FFF Friday: “Losing my sanity was not something I could afford…”

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.




Wow. After my plea for entries last week, I got a slew of incredible stories delivered to my inbox. (In related news: You guys ROCK.) One of these amazing submissions was Chelsea Allen’s. I always appreciate hearing stories about the psychological impediments to breastfeeding, because these are as real and valid as the physical ones – and seldom understood. Body-image issues, anxiety disorders, PPD… all of these things can be that proverbial straw that breaks the breastfeeding camel’s back (a breastfeeding camel. Now THAT would be a cool sight…). The more these stories are shared, the less alone the next mother who is suffering through something similar will feel. I’m humbled by Chelsea’s willingness to share her very raw feelings with me, and with all of us.

Happy Friday, fearless ones.

- The FFF

***

I have two little boys. With my oldest, I never tried to breastfeed him because I had huge fears of nursing him in public because of my weight and breast size. I had some major self esteem issues going on with my body and just didn’t want to torture myself. When I got pregnant with my second born, I decided I would try to get over those fears and breastfeed him because well…breast is best right? I educated myself very thoroughly. Went to classes about breastfeeding, read and read about it, how to latch the baby properly etc etc. When it finally came time to nurse my baby, I demanded he be brought to me immediately so I could have the skin to skin contact that was so important and try to latch him. He flat out refused! So I tried again a little bit later and finally I got him on with the help of the nurses. He nursed for a good 20 minutes, which the nurses said was wonderful. However, I was a nervous wreck! I suffer from extreme anxiety anyways but when he was nursing I was having a hard time breathing, I became covered in sweat, my heart started racing and I just…I dunno I was shaking very badly. I pushed it aside though and tried to continue nursing him. While I was in the hospital, I had the nurses in there every time it was feeding time to help support and encourage me because I literally had these anxiety attacks every time it was horrible!

When we got home the anxiety attacks only got stronger. I was by myself without the nurses and had an older child the required attention at well. My anxiety was through the roof, even when I wasn’t nursing him. What didn’t help was that he was literally wanting to nurse every half hour, for a good 25 minutes each time. Getting comfortable was also impossible, which stressed me out even more and because I was stressed, my son was too. He cried and screamed and would get so upset he wouldn’t latch for the longest time. I went through five days of this and it was turning me into a monster, towards my significant other and other little one. I began to resent my baby, didn’t feel like I was bonding with him at all. My significant other finally was like, Chelsea, you need to just give him the bottle. Put him on formula, he said. I felt like the biggest failure. Yet, the moment when I gave him that bottle it was like…a whole new world for us. It felt like the sun was finally shining. After having anxiety attacks like I was, I was finally able to relax and just enjoy my baby. I suffered from a bad case of PPD though and it was a struggle for me to get back on my feet, and still to this day I struggle with it (although its under control).

If I ever have baby number three, I will never ever try to breastfeed again. It was one of the worst experiences of my life and I will never put myself or my baby through that again. When I tell people my story, they have a hard time believing it. Saying awful things like “You should have just dealt with it instead of giving up.” Yea maybe I should but I had another child to worry about and losing my sanity was not something I could afford to lose. And resenting my baby was also the worse feeling ever. I wanted to love and bond with him, not look at him with disgust and resentment.

It’s taken me several months to get over my failure and now I don’t let those people get me down. I made the best choice for my baby and myself.

***


Inspired to share your story? Good, then. Send it along to formulafeeders@gmail.com.

Breastfeeding is worth it

The lovely Ashley Poland over at Domestic Chaos recently mentioned this blog as “a good resource for mothers.” This was incredibly sweet of her, especially considering that Ashley is a (wonderful, positive) breastfeeding advocate. In her description of FFF, she also admits that “it’s hard sometimes to read the entries. As someone who would love to see more people interesting in and trying breastfeeding, I occasionally interpret the attitude is Breastfeeding is useless.”

