Lisa says: An open letter to moms who judge

Lisa is looking forward to a day when breastfeeders and formula feeders don't need to be segregated.

By Lisa van de Geyn
Lisa says: An open letter to moms who judge

Photo: GOSPHOTODESIGN/iStockphoto

While procrastinating the other day, I noticed a call-out on Twitter for folks to complete a survey on “what it means to be a breastfeeding supporter.”

What the hell is a 'breastfeeding supporter?' I wondered.

You (and, like, everyone else on the entire planet, I think) know I didn’t nurse my kids. I breastfed Addy for 13 days because I felt I had to and hated every “natural” second of it before coming to my senses and deciding to switch to formula. I didn’t even entertain the idea of nursing when I was pregnant with Peyton and, when I blogged about it, I was quickly berated by nasty commenters (and even some colleagues and acquaintances) who said my decision wasn’t well thought out, and called me lazy and selfish for not even wanting to try to do what would be best for my baby.

After going through what I experienced the first time, there was no way in hell I was going to put myself (and another baby) through it again. (Experiences included, but were not limited to: mastitis, thrush, sadness, depression, guilt, pain and paying a lactation consultant $130 to come over to my house, armed with propaganda, to explain to me and Peter that if I didn’t “follow through” and continue to nurse Addyson, she’d end up being a sick, allergic, stupid, drug- or alcohol-abusing fat adult who wouldn’t have a bond with me (or any other adults… and it would be my fault) and would one day know that I didn’t love her as much as the mommies who fed their babies in the way nature intended babies to eat. (OK, I’m exaggerating. She didn’t say “fat.” She said “overweight.”)

Back to this “breastfeeding supporter” survey, it struck me as odd, because, even after what I went through, I don’t consider myself a “breastfeeding detractor, knocker, attacker, disbeliever, enemy.” Who wouldn’t support a woman who decided she wanted to breastfeed and was happy and successful doing it? The whole thing didn’t make much sense to me. So I did what any self-respecting, nosy journalist would do — I took the survey.

Here’s why I’m taking time away from tales of Addy (who, thanks to JK, is sick… AGAIN) and Peyps to share this with you: The survey scared the living daylights out of me.

It started out harmless: “To what extent do you agree with the following statement: “A woman should be able to choose whether to breastfeed or not.” (I selected “strongly agree.”) Then things started going downhill. One of the statements to the question, “If a woman gives birth in a hospital or birth centre and wants to breastfeed she should expect” reads, “to be prohibited from getting access to infant formula (even if the mother asks) without the sign-off of a doctor.” Um, strongly disagree?

The piece de resistance was this: “To what extent do you agree with the following statements about formula marketing and sales?”

The statements:

“Infant formula packages should have to indicate that breastfeeding is best for your baby.”    

“Infant formula packages should have to dedicate significant space to outlining the risks of formula feeding.”

“Infant formula companies should be prohibited from sending unsolicited free samples of formula to mothers/prospective mothers directly (e.g. by mail) or via third parties (e.g. maternity clothing companies).”

“Advertising of infant formula should be prohibited.”

“Infant formula should only be available with a prescription.”

I’ve seen similar statements like this before (from Facebook groups, other surveys, etc.). I’m not going to tell you why I find this all kinds of wrong — it’s pretty self-explanatory, and it’s obviously just my opinion. This is a prime example of what I like least about the whole pointless, ludicrous breast versus bottle issue — it segregates moms. It also insinuates one mom’s choices are more superior than another’s.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned in the nearly five years I’ve been blogging, it’s that no mom finds parenting or motherhood particularly easy. We’re all doing our best, and we’re all looking for “supporters,” no matter how or what we feed our babies.

What do you think?

This article was originally published on Jan 22, 2013

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