Letter to the Editor of The Providence Journal: “Ban the Bags” Announcement Shames Women, Ignores Lived Realities

To the Editor:

Several days ago, Rhode Island became the first state to officially ban formula sample bags from hospitals. This decision was lauded by the state’s First Lady as a way for Rhode Island to “have healthier children, healthier mothers, and a healthier population as a whole.” AP reported that “formula will still be available to new mothers who experience difficulties with breastfeeding”, and a lactation consultant/nurse interviewed for the story assured the public that the “new policy isn’t intended to force women into nursing their children, “ but was rather designed to “(help) mothers decide what’s best for their child.”

As a mother who faced numerous challenges attempting to breastfeed her first child, and an author/blogger who has immersed herself in the breast/bottle debate for the past three years, I’m worried about the impact of this announcement. My problem is not that hospitals are opting to cease giving away commercial goody bags; as Marsha Walker, RN, commented in the AP story on the ban, “hospitals should be marketing health and nothing else”. My problem lies in the gleeful rhetoric used by a government spokesperson to announce this ban, and the growing anti-formula sentiment the ban represents.

While the AAP, WHO, and other major health associations have come out strongly in favor of breastfeeding – and well they should, considering it is a truly amazing gift a mother can give her child – the fact remains that the decision to breastfeed is not made in a vacuum. According to a 2009 article in US News and World Report, only 8% of American companies offer paid maternity leave; the average woman takes 6.6 weeks of unpaid maternity leave. Many breastfeeding experts agree that there is a learning curve for breastfeeding; that breastfeeding is a lost, and learned, art; something that does not come naturally to many women in our society. Some feel that it takes up to 6 weeks for breastfeeding to be established; this is 2-3 weeks longer than some women have off of work, altogether. And when they do return to work, they will have to pump at regular intervals to maintain exclusive breastfeeding – a feat which remains difficult for women in waged labor positions, despite Obama’s recent passage of a new workplace lactation policy. This new policy only applies to women working in companies with more than 50 employees, and disregards the inherent difficulties of expressing/storing milk while working as, say, a barista or factory worker. Not all working women are white-collar workers in female-friendly environments.

Additionally, many women have physical or emotional barriers to breastfeeding that have nothing to do with “predatory” marketing by formula companies. The phrasing used by the lactation consultant quoted in the AP piece, that banning free formula is “helping mothers decide what’s best for their child,” implies that what is best is breastfeeding, full stop. This is not always the case. What about mothers who must choose between contraindicated psychopharmaceuticals and nursing? What is better for that child – a healthy, sane mother, or a mother who is breastfeeding? What about a mother who is a survivor of sexual trauma, for whom feeding an infant from her breast brings back devastating flashbacks of abuse? Or what about a single mother with older children at home, who has a rough start breastfeeding, and who does not have the time, energy or resources to attend breastfeeding support groups or obtain in-home visits from lactation consultants? Or the mother who belongs to the supposed 1-5% of women (I personally believe it is a far greater number) who are physically incapable of producing enough milk?

These are all problems which may not be noticed by those working in maternity wards, or acknowledged as “medical reasons” for “needing” formula in the first few days postpartum. Yet they are real problems that real women face. These women come to my blog in states of despair: some feeling like negligent mothers for their failure to provide “the best”; some having watched their newborn babies lose precious weight while well-meaning lactation professionals have warned them against supplementation. And while taking away their opportunity to bring home free samples of formula may not be a big deal on the surface, taking away their opportunity to make a choice which is right for them, and right for their families, without being made to feel they are acting against medical orders, is a big deal.

Promoting breastfeeding does not have to mean clucking our tongues at the choice to use formula. There are numerous other risk factors which affect a child’s health and well being: having parents over the age of 40; going to daycare; living in the city versus the country; living in poverty versus wealth; being born anything other than white and middle to upper class. Just like with breastfeeding, these factors influence statistics about child health, any yet we don’t have government campaigns suggesting that all good mothers have babies in their prime childbearing years, or move to rural Ohio after giving birth. (Imagine posters announcing “Having a baby at the age of 21 reduces the risk of birth defects! Reproduce before college!” or, “Babies born to mothers living in high traffic areas have increased risk of low birth weight, prematurity, and respiratory problems. Country Living is Best for Babies!”) We all do the best we can with the circumstances we are given. While breastfeeding advocates insist that formula’s prevalence in our society is harming breastfeeding rates, I’d submit that a lack of public health care, paid maternity leave, individual circumstance, maternal health, and personal preference have just as much impact, if not more.

