Tuesday, April 06, 2010

IF YOU DON'T BREASTFEED YOUR BABY WILL DIE!

It was time for this fun subject to rear its head again, wasn't it?

A new study was just released, so reporters decided to find the most FLAGRANTLY MISLEADING CONCLUSIONS to draw from it possible, so as to make the report newsworthy.

Here's CNN's report: "Study: Lack of breastfeeding costs lives, billions of dollars"

Do you know what the report actually showed? It showed that almost 1000 babies die prematurely every year in the US from preventable diseases, and that breastfeeding has been shown to decrease the risk of these diseases.  (BY HOW MUCH, the report on CNN does not say.)

The babies who die prematurely cost billions of dollars.

So, the theory goes, if these 975 babies had been breastfed for the first few months of their lives, they MIGHT not have gotten sick and MIGHT not have died and then MIGHT not have cost so much money.

But of course, that's not an interesting finding. So you make it interesting by flipping stuff around and quoting out of context and making this about SCARING the bejeezus out of already terrified new mothers.

Let me restate my position on this.

I think that this country is totally and completely screwed up when it comes to the notion of pregnancy and birth and breastfeeding AND EVEN (to some extent) child-rearing, not to mention sexuality. All this kid-related stuff is vital to our perpetuation as a species -- you know, kind of basic -- and yet it's all treated as silly, fluffy, too personal, gross, weird, bleh.

And we all know: Excessive cleavage on display is perfectly awesome, but god forbid you try to use boobs for the purpose of nourishing your baby in public. Scandalous!

Blogging about raising kids is fluff, but writing a review about how fast you can play games on the iPad is Serious Business.

Where was I?

Oh, right.

This country is LOUSY at supporting new moms in general, and moms who want to breastfeed? Forget it. Our companies don't support us, our insurance companies don't support us, and our friends/neighbors/family members who gawk at the very thought of seeing a baby on our boobs don't really support us.

Let's fight that fight. Let's change that.

Oh, but you know what?  Let's not fight that fight while ALSO screaming at moms who formula feed. Just, please stop doing it.  You're obfuscating the point and polarizing the issue. It should NOT be about who's doing it wrong or who's doing it better.

The real fight is in finding ways to better support moms, period.


I humbly request that you to read my first rant on this issue, called OH MY GOD WITH THE BREASTFEEDING.  I think it's maybe one of my most measured rants ever.

38 comments:

  1. Thank you for writing about this. I too saw that article and was bothered by the seemingly huge logic gap between the deaths of those children and how they could have absolutely been prevented by breastfeeding. I could not and therefore did not bresatfeed. I guess it's a miracle that my baby didn't die!

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  2. Very well said. A friend of mine who lives in NYC tweeted yesterday "Breast feeding on the subway. Kind of sweet, kind of WTF?" and I thought why? WHY WTF? Why sweet? If someone was bottle feeding a baby on the subway would he have thought anything? It's all effed up and it shouldn't be.

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  3. I agree- don't bash the ones who do or the ones who do something else.
    I thought what the headline might be about (but apparently not) is that not breastfeeding has hurt a lot of children- not in the US, but in developing countries where companies campaigned for formula in order to sell their product. Poor women bought it, mixed it with unclean water or sometimes diluted it to save money, and children got ill.
    And really, when I did it in public I was showing a lot less boob then a real housewife.
    I should also add that we had to give my son formula a couple days in because the poor kid was starving and not getting what he needed from the boob. And then at about 6 months we switched to it with both kids because I didn't have the energy to run a dairy and work full time. My point being- one, the other, or in tandem- get the kids fed!

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  4. Strange transitionless segway to public breastfeeding in the middle of that- sorry.

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  5. I agree I would love the following:

    1)A free course on breastfeeding
    2)All the $50 nursing bra's I want for a year at no cost
    3)A debit card to be used for any sort of pads or cremes needed
    4)A free service that comes to my house to holds my hand and massages my boob when I get a plugged duct
    5)24 hour "Dial a boob" just in case I just can't do it for one session
    6)The Porsche of pumps free from rent for as long as I want
    7)Sexy nursing pajamas
    8)Milk Spa's in every town that allows me to pop in while they serve me tea and shortbread cookies while fanning my head while I nurse away.

    That is the type of support women need for breastfeeding.

