Mean Girl to the Rescue!

How'm I gonna save the world when the world ain't ready?

Tuesday, August 07, 2007


As in, Breast Feeding Fan. I am one. And, hey, has anyone heard about this whole New York hospital formula "controversy"? Check it out here.

If you don't feel like clicking, here's the gist: "New York City's hospitals have banned infant formula from their gift bags for new mothers — a policy that they hope will encourage nursing and healthier babies." Pretty simple, right? Instead of getting a formula goodie bag, new mothers will get a goodie bag with a breast-milk bottle cooler, disposable nursing pads, breast-feeding tips and a baby T-shirt with the slogan, "I Eat at Mom's."

Any new mother who wants formula has only to ask for it. And yet, Susan Donaldson James, author of this article for ABC News, refers to The World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action's slogan, " "Save 1 million babies beginning with one action," as "rhetoric that fuels the great divide between those who choose breast-feeding as a maternal mission and those who opt for bottle-feeding, feeling guilty and inadequate." Hmmm. Susan, I think you might be projecting a little, here. And aren't journalists supposed to be unbiased? This isn't an op-ed piece, after all.

But what really pisses me off is this TV segment hosted by none other than everyone's favorite mommy-basher, Meredith Vieira*. I don't know which woman pisses me off more, Meredith, for heading up this piece (among her other mommy-bashing pieces), or Dr. Nancy Snyderman, who puts the Men vs. Women spin on this so-called controversy. Because everyone knows that women can't be politicians! Tee hee, math is hard! She also has the flaming nerve to suggest that women of color who live in the city have an insufficient support network to allow breastfeeding to go smoothly. Dr. Snyderman, I hope you enjoy the check that the formula companies gave you, because it seems to me that a bigger concern for poor women in the city, whether they are of color or not, is the COST of formula. Also, families of color are known for having excellent support networks, at least in my experience.

Please note that I am not, Not, NOT knocking women who use formula. Hell, I use formula sometimes. And for some women, breastfeeding just doesn't work. But for the vast majority of women, breastfeeding is a viable and wonderful (and inexpensive) method of feeding their babies. I have long been gung-ho on breastfeeding, but after initially being prevented from breastfeeding my son in the hospital, and having formula at the ready at all times while we were hospitalized, I found the prospect of breastfeeding successfully really, really daunting. It didn't help that every single nurse in the maternity ward pushed formula on me, and one or two even wanted to see the evidence that we had fed him formula (open formula container, etc.). Nibbler wasn't a great nurser at the start, and the nurses had me feeling guilty (and inadequate, perhaps just like Susan Donaldson James) that I wasn't providing a steady spigot of breast milk, despite the fact that my milk hadn't yet come in. I can only imagine how much easier and how less daunting the whole thing might have been if I had been encouraged from the start by more than one person on staff (who was a lactation consultant and a dream come true).

I love how this is being lumped in with "Nanny Culture," i.e. the whole anti-smoking, no trans fats thing that's happening now. It's irritating because there is still plenty of choice allowed here. This is something that promotes health in a way that is completely positive; the only negative is less cash in Nestle's pocket. Perhaps Big Formula (hee!) should hire Rick Berman, who recently appeared on 60 Minutes, decrying "Nanny Culture." His fascinating interview can be read here.

Hey, if they're willing to pay him, I bet he could do a bang-up job making people feel like they're being lied to, and that they should just give up and bottle feed.

Happy Breastfeeding Week!

*Via International Breastfeeding Symbol blog.



At 5:27 PM, Anonymous TB said...

I agree it's ridiculous that this is considered in any way part of the nanny culture. I couldn't agree more. As you know,I'm a breastfeeding mom, but when Myles was born with low birth weight, he had no suck/swallow reflex at the beginning and I had little to no milk to pump for him.
If it wasn't for the formula samples he got in the hospital and for the first few days at home, I don't know what we would have done.
Yes breastmilk is a no brainer, if you can do it. But we're lucky that we have other options. If Myles had been born 100 years ago, we would have had to find a wet nurse, or he would have died. Formula is not poison, it's a great alternative that gives women the options and choices to do what is best for them and their children.