Take away the formula bags, if you must (although I’d still like someone to tell me why we can’t simply have them available upon request, if the formula companies are willing to provide them), but it’s time we started speaking up for the women who cannot, or choose not, to breastfeed. Anyone with an internet connection has gotten the message loud and clear: science has proven that breast is best. Now it’s time to let us take that information for what it is worth, perform our own risk/benefit assessment, and feed our children in the way we deem appropriate. Removing the temptation of formula freebies is not going to stop women from formula feeding, but it certainly will make women think that formula feeding is something to feel ashamed about. If that is the goal, then well done, Rhode Island.

Suzanne Barston

The FearlessFormulaFeeder.com

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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54 thoughts on “Letter to the Editor of The Providence Journal: “Ban the Bags” Announcement Shames Women, Ignores Lived Realities

  1. Absolutely excellent post, as usual. It is beyond my grasp how these “campaigns” can continue to ignore the most obvious barriers to the breastfeeding rates/exclusivity that they laud-the utterly lacking family leave policies in this country and workplace logistical barriers. Even for white collar women working in an office environment, it's not always feasible to pump to maintain an exclusive breastmilk supply (meetings, lack of private spaces with locks, perception by others in the office that you are not being productive, etc.). Not pretending white collar women don't have it easier than shift/blue collar women, but the white collar work environment (depending on individual/company culture and circumstances) is far from a hands-down/given pumping mecca. Given the lack of privacy in my office (all open cubes/public space), I really struggle with how I would manage to pump after returning to work when I (possibly) eventually have a baby.

    I find the tone of that article (saw it the other day), along with Kaiser's breastfeeding policy (last post) to be extremely condescending and flat out insulting to women. Surely there has to be a way to promote and support breastfeeding without resorting to treating women like children. Sorry to get all feminist here, but if men were the ones who birthed babies/breastfed, this discussion would be VASTLY different, and we all know it.

    If the subject of these last 2 posts are not outright examples of attempting to FORCE women to breastfeed, then I don't know what is. This might sound a bit nuts-but surely this has to violate some aspect of the law (if not on the criminal side, then certaintly in the civil realm). Promote/support all you want, but when you start BULLYING someone in the hospital who has chosen to formula feed (i.e. touch breasts without consent, start trying to latch the baby onto mom w/o her consent, harass a maternity patient who has brought her OWN formula for feeding), several actual stories that I've seen posted by women on this blog, how can that not be grounds for a lawsuit or some kind of criminal action??? Our country's laws protect abortion (not trying to start a debate here) on the grounds of privacy and bodily integrity-I don't see how breastfeeding is any different. Surely there has to be some recourse for things like this. I'm personally prepared to start one hell of a stink if I'm ever in the hospital having a baby and anything remotely like the above is done to me. Seems several options exist-complaining to head of obstetrics, hospital administration complaints, contacting your local newspaper (I'm sure they'd love a nice controversial story). Hell I'm sure there's even some lawyer out there that would take a case like this in our lawsuit happy society. Maybe that's getting carried away (articles like these definetly raise my blood pressure) but sometimes hearing about these things, it surprises me someone somewhere hasn't tried this.

  2. By the time I realized that my lactation had stalled/was insufficient/etc and was advised by my pediatrician to supplement, I was exhausted and my baby was screaming non stop because she was starving. I was SO GRATEFUL that I'd been sent home from the hospital with a tub of formula and some sterilized, ready-to-feed bottles that tided us over until we could 1) go to the store 2) purchase bottles and formula 3) come home and boil then wash the bottles out as instructed. That whole ordeal took over an hour — an hour that my baby, thanks to the hospital-provided formula samples, did not have to spend screaming and starving.

    The formula samples are not evil. They are lifesavers to exhausted moms and starving babies. If you don't want them or need them, don't take them or donate them. But if you need them, having them is an amazing boon. We didn't even end up using the brand we were sent home with (Similac), and I continued breastfeeding and supplementing for 10 months. Supplementing SAVED breastfeeding for me.

    Shame on Rhode Island.

