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Breast-feeders: Step Off Your High Horse

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When Tamra from "The Real Housewives of Orange County" blamed Gretchen's need for attention on her not being breastfed, this mom found it insulting to her and her baby.

Guest blogger Maria: I've read the studies and I've heard the arguments for breast-feeding. I respect peoples' choice to breast-feed their children. I think it's a wonderful option for some mothers -- they enjoy it, their kids enjoy it, and all is well in their family. I think whatever works FOR YOU is the best way to go.

I think that many women, however, breast-feed because there is pressure put on them by their husbands, their mothers-in-law, their peers, the media and themselves. I personally think the studies play upon people's fears and are designed to keep women out of the workplace. When Tamra implied that Gretchen is an attention whore because "maybe she wasn't breast-fed" she added to this growing trend of speaking down to women who don't breast-feed. In this case, she also insulted the children of moms who don't breast-feed. And by the way, I'd like to see the "study" that says this is true.

Tamra is not the only one who adds to the problem. About a year ago, I was part of a conversation about a teenager who killed his parents. One mom joked, "Maybe he wasn't breast-fed." Right. Not breast-feeding will turn your kid into a murderer -- a murderer of you.

I'm also sick of the argument that it's selfish not to breast-feed. I know some women who were tortured when they were breast-feeding. Their nipples were bleeding, they didn't know how much milk their child was getting and their husbands were either completely shut out of the process or verbally abused for no other reason than their lack of ability to share the responsibility. Isn't it more selfish to stick to something that's not working for anyone on principle? Isn't it important for a baby to be around stress-free, happy people who are able to function properly?

As the trend in the '70s was NOT TO breast feed, it is now TO breast feed. So, I'm opting to ignore the trends and do what's best for me and my family. I'd also like to tell the usually wonderful Tamra to think before she speaks -- maybe someone should stick a breast in her mouth to shut her up. She needs to stop insulting me AND my baby.


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23 comments so far | Post a comment now
Emma  January 14, 2009, 7:50 AM

As a breastfeeding mom I mostly agree with this article. Breastfeeding is not for everyone, and if you are not going to enjoy the act of nursing as well as your child then it looses a very important part of it: the bonding. Now I said I mostly agree with the article because Maria says that those “studies” are made to keep women out of the work place, well I don’t know about that. You see, I’ve been breastfeeding my little one for a year now and I’ve been back at work since he was two months old. They have pumps now you know, very effective ones and most work places shave a mommy room or nursing room to be used for pumping. So just like you suggested to Tamra to think before she speaks, make sure that you do your research before you write.

Kelley January 14, 2009, 8:08 AM

I am not easily offended, but this breast feeding thing gets to me a little. I wanted to do the best thing for my kid and breast feed, but was unable to due to a lack of milk. I had nothing. Nada. Zip. No one talks about that. I was crushed that I would not be able to breast feed. I thought I was a bad mother, that I didn’t deserve him, etc., etc. I don’t think using formula is a bad thing because my son turned out just fine. For me, the problem is that people have no consideration of others and what they might be going through. You should really think before you speak.

ashley January 14, 2009, 8:17 AM

YOu know what, when people say that: “Maybe so and so wasn’t breastfed”
It’s a JOKE!! So maybe everyone should lighten up and not take offense at everything. Of course, I was breastfed. Again, a joke. I breastfed my son for 4 months before I ran out of milk. He turned out just fine. Now my daughter on the other hand, I breastfed her for 13 1/2 months. She is 19 months old now and still has to put a hand down my shirt when she gets upset or sleepy. It drives me nuts!!

lesle January 14, 2009, 8:22 AM

Do you really have time to get offended by a dumb tv show and then write an article about? Nobody really cares if you breastfeed or not. Its a personal decision so keep it that way. Otherwise, you open yourself up for more critism.