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  6. BRAVO. Perfectly said. And so *necessary* to say. (sadly)

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  7. Kristy, the fight isn't about "finding ways to better support moms, period." It's about finding ways to support PARENTS... dads too. After all, in our patriarchal country, most companies don't offer paternal leave, which I for one think is disgusting. It's always assumed that the woman will stay home with the baby for 3 months, or a year, or forever. It's her responsibility, her job. It's just assumed. Not to mention, there are single dads and gay dads... lots of kids don't have moms. So I have a feeling you totally agree with what I'm saying, but you often use "mom" language which just plays into the societal notion that men cannot parent (or, should not parent) well, too. It shouldn't be all left for the moms. That itself is a HUUUUGE part of the problem.

    p.s. I question whether most people think writing about kids is fluffier than writing about videogames. it's just that when some people do write about families, again and again and again, it can get disgustingly wholesome and traditional and kinda boring. But I find videogames boring so I don't get that either!!!

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  8. I was all set to comment... and then... our well pump went out and we have no water. And they can't fix it til tomorrow. And I'm so thankful that I breastfeed my son now, since we wouldn't have water to mix formula.

    So I can't comment intelligently about this right now...

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  9. Excellent post. New mothers should be WAY more supported.

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  10. Nicely said. And totally true.

    Boobs out, ladies! Unless you don't want to, I'm totally okay with that too.

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  11. Very nice! ugh! This is such an emotional issue for me (and I've exclusively nursed, exclusively formaula fed, and done a combination of both for 4 children)that I can't even put into words why I am so glad that you DID put your thoughts into words. ugh ugh ugh. Thank you!

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  12. Neither having kids nor ever being likely to, what annoys me the most about this is how people with no scientific background or apparent grasp of logic feel completely justified in drawing what they pass off as "scientific" conclusions from data that only marginally (if that) support their position. I'm a molecular biologist and it irritates me to no end when people with no idea of how real science works try to persuade me that studies like this are ironclad proof that X is right or wrong or whatever. I don't go around pontificating on baseball because I KNOW I know nothing about the topic. Yet you mention some study and suddenly everyone's a goddamn expert.

    P.S. How hilarious is it that the word verification for this comment on THIS particular post is: mateat?! Har.

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  13. not a mum but watched my sister struggle with this issue - mainly because she COULD NOT produce enough milk to feed her daughter exclusively breast milk - she pumped a lot but because of a surgery many years ago her body just wasn't ab;e to do it - and my GOD she struggled with that - people made her feel like a failure for not being able to - especially when it was so obvious that Lola much preferred the breast milk to the formula - NOT fair

    but you know what? they got through it and when her 2nd baby arrives in June she isn't going to let it stress her out - if it works, great - if not, formula will be just fine

    (I read that article that was floating around earlier today on some blog and the statement that women are brainwashed into thinking that they are not able to breast feed really got to me)

    support on both sides is needed - not judgement

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  14. Anon 5:06:

    You are right, the BIG fight is about supporting parents, period.

    This PARTICULAR conversation got verrrry mired in mom-centric-ness because of the specific boob issue, but I will be mindful of that going forward.

    Thank you.

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  15. Yay Jennifer H. Now that's support.

    I think what irks me most about the judgements is that someone sees you for 2 seconds and decides they know what is best. I breast feed for only a short period of time as I had a weird form of dermatitis on my boob which left it pretty much skinless (OWWW) from about 4mths into the pregnancy till my bub was about 6mths. I was berated by the midwives and lactation specialists for wanting to bottle feed and was told that I was a bad mother. Zero on the support front. I was told in shopping centres by complete strangers that I didn't care about my baby because I was using a bottle. I had big plans of breast feeding my bubs for a year prior to the skinless boob fiasco but things got in the way, damn reality.

    I find it bizarre that at what is a bloody difficult time anyway (esp first time round) that anyone would berate a mum for doing what fits best for her for numerous reasons, be it breast or bottle or medieval wet nurse.

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  16. YES. You've summarized this frustrating issue very well. What is up with the media being so pro-breastfeeding in theory, but not in practice?
    Also - the whole other issue of the poor mothers of babies who have died of these diseases. Way to throw on the guilt if they weren't breastfeeding.

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  17. Agree!! And really tired of the BF or Die campaign... Yes, we should all do what we can until/unless we can't. Bah.