  3. Agree completely. I don't think it's wrong for hospitals when they know a mother has had to supplement on medical advice or run into BFing problems etc that may require her to plan on formula when she had not done so previously to at least let the parents know that a) RTF is best for the first week or two, b) they can give you a starter set to send you home with. Parenthood is not competitive martyrdom and after long labours, painful stitches/recovery, sleep deprivation and trying to nurse frequently, mothers may not be in a position to run out and get their own formula. One of those sancti-lactivists on that LactNet list snarked that 2 oz nursettes were “not available in nature” and women had traditionally tried harder without the “temptation” of those little bottles and the shameful lure of wanting to get a few hours' sleep, but infant mortality rates were also way higher “in nature,” if she really wants to go there…

  4. You really sent this to them? I think that is so awesome! It means a lot to me that this community of supportive, level-headed women exist. Thank you so much for sending this!

  5. I love the “temptation” angle, as though women were a bunch of addicts and there is a bunch of [drug of choice] sitting right there calling them…get off the wagon…get off the wagon…..

    Obviously anyone who thinks formula samples = temptation, believes that women not breastfeeding should be ashamed and that they are losers/failures. Sometimes it comes across as “well I martyred myself to give my baby breastmilk…not only do I love my baby more than you love yours, but misery also loves company. I sucked it up, and if you don't, you invalidate my efforts.” Or something like that.

  6. Dudette, you are awesome! Thanks so very much for this post, letter and blog. I came upon it earlier this week and it has helped me feel much better about my decision to end breastfeeding and solely formula-feed. I had been feeling like I was basically signing my daughter's death warrant by not breastfeeding, I felt tremendous guilt and anxiety. I feel much better after reading your words of wisdom and the stories of other formula feeding moms.

  7. Did this person on the LactNet actually say “shameful lure of wanting to get a few hours sleep”??????? Whether those were the words used or not, I do not understand why they continue to act as if a mother's sleep is completely unnecessary/irrelevant. Did any of them ever stop to think that one or 2 bottles that allow mom to have a break and rest might reduce stress, allow the body to recoup (after all childbirth is quite a physical ordeal), and maybe, gasp, actually HELP breastfeeding?! Sleep is a basic human need and a new mom needs as much of it as she can get. If a few bottles of formula and/or EBM allow that to happen, I don't see how anyone can shame or look down on a mom who's smart enough to realize that if her own needs aren't addressed she's no good to her baby-breastfeeding or not.

  8. Yes, it's a total hazing mentality. I have observed it a little bit among older or middle-aged women who had to really fight to be taken seriously in wanting to EBF (understandable), also in women who insist they went back to work the day after dropping that baby (older academic women – complete BS because they either had children before academic careers/before you had to publish squat and could teach very little/when cheap teenage babysitters were the norm, or adopted later in life; they were the ones with husbands often liberal in principle but who did not lift a finger with home or child and they cannot understand why we can't toughen up the same way), and in women who were ambitious in other arenas of life and decided to invest the same maximizing energy in child-rearing (often choosing to stay at home and taking a career break). You kind of have to believe others are less than ideal parents for not doing what you did if you really sacrificed a lot for it. I'll be the first to admit this is anecdotal and probably seen through the prism of my own prejudices, and that their mentality is understandable. but it doesn't make the judginess any less annoying.

  9. That's why I brought up the ACLU on FFF Facebook page. Perhaps not now, but something to consider for the near future as things like this start getting more pervasive in the US. I mean it's one thing if a single hospital in a market area stops supplying formula, but an entire state of hospitals is a completely differnt situation.

  10. The comment you linked to needs to be taken specifically in context. I see that she's specifically referring to the second day of breastfeeding, with the baby making up for fewer feeds and lots of sleep on the first day. Added to that the fact that each feed over the first couple of days provides less than an ounce of colostrum in the first 48 hours, it makes sense that a baby who didn't feed much on the first day would need to make up on the second day with very frequent feeds. The poster is not suggesting that mothers should constantly be sleep deprived and I didn't get any undertone that it is shameful to want to get more sleep as a new mother.

