Saturday, January 29, 2011

Maybe it's pregnancy irritability or maybe it's you, ya smug bitch

I was sent a link to this blog: Teresa Strasser on Teresa Strasser entitled "Formula isn't poison" and as I read it I found myself getting more and more irritated.  By the end I was going to reach through my computer screen and slap the woman.

WHY?

At a fundamental level she's saying what I believe: breastfeeding *is* better, but sometimes it just doesn't work for mother or baby and a mother should be able to decide to do one or the other as long as it results in happy and healthy mom and happy and healthy baby, without people judging her.

So here's a woman who breastfed for months, finally switching to formula completely when it became apparent that she just couldn't breast feed any more.  And I'm a gonna cut the chick!

WHY?

It is pregnancy irritability?  Am I actually a terrible person who tries not to judge, but then totally does??  I agonized over this post.  At first I didn't want to write it.  After all, I'm still pre-baby, I have no idea how breastfeeding is going to go!  Who am I to talk?  And the last thing anybody needs is another irritated mommy-blogger bashing another mother!

So I read the article again.  ARGH! *stomping about* I am so bloody IRRITATED BY THIS WOMAN!  Then I read the comments.  Maybe that would help get my usual "hey, lay off the mom, you horrible women"-juices flowing.  Well, FAIL to that, but it did finally clue me in to what was pissing me off.

I think commenter #8 put it best:
Breastfeed, don't breastfeed. Just don't feel smug about either decision.
And that's the problem.  This entire post if filled with smugness, from beginning to end.  I hate smug.

First, she's still going to a breastfeeding group, even though she's no longer breastfeeding.  It's a support group for women who breastfeed, for Christ's sake, when you whip out the bottle of formula and start feeding your child, OF COURSE THEY ARE GOING TO LOOK AT YOU WEIRD!  It's like going to an Alcoholics Anonymous meeting and cracking open a Pabst Blue Ribbon (it's a cheap American beer).

Believe me when you are thinking,
"Listen, you crazy mamas, it's not all about the breastfeeding. I'm sure you can bond with your babies in lots of ways that don't involve turning your lives inside out just to make sure you never expose your baby to an ounce of formula. It's not poison."
They can see it on your face, and you know what, they don't appreciate it.  They've decided to try to breastfeed through the problems and challenges, they do not need you sashaying in and acting all superior.  You even say you are!  You say you go to these meetings,
Maybe just to kill time, but maybe also to feel better about the formula thing because these moms look downright miserable. In the end, instead of feeling inferior, I just feel relieved.
That, right there?  Smugness.  Insufferable smugness.  That has earned you one bitch-slap.

The second comes with this line,
The dark secret for me is that I had to work.
Oh my god, someone call the Pope, a woman had to work so she just couldn't breastfeed any more.  I'm sorry Teresa, but you are not the world's first working mom.  Other women do it.  Work is not the reason you couldn't breastfeed any more.  It may have contributed, but citing work as the "dark secret" is ignoring all the women who work full-time and pump as well as all the SAHMs for whom breastfeeding just didn't work out.  Especially since it turns out you were only working 4 hours a day.  I mean, good lord, where did you find the time to have a child?!  Call Ripley's Believe it or Not, call the Guinness Book of World Records, let's get this story out on the wire!  This earns you bitch-slap number two.

Then we have this,
I'm angry that the unintended consequence of this well-meaning "breast is best" movement is to guilt working moms into nursing on demand, all the time, all night long, for six months or until most jobs won't want you back. The accidental message is that if you don't press the pause button on every aspect of your life to nurse your baby, you are the worst thing in the world: a bad mom.
I'm with you on the unintentional "breast is best" guilt that leaves women stressed out, freaked out, and babies unhappy and in some cases, starving.  I'm also with you against the "pause every aspect of your life to nurse your baby or be a Bad Mom" trolls.  But uh, "for six months or until most jobs won't want you back"?  Honey, wake up and look at the nation around you, most women do not have six months maternity leave.
"Actual paid "maternity leave" — while the norm in every other developed country — is unusual in the United States, although some enlightened companies do offer new parents paid time off, up to six weeks in some cases."  Babycenter.com on maternity leave in the US
Nearly one-quarter (24 percent) of the best employers for working mothers provide four or fewer weeks of paid maternity leave, and half (52 percent) provide six weeks or less, according to an Institute for Women’s Policy Research analysis of data provided by Working Mother Media, Inc., publisher of Working Mother magazine. Institute for Women's Policy Research
Heck, the New York Times ran an article today about The Fight for Paid Maternity Leave.

