FFF Friday: “Everyone can do this if they try hard enough.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

I know a lot of you have “met” Lisa, the founder of “Bottle Babies”, through the FFF Facebook page – but you probably don’t know her story. Read on to discover how she evolved from feeling ashamed about her “failure” to breastfeed to being a strong, confident and supportive voice on the internet. And then go check out her “Bottle Babies” group on Facebook, because she – and it – are totally awesomesauce. 
***
“Hi my name is Lisa and I am a formula feeder” 
For  long time I felt like I should be standing up and saying those words in front of a crowd like ‘Formula Feeders Anonymous’, a group of mothers who were ashamed of their burden on society for not providing what was ‘best’ for their children.  My shame in not being able to breastfeed and feelings of being less of a mother came from many sources:  From midwifes, lactation consultants, posters on the wall in the birthing room, strangers on the street and the whole of society who seemed to know ‘breast is best’ and had no problems in reminding me of that every time I pulled out a bottle.  But the person who made me feel like a failure and who judged me the most was none other than myself.
From the time I was a little girl, I was told by my mother how she was ‘a cow’ and not only breastfed both my brother and I til we were over 12 months, but also had enough supply to contribute to the milk bank at the hospital.
When we were shopping together if she saw a sound sleeping baby in its pram she would say “that baby must be breastfeed – it is so content”
So when I feel pregnant I imagined myself sitting in my rocking chair, breastfeeding my happy, healthy and content breastfeed baby.
After 15 hours in labour and labelled as ‘Failure to Progress’ at 9cm dilated, with baby starting to go into distress, I went under the knife and my beautiful baby boy was born at 8am.
His daddy took him to meet the family while I was in recovery, but because of complications with the epidural, I was there for a really long time and by the time I came down to the ward I was exhausted. After everyone left in the late afternoon, my new little boy and I fell soundly asleep.
It wasn’t til the next morning that a midwife asked me how many feeds he had and I responded with “umm I haven’t fed him????” She of cause looked a little panicked but promptly whipped out one of my boobs, grabbed the baby and put his face next to my nipple. He looked at it and went back to sleep.
Over the next day in the hospital I was given 100 instructions on how to do it, why to do it and I had my nipples gabbed by more people then I had ever had in my life, all trying to get my little boy interested. He wasn’t. Every time they tried he would have a few sucks, scream and fall asleep, so every couple of hours I would tried putting him on for about 45 minutes until we were both exhausted, then hand expressed colostrum into a little bottle and give it to him with a syringe. Sitting in the hospital room watching all the other mothers breastfeeding while I feed my little baby with a syringe made me depressed – not only had I ‘Failed to Progress’ I had also ‘Failed to Breastfeed’
Some of the midwives were lovely but some were obviously frustrated with me, more then I was at myself and one in particular was determined to make it work.  She told me to strip him down to only his nappy and ‘helped’ him stay awake by placing a cold wet cloth on him everytime he got a bit sleepy.  But instead of attaching and sucking, this just made him scream.  I felt like taking him, wrapping him up and running away but she stood over me for an hour doing this, with me crying while she exclaimed “he has to do this, he has to eat, everyone can do this if they try hard enough.”
After that, just two days after a dramatic birth, a c-section, baby blues and baby who wasn’t eating, I asked to be discharged and the hospital was just fine with that as they were very busy and I guess I was just taking up space. 
At home I went through the motions of trying to get him on for 45 minutes, followed by hand express for 45 minutes, feed with small bottle, cry for an hour, time for another feed.