    I've often read comments here and elsewhere that describe a situation such as this, with a baby having to be supplemented on the second or third day or fourth day because of (perceived?) milk insufficiency. In many of the cases whose stories are posted on this blog, there are other issues that contribute towards breastfeeding cession, and the mothers whose stories are posted here have often been through the wringer, so I hesitate to question the necessity of supplementation under the particular postings, because I don't find that supportive or worthwhile. Also, although I was someone who never had a full supply of milk till about day 5, with every one of my children, I'm not standing in these women's shoes and didn't have all the other issues they mention and I don't know all their details. However, while many of these mothers may have genuine supply issues, there seems to be a tendency to assume that because a mother's milk is not “in” by day 3 or 4, or because a baby wants to feed frequently on day 2 or 3, that it is necessary to supplement.

  11. “if men were the ones who birthed babies/breastfed, this discussion would be VASTLY different”

    I read somewhere once that there is waaaay more research into male virility issues than into breastfeeding. Was it on this blog?

  12. It's great. Even if those at whom it's directed don't agree with what you say, I hope it makes them take a second look at how their attitude impacts on those they're trying to help.

  13. I hate the idea of “Nature's Plan.” Nature is a cold, hard, bitch who doesn't give a damn about your or your baby, “she” cares about weeding out the weak to strengthen the species. Even the formula companies care more about your baby than nature does.

  14. BTW, I don't mean to say that the occasional supplement given in the first few days is necessarily going to scupper breastfeeding or endanger a baby, just that the converse, that it's automatically assumed to be a panacea, is also not necessarily the case.

  15. I'm not saying that there probably isn't some truth to the idea that people mistakenly believe they don't have enough supply after a few days. However, I do take issue with the idea that “many of the cases… on this blog” line. I've been reading the blog since the very beginning. I've read every single post and every single comment even after my son was done with bottles, and I can honestly say that I believe that to be an incorrect assessment, the idea that numerous comments and stories here are of women stopping after a couple of days saying they had no supply or supplementing early. It seems to me that a large number of the stories are about women who went to extraordinary lengths to breastfeed and still couldn't, often waiting weeks or months to supplement (or who had other factors and chose not to breastfeed).

    Even so, I can't understand really why one bottle of formula at day 3 or 4 would undermine a breastfeeding relationship, and might, in fact, save it. If supply can be increased over time even if lactation has stopped, then one bottle shouldn't have such an effect that it destroys a mother's supply IMO.

  16. That is not something I've heard here. In my case, as in many others, supplementation happened when the baby lost more than 10% of body weight after day two. I can completely understand (and applaud) LCs who want to remind us that a baby who is constantly hungry on days two and three is not necessarily a sign that you aren't producing enough. I had great LCs at the hospital and I think everyone mentioned that till your milk comes in you have to accept a bit of weight loss and lots of rooting (as an aside: a lot of the lactnet folks seem to work on assumptions that hospitals are stuck in the 1970s and will push you to supplement – not my experience at all). It's genuinely not a matter of “perceived milk insufficiency” in the cases of those who want to BF, we all educate ourselves and listen to the LCs that the hospital provides.

    What made me wince at the Lactnet comment was the implication that if only the mother did not prioritize sleep and gave baby all the breast time s/he wanted at night, there would be no cause to supplement. Perhaps in some cases that is true but in my experience (others may want to weigh in too) I was woken every two hours and spent an hour nursing and calling the LCs for help, through the night. At no point were the nurses told to not bring in baby to let me sleep. Baby still lost about 12% of weight. We supplemented for about two weeks, till birth weight was regained, and then again when I had to go back to work.

    I really didn't care for the judgy mother in law tone that suggested that if only women weren't so selfish their babies wouldn't need supplementation. Perhaps others may think that's a misinterpretation but as someone who is not anti-LCs generally and loved the LCs I had that was how I read it.

  17. I'll have to check that out on facebook. I honestly don't see how this doesn't have some kind of legal ramification. I mean it's downright infringement on a mother's choice in how to care for/feed her child. Women DONT WANT THIS-whether it's banning formula goodie bags, bullying, etc.

  18. Don't recall seeing that on this blog but it doesn't surprise me one bit. I'm sorry but if men gave birth, epidurals would be available via drive-thru at the hospital in various colors and flavors (with a cold beer thrown in), and the breastfeeding “studies” would be subject to far greater scrutiny and criticism.

  19. I'll have to add that one to my list then! I was familiar with her previous article and now book but would definetly be interested in reading some of the details. I watched the link posted on here a few weeks ago from when she appeared on the Doctor's show. If anything, I thought the show's hosts actually made her look better by acting defensive and jumping down her throat. I don't even have words for the tirade that the blond woman went on.