Anonymous January 14, 2009, 9:39 AM

it drives me crazy! i tried to breastfeed and my son didn’t want it…no biggie, he ended up being a formula baby…but my MIL sill to this day (he is almost three!) when he gets sick says “well, if he was breastfed he probably wouldn’t be sick” nevermind the fact that she didn’t breastfeed her son!!!! it drives me absolutely insane. in the end my son and i have such a great bond, he is a mama’s boy thru and thru (and like i said, i did not breastfeed) so just because you don’t brestfeed doesn’t mean that you won’t have as strong of a bond. so, congrats to mothers who breastfeed and ones you don’t…you are all AWESOME!

Natalie January 14, 2009, 10:33 AM

I was a breastfed baby, all of my children have been breastfed. My second baby sucked so hard I was cracked all around my nipples, and I was bleeding EVERY time he nursed. You know what I did? I pumped every day every two hours for a week to let myself heal. He continued nursing for 13 months after that. Personally, I think it’s silly not to breastfeed. It’s cheap, it’s easy, and it’s perfect for your baby. Obviously, if you CAN’T breastfeed for one reason or another, I wouldn’t look down on you. But if you have the opportunity to breastfeed and choose not to, that irritates the crap out of me. I busted my butt to breastfeed my kids for at least a year each, and they’re better because of it.

trina January 14, 2009, 10:41 AM

natalie…you kid is better for it? better than mine just because my 2 were formula fed? and i chose to formula feed….like anonymous, my boys are mama’s boys thru and thru, i can’t imagine our bond being any stronger, but my husband was able to feed them and bond with them in that way as well, and we are all close and tight knit.

Andrea January 14, 2009, 12:33 PM

I have nothing to say about the affect of breast/bottle feeding on peoples personalities later in life (I was bottle fed and have a wonderful relationship with both of my parents) I do disagree with the comment that breastfeeding is just a trend.
Formula companies have pulled of the most successful marketing coup ever, they have convinced us that their product is just as good, if not utterly better than breast milk. We talk about the benefits of breast milk, we should actually be talking about the increased risks associated with bottle feeding. We live in a culture where breastfeeding is not normal, understood or supported. I believe that if we had a more positive environment to support breastfeeding, more support for all mothers, more women would be able to breastfeed successfully.
And again, my mother had an absolutely horrible experience. I understand that many women are physically unable to breastfeed, and that it is not an easy process, for many women formula is a great aide. I have nothing but respect for my mother and understand that every mother wants to do nothing but the best for their child. It wasn’t that my mother, or any mother fails at breastfeeding, women and mothers are failed by the systems around them, and a culture that doesn’t give them a fair chance to succeed at breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding is not just a trend, its the way that we as a species have evolved to feed our children, and give them the best start, formula is a product, with marketing teams and millions of dollars, if anything is a trend, its formula feeding.

And I know many working mothers who successfully breastfeed their children, some of whom have gone back to work when their infant was as young as 4 weeks. Studies designed to keep women in the home and out of work? Most of the lead researchers on the majority of these projects are high powered career women or academics!

Kate January 14, 2009, 2:31 PM

I a mom that is currently nursing my 9 month old daughter and I nursed my son for the first year of his life and I feel that people actually look down on people who nurse their infants. Nursing moms get publicly ridiculed for breastfeeding in public (where am I supposed to feed my kid when I am out and about? In the bathroom-I do not think so!) Pictures of women nursing their kids are banned from facebook and many other social networks.
I feel that a mom should at least try to breastfeed their kids. I know that some women cannot successfully bf because of latch on issues, nipple issues, and milk supply issues and no one should look down on those women. They tried.

cathy January 14, 2009, 2:43 PM

kate,
no one should look down on them even if they don’t try to breastfeed. and surely no one should look down on someone for breastfeeding.
everyone else,
i don’t understand why mom’s can’t be more supportive of eachother! what is right for you may not be right for another. it’s the same with staying at home or working mothers. STOP hating and throwing stones and support eachother!!! why is this so hard for us to do? so, to all breastfeeders - GOOD JOB and all formula feeders - GOOD JOB!