This comment stopped me in my tracks. If this was someone who just performed a cursory reading of the blog, it would be one thing. But Ashley is a loyal reader, one with an incredible level of intelligence, sensitivity, and self-awareness. If she is getting that impression, then I think it’s safe to say that I am (however unintentionally) giving that impression.

I spend my days attempting to prove that formula feeding is a safe option for parents, that the claims about breastfeeding are often misinterpreted, and that our ideas about infant feeding are (unconsciously or consciously) stuck in the mire of nostalgic, and ultimately limiting, ideas about women and motherhood. I care most about women who’ve been abused by the system, and harmed by the breastfeeding rhetoric, having those precious first day/weeks/months of motherhood stolen from them by a tornado of judgment, fear and expectation. I don’t really care about promoting breastfeeding, because I feel like that’s being done – and done to such an extent that it’s harming parents and sometimes even children, and allowing our society to put responsibility for the health of the nation onto the already overloaded shoulders of women.

But do I think that breastfeeding is useless? Hell no. 

Actually, I would tell any prospective mother who is on the fence about how to feed her child to give breastfeeding a fair, educated, eyes-wide-open, and optimistic shot. Because all things being equal, formula feeding SUCKS. It’s inconvenient. It’s messy. It’s expensive. It’s confusing. And choosing to formula feed pretty much guarantees you a lifetime of explaining yourself; feeling judged; and questioning your dedication to motherhood (not that I condone any of these things – they are exactly what I’m trying to destroy through this blog – but this is the reality, at least for now).

I was thinking about this the other day, as a few of my good friends are adding solids to their breastfeeding babes’ diets. One mentioned how inconvenient and annoying solids could be – remembering to bring food along on outings, etc. I was confused for a minute, until I realized that duh, this woman was used to being able to walk out the door anytime and have food readily available for her son. As long as she was there, he could be fed. Awesome. Who in her right mind would chose a path requiring sticky, expensive powder, and a feeding method which requires bottle-washing, wondering about the right kinds of water, comparison shopping and trying a zillion formulas and bottles before finding the right one for your kid – when the other choice simply requires holding a warm, delicious baby near your naked chest? All things being equal, breastfeeding is not useless; breastfeeding is by far the easier, more rewarding choice.

But all things are not equal, for many women. The reason I feel so strongly about protecting formula as a choice is because I feel so strongly that breastfeeding rocks. If someone either actively chooses to formula feed, or ends up formula feeding due to extenuating circumstances, then there is a reason that they are doing so. These reasons are not mine to judge, nor are they anyone’s (especially the clerk at the grocery store, your pediatrician, or random snarkettes on the interwebz). That said, I operate under the assumption that mothers (and prospective mothers) are well aware of the benefits and advantages of breastfeeding. If they don’t know the beauty and satisfaction that it provides, that is sad; I hope that breastfeeding advocates can take a hint from that, and perhaps stop harping on about the dangers of formula (a tactic that doesn’t really work, if our long-term breastfeeding rates are any indication) and begin extolling the positive, empowering, enjoyable aspects of the act.

Since anyone with an internet connection (i.e., anyone with the ability to read this blog) knows why they should be breastfeeding, I think it stands to reason that if they aren’t, there’s a pretty damn good reason. Now, that reason may be something seemingly trivial, like a fear of not being able to return to eating nothing but SlimFast and Diet Coke. But for a recovering anorexic? That’s a pretty significant fear. I’d much rather they formula feed than force themselves into a psychological mind-fark. Or what about the woman who has to go back to work 3 weeks after giving birth? She might not want to sludge through the inevitable 6-week “learning curve” for breastfeeding (and there is one, for most women. I think coming clean about the realities would help keep women breastfeeding, rather than scare them off it. I had one friend who pushed through 2 months of exclusive pumping and futile attempts to nurse, but who ultimately succeeded in having a beautiful nursing relationship with her son. She also had tremendous support from friends who had similar struggles, and were open about it, and this is what helped push her through), but rather enjoy the short time she has with her baby. These are the choices women make, and the ones they should be respected for making, because they are making them in the context of the formula feeding is risky/breastfeeding makes you a perfect mother meme. You better believe that these women had good reason to choose what they chose.