  20. I really liked it – lots of information about the flaws in feeding research, but I didn't find it dry at all. The part about the Sears family (as in Dr. Sears) and their role in misinforming moms was quite enlightening! And she is not anti-breastfeeding at all; she just doesn't support the pressure of “total motherhood”.

  21. Interesting comment re: Sears family and misinformation – can you elaborate? I know I simply don't like Sears or agree with his guilting but was never sure about actual fact-misrepresentations.

  22. I agree with you, Brooke. In saying “many of the cases” I didn't mean even the majority of the cases, but it pops up enough to make me notice it as a bit of a trend (if there can be such a thing as a “bit” of a trend). As you say, these mothers have had significant difficulties in other respects, so the issue of supplementation on day 2 is not worth commenting on in the individual cases, as it's a moot point. I also don't believe in beating people over the head with all the things they might have done differently because (a) it's not going to help them and (b) it's possibly irrelevant in their particular contexts. The only reason I would think it might be worthwhile gently bringing it up is for the sake of expectant women who read this and think that normal newborn behaviour on day 2 is a sign of something wrong. The very frequent feeding of newborn babies in the first few days after birth, which is a function of the tiny size of a newborn's stomach and the limited amounts of colostrum available at every feed appear to have a positive effect in activating the mother's prolactin receptors and shrinking her uterus. Also, I'm responding here in the context of Perfesser's take on the lactnet post she linked to.

    And at risk of coming across as preachy, smug and guilty of expecting others to follow my own experience, I have this anecdote. I was separated from my first baby for 12 hours after he was born because he was put in the nursery and given a bottle of glucose water the night of his birth. I roomed in with him after that, but only nursed him every 3 to 4 hours. He cried a lot and hardly slept on the second night. On the first night I had gotten very little sleep (I can't sleep when I'm excited) so it was very overwhelming to me that I didn't get to sleep much on the second night. He also became very jaundiced and had to be placed under bilirubin lights from his third to sixth day of life.

    Perhaps as a kind of overcompensation for this, I nursed my other children constantly in the days after their birth. I mean, they were in the bed next to me and every time they moved their mouths I put them to the breast. It didn't feel like the kind of martyrdom that the early days with my first child had been. I didn't experience the kind of sleeplessness that I did with my first child (just the normal newborn having to wake up and sit up to put them to the breast kind of thing. When my third child (who was born in Germany – my first two were born in South Africa) was 6 days old, the midwife who was checking on my uterus was the same size that a breastfeeding mother's normally is at 6 weeks. It might not be significant in the long run, but it was significant for me in that context, as I had lost an abnormal amount of blood during this birth, and this fast uterine involution meant that I had very little post-partum bleeding. Thus, feeding my newborn babies frequently instead of resorting to supplements (of course, I didn't have any serious supply issues, although my last 2 children were only weighed at birth, so I don't know how much weight they might have lost in the early days) was, in many ways, not a martyrdom to me at all, but rather beneficial.

    I understand that when we discuss these kind of issues, we are frequently operating on different paradigms. Thus, we interpret people's comments differently to the manner in which they were intended, but we read undertones into them that the original commenter might not have have realised were there. So I'm open to criticism and discussion about the impact or undertone of my comments and I'm happy to clarify where there might be misunderstandings.

  23. A panacea for a newborn baby wanting to feed a lot, I suppose. As I said above, newborn behaviour is a complex biological pattern that has a number of consequences for the baby and the mother. BTW, I'm not referring to personal feeding choices. If someone chooses to supplement to any degree or cease breastfeeding at any stage, that's their choice, but maybe some people are doing it because they think it's necessary and that there's no other option, even in situations where it might not be warranted.

  24. I can see why. I wonder if it's more for entertainment than true information/medical advice. I'm usually not home during the day but for those rare days when I am, I definetly won't be tuning in.

  25. Your points are well taken but at the risk of assuming time period/age, a lot of these concerns about babies being given a glucose bottle etc are really not valid any more – everyone repeats to you ad nauseum the part about baby needing to nurse a lot at first and uterus shrinking and so on. Seriously, this is very mainstream now.