I saw lactation consultants who told me to keep trying and we would ‘get it’, I spoke on the phone to help lines who told me to keep trying and we would ‘get it’ and I spoke to doctors who told me to keep trying and we would ‘get it’.
The hand expressing lasted 1 week on my determination that one day we would ‘get it’, but with the support of my husband, who basically told me that it was unhealthy for baby and I to continue with this, I gave up on the idea that I would get him to latch on and I bought a breast pump. I expressed for the next two months, which was a little easier but still a long drawn out process. After two months my milk dried up.
In despair I stood in the formula isle of the supermarket and cried.  I had no idea which formula to choose, I knew no one who formula feed and I couldn’t deal with the pressure from any health professionals if I was to call them and ask ‘which formula do I get him” I was much to embarrassed that I had failed at something that seemed so easy and natural for every mum I knew and that I hadn’t kept trying.
Through the tears I read some of the information on the tins and bought the one in the gold tin, the most expensive, to help my conscience just a little.
When I got home and made up the formula I cried again and as I feed him the tears kept falling.
He gulped down the lot and then slept for 5 hours. No tears from him at all and for the first time I saw content look on his face.
As the days past, I watched him get happier and more alert and even though I still grieved that he was not getting the ‘best’ I was starting to feel better too. My husband feed him alot and it left me free to do other things instead of spending 3 hours in a feeding process. I could brush my hair and teeth and take a shower!!!  
Feeding him the formula in the privacy of our own home was fine – I only judged myself, but out in the world it seemed like everyone judged me.
When shopping, I would make up the bottle of formula around the corner before entering the mothers’ room in the hope that the other mothers’ breastfeeding their babies might think that it was expressed milk. One time in a mothers room I was sitting in a booth and a mother walked up to me and asked me to move cause she wanted to use the booth, I was only bottle feeding and I shouldn’t even be in the mother’s room. I went home and cried and didn’t go out for 2 weeks.
As my fat little health baby grew I began to realise that maybe the formula wasn’t that bad, it was keeping him alive, he was thriving, we were both happy and healthy and I was a good mum.
After doing alot of research about formula and discovering how many mums have similar feeding issues, I really started feel like I wasn’t alone.
As my confidence grew, I began to see that the way I feed my baby was my business and no one else’s. When people asked me why I wasn’t breastfeeding I told them “It wasn’t the right choice for us” I didn’t try and explain my whole story and try and excuse myself for failure…… because I didn’t feel like a failure anymore. This beautiful little boy loved me and our bond was so close – it didn’t matter how he was feed as long as he was feed.
When I had my second baby we did everything right and still he wouldn’t breastfeed, but this time at the hospital I had a midwife who wasn’t just fixated on making it work no matter what and we discovered that my milk ducts weren’t working as they should and the chance of me breastfeed was slim. I still expressed for a few weeks for my new little boy but when it was too much I had no hesitation in putting him on formula.
Every time I sit in my rocking chair, hold him close, feeding him his bottle and watch him drift off to sleep, I think to myself how grateful I am to have such a healthy, happy and content baby.
To all those mums out there who couldn’t breastfeed – remember this – no matter how you feed your baby – breast or bottle, the only persons opinion who matters is your babies, and if he or she is loved and nurtured and as long as you are doing the best you can, whatever your circumstances, then you are a perfect mother to your baby.
***