At 1:34 PM, Blogger Arabella said...

Thanks so much for blogging about this. I've been meaning to do it, and I just haven't had the time.

I'm generally in support of this initiative primarily because of the focus on helping women start breastfeeding.

Like you, I was prevented from breastfeeding right after delivery. I was pissed. Like you, my babies were offered formula at every turn, and I had to fight every step of the way to have access to my babies for breastfeeding on OUR schedule, even if it conflicted with rounds. Like TB, I found the formula samples to be a blessing. They made a huge difference to my preemie twins, and saved me a ton of money, which was badly-needed. I'm glad to hear that the samples won't be banned, and that women who want them will still be able to receive them simply by asking. I'm sure that many women who have medical or physical conditions that prevent them from nursing will be grateful for the financial break. I'm glad, also, that women will be offered free breast pumps and breastfeeding help. When I gave birth, I had to seek out breastfeeding help, and instruction on how to use the pump, which I found to be a lifesaver. Additionally, I've found that breastfeeding, while waaaay less expensive than formula, really isn't free, as is commonly touted, unless a mother puts the baby to the breast for every single feeding. If she can, that's great, but those of us that pump incur expenses that can quickly mount. Free breast pumps and lactation consultant assistance can go a long way.

At 4:38 PM, Anonymous wordgirl said...

It's been awhile for me--with regard to breastfeeding-- but I really fail to see how providing formula in the hospital might PREVENT a woman from considering breastfeeding. I mean, women who know from Day One that they will never EVER breastfeed (I knew a few like this) have two milk-filled boobs attached to their chests and you don't see THAT being something that influences them away from that decision. How can the presence of formula PREVENT a woman from deciding to breastfeed? Either you will or you won't. Everyone gets a choice and to passive-aggressively influence that choice by removing the formula option is SO VERY STUPID.

I breastfed with all my sons. When Greyson was six weeks old I had to return to the classroom to finish out my contract. I had six weeks left. I pumped like a demon, but I had to supplement with formula because there was really no reliable place for me to pump and store my milk at school. It was a mess and it affected my milk production. Like Teebs says, without formula, my kid would not have been able to survive.

At 10:39 PM, Anonymous kate said...

Holy cow you guys have it hard over there. We have a reverse culture in NZ. "Breast is Best" is the catch phrase and heaven help you if your boobs decide to malfunction. One of the things that has become a big deal in the cities here is the right to feed a breast fed baby in public, but having said that if you bottle feed a young baby in public you pretty much get the same looks.
As far as I am concerned with baby #3 on the way, do what works! my first fed exclusively until 6 months but then I had to top her up every evening with formula.
My second was breast fed all day but at about 10pm she would receive a formula top up because I couldn't keep up.
This time around I will go into hospital armed with breast pads and a tin of formula and damn the critics, as long as my kid is fed I am happy.

At 11:01 AM, Blogger Blondie said...

WTF? Hospitals are deciding what women can and can't do with their bodies, children, etc??? Good grief. That is crazy, I say. CRAZY!

At 9:54 AM, Blogger toyfoto said...

I have to say after having had two children in what I think is a somewhat forward-thinking hospital, that nurses are similar to what I found in the clergy.

There are good ones and there are bad ones, and none of them are really talking to GOD.

The one that told me: "We're not allowed to mention the option of using a pacifier, but I put one in the bottom drawer of the bassinet ... just in case it helps." .... she was a good one. I'm convinced giving her the binks saved my ability to breast feed.

The one that told me her sons were all circumsised, and its really healthier "you really should do it," when I was trying to decide about for my son in the hospital could keep that to herself.

My opition on this is colored by tragedy. i know a woman who killed herself after being unable to successfully breast feed. I know that she had underlying problems and that BF wasn't the real cause of her depression, but the stress is really overwhelming at times.

I know many women who were unsuccessful at breastfeeding and supplementation saved them from feeling as if they were starving thier children.
I think that letting women decide, helping them make choices is one thing. Calling something a ban, and adding more stress to a stressful time isn't necessary.

These hospitals should be training their staff to be knowlegeable, helpful and to have compassion. They should be responding to patients needs, which are all different.


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