  26. The medical advice these days is if the baby loses over 10% of birthweight. Some hospitals have a 12-14% range. It's really not a personal decision in many cases. The idea that women these days are going around saying hey I don't know if I'm producing enough since my baby always wants to nurse is to me a bit odd, because it's totally common knowledge that you know if baby's getting enough through enough wet diapers + weight gain. It's not a subjective decision. Though yes, some women may feel it's not worth it after a point but that's a different animal.

  27. Here are a few excerpts: Dr. Sears tells a story about his daughter-in-law refusing to let doctors use the Doptone heart monitor during her pregnancy – she asked the doctor “Can you guarantee it won't hurt my baby?”, which of course no one can 100% guarantee anything. Dr. Sears says “in the face of even theoretical risks, where there is no benefit, then the theoretical risks cannot be justified”. He also says “there is no pain-relieving drug that has ever been proven to be totally safe for mother and baby” in childbirth. The trouble is, you can say that about any medication on the market. His advice is dangerous to moms – he would recommend turning down an intervention if the doctor can't guarantee that it will be safe, and no doctor is going to guarantee something like that. So moms following his advice would turn down interventions that might indeed be necessary. Joan Wolf says that “Sears and Sears (wife Martha) selectively employ science in ways that exacerbate public misunderstanding of risk.”

    Another example – Sears claims that among the many benefits of breastfeeding, one such benefit is that the bowel movements of BF babies have a “not unpleasant, buttermilk-like odor”, unlke the bad-smelling formula-fed babies' diapers. For Sears, this goes way beyond just the smell. He says: “when the baby looks at the face of the diaper-changing caregiver and sees happiness rather than disgust, he picks up a good message about himself – perhaps a perk for building self-esteem”. So if you don't breastfeed and cringe at a dirty diaper, you are scarring your child for life. 🙂

    A third one – on the plus side, Dr. Sears does recognize that stress can interfere with milk production, not just the let-down reflex. However, here is his advice to get breastfeeding moms to stop stressing: “the milk you are giving your baby is going to raise his IQ and lower the risk of every major illness”. Gee, that certainly takes the pressure off, and is full of scientific studies to back it up!

    Later, Sears touches on the issue of PPD and moms needing to take time for themselves: “do something everyday just for yourself”, but: “choose something that does not require separation from your baby”.

    I could go on and on, but basically the jist of it is that Dr. Sears is using his status as a physician to push his agenda in a way that withholds information and makes moms feel that they have to commit to “total motherhood” or their babies will be damaged.

  28. Perfesser said “The idea that women these days are going around saying hey I don't know if I'm producing enough since my baby always wants to nurse is to me a bit odd, because it's totally common knowledge that you know if baby's getting enough through enough wet diapers + weight gain.”

    It might be common knowledge in some circles where you are. Things are certainly not too bad here in Quebec. However, 2 years ago, when I was in Ireland, I was constantly getting calls as a breastfeeding counsellor from mothers concerned about exactly this issue – 9 out of 10 of the calls I got were based on concerns about normal newborn feeding patterns, even where the baby was gaining weight, and the mothers knew nothing about wet diapers. It's totally not common knowledge for the majority in certain places, I'd hazard, possibly even for many mothers in the USA .

  29. Yup it has become mainstream, as has a lot of the breastfeeding propaganda that I used to support and now cringe at. In my particular situation, I just found it interesting that the midwife I referred to was dealing with homebirth mothers and mothers in a hospital where rooming-in was the norm. They had the information you mention already. They weren't the types who only nursed every 3-4 hours either, but because my milk was so slow coming in, my extra-frequent feeding accelerated my uterine involution even beyond what was the norm for these non-mainstream mothers.

  30. Yikes. I read just enough of that tome to recognize the pushing-to-martyrdom BS (and coming from a man too, who did not nurse his children), and tossed it in the trash before I had time to get my blood pressure up/read more. It is one of life's great mysteries to me that the women I have met who like Sears are lefty and feminist, when he is a 1950s paternalistic a-hole.

  31. Oh and the smelling at the poop part? My husband and sister both almost barfed at my dear BFed baby's diapers while changing them for the first few weeks. You can't say that shit don't stink.