Lindsey January 14, 2009, 3:02 PM

I think a lot of people’s sensitivity toward mothers who breastfeed is because they didn’t / weren’t able to / weren’t educated enough about breastfeeding their children. I used to have major issues with other mothers who did breastfeed because I only made it to six months with my first child. I made it to fifteen months with my second. Why? Because I was more educated and had found more support to breastfeed.


There was no pressure on me to breastfeed. In fact, there was more pressure on me to NOT breastfeed.


But here’s the thing - how can you continue to stick a bottle of formula in your kid’s mouth after the melamine incident? The FDA touts that they will not allow any melamine in our food stuffs whatsoever, and then it’s found in infant formula and suddenly trace amounts are okay? I don’t think so, government. Nice try, though.


You want to know what I’m sick of? I’m sick of formula moms bashing on mothers who breast feed because of a select few who advocate for breastfeeding in all the wrong ways. Get it through your head, not all of us make comments like that and it’s not fair of you to take your issues out on the vast majority of us. Because you would be just as riled as I am if I sat here and told you all formula feeding mothers are raising dumb children. (Which I’m NOT - taking a moment to clarify that was an analogy before someone gets all sensitive and takes it wrong.)


Formula was NEVER intended to be an option or a “choice” until companies found out they could make money off it. It was only there as a supplement or a SUBSTITUTE (meaning obviously not as good) for mothers who physically could not breastfeed. So for it to have morphed into a “choice” and an “option” is really quite understandable considering the pressure we put on women these days to go back to work. We ridicule our sisters for staying home with their children and taking the home life up as our careers.


Like Maya Angelou said, “You did then what you knew to do, and when you knew better, you did better.”

Cathy January 14, 2009, 3:21 PM

Lindsey,
no where in the definition for “SUBSTITUTE” does it say “not as good”. just to replace something with another. and to say that a lot of peoples sensitivity towards mothers who breastfeed is because they didn’t/ or couldn’t/ or weren’t educated enough about the subject (basically jealous?) is a crappy thing to say.

KPG January 14, 2009, 3:40 PM

I wanted to try breastfeeding, but couldn’t because I take anti-convulsant medications that end up in the breast milk. I bottle fed both of my kids. I understand where the OP is coming from. Whether a joke or not, alot of moms that breast feed do look down upon moms that can’t or choose not to. I even had one mom tell me that if I wasn’t so selfish, maybe my child wouldn’t have autism.

To say that breastfeeding alone is the only advantage one can give their children is ignorant. I support any mom who is willing and able to breastfeed. I also support any mom who isn’t willing or unable to breast feed. There are so many things in this life that can hurt our children: processed foods, simple carbs, red meat.. yet we only focus on this one aspect of their health. I am by no means an expert in nutrition or development. I leave that up to the professionals. And the professionals told me that aside from not containing the initial colostrum of breast milk, formula is actually pretty nutritionally sound.

I think we as women need to stop criticizing one another and start being supportive. Being a mom is hard enough without having people tell you that everything you do is wrong or potentially hurtful to your child when it’s clearly not.

Sara  January 14, 2009, 3:54 PM

If people would just keep their snide comments to themselves, then our children would be better off! Women will argue about breast-feeding until breasts don’t exist anymore, or if they stop producing milk for the purpose of food. Some women don’t even get the chance to choose… be grateful you all have healthy children and get over it!

Gina January 14, 2009, 4:14 PM

Wow, I bug the crap out of someone just because I chose not to breastfeed my son? Classic. :-)

Look, I am well-educated, a professional, raised in an amazing family by wonderful people… and I wanted to breastfeed about as much as I want to contract the plague. Both are equally as appealing to me. So my son was happily raised on formula.

Today he is a big, strapping almost-13 year old, in the Gifted/Talented program, and just an awesome kid. He had rotavirus when he was 1, and I think a cold a few years later, and that is it. So much for the arguments that formula leads to lower IQ’s and more illnesses.

And I’m sorry, but NO I do not like to see women breastfeeding their kids in public, any more than I want to see someone urinating into a planter box in the middle of the mall. Yay, they’re both “perfectly natural” — that doesn’t mean they’re publicly appropriate.

