Some comments on comments

Anyone who regularly reads this blog might know that I post every comment I receive (actually, that’s a lie – I ignored one once, simply because it was just a link to some website, which I considered spamming). I realize that sometimes these comments can hurt feelings, on both sides. Clearly, I want this blog to be a place of support; of warmth and humor; a virtual respite for formula feeders who are bombarded with guilt or fear on other parenting sites…

Some might be surprised to know that I also don’t like when the arguments from “my side” get nasty (not that I think anyone on this blog has done so, but I know that things can get heated, and I’m certainly partial to one side of this debate so maybe other people are seeing something I’m not). I admit that I react emotionally when someone gets particularly sanctimonious or unfair, but overall, I try and respond rationally. I welcome comments from people of opposing viewpoints, and I don’t want to discourage people from coming here to voice their opinions, even if I don’t agree with them.

I recently searched “formula feeding” on Twitter and found that someone calling herself The Lactivista “tortures herself” by reading this blog and is composing an “epic response” in her head. I can’t wait, Lactivista. Honestly. I hope that you will share your thoughts. I am sorry that this blog “tortures” you; that is not its intent. Unfortunately, when you’re discussing formula feeding support these days, that requires some backlash against the anti-formula feeding sentiments that we find online and in our society. To be clear, I understand that in many areas of the world, especially in the United States, formula feeding is “the norm”; however, the people who come here seeking support are NOT living in those areas, otherwise they wouldn’t need support in the first place.

It’s like this: let’s say you are from Italy, studying abroad at a college in Boston (I choose Boston because it’s my hometown, and, well, if you’re gonna choose a location for a college-related analogy, it should be Boston). You start seeking out other native Italians, because sometimes it’s nice to speak in your native tongue. If you lived in Italy, you wouldn’t have to think about it; people would think you were nuts if you posted a Craigslist ad reaching out to other native Italian speakers. But in Boston, maybe you feel a bit lonely, and want to relax around someone who understands where you are from. This doesn’t mean you don’t like and respect the Americans around you; you wouldn’t be studying abroad if you were ethnocentric. It’s just nice to let your guard down once in awhile.

Sticking with this (admittedly lame) analogy, what if you were meeting with your Italian club, and an American crashed the get together and started spewing off anti-Italian sentiments. You’d be pissed, wouldn’t you? It might even color your opinion of Americans, at least in some small, subconscious way. You’d still love your roommate and the friends you’d made here in the States, but maybe you’d start feeling a little defensive about your heritage. You’d hate that you felt that way, because you came to this country loving all things American, and it sucks that an experience like this makes you feel guarded.

Considering that many of us started out pro-breastfeeding, we come to this debate knowing what the other side thinks about formula feeding, even those who have the best of intentions. I recently came across a report from an August 2009 Good Morning America (“Breastfeeding vs Bottle Feeding Debate Gets Ugly“) that talks about the inner beliefs of formula feeders and breastfeeders:

“Among breast-feeding mothers, 75 percent support formula feeding, but that seems to be their surface reaction only..The survey also showed that 66 percent of the breast-feeders felt sorry for formula-fed babies, and 33 percent said they thought their bottle-feeding counterparts are ‘selfish and lazy.’

Nearly all of the formula-feeding mothers, 92 percent, support breast-feeding.”

I think this is why the comments from the formula feeding side can get a little snarky. We support breastfeeding. Most of us wanted to breastfeed in the first place. And when it comes down to it, we don’t care how you feed your baby, as long as you give us the same respect.

But I digress. I allow all the comments, good and bad, because of something GMA highlighted in its report – I want to get past that “surface reaction” they mentioned. Let’s just lay our cards on the table. I believe that’s the only way we can start the necessary work of TRUE infant feeding freedom; TRUE breastfeeding advocacy, which to me, means protecting our choices as women, all our choices, whether it be to breastfeed, formula feed, or some combination of both.

So keep ’em coming, guys. Let’s get this debate on track. It doesn’t need to be ugly, but if some people want to get their anger out (on either side), I’d rather they do it on here than in a manner which could hurt some new mom, just trying to make her way through the minefield that is new parenthood.

Suzanne Barston is a blogger and author of BOTTLED UP. Fearless Formula Feeder is a blog – and community – dedicated to infant feeding choice, and committed to providing non-judgmental support for all new parents. It exists to protect women from misleading or misrepresented “facts”; essentialist ideals about what mothers should think, feel, or do; government and health authorities who form policy statements based on ambivalent research; and the insidious beast known as Internetus Trolliamus, Mommy Blog Varietal.

Suzanne Barston – who has written posts on Fearless Formula Feeder.

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7 thoughts on “Some comments on comments

  1. Amber-

    Certainly none of yours. And in fact, I agree with pretty much every formula feeder who comments on here. I probably shouldn't have labeled them “good” or “bad” – I guess my point was more that I don't like it when feelings are hurt. There's been a few times when I've allowed someone to post (pretty much consistently on the “other” side) when I know it's going to offend the very people I am writing this blog for… and that is what makes me sad. But on the other hand, I really do think it's important to get everything out in the open.

    No comment is inherently “bad”, but I am guilty myself of writing some stuff on here which has veered off into snark, which has been brought to my attention a few times by commenters. And the comments made by ArubanBreastfeeding on a recent post made me stop and think – I do NOT want to sink to the level of sanctimonious lactivists. People like you always manage to temper your thoughts and respond rationally; I am striving to do that myself.

  2. It is so hard. I even struggle with how to comment here. But, I choose to be completely honest and real, which is inevitably emotional! I don't want us formula-feeders to apologize for how we feel, you know? We've taken some real crap and have to stand up for ourselves, without fear (per the name of this blog). I don't blame you for feeling conflicted about the comments from the judgemental type of breastfeeders. That is the only reason I hesitate to come here sometimes–I know I might get riled up. But you are trying to open a dialogue so you have to let some of that in. A tough balance, to be sure. But your posts and comments always seem so reasonable and calm, yet strong and with a laugh here and there. “Snark” is one person's interpretation–of course I'm biased, but I don't see it. You have a sense of humor–there's nothing wrong with that. After all, we moms do take ourselves WAY too seriously sometimes! Would be great if we could all find a way to laugh at how ridiculous this whole “debate” is. Meanwhile, children are going hungry, around the world and here in our own country. I mean, really!

    My $.02 — don't be overly critical of yourself. Speak from the heart, and you can't go wrong! Besides, you can't please everyone! That's boring, anyway. 😉 Let them come and comment–but they better be ready for some heartfelt, emotional and intelligent responses. Those who judge others' lives and choices have it coming in a major way.

  3. All I have to say is BRING IT ON, Lactivista, BRING.IT.ON!!!!


    And I agree with Amber, you would never see an avid BF activist post something like this on their blog, so dont feel like you need to be neutral for their sake (that is unless you want to). I guess it further proves that stats you posted about how 92% of FF supports BFers. We support them 92% of the time, while for them, we are selfish, lazy and need some pity for our FF babies.

  4. LOL I figure the more controversial the comments, the more hits your blog will get! 😉

    I recently wrote a controversial article on breastfeeding, and my hits soared! Bring it on, people! ha ha ha

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