Oh, but maybe these nursing moms have saved up money so they can take unpaid leave?
The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) requires certain employers to allow eligible workers to take up to 12 weeks unpaid, job-protected leave each year. Columbia University Clearninghouse on International Developments in Child, Youth & Family Policies
So, six months, Teresa?  You are living in a fantasy world.  The "Breast is Best" tigers may also be living in a fantasy world, where all women have the freedom to breastfeed for six months, but a shocking amount of moms manage it with breast pumps and bathroom stalls for even longer.

Teresa, I'M NOT SAYING YOU ARE A BAD MOM!  I'm just saying that you cannot use work as your shield in your fight for formula feeding.  You profess several times how much you just loved nursing and how you
... did feel like a natural woman. At the pediatrician, I felt like a rock star. Around formula-feeding moms, I felt a potent mixture of superiority and pity.
Mayhaps this was a case of the lady doth protest too much?  Or are you just kind of a smug bitch?  Because you seem to feel superior whether you are breastfeeding or formula feeding!

Get off your high horse, look deep inside.  Why did you stop breastfeeding?  And then tell it like it is and stand up for that reason.  Women will support you for that, as long as it's honest.  Anyone who doesn't can go kiss your ass.

And for the love of GOD, stop going to breastfeeding groups!  If you are lonely or guilty, like you say, form your own group of formula feeding women who support each other in their choices!

Finally, I find that you blame working on your book "Exploiting My Baby" which has now been optioned by Sony as the reason why you feel like you might be neglecting your child ABSOLUTELY FREAKING HILARIOUS!  Seriously, do you not see the irony?  'Cause I'm shrieking with laughter over here.

***EDIT: For a woman who is not going to breastfeed and who I support whole-heartedly, read this blog post on Babble.com.  Monica has thought long and hard about it and researched and decided that she's going to do what's best for her as well as her baby.  She's extremely open and honest about it, not the least bit smug, and I wish her all the best.  Read those comments.

10 comments:

  1. Uh, never had kids and don't plan to, but as a woman with lots of breeding friends I get the periphery of the "breast is best" dogma. Sure, breast milk is best, but I agree, it's about what's best for the kid, too.

    I have a good friend whose first son hated breast milk, like the kids would take a few gulps and taper off. So she ended up doing formula every other feeding and called the doctor in a panic. She said the doctor told her, "The baby didn't read the books, he likes what he likes, and you need to do what works best for you and him."

    There it is in a nutshell. I feel sorry for the first time pregnant and the new moms, the pressure out there from an outsider looking in seems terrible. Props for being able to take it and still fire back at the blowhards. Lord knows my head would explode.

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  2. Yeah, it's the smug-icity of self proclaimed spokespeople. Oh and the "best at life" peeing contest? Ugh.

    If there is something I cannot stand more than someone proclaiming loudly how superior they are, how great all their life decisions have been and how contented they are with their circumstances when it is OBVIOUS they are just as mixed up, guilty and disgruntled as everyone else then I have not encountered it yet.

    Give it up, ladies! Everyone is walking their path, everyone is questioning themselves and no one is having a wall-to-wall good time. You can stop pretending now.

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  3. You have to do what works best for you both at the time. I can't understand these people that believe they have the right to question other people's personal decisions. It's like the natural birth thing. I did an NCT course in London (they promote natural birth and breastfeeding I was soon to find out!) with my first child. Soon afterwards the lecturer came to visit us with our newborns and quizzed us on "how well we had done" and what advice we would give for other mothers in labour. She didn't like my answer of "take everything they offer you" funnily enough...

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  4. Anonymous9:20 PM

    I love your title.

    I've met women who live in absolute squalor, with alcoholic husbands and all sorts of fuckery hanging over their heads, with multiple lice ridden kids and grubby bottles of formula hanging out of their jam smeared faces who have had a better attitude to family life and kids than a lot of the 'we know what we doing and we got it right' middle class lot who do motherhood after research and feel they need to 'prove' themselves all the time.

    I've also met a lot of women who breastfeed without it being a 'concept'?

    It all depends on the individual. I happen to think that women need as much support to breastfeed 'properly' (i.e: past the first six weeks which is when women usually find out they don't have the support to do it) as do women who just can't hack what full time breastfeeding asks for to admit they need to grab a tub of that formula and start trying to stay awake through early hours scoop counts and microwave reheats.