Have the urge to share your story? Email it to me at formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Milk sharing, shmilk shmaring

I’ve been trying my hardest to avoid tackling the hot topic of milk sharing (or milk banks), but it seems to be the issue of the day. Hell, even Wired got in on the action. Typically, I’d take the fact that breastfeeding was discussed in Wired as a sign of the Apocalypse, but since the whole May 21 thing turned out to be a bust, I’m not banking on it. (Ha. “Banking”. And we’re talking about milk banks. Get it? That’s the extent of my wit when I’m all doped up on Tylenol Severe Cold.)

The reason I haven’t wanted to touch this topic with a ten-foot pole is that I’m honestly not sure what to think about it. My whole m.o. is wrapped up in this live-and-let-live mentality; it shouldn’t matter that I personally would be skeeved out to feed my baby milk from some random other mama, as long as you’re comfortable with it. I think informal milk sharing between friends or relatives – like my good friend, who donated some of her enviable freezer stash to her sister-in-law – is pretty awesome. But I do have an issue with how a misrepresentation of risk is deluding women into thinking that buying breastmilk off the internet is “safer” than using formula. And since, according to Wired, breastmilk is turning into quite the commodity, I think its time we had a little talk about some harsh realities.

First of all: breastmilk and breastfeeding are two separate concepts. I have seen these two terms being thrown around as if they are interchangeable, and that is just. not. true. Frequent readers of this blog know that one of my biggest complaints about breastfeeding medicine is that we spend so much time, money and energy on (mostly flawed) studies “proving” the superiority of breastfeeding over formula feeding, rather than performing more interesting, controllable, and ultimately helpful studies on the properties of breastmilk that are performing these magical feats. For example, there is strong and ample evidence that breastfed kids have a lower risk of ear infections. But what is providing this benefit? Is it something in the milk itself, or is it simply the delivery system? Is there a study comparing kids fed breastmilk out of bottles to those breastfed, in the most literal sense? And if it is indeed the milk, then wouldn’t it be cool to know what constituent of the milk is protecting little baby ear canals?

This is relevant to the topic of milk sharing, because until we understand the benefits of breastmilk versus breastfeeding, we can’t know the benefits of giving our kids donated milk. And for parents shelling out $32-60 a day to feed their babies human milk, I’m assuming these benefits matter. Even for those who have managed to find generous donors and are getting the milk for free, the potential health costs of unmonitored milk need to be weighed against the benefits.

Speaking of health costs… this is a sensitive subject. But just as I will freely admit that there are risks to formula feeding if one does not handle the formula properly, or uses bad water, or dirty bottles; or a company allows bug parts to get into their supply or what have you, I think we also need to be realistic about consuming a bodily substance from a stranger. Says Wired:

Screening milk donors turns up a surprising number of infectious agents—pathogens that could be passed on to a baby. A 2010 Stanford University study examined data from 1,091 women who applied to donate milk to a bank in San Jose, California. It revealed that 3.3 percent were rejected after their blood samples tested positive for at least one of five serious infections: syphilis, HIV, hepatitis B, hepatitis C, and human T-cell lymphotropic virus. And if these pathogens are in a donor’s blood, they can be present in the milk, too. 

 This doesn’t even begin to explain the potential risks of OTC and prescription medicines, herbal supplements, and diets – things that are considered “irrelevant” in much of the breastfeeding literature, despite a mind-boggling lack of evidence to back this “irrelevancy” up. For example, nicotine does get secreted into the breastmilk of smokers; so do some antidepressants, painkillers, etc. It is up to every mom to decide if the benefits outweight the risks when breastfeeding their own child, but just because I feel that taking Prozac while nursing is cool, it doesn’t necessarily mean you do. And if someone feels that it is perfectly safe to smoke, drink, or take certain meds because Kellymom or LLL or a message board tells them that it is, chances are they won’t think its worth mentioning in a Craigslist ad hawking their own breastmilk. This is not to say that milk donors aren’t altruistic – I would bet that most really are, that they truly want to help babies deprived of breastmilk… but even the milk of human kindness can be tainted with things that we might not want our kids ingesting.

Here’s a confession: I have found all four of the incredible babysitters I’ve used in the past 2.5 years through Craigslist. My friends think I’m nuts, but meanwhile, I have managed to find some of the best, most loving, educated and responsible women around to care for my kids. Sure, I had to interview a lot of duds, but even that wasn’t too arduous a process.  But many of my friends feel, understandably, that trusting someone you find on Craigslist with their babies would be utter stupidity. I think that’s probably a common belief. (Yet, how many women would take donated breastmilk from the same site with nary a second thought?) My point, again, is that many people may have great luck getting milk through a free internet site. But we shouldn’t make women feel that they are better mothers because of it. Just because I had a good experience on Craigslist finding childcare doesn’t mean that there aren’t baby snatchers scouring that same site. I felt comfortable with the candidates I found, but that’s partly because I can work from home and keep a close eye on what’s going on, sans teddy-bear nanny cams. I would never tell another mom to use this method of finding a sitter because it was “perfectly safe”, because my situation is a unique one.

Another issue we have to think about is that breastmilk straight from the tap differs from breastmilk that has been stored for days or weeks. Studies (controlled, in vitro studies, not observational ones like the kind most breastfeeding-related beliefs are based on) have shown that certain vitamins and antioxidants do not hold up well when breastmilk is frozen (although in the case of antioxidants, the frozen breasmilk still beat formula. You listening, Enfamil? Similac?). So unless you’re able to afford an actual wet nurse, your baby may not be getting the 24-karat liquid gold. Maybe more like gold-plated.