Make no mistake: breastfeeding is not “useless”. Breastfeeding is incredible. I just want breastfeeding to be promoted without stooping to overstated scare tactics, or relying on poor science. In fact, I don’t think we should promote breastfeeding for it’s “health benefits” at all. We’ve all gotten the message. It’s turned into something we have to do, rather than want to do, and that makes me sad. I know too many women who love breastfeeding to believe that it has to be treated like going to the dentist.

Make no mistake: breastfeeding can be easy, and instantly gratifying. I just want breastfeeding researchers and care providers to look beyond their own experience, listen to what women are saying, and react accordingly. Women are not lying about insufficient supply, latching issues, pain, and allergic reactions to human milk. If we stop living in denial and do proper R&D into these problems, perhaps we could help women work through them without too much emotional duress on their parts (because no new mother needs additional stress, in the world we live in. A world, incidentally, which is in no way similar to many of the environments used to back up the “natural”, “instinctive” nature of breastfeeding… there is such a thing as social evolution).

I hope that we can do these things, because make no mistake: breastfeeding is worth it. But so is a mother’s sanity, health, and sense of autonomy.  One does not supersede or cancel-out the other.

The FFF Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Formula Feeding: Mixing bottles

Hola, FFFs. And holla, because here is the quick-and-dirty guide to formula feeding I’ve been promising for ages! Actually, this is just Part One, but I will be posting new parts every so often until the entire guide is finished – at which point I will make it available via a tab on the right-hand side of the blog. Sound good?

I hope that this guide will offer some simple, accurate info for prospective (and current) formula feeders, without the subtle guilt-mongering prevalent in most formula feeding info. I figure the least we deserve is some evidence-based advice that doesn’t come via the formula companies.

Since many readers of this blog are experienced, educated formula feeders, I’m sure they will be able to elaborate on what I write in this guide. Be sure to read the comment threads, as I hope that there will be even more helpful hints and tips offered by the FFF community.

And as always, if you have any specific questions, please feel free to email me at formulafeeders@gmail.com and I will try and find the answer for you.

Happy formula feeding, lovely ones!

- The FFF

******************
The FFF Quick-and-Dirty Guide to Formula Feeding:
Mixing Bottles

Mixing up a bottle of powdered formula isn’t rocket science, but it can be trickier than one might assume. First, always read the back of the can, because brands vary – some say to use an unpacked level scoop, others require a “packed” scoop. It’s important to have the proper ratio of formula and water because the wrong ratios can lead to stomach upset, which might make you think your baby is “intolerant” of the formula you’re using, when really it’s just that you’ve been using too much powder.

Finished reading the directions on your can? Cool. On to the next steps – and please note that I’ve broken this down into two categories, for newborns and babies older than three months. More precautions are necessary when your baby is a fragile newborn, since even the most insignificant illness can have a big impact on a human that tiny.You’ll notice that the instructions for older babies are much shorter. Like everything else about parenting, as the kid gets older, things get easier. If you can afford it, for the first month, use Ready-to-Feed formula rather than powdered. It’s safer (no chance of contamination from water, and less chance of contamination from your hands as all you have to do is pour it into a bottle or, in the case of those little nurser bottles some companies make, attach a pre-sterilized nipple. Easy-peasy, but pricey, so this is really just a short-term solution – but well worth it in the early days when the last thing you want to be worrying about is mixing formula the wrong way at 3am.)

