Finding formula feeding support is hard in other counties, too

This morning (up at the butt crack of dawn with my son, who has for some reason decided that his formerly lovely sleep schedule wasn’t fun anymore, and is now sleeping maybe 8 hours a day tops) I found this great blog entry by The Noob Parent from New Zealand.

Apparently, I’m not the only one who thinks formula feeding mommies need a little support of their own.

Why It’s Not Irresponsible to Support Formula Feeding Mothers

Deep breath.

The whole reason I started this blog was to stand up for formula feeders, since not too many people are doing so. The thing is, I really appreciate all the people talking about formula feeding on their blogs – I think it’s cathartic and wonderful – but so many of us feel like we need to defend our choices, tell why we couldn’t breastfeed, and reaffirm our dedication to nursing our future children. As if this kid, this experience, was a “one off”. I do it myself, to some degree.

But the more I entrench myself in this battle of breast vs. bottle, the more fired up I get. Just because it was the formula companies who used the concept of “choice” to defend their capitalistic marketing schemes does not negate the fact that it IS about choice. I know, lactivists, I know… your argument is that child endangerment is not about choice, and formula is poison, so therefore you need to declare out-and-out war on formula, regardless of the casualties. I am not qualified to debate the merit or statistical significance of single or meta-studies, as I was so kindly reminded by lactivist blogger Nursing Birth in her epic response to a comment I left on her blog about formula causing PPD (an issue that is close to my heart, for obvious reasons). However, I have set out on a journey to interview and discuss these issues with some amazing minds who are more than qualified to weigh in on the debate, and so far, one thing is abundantly clear: the facts are nowhere near as black and white as we’ve been led to believe.

But I digress. I spend the 12 hours a week that I am not with my son writing and researching on this topic, and in the process, I come across a lot of blogs, articles, and forum posts. A lot of them scare me. Or anger me. Some, I choose not to even “go there” with – like these idiots on Facebook – but when the author seems like a reasonable, authoritative voice on the other side of this debate, I often get the urge to respond. (This is the beauty of the Internet – all of us can spew our opinions wherever we like, without waiting for an editor to publish our comments).

What I’ve learned is this: it is no fun being on the minority side of public opinion. The lactivists love to position themselves as “victims”, but guys, this is so played out. I realize that some ignorant assholes still get pissy when a woman nurses in public, and that is just plain wrong. But in terms of the medical community, and the mom community, breastfeeders are held up on a pedastal. Formula feeders are villified. And yet you don’t see many “formula feeding support groups”. I am one of only two women in my Southern California mom community (over 50 people) that is formula feeding. This qualifies as a minority. But I’m not holding myself up as a victim. I own my choices and do not claim that advertisers, a corrupt medical field, or anyone else is “at fault” for my breastfeeding failure.

As I’ve said before, my stance is ardently pro-breastfeeding – when it is right for mom and baby. I don’t see supporting formula feeders as hurting the rights of my breastfeeding sisters. I would be happy to campaign on your behalf – I would gladly attend a nurse-in and flash my non-lactating breasts in support of you all (hell, I have flashed them for far less noble causes) – but the extreme faction of your group has alienated me to a point where I feel like I need  to equally militant to defend my formula feeding sisters. It’s like the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, but over milk instead of land. (Although isn’t that “the land of milk and honey”? Hmm…)

I have never heard any of the Fearless Formula Feeders (or not-so-fearless, closeted formula feeders) I’ve talked to disparage breastfeeding in any way. All they have expressed is support for breastfeeding rights with the caveat that their choices be respected as well.

One last thing- Nursing Birth questioned my educational background, so I’m going for full disclosure. I have a Bachelor of Science in Speech from Northwestern University. I’m the former editor of a local parenting magazine. I write about health, wellness and women’s interest issues for a variety of online and print publications. And I’m a mom. That’s it.

And that’s all I’m saying about that.

Is Formula the New Cigarette?

We all have our favorite search engines. I’m a Google girl, myself. But since that fateful day back in December 2008 when I searched for a bit of formula feeding support, to no avail, I have been a bit irritated at the Big G. Since then, I have found numerous articles and blog posts that more than validate my choices and beliefs –  but I’ve had to do some digging to find them. I realize it’s not Google’s fault – these things have to do with keywords and the like, but still…. help a sister out, you know?

So, I branched out and tried Yahoo’s search engine – and viola! I found this great Wall Street Journal article from back in 2006, called “The Formula Follies”. Now, an important note, Fearless Formula Feeders – WSJ is our friend. Some of the best – hell, the ONLY – serious journalism questioning the breastfeeding propaganda comes from this newspaper. While the New York Times publishes piece after piece of frightening, badly interpreted data to make headlines, WSJ has asked some very important questions. They were the ones that published a great article on insufficient milk syndrome in the 90’s that brought to light a very real (and completely dismissed by the lactivist side) problem caused by breastfeeding guilt. And now, I find this gem:

But formula, once seen as the perfectly engineered health food, has become the TV dinner of infant feeding: seductively easy, nutritionally challenged and oh-so-1950s. And the campaign against it has made strange cribfellows: liberals who demand accommodation in the workplace and open-shirt nursing in the public square and conservatives who believe that young children are best cared for in their homes by mothers free to nurse on demand. Pity the bewildered new mother who wants to nurse but can’t because of physical problems or her job. She is offered an astonishing array of high-tech, vitamin-rich formula but lives in a nation that exhorts choice and free will except in the baby-food aisle…

The Massachusetts Breastfeeding Coalition announced plans for a nationwide “Ban the Bags” campaign at the International Lactation Consultant Association meeting in Philadelphia last week. Dr. Melissa Bartick, the coalition’s chairwoman, has promised that formula marketing in hospitals won’t last. She adds: “We’d never tolerate the thought of hospitals giving out coupons for Big Macs on the cardiac unit.” So baby formula is not yet the new cigarette. But it’s already the new Big Mac.

Why was I so excited to find this piece? To start, the writer,  Jennifer Graham, is the first person I’ve seen that considers the choice element in all of this craziness. I still can’t understand how the same people who want laws off their body when their child is in utero can turn around and insist that laws be put back on our bodies once that kid is out. For the record,  I am ardently pro-choice, but I hate hypocrisy, and I am finding a lot of it in what I once considered “my camp”. Strange bedfellows, indeed.

Secondly, the comparison of Big Formula to Big Tobacco both cracks me up and makes me cry. Am I the only one who resents that there’s a “breast is best” warning on every formula can? In the words of SNL Weekend Update’s Seth and Amy, really? Really?

Regardless of the studies (which I can tell you, as I’ve been researching them for my book, do NOT IN ANY WAY support a hypothesis that equates smoking to formula feeding), I resent that the government is policing my infant feeding choices. I resent that the mom next to me can withhold solids for two years because of her “personal beliefs” and no one blinks an eye, even though there is plenty of research showing that this is a very bad idea. I resent that formula feeding moms are seen as stupid and uneducated – and they must see us that way, because they do not think we are capable of making an informed decision. I have talked to multitudes of women during my research and not a one said that receiving formula samples discouraged her from breastfeeding. This is not like handing out cigarettes to kids, folks. Really.

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