Now, obviously, one could argue that even gold-plated is better quality than the sterling silver that is infant formula. That’s absolutely your call. I personally like the look of sterling silver, and think it holds up better in the long term, but its a matter of preference. I definitely don’t think the government has a right to interfere in milk donation; parents have a right to buy and sell (or donate and accept) breastmilk just as much as I have a right to choose to formula feed. But I do worry about the repercussions of a formula-is-poison atmosphere as this breastmilk “niche industry” develops. Eavesdropping on a popular adoption baby board recently, I saw a disturbing discussion about donor breastmilk which completely misrepresented/misunderstood the risks of milk sharing, and could easily lead to adoptive mothers feeling derelict for not seeking out a source of breastmilk rather than formula feeding.

All I’m saying is that we need to approach these decisions realistically, with bifocals rather than blinders on. Someone recently commented on the FFF Facebook page that while breastmilk is a nutritionally superior substance, its not a morally superior one. I love this. But when it comes to donor milk, I also want to make sure that parents are fully informed and 100% sure that breastmilk is, actually, the nutritionally superior product – or more accurately, the overall superior product, with all the risks of human-derived bodily substances factored in. I suspect that processed, screened breastmilk from a reputable bank, as described in the Wired piece, is indeed superior to formula. But that still involves quite a bit of scientific intervention (and cost):



Collecting the milk is just the beginning of a lengthy process that also involves analyzing, purifying, and standardizing the product. Once a donation has been tested for microbes and found to be pure, a small sample is analyzed by a machine called a MilkoScan FT 120. It looks like an espresso maker and uses an interferometer to scan the milk. The result is a readout showing the proportion of protein, fats, lactose, and calories, which can vary from 12 to 38 per ounce. To sell to hospitals, banks must provide milk with a specific, consistent balance of nutrients and calories. To achieve that, the banks use a technology called target pooling—blending donations with various nutrient profiles until the optimal caloric value (around 20 calories per ounce) is achieved. Finally, they pasteurize the milk with a special technique that heats it to about 144.5 degrees Fahrenheit, minimizing the destruction of antibodies while killing viruses and other pathogens.

In sum, I think milk sharing is none of my business, or the governments, and is probably totally safe and fine for the most part. Which is what I think the attitude towards formula should be as well. Both are just food. Both need better science and better jurisdiction to make them truly safe and superior products. Neither make you a better parent for using them.

And frankly, I’m all for a breastmilk “market”. I imagine that if it is profitable, companies will start analyzing the constituents of breastmilk and discovering exactly what’s in the stuff that makes it so amazing. Considering the breastfeeding experts seem to have little interest in doing so (and would rather keep churning out poorly-designed studies that just provide fodder for lactivist blogs), I’m just glad someone will be performing these studies – even if its for profit-driven reasons. Just like that song in Cabaret says, money makes the world go round – and you know what? I’m fine with it.

FFF Friday: “Why are we doing this to ourselves?”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.

Please note, these stories are for the most part unedited, and do not necessarily represent the FFF’s opinions. They are also not political statements – this is an arena for people to share their thoughts, and I hope we can all give them the space to do so.

This week’s submission comes from FFF Kate, who lives in “hippy-dippy Brooklyn” – one of those rare places where breastfeeding really is the norm (see my last post for more on this). I can’t believe the story she tells in the first paragraph….no, wait. I can believe it. Which is really, really sad.

*** 

I went through my pregnancy convinced that I was going to do the “right thing” and breastfeed. The hospital that I had chosen to give birth in was extremely breast feeding friendly and held breastfeeding classes several times a week, which I attended just after my daughter was born. During that class, one woman was bottle feeding her baby and was told that she could not participate in the class if she continued to feed her baby. I look back at that incident with absolute horror.
 
While I was in the hospital, the breast feeding seemed to be going extremely well. My daughter was taking my breast and the nursing staff and lactation consultant told me that we were doing great. The first visit to the pediatrician’s office told a different story. She had lost quite a large percentage of her birthweight and the doctor gave me a bottle of formula which we fed her immediately. She wolfed it down. I felt a failure, but was still determined to try and bought a high-end breast pump.
 