So flame away… but I just don’t think breastfeeding is as advantageous as some of the militants would have you think. I think, rather, that a lot of those moms prefer playing the “non-selfish martyr” role.

mama_chita January 14, 2009, 4:55 PM

Gina: LOL, about the “perfectly natural” actions that we just don’t need to see, in public! (I totally agree.)

When I had my first child (4 years ago), I was amazed (shocked?) by how opinionated people were, about breastfeeding. (Especially those who gave you an opinion when you didn’t even ask for it.)

THANKFULLY, I had a lactation consultant who was NOT ‘one of those’, and she encouraged me to do ‘what *I* could.’ A few days later (which was about 2 weeks after my son was born), when it just wasn’t working, she made me feel ‘great’ about my decision to stop. I truly appreciate her for that.

When my daughter was born two years later, she was in the NICU for 2 months. I pumped (and pumped and pumped), for those 2 months.

For medical reasons, my daughter needed thickened formula, so my freezer was packed with the “liquid gold” from those two months.

By the time she was able to tolerate non-thickened liquids, the ‘expiration’ had passed for the frozen milk.

In the trash, went (what seemed like) gallons of hard work.

Although I felt ‘sad’ that I had put in all that hard work (I actually got run-down and really sick during those two months of pumping/NICU-visiting), I was not upset about giving her formula.

If a woman is having issues or doubts about breastfeeding, I think it’s much more helpful to tell her that the best decision is the decision that she is most-comfortable with. Both my OB/GYN and lactation consultant told me that, and I remember that those two people made me feel the most confident and the most ‘happy’, during the scary and upside-down days of “life with your first child, after you’ve left the hospital and realize that you are now at home without a nurse to tell you what to do!”


And on a side-note: I’m sick of Tamra, now. She did seem semi-normal at one point. But last week, she was totally high-school, and I’m sick of her now.

anonymous January 14, 2009, 11:54 PM

WOW! I can’t believe that people (women) who profess to be so intelligent can be so obviously NOT! When and where in the world do we see other mammals lining up to drink the milk of another species? Doesn’t the dairy board have you totally brain-washed? Tell yourself whatever you need to, to get through the day. In the end, if you really are as intelligent as you say you are, you will realise how illogical your posts against breastfeeding are.
Formula is just as good a breastmilk and your child is just as smart as a breastfed child? Really? Like you are really smart? Hmmm.

Deb January 15, 2009, 8:40 AM

Its a joke, But if the shoe fits wear it. Only those who believe it might even be a bit true are offended. Those who are confident and truly happy with their choices need not take offense or defend.

Barb January 15, 2009, 11:11 AM

Kelley, THANK YOU for bringing up the lack of milk topic: the same thing happened to me. I was dying to breastfeed; I spent most of my pregnancy wondering what it would be like (joyful, bonding!), and when my daughter was born, I breastfed exclusively at first (couple days) until she was jaundice and she lost more than a pound. My body just didn’t produce enough milk… I never got engorged, I never had breast pain (from the milk coming in)—it just simply passed over me and I couldn’t give my daughter what she needed, so of course she got formula (and she’s 5 now and healthy as a horse).

For my second pregnancy, I talked to all my doctors about it ahead of time, hoping there was SOMETHING I could do to “force” my body to make milk… the same thing happened: my body just makes a tiny amount of milk, and that’s it. I took herbs and saw lactation consultants and nothing worked. Such is life, I guess. My son had formula, too, and he’s 17 months and wonderful.

But I’m with you—I never heard anyone talk about this issue before it happened to me, and I felt such guilt about it, which is truly absurd (looking back, I can say that now, but at the time I was devastated) since I did everything I could.

Marie January 19, 2009, 6:16 PM

Gina, you don’t bug the crap out of me by not breastfeeding. You bug the crap out of me by equating an infant EATING with someone urinating. Your son must get his intellegence elsewhere! If you understood the research at all, you would know that formula does put babies at a disadvantage. I think formula feeding militants would like us all to believe that it is “just as good” as breastmilk. Too bad it never will be.


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