  32. I saw that excerpt on the Dr. Sears website about the nice smelling poop and about busted out laughing. That has to be by far the most ridiculous reason to breastfeed I've ever heard of. Your post brings to mind a time a few years ago when I was helping my cousin change her infant son's diaper (yes, formula fed due to a milk protein allergy). It was one of the worst (and most foul smelling) blow outs I've ever seen. The 2 of us were laughing the whole time just because it was so outrageous. And not in a mean “ha ha” sort of way, just in a light-hearted, “sometimes life gives us these types of moments” way. He saw us laughing and smiling and joined right in. That little anecdote kind of blows Sear's theory there right out of the water.

  33. Excellent letter! Here's hoping that: 1) The Providence Journal prints it, and 2) It gets some attention.

    This ban on sample bags from hospitals actually scares me. First, it's an indication that formula has been vilified– enough so that the majority of RI's state legislators would agree to pass such a bill. (If formula were viewed as just another PERFECTLY ACCEPTABLE way to feed an infant, nobody would care that hospitals and birth centers sent some home with new parents.) Second, there is now a state law restricting the distribution of formula. Yes, formula is still widely available. Anybody can walk into a store and buy it, no questions asked. So maybe I'm being a little paranoid, but I can't help but wonder what might come next (in terms of laws governing infant formula).

    I propose a different policy to handle the sample bags: Add a question to registration forms for moms-to-be asking whether they would like any formula samples the hospital or birth center might have on hand. Mark the question with an asterisk and put a footnote a the bottom of the page. It would read something along the lines of, “Formula companies sometimes provide us with “goodie bags” to send home with new parents. Our distribution of these bags should not be viewed as an endorsement of a particular brand or a suggestion that you formula feed at all. All brands of formula are safe and provide similar and adequate nutrition. Most babies will tolerate any formula. Switching brands will not generally cause problems in your child. Some breastfeeding experts advise against having any formula or bottles in your home if you are trying to breastfeed, because they feel it might make giving up easier. Other nursing moms feel better having some artificial feeding supplies on hand in case of emergency or severe breastfeeding difficulties. *Insert hospital or birth center name here* encourages you to exercise your own judgment in this matter. Ask your child's pediatrician whether they have any special instructions for feeding your child. If you have any questions or concerns about infant feeding (be it breastfeeding, formula feeding, pumping or combo feeding), please do not hesitate to ask.”

  34. Bethrnich–I agree so much…is there a way you can send that to hospitals in an effort to change/affect policy? The hospital where I had my babies wasn't like that….they had goody bags w/samples, they thought breastfeeding was great, but no one was a big jerk about it. Still, even in a place like that, the choice to take or avoid the formula samples would probably appeal to lots of women.

  35. Yes, this one was the tipping point for me. And from Kristin's story below, we could just as easily say that formula-fed diapers allow you to share humor and bond with your baby that way!

  36. Great post and I couldn't agree more with what you've said. My only question is (and it's been well over a week since i've read the actual article so the details are fuzzy)-was this actually a state law that went through the Rhode Island legislature and was approved by a vote of state lawmakers and/or signed by the governor (not sure of their actual state process)? I ask because my impression from reading the article was that this was a resolution prosposed and agreed upon/passed by the 7 hospitals in the state where maternity services are offered-but again I could be totally wrong. Assuming this was an actual state law, I agree with you-VERY scary. The only piece I take comfort in is that it's a law restricting the actions of the hospitals-NOT individuals. In all liklihood, I can't fathom that we would ever outlaw infant formula in this country or even go to prescription only formula (the formula companies would have a fit and I wouldn't blame them), but this sets an absolutley frightening precedent. I live in Georgia which tends to be a very socially and politically conservative state-I can't really see them embracing any kind of law like this as they are too pro business. But still-this is a slippery slope and I share your fear.

  37. I stand corrected. The ban was adopted by the seven birthing hospitals in Rhode Island. It's not an actual state law or government regulation. For that reason, the ban doesn't frighten me quite as much. Thanks for setting me straight, Kristin. It's important to me that my comments and this blog in general be accurate. My apologies.

  38. No need to apologize! I know when reading some of this stuff-especially the first time, it's easy to mix up some of the details (especially when your blood pressure is elevated and steam is coming our of your ears from the frequent condescending tones-at least such is the case for me). 🙂 Agree with you-knowing this isn't a law per se has me breathing a (small) sigh of relief. Doesn't make it any less ridiculous and wrong. Oh well-note to self-if for whatever reason I find myself birthing in a Rhode Island hospital, BRING OWN FORMULA.

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