I hated that contraption and everytime I pumped, nothing came out of me. I read that if I carried on pumping then my supply would increase. A lactation consultant told me to go and buy herbs and massage my daughter’s jaw. Mentally – I was blocked. I couldn’t do it. I didn’t want to do it. What sort of monster mother was I that I couldn’t or wouldn’t try anything to produce milk for my child?
 
My husband told me he really didn’t care if I breastfed or not, and considering the pressure it was putting me under, it was better if I didn’t. My mother and mother-in-law who had fed me and husband with formula rolled their eyes. I put the pump away and it was the best decision I could have made.
 
When my daughter was five weeks old, I went to a new moms’ meeting.  I whipped out the formula and a couple of moms sheepishly did the same and we got talking about it. It was such a relief that in hippy-dippy Brooklyn, nobody chastized me or made me or the others feel bad about how we were feeding our children. But it also got me angry that we were feeling so guilty about it and in some cases, hiding it. Women have got so far in many respects, but the chains of breastfeeding are holding us down. Why are we doing this to ourselves?
 
Eighteen months down the line, I have a child who had her first  (and only) fever when she was over a year old. She has never once vomited. She has more words than many of her breastfed peers. I know that’s only anecdotal evidence, but the scientific evidence for breastfeeding is pretty flimsy. I no longer feel guilty and wish that I knew then what I know now. I wish that I had the knowledge and experience to stand up for that poor mother thrown out of the breastfeeding class for feeding her baby.
 

A Tale of Two Cities

One of the most repetitive arguments we’ve seen on FFF is that there is no such thing as an anti-formula-feeding culture; that breastfeeding mothers are always the minority, no matter where you live in America. I find myself living a lactation-centric Groundhog’s Day as I try and explain that infant feeding trends vary greatly, depending on the city. I also add the caveat that while there are, indeed, many parts of the country where bottle feeding is still the norm, and I understand why breastfeeding moms might feel marginalized and angry….even in areas where bottle feeding is prevalent, women can still feel guilty and defective if they do not nurse.

I’m visiting my in-laws right now, who live in the Northwest suburbs of Chicago. About half of our childbearing friends live in the city; the others are back in the ‘burbs. They run the gamut with breastfeeding; most nursed for 3-6 months, with some supplementation; one breastfed exclusively, and a few others pumped and bottle fed, later turning to formula. Some say they felt pressured to breastfeed at the hospital, but for the most part, none of them appear to have struggled too dramatically with their feeding decisions.

On Sunday, my in-laws threw us a party, a kind of “meet-and-greet” for Fearlette, who was visiting her midwest posse for the first time. I got into quite a few conversations about my work, since all of my friends either had small children and wanted to reflect on their experiences, or are currently pregnant and facing these inevitable decisions. By the end of the party, I was starting to think that some of the FFF critics were right – I must live in some odd sort of ivory tower (milky white, maybe, instead of ivory) where breastfeeders are the majority, where breastfeeding pressure is so insidiously rampant. It seemed as if Chicago, despite its status as a progressive, urban, intellectual hub, was still a place where bottlefeeding was universally acceptable.

Then, on Monday, Fearless Husband and I left FC in the burbs with his grandparents, and took Fearlette with us to visit a few city-dwelling friends – including one couple who had just had their first baby 10 days earlier. We stopped at a baby store to buy said couple a gift, and somehow, my stupid clumsy self managed to trip while holding the 5-month-old Fearlette, and knocked her beautiful, fragile face on the cold, dirty Chicago sidewalk. (Incidentally, not breastfeeding is nothing compared to dropping your infant on its head on the Parental Guilt Scale. But don’t worry, I’m not going to start the Fearless Baby Dropper blog or anything.)

We ended up seeing a friend’s pediatrician for an emergency visit, and Fearlette was luckily fine, except for a small bruise on her forehead and a tiny scratch on her adorable nose. As the doctor was checking her out, she asked us how Fearlette had been in the time between the accident and arriving at the pediatricians office (about fifteen minutes, with Fearless Husband barreling down Michigan Avenue, cutting off bird-flipping cabbies and honking furiously). I told her that I’d fed her and she’d ate well. That was all I said – “I fed her, and she ate normally.” To which the doctor replied, “Oh, cool… so she finished her bottle like normal?”