    Bottle feeding, like birth with interventions, is so unfashionable right now, that those who are really only going to be happy doing the aforementioned are made to feel like pariahs in some birthing circles. But women need to do what they need to do. Natural birth and feeds are not for everyone: who the f cares? Their business.

    Point is, if a woman knows what she is doing, she doesn't normally have to tell everybody else she knows what she is doing.She just does it. But then the urge to give advice...I've not met a person yet who doesn't do that. It's just some people are nicer with it?

    My personal bugbear is being told ALL about child birth by people who haven't had kids,as if I didn't write the fecking book. Believe me, I get that a lot. In particular being told about the way birth works? AS IF I don't know already? That kind of naive arrogance is as annoying and smug as the woman in this feature you have written about.

    It's often naive and arrogant to tell others what is what. But what gets me is how women are much more ready to accept all sorts of advice from doctors and obstetricians because they have the qualification of the professional, but that we get riled when people who might (just might) know something we don't know, because they are experienced mothers and not professionals? We all hate the crone who knows best and prefer to listen to the man with the credentials. *shudder*

    Having said that, I have to reply to Corrine's reference about the kid who hated breastmilk (?!)...It has to be said that supplementing a difficult breastfeeder's food with formula in the first few months is ill advised and derails the establishment of successful breastfeeding. Many health professionals in Denmark seem ignorant to this and have had little training.

    'The Writer previously known as Babs' xx

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  5. I don't have children, but even standing on the periphery and merely being an observer, it is my impression no-one is as hard on mothers as other mothers.

    And yes, plenty of judging and finding wanting, plenty of smugness, and plenty of very high horses, and I'm sure this is the last thing a new mother needs.

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  6. Babs, the woman with the finicky baby pumped. I have no idea how bottle-feeding breast milk affects taste or baby preference, but I do know she was frustrated with how the baby would only have a bit before tapering off and quit feeding so she supplemented with formula. As I said earlier, I'm not a mother. I don't know if you would consider bottle feeding breast milk breastfeeding or straight-up bottle feeding, as to me it seems the same substance if a different means of delivery. And from what I gather, the "breast is best" doctrine is concerned mostly with substance, or am bass-ackwards?

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  7. I hated breastfeeding. I don't know why, but for some reason it totally squicked me out. There were some lovely moments when I could let the squickiness go, and bond with Cass, but mostly I hated it. I did it for three months and was sooo relieved when we found out she was lactose intolerant and needed to be on soy formula.

    I'm thrilled for people who loved breastfeeding, and thrilled for people who loved being pregnant, but I hate when they make me feel like a bad mother because I didn't love being pregnant and I hated breastfeeding.

    You'll be a fantastic mom, whether you breastfeed or not. And you won't smother your baby in smugness, which can have devastating effects later in life.

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  8. Corinne, It's because the bottle teat is easier to get milk from than the nipple so the baby is like "dude, what are you trying to do to me? Give me the bottle, are you mad?"

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  9. I was physically unable to breastfeed more than a few drops at a time. I would feed as much collostrum in the hospital as I could but often, just to keep my sons' weight up I would 'tube supplement' (had a very fine tube taped to my nipple by the nurses, connected to a bottle of formula) while the baby was trying to suckle.

    I did really try to breastfeed my second son because all the practicioners said that I just wasn't trying hard enough or long enough. I pumped and pumped and stuffed my nipple in his mouth every single time he acted hungry (which was a lot) but there was just never enough. By the time he was six weeks old (and I'd been TURNED AWAY and told to TRY AGAIN twice!) he had lost an unacceptable amount of weight and I had a severe case of mastitis, which I was hospitallized for. Not nice, lemme tell ya. From then on I fed him formula, finally didn't feel too guilty about feeding my first son formula and by the time I had my third son I knew in my heart what was coming and accepted it.

    I've heard women swear that the only way to bond with your baby is to breastfeed. Bullshit. I'm not smug or self riteous about my decision - I did what I needed to for my kids. I still feel guilty that I couldn't provide everything that I wanted to, but I see now that they are not damaged, they are very healthy and we are all well bonded as a family because everyone got to play a part in feeding time.

    This is a really big issue with big feelings attached. As others have said on here, do what you feel is right for you and your baby. Breast milk is ideal, yes, but formula is pretty dang good these days.

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  10. Thanks for writting info.As you have written in your blog that Maybe it's pregnancy irritability or maybe it's you.It's very right that breastfeeding is better for baby. But sometimes it just doesn't work for mother or baby.But mother's milk is very good for baby.

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