Mixing Formula for Newborns

  • Measure the water. In terms of water, if you are mixing formula for a baby under three months old, the water source is pretty important. This is because if the water is contaminated with any bacteria, your baby can get sick. You know all those “facts” you hear about how formula fed babies get more gastrointestinal diseases? Most likely, it’s the water and not the formula which is causing these problems. (By the way, I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you this, but always wash your hands before you open the can and before you make up any formula. Duh, right?) Your best bet is distilled, bottled water (not all bottled waters are purified enough to reduce the chance of bacteria, and the distilling process helps gets rid of the little buggers), or simply boil a batch of water on your stove, let it cool, and keep it in the fridge. As long as you live in a community with a good water source, you’ll be able to use tap water (or tap water that’s been run through a home filtering system like a Brita pitcher) when your baby is a bit older.Pour the same amount of water into the bottle that you want to make of formula. So for example, if you are making a 4-oz bottle, pour 4 oz of water into the bottle.

(A little note about the “nursery water” that they sell at many grocery stores – this is usually fortified with fluoride, which may or may not be a good thing. Check out this post for more info.)

  • Measure the formula. Again, check if you’re supposed to use an unpacked or packed level scoop. Always use the scoop that the formula company provides, because they vary. The ratio for all formulas is one scoop to 2 oz of water (the exception to this is prescription Neocate, which uses a ratio of one formula scoop to one oz – thanks to FFF Perfesser for alerting me to this), so if you are making a 4-oz bottled, you’ll use 2 scoops; a 6-oz bottle, 3 scoops, and so on. Now, if you want to make an odd number of oz, things get trickier. You can eyeball a half-scoop, but this is obviously not an exact science, and I wouldn’t recommend it for a newborn. Instead, I’d suggest making more formula than you need, and pouring the remainder into another bottle which you can refrigerate and use at the next feeding. So for example, to make a 3-oz bottle, just make 6 oz of formula (6 oz of water/3 scoops of formula), shake up the bottle, and then pour 3 oz into another clean bottle to save for later. Cap that extra bottle and stick it in the fridge, and serve the other 3 oz immediately to your baby. When the time comes for the next feeding, warm the refrigerated bottle to room temp, and serve.
  • Insert any rings/discs that your bottle needs (for example, Avent bottles have little circular rings that need to be inserted before putting on the nipple; Dr. Brown’s use a whole elaborate contraption, and Born Free use a two-part disc. Other bottles don’t need anything but the nipple. I’ll leave figuring out the particular mechanics of your bottle of choice to the manufacturer’s website, because those things confuse the hell out of me. Took me like 3 weeks to figure out how to get the Dr. Brown’s system to work…) and then attach the nipple.
  • Mix or shake. Once everything is attached correctly, cap the bottle (or just place your finger over the hole in the nipple) and shake it vigorously. Then place the bottle on a flat surface and let it settle before serving. Check the nipple to make sure there are no clumps of formula stuck up in there, because it happens. A lot. Your other option is to use a formula mixer. Some folks swear by the little hand-held ones; they are supposed to mix the formula more smoothly and prevent air bubbles from forming. Personally, they didn’t work for me; the formula seemed more clumpy than when I shook the bottles by hand. I preferred using a formula pitcher, or even a salad dressing mixer (a heck of a lot cheaper than the commercial formula pitchers, and they do the trick). With these, you mix batches of formula and then pour the desired amount into bottles. Now, some warn against using these, as it is recommended that you make each bottle separately right before feeding. This is done, once again, to protect against bacterial contamination. Bacteria breeds the longer it is left out, so the theory is that if you have formula lying around – even in the fridge – it gives the bacteria a chance to grow and multiply. But if you are using pre-boiled or distilled water refrigerate the formula immediately and use it within a few hours, your chance of this happening is pretty tiny. You can also be extra-cautious and mix only the amount of formula that you need in the pitcher. One more caveat to using a separate pitcher/mixer – make sure you clean it after every use. And I’ll say it again – duh, right?
  • Make sure you feed your baby the bottle within 2 hours of mixing it up, unless you refrigerate it for later use. I used to be skeptical of this rule, but I’ve recently changed my mind. Just to clarify (thank to FFF Becky05 for this one), if you refrigerate the bottle, it stays good for 24 hours. But at room temp, you need to use it within 120 minutes, and once your babe has put it’s mouth to the nipple, it’s only good for 2 hours regardless of whether you stick it back in the fridge (although I still stick to my original belief that for an older baby, nursing a bottle for a little longer than 2 hours probably won’t hurt him/her, with a newborn, it’s better safe than sorry.)