Say what??

To my ears, this was shocking. Why would she assume I was bottlefeeding? Did my reputation proceed me? Maybe breastfeeding moms didn’t drop babies on their heads? Could she tell Fearlette was a formula-fed kid? Was the trademark Alimentum smell permeating the room?

But you know, I don’t think it was any of those options. I think it was simply a normal default response, just like how at my Californian pediatric office, the default is to assume you’re breastfeeding.

Again, I wondered: maybe it is just Los Angeles, New York, and parts of the Pacific Northwest that house overwhelmingly breastfeeding-prevalent cultures. Which didn’t make my blog very relevant, or bode well for future book sales.

After we confirmed that Fearlette was no worse for the wear, we continued on to our friends’ loft, to meet their new bundle of joy. The new mom was calmer and cooler than I’d ever been, and seemed to have her head on straight in an incredibly admirable way. She told me she was pumping, but only managing to provide a small amount (her daughter had never been able to latch, despite the assistance of the hospital lactation consultants; they’d told her to consult with a private LC who charged $200/visit, to which she replied no freaking way), so they were feeding a combo of breastmilk and formula. She told me that they’d pushed breastfeeding at the hospital, but she’d wanted to do it, so it hadn’t bothered her. Later though, she admitted that her friends kept telling her she should keep pumping, keep trying to get her daughter to latch, asking her about it constantly, telling her how important it was… and these were all Midwesterners. Living in the supposedly bottle-feeding Heartland. Hmmm.

We later stopped by another friend’s house, who didn’t have kids of her own, but told me about her three closest friends, all Midwestern new moms, who had struggled, “failed”, and felt morally compelled to breastfeed. How depressed they’d been. How they’d felt like failures.

Today, while the kids were napping, I checked out the Facebook site of a Chicago-area expectant mom’s group, where it mentioned that the thing most of their members were most stressed out about was breastfeeding. I reread an email I got from a Chicago-dwelling professor I interviewed, who spoke of her own exclusively-nursing peer group in a way that reminded me, eerily, of mine.

Later in the day, we went to a suburban children’s museum where there were “nursing areas” in every corner of the building. And yet I didn’t see any moms using them. I did see a couple of other parents bottle feeding.

And I realized: I have no clue if Chicago is a bottle-feeding or breastfeeding “culture”. These things are constantly in flux; for all I know, the friends who gave birth three years ago might have lived in an entirely different environment than the ones giving birth now. Heck, my own hospital in Southern California had gone all Baby-Friendly in the two year span between my two births. You just never know what the winds of change will bring.

Coming from Los Angeles, I felt far more comfortable bottle-feeding in the suburbs of Chicago. But that doesn’t mean that my friend doesn’t feel comparable pressure from her breastfeeding friends and pro-breastfeeding hospital, even if her general environment is not 100% anti-formula.

We also don’t know what is in somebody’s heart. If you are a person who desperately wanted to nurse, who always saw yourself as a “counterculture mama” and now feel like you don’t qualify as one because your boobs don’t work, living in a “bottle feeding culture” isn’t going to help.

I realize this post is going nowhere. I’m still feeling kinda out of sorts for causing even a small moment of pain for my daughter (I’m turning in my sling and wrap for a bucket seat – attachment parenting is apparently not for klutzes). I guess what I’m trying to say is that the number of baby-friendly hospitals, or pediatricians who allow formula samples in their waiting rooms, is not necessarily indicative of what “culture” we live in.  So much depends on your individual OB, pediatrician, and hospital. On your own peer group. On where you work, what neighborhood you are in. Where you went to college, and what blogs you read. Social pressure comes from many places, and in this global world we live in, we just can’t know what someone’s “culture” really is.

In the meantime, I am retreating to my breastmilky-white ivory tower of Los Angeles, where we mostly drive in cars. I can’t be trusted to walk on sidewalks.

