement with formula or switch to formula outright as their baby's pediatrician claimed.

When it comes to changing hospital practices that negatively hurt mom's chances of successfully BF'ing, I think we have interests that want to scare moms into believing such changes might deny moms formula who's babies need it for medical reasons or that moms who wish to FF will be forced to BF. These interest include formula companies as well as moms who wish to FF by choice and who are not really concerned how current practices hinder moms who wish to BF. All they are concerned with is that they have the easiest time possible in being able to FF including getting free formula samples and having formula available in their hospital room upon arrival. Any change in practices they perceive as making it the slightest bit more difficult for them to FF by choice is bad. If it comes down to either favoring FF'rs or BF'rs with any policy or practices, they feel FF'rs should win every time. Probably it is partly based on a belief by many of them that the benefits of BF'ing are slight or non-existent thus there is no reason to ever make things easier for BF'rs where it might make it even slightly more difficult for FF'rs, even if it wouldn't prevent them from FF'ing.

Now the issue of choice is a key factor in the "mommy wars". I believe that part of it is the fact that a significant number of FF'ing moms see the choice as a Coke vs Pepsi kind of choice and don't recognize policies that help moms trying to BF as beneficial enough to justify possible stigmatizing FF'rs or causing even the slightest inconvenience for them. I also think some people view the choice to FF like the right to have a lawyer when arrested. They not only think that moms should be able to choose BF'ing but should also have it paid for if they can't afford it, just like they do with lawyers in criminal cases. They also seem to think they have the right to any obstacle to FF'ing by choice no matter how small must be removed even at the expense of BF'rs. It's a misguided notion of choice IMO. I do believe that we are incapable of improving support for BF'ing among hospitals and doctors while still properly supporting moms who must use formula and not significantly hindering moms simply want to FF by choice. We will have to redefine what it means to support FF'rs, especially those who FF by choice so that minor inconveniences on there part are treated as anti-FF'ing. Part of the problem is formula companies and other pro-formula interest spread FUD about the banning of free formula samples or baby-friendly hospital policies or Bloomburg's Latch-on program and scare moms into believing their right to FF is being taken away or severely hindered when in fact it is not. I suspect at least some of the authors of these anti-BF mommy war articles actually secretly represent formula company PR interests. I know of at least one British female doctor who was writing in a British paper a piece critical of extended BF'ing while not disclosing that fact she had been paid by Nestle in the past.

One major point I think many of the people writing these negative anti-BF mommy war article miss is the fact that such articles themselves fan the mommy wars, thus IMO defeating their claimed purpose. By telling moms to stop the mommy wars against FF'rs they contribute to keeping the mommy wars going. Now I suspect that the formula companies see the mommy wars as beneficial to them and fan them intentionally at least as they pertain to BF vs FF. I see a problem with the mommy wars but not what many formula defenders believe see as the problem. I think in some cases, these mommy wars can get people who otherwise would question certain practices such a FF'ing to re-examine them in light of realizing what they may have viewed as a simple choice is not. I have read accounts of moms who hand'nt planned to BF assuming formula was just fine and there was little consider BF'ing but then discovered through the mommy wars that lots of people did not share that view. As a result they did further research and realize there are indeed good reasons to choose BF'ing both health-wise and otherwise and changed their mind and decided to BF. I know from my own experience that upon learning that certain practices where controversial lead me to educate myself on them. For example, I came to endorse ext. BF'ing based on learning that people where doing that and believed it was beneficial. I might not have bothered to consider BF'ing longer then a year if I had not already be well versed on the controversy.

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Community Leader
Registered: 04-18-2003

Jezebel.com isn't woman friendly so I'm not surprised they are claiming it's a negative thing for women to want breastfeeding to be treated with respect. A woman friendly website praises a young woman for choosing to live at home, postpone marriage and study to be a midwife, or praises a young woman for turning an interest in photography into a career, choosing to live at home and postpone marriage. These women are also being raised to believe that breastfeeding in public is a natural, normal thing, although their religious beliefs do require them to coverup in public.

I do think hospitals need to change their attitude towards breastfeeding, beginning with looking at things besides the growth chart. Smaller babies will have a smaller tummy and need to feed more frequently. If a baby is happy, peeing and pooping normally, meeting milestones within a +/- one month time span, who cares what percentile they are in? Also, society needs to desexualize the breast, and go back to regarding it as something to nourish babies, not as something to sell product or attract males.

 

Gail

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010

Abrose - it's good to see you here - it's been a while!

iVillage Member
Registered: 05-20-2008
Jezebel was supposed to be a website for women that presented stories that where less superficial then other women's magazines and less airbrushed. From what I have seen, some of the stories and blogs I have read from that site comply with that stated goal but lately I have also seen a lot of anti-BF articles that claim to be supporting women and pro-feminist but IMO are actually anti-feminist. I strongly disagree with he brand of feminism some promote that sees formula as liberating to women and BF'ing as oppressive to them. So all in all I find that site to be a mixed bag overall.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008

I am getting more and more surprised by so much of the formula supporting as feminism that I see these days. 

It was, at one stage, an idea that women had to be the same as men to be seen as equal, and worthy of equal rights. But as time went on, I saw more of the acceptance that there are indeed biological differences, and that it is important to recognise all humans as equal despite the inherent differences. This idea should and does to me apply to gender differences as well as race and culture differences.

To negate the inherent biological differences is really in my books disrespectful. To achive the ideal, the systems in the world and the workplace should still be able to cater for the differences. To operate falsely under the assumption that these do not exist actually devalues women in my books. So to insist that formula must be the answer for the reasons of liberation is not a very liberating idea at all.

Teresa