 

Mixing formula for an older baby (3+ months)

  • Pour the water. At this point, you can use whatever water you personally drink. Bottled or tap (as long as it is from a safe water source – check with your city’s health department if you’re not sure) or filtered.
  • Scoop the formula. If you’ve recently switched formulas, double check that you are using the right amount – packed or unpacked – and make sure to use the scooper provided by the manufacturer. A hint for those of you as absent-minded as me – don’t try and have a conversation while mixing formula. You may find you suddenly have no idea if you’ve put in two scoops or three, at which point the whole batch might be ruined. It sucks. Pay attention and count aloud when you’re doing it. Seriously… or you’ll be crying over (unusable) milk.
  • Shake or mix. As long as there isn’t formula clumped in the nipple, you’re good to go. If you are worried about air bubbles, or your baby has an issue with excess gas, you can add a few of those infant gas drops (like Mylicon) to each bottle. But there’s really no need unless your baby is particularly gassy or spits up a lot. You can also just mix up the formula 15 minutes or so before a feed and let it settle – this will allow the air bubbles to subside.
  • Feel free to mix the day’s amount of formula in a formula pitcher (or even just a 32-oz Tupperware container), refrigerate, and use within 24 hours. If you’re using thickened feeds for a reflux baby, this is a total lifesaver – you can mix your batch to your baby’s specifications and not have to measure everything out for each bottle.

A few other hints:

  • For night time feedings: pre-measure water into bottles. Buy a formula dispenser, and measure out your formula into the dispenser. Bring all the stuff into your bedroom or master bath, and when you need to feed your baby in the middle of the night, all you need to do is pour the formula from the dispenser into the bottle. No fumbling around or measuring half-asleep.
  • The formula dispenser is also a great tool for outings. They have 3 little compartments, so you can measure out the amount of scoops you need for each bottle; bring bottles filled with water, and this way you don’t need to bring a cooler or anything when you’re out and about.
  • These instructions make it look like formula feeding is a massive undertaking. I promise you, it’s not. But I also strongly believe that most of the “dangers” of formula that are so widely discussed are due to improper formula handling. The older babies get, the lower the risk for major problems with bacteria and dehydration, and you can get more lax about things. But most of this stuff becomes pretty rote, anyway. Using ready-to-feed formula takes a lot of the stress out in the beginning, and as things get more chill in general, the less scary everything becomes. Just like breastfeeding has a learning curve, there’s a learning curve with formula feeding. You’ll get good at it and figure out what works best for you. As long as you have safe water, clean bottles, and accurately measured formula, you’ll be fine.

 

   Suzanne Barston (me) on KidsInTheHouse.com:

FFF Friday: “Each time I gave birth I attempted to nurse…”

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’m sure some folks will read this FFF Friday post and think, “Ha! Told you so! This blog discourages breastfeeding!”

But I don’t think that is what happened in this case. I think (and maybe I’m just delusional) that FFF Melissa, a mom of four, simply realized that she didn’t have to beat herself up simply for the sake of breastmilk. I think she realized she had given it the old college try not once but three times previously, and had found nothing but heartache. I think she realized that she deserved at least one postpartum experience that was not sullied by the stress of breastfeeding difficulties.

And I think that is awesome.

Happy Friday, fearless ones….

The FFF

***

I am the mom of three boys and one girl. Each time I gave birth I attempted to nurse and each time it did not work out. I wanted to nurse so bad. I loved the idea of whipping out a boob, shoving it into the baby’s mouth and bam! they were fed. That however is not how it ended up.

My first born turned dusky the first time I put him to the nipple. This turned out to be a sign of an undiagnosed and severe heart defect. I pumped like a mad woman for him and managed to maintain a decent milk supply for his needs. He was never strong enough to nurse and was partially tube fed. I did this for 14 months until I got pregnant with my second son.