FFF Friday: “I am incensed.”

Welcome to Fearless Formula Feeder Fridays, a weekly guest post feature that strives to build a supportive community of parents united through our common experiences, open minds, and frustration with the breast-vs-bottle bullying and bullcrap.
This week’s FFF Friday is a bit out of the ordinary. It’s not so much a personal story about breastfeeding or formula feeding, but I think this anonymous submission is one of the most important guest posts I’ve ever published. It speaks to an issue that was recently brought up in a discussion thread of another post, and demonstrates that it is not only the formula companies who are bastardizing the information we receive about infant feeding. 
 ***
I am a freelance journalist who occasionally assists clients with what I like to call “media relations” — teaching clients how to write press releases and talk to editors in a way that gets noticed. As a former parenting magazine editor, the clients I attract tend to be in the parenting/baby/pregnancy industry. I’m also in a unique position in that my magazine experience has given me a very broad understanding of the “hot button” topics that the media either shies completely away from, takes the popular line on, or overemphasizes in a provocative, salacious way. One of these topics is, of course, “breastfeeding versus formula-feeding”. With this topic, there is very little middle ground where the media is concerned.

One of my clients owns a boutique stocking feeding products. I say “feeding” because what she sells covers everything from breastfeeding clothing to baby bottles to solids-starting equipment like spoons and sippy cups. She sells a lot of other stuff, too, but the feeding products are most important in this instance because she has hired me to help her write a press release to send to media in time for World Breastfeeding Week. And this is where I have a problem.

I have a problem because I looked at the “official” World Breastfeeding Week website, http://worldbreastfeedingweek.org/, and saw these words:

“Notice: Manufacturers and distributors of baby foods, feeding bottles, teats and breast pumps do not have permission to use World Breastfeeding Week related text and logo. If they do, they will be deemed to have infringed our copy-righted material.”

So my client, because she sells all four of those things in her boutique, will not be allowed to jump on the “official” WBW bandwagon to promote breastfeeding. If she does — or if I do, on her behalf, when writing her press release — we’ll both be accused of infringing WBW’s copyright.

Man, am I incensed.

I am incensed because my client supports ALL women to feed their babies, regardless of what method they choose. She not only sells a wide range of products to assist with feeding, she also offers advice and help to women who are struggling with feeding — any kind of feeding. Hers is one of the few companies that has made an effort to listen to real mothers and what real mothers want and need, and she is trying to provide it to them. Her personal viewpoint does not enter into her advice and support. She manages to be amazingly unbiased.

I am incensed because my client is doing women a service that no lactivist I’ve ever met has managed to replicate. She is kind and understanding, never forceful. She is knowledgeable and willing to share her knowledge, not tripping over her own tongue in an effort to verbally beat someone into submission by regurgitating a “one-size fits all” breastfeeding message that, in fact, fits almost no one.

I am incensed because WBW’s little “notice” immediately marginalises all women who are feeding their babies breastmilk, just not via the breast. Why should women who are using a breast pump be ignored? What about those mothers with premature babies in the hospital, expressing milk every two hours just to give their infant breastmilk rather than formula? And the mothers utilizing milk banks or shared feeding in order that their baby receives breastmilk? Don’t these things “count”?

I am incensed because every year, the parenting magazine I used to work for hosted a Big Latch-On event during WBW, and every year I received a litany of complaints from mothers who did not breastfeed their babies asking me why there wasn’t a week celebrating plain old infant feeding, and why my publication never published anything on bottles or formula. And instead of telling them the truth — that the publisher was too scared of upsetting the lactivist brigade to permit anything but the most minimal of formula information — I was forced to write a “pat” response reassuring these justifiably pissed-off mothers that of course we took their positions seriously, and of course we weren’t trying to upset them. We weren’t. We were just more scared of the lactivists than we were of them.

For many years, the media has been afraid of Big Breast. Big Breast has power — power enough to sit on a high, high horse and threaten legal action to anyone who wants to tell women that there are other options besides the breast for feeding your baby.

I could point all of this out, of course, in my client’s press release to the media for World Breastfeeding Week. But no one will publish it. I know that firsthand.

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