Thursday, March 19, 2009

And that's all I have to say on 'The case against breastfeeding'

I didn’t want to spend the time on writing an entry on the Hanna Rosin’s article, ‘The Case against Breastfeeding.’ There are far too many articles and entries regarding this article. However, after seeing all the talk on television and the response from the AAP, I needed to add my two cents, as a new mom.
If you read any of my entries in the beginning of my venture into mommyhood, you will know I had struggles with breastfeeding. Throughout my struggles, I received support from family and friends but for the most part, clinicians and strangers all had the same message to me, “It’s ok if you don’t breastfeed. It’s ok if you give her formula. It’s ok.”
I understood that they were trying to let me know my options but in some cases, the clinicians, even the lactation consultant at the hospital seemed to reiterate these stock lines before I even said hello.
Personally, I didn’t want to hear that it was ok. I knew it was ok. I wanted help. I wanted support and the only way I got it was to actively find help. I searched the internet. I chatted with other moms online. I dragged my bloated, tired self to meet other moms who breastfed. I hired consultants and had a consultation with a lactation physician. Anyone who told me they breastfed was a resource I drained of any information. I willingly whipped out my breasts to anyone that said they had breastfeeding advice for me. I don’t think I’m out of the norm on this. Ok, maybe the whole whipping the breasts out part. Most of the moms I’ve met and spoken to all had to search for help and positive feedback on breastfeeding.
And you know what? Any woman and in several cases, man who said they breastfed, knew how I was feeling and willingly gave me contacts and advice. Sometimes, they just let me vent.
In a society where studies and what I consider common sense, informs us of the benefits of breastfeeding, I find it particularly strange that advocacy is lacking. Yes, Ms. Rosin is disputing the 'mass media studies' but anyone who has ever read a scientific journal will tell you study findings always have 'inconsistent findings'. There are just too many factors. Clinicians reiterate stock lines regarding breastfeeding. Most hospitals and physician practices have ‘formula’ closets stocked to the brim by manufacturers free of charge. Every other day I hear of a woman’s right to breastfeed being infringed upon.
Breastfeeding is not common in today’s modern society. Because of such, you will develop a stronger connection with your fellow breastfeeding neighborhood mom but I have yet to see a roving band of ’Hell’s Grannies’ terrorizing neighborhood play yards with their full heaving breasts puffed out in bravado.
Formula vs breast is a choice and sometimes it isn’t but I haven’t met a mom that scorned me for my decision to go through the ups and downs I had in the very beginning. Nor have I met a mom who scorned another mom for formula feeding or weaning.
If anything, I’ve discovered a new comraderie with women and mothers. Complete strangers become members of the Sherpa society of parenthood wear the uniform consists of jeans designed with spit up, frazzled looking hair and dark sunglasses (to cover the dark circles). There is an unspoken acknowledgement that there isn’t a set path of rights and wrongs in parenthood. There are a million forks in the road and you respect that the majority of parents out there only want the best for their children.
I feel for Ms. Rosin as she seems to have had a negative breastfeeding experience with all three of her kids. Is there sense of ‘what if’ in her mind? What if I didn’t breastfeed? Would my career path be different? Ms. Rosin seems to have felt an obligation to breastfeeding and associates it with sacrificing.
Breastfeeding is hard and one should not feel like they must do so at the risk of her own health, emotionally and physically. So when a mom decides to wean or formula feed, no one I know would belittle her decision.
I’m sorry Ms. Rosin had a bad experience with breastfeeding and didn't receive support in her decisions but I wonder if this is more of a retrospective subjective outlook closeted as a feminist piece.