My second son developed breathing issues and had a severe tongue tie. While he was in the NICU he would reluctantly latch and shredded my nipples with his horrible latch. Why I kept insisting on getting him to latch I will never know. After he got clipped he became increasingly frustrated with nursing and eventually I had to stop because it was just too much of a struggle. I was just happy that he was eating orally unlike his older brother.

My youngest son I will never know what exactly went wrong. He stopped wanting to latch in the hospital so I was hooked up with a SNS and a nipple shield to try and get things going. Every time I nursed I felt like I needed about five hands to get everything right and in position. When we got home I could get him to latch and actually eat but he was soo slow when eating. I think the final decision to stop nursing came when I spent an hour with a lactation consultant and he was latched perfectly but out of the entire hour of nursing he only got about a half of an ounce in him. At that rate I would have had to have him hooked up to my breast 24/7 for him to get what he needed. I tried to pump with him but I started feeling like all I was doing was pumping or feeding the baby, something that would not be sustainable once my inlaws went back home.

My fourth and final baby has been the best of them all. I started reading the blog shortly before her birth. I was ready to try nursing again but after reading the blog I decided that obsessing over nursing and beating myself over it not working out was something that this time around I would not do. My little girl is a big baby, she was over 10 pounds at birth and it became very apparent very quickly that she wanted food and she wanted it now. She was not willing to wait for my milk to slowly come in after my c-section. Giving her formula was an easy choice to make and I think that we bonded a lot sooner because it was such an easy choice. Each feeding was not a battle. I was not stressed out trying to do everything I could to get my supply in. I was able to feed her as much as she needed (and she had a very healthy appetite very quickly) with out having to worry about me not having enough. She is my last baby and I am glad that I have been able to relax and enjoy her first days of life.

***
I am seriously going to cry about the lack of FFF Friday entries in my inbox. Please send me your story, or at least a box of Kleenex to dry my tears: formulafeeders@gmail.com.

F.U., S.V.U.: NBC show links not breastfeeding to SIDS, inappropriately

I want to kick the writers of Law & Order Special Victims Unit (SVU) in the overpaid shins.

First, they get rid of my beloved Stabler. Then they confuse the partner dynamic by bringing on not one, but two new detectives. And then, they give us last night’s episode, an astonishingly offensive example of mommy-blame (and confusion of correlation and causation) in all it’s glory.

I stayed up late to watch the DVR’d new episode of my (formerly) favorite show, which last night centered on a couple whose baby “supposedly” went missing after their car was stolen on the mean Manhattan streets. It’s pretty obvious from the start that something is fishy; the mother of the missing infant is seen in a convenience store buying diapers for her baby, all the while looking anxiously out the window at where her car is parked (apparently with the baby still inside).

Cut to the scene where the SVU detectives are taking her statement. The mother mentions that her baby is on soy formula due to “lactose intolerance” (she tells the detectives this because the person who snatched her baby won’t know that he needs a special formula.) At this point I knew she had to be guilty, because what kind of mother wouldn’t be breastfeeding? Probably one that was also shown smoking like a chimney, and left her child unattended in a running car.

Ultimately, it turns out that the baby died accidentally, while co-sleeping with the loving, but inherently flawed, parents. In terms of the storyline, we are supposed to feel sorry for the couple, who thought that the death was their fault (thus causing them to come up with the elaborate ruse which cost the city tons of money and energy trying to find a “carjacked” 3-month-old); the detectives are quite adamant that the cause of death was SIDS, and therefore 100% blame-free.

Or was it? (Cue the dramatic music)

See, I’m a little confused here. Near the end of the episode, we see the medical examiner in the process of making the cause of death diagnosis. As the idea of SIDS floats into her mind, she stops, pauses for effect, and says to the detective – “Wait – we know this baby wasn’t breastfed… is the mother a smoker?” The detective answers affirmatively, and viola, the M.E. has her answer. SIDS, obviously. Because everyone knows not breastfeeding and smoking cause – err, I mean, are correlated with – SIDS.

The minute the “not breastfed” line was out of the actress’s mouth, I turned to Fearless Husband and groaned. “You’re f-ing kidding me,” I yelled at the television. What was the point of bringing either of those things up? First of all, smoking – actually, prenatal smoking has the most significant correlation, and I don’t recall them addressing whether the mom smoked while pregnant – is far more significant a risk factor than not breastfeeding (and for that matter, how the hell did she “know” that this baby “wasn’t breastfed”? Maybe the mom nursed for 2.5 months and had just switched to soy formula in the past week or so; the studies say that any breastfeeding has a protective effect against SIDS, so this is relevant) and even bringing that up irked me. If the point of the episode was that the death was no one’s fault, it seems awfully suggestive to me that they brought up these “risk factors” which were completely controllable; both things that if the mom had been a “better” mother, could have been avoided.

This episode was indeed ripped from the headlines, like most of Law & Orders are. Just this week, a big article on CNN.com mentioned how a reduction of SIDS risk is just one more reason we “should breastfeed”. (It also talked about the risk factors of bumpers, and not vaccinating. Actually, it’s worth a read, because the way they talk about bumpers feels like a spoof on formula… they are actually asking retailers to stop selling bumpers because it can be “confusing” to see bumpers laid out so prettily in stores, as they are instruments of death, and all…)

The episode also hinted that co-sleeping was a risk factor (since the baby was sleeping in the same bed as the parents when he died), but in such a vague way that it barely registered. Plus, we all know that co-sleeping is only dangerous if you are formula feeding, so why bother to even discuss that association?

The sad truth is that we DO NOT REALLY KNOW what causes SIDS. Breastfeeding may indeed have a protective effect, but that doesn’t mean that not breastfeeding is so significant a risk factor that it would be the first thought in a medical examiner’s mind. (Unless she shares my infuriating Twitter feed.) There are things that are associated with SIDS deaths – sleep position, bumpers, too much stuff in the crib, not breastfeeding, maternal prenatal smoking, low socioeconomic status (that’s one that nobody brings up – what kind of uproar would there have been if that M.E.’s line had been “Wait – we know this baby had poor, uneducated, working class parents!! It must be SIDS!”), and apparently “not vaccinating”, according to CNN (which is weird, because why the hell would vaccinations protect against SIDS unless the death was caused from that particular diseases being vaccinated against? That recommendation puts my conspiracy theory cockles up, and makes me think that the AAP is using some vague research to cajole parents into vaccinating. Which doesn’t make me think too highly of the other recommendations. It’s also odd because if you look at the groups where not vaccinating is common practice, they tend to fulfill other “healthy” criteria – well educated, upper middle-class, non-smoking, organic-eating, breastfeeding-friendly types; since vaccines are free through public health programs, presumably the only other folks not vaccinating their kids are “negligent” parents who do not attend well-baby visits where these innoculations are given. Two markedly different groups. So I really have to wonder what controls were used in the research on this SIDS/not vaccinating correlation…. if they did control for socioeconomic status, how many non-vaxing parents do not breastfeed? I’m sure there are some, but if the blogosphere is any indication, this would be a rarity. Color me confused… is breastfeeding protective, but not protective if you don’t vaccinate??)

Anyway, back to SVU. Considering bringing up the risk factors of smoking and formula feeding threw blame on the mother, I have to believe that the writers had some sort of agenda here. It didn’t make sense plot-wise to insinuate that it was the mom’s fault. For the purposes of the story, we need to feel like the death was NOT anyone’s fault, otherwise we don’t feel any pity for the parents, which makes us question why the detectives wouldn’t at least prosecute them for putting the city through hell (which is brought up, but then a detective implores that the parents are “being punished enough already”). It seems that the writers wanted to send a message, that SIDS is preventable, if you are unselfish enough to breastfeed.

Now, if that were true, it’s one thing. But to throw that kind of meme into the court of public opinion? Guilty as charged, SVU. You guys suck. And seriously, bring back Stabler.

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