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  18. and i'm glad to see you asking us to stop and rethink what has been reported by the media with that study. also - i'm pretty tired of people getting so worked up at the sight of a woman breastfeeding in public. c'mon - grow up. boobs are made for this job and if you find it gross or inappropriate that a mother feeds her child when and where that child is hungry, you have some serious hangups to get past.

    i agree too with above comments re: breastfeeding/formula feeding. i couldn't produce enough breastmilk for my daughter and had to supplement and then eventually go 100% with formula and i felt terrible because i couldn't breastfeed exclusively. as KathyBou says - enough with the BF or Die campaign. we new moms have enough to deal with without feeling like we are horrible mothers for choosing to formula feed. sometimes it isn't a choice but a necessity!

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  19. You can't hear it, but I'm applauding. Very well said and so true.

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  20. Both this post and your original BF post encapsulate my thoughts on the matter, too.

    Amazing how everyone's got an opinion about how moms should do their jobs. Even those who don't hold the position.

    I'm just surprised people rarely mention what may be the most compelling reason yet to embrace breastfeeding:

    http://bit.ly/beKNyi

    --A Well-Versed Mom

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  21. That was an excellent post - thank you. I've been on both sides of this with my baby. I really wanted to nurse exclusively but it just didn't work out, he kept losing weight so we had to start supplementing with formula early on. I never caught up with his demand, so I've been doing the nursing/formula combo ever since (he's 11 months now). So not only do I get the weird looks when I nurse in public or leave work to go pump, but I also get the judgy looks when I pull out the bottle to finish his feeding. I don't know a single new mom who isn't doing her very best, whichever method she chooses to feed her baby.

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  22. I had three babies..not all at once, though. The first one I tried, I really tried breastfeeding. However, it didn't work out. In fact she was in more danger of dying from me not being able to sleep ever than from whatever they said on the news yesterday or so. We finally put her on formula and the poor little thing was just starving. She devoured the formula. I tried a bit with my second and he probably should have been breastfed, but with the first being 18 months old and he had pyloric stenosis...well, it just didn't happen.

    By the time I got to the third one it was formula all the way.

    All are very healthy adults with no lasting trauma from the brief foray into breast feeding.

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  23. I agree with you, that article is not very fact based. Crazy.

    I've successfully bf both of my girls, Ava to 10 months, Alexa to a year, and I love it. I consider myself somewhat of a bf advocate simply because I loved it so much that I can't imagine why anyone wouldn't. However, I realize that it's not as easy for everyone as it was for me. I honestly think that most women in America today do at least try bf. For many, it just doesn't work out. And thank goodness we live in a country where we have formula & clean water!

    I do sometimes worry though that some women just dismiss bf without even trying it because there is another option. I don't think it's the worst thing in the world to be bottle fed, but I don't really like when a woman doesn't even try bf simply because "it seems like too much work or I won't enjoy it." I know that is a VERY small majority of women though.

    Anyhow, thanks for writing about this, because it is such a lose/lose situation for moms everywhere. You can't nurse in public without getting looked at and you can't pull out a bottle without being judged.

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  24. My sister had a hard time BFing and gave up after three bouts of mastitis. She felt so guilty about it, I felt terrible for her.

    My kids were champion nursers and I did it for a year with all of them, including pumping for 6 months at work with each (at which point I just couldn't look at that dam pump one more time.)

    But for some 'lactivists' a year isn't enough either and I had to take their BS.

    For some women, primarily of my mom's generation, my kids were starving because they weren't getting formula.

    There really has to be a better way. Maybe we could all stop with the judgy business, and really, that's not limited to this topic.

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  25. Jennifer- I like! And add in the medieval wet nurse that someone else mentioned- and a foot massage (mostly because I want one right now.) And make no-judgement zones that people can go- like the smoking zone, but not as stinky.
    K- you've got such great readers on your blog!

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  26. I'm very upset by this article. I cannot breastfeed for the reason that I take a medication that could potentially poison my baby as it leaches through my breast milk. Simply not taking the medication is NOT an option, as I have been on it for 3 years and I can't live without it! I have no option but to breast feed. I am just waiting for someone to make a comment to me in a mall as I bottle feed...I will literally rip them a new one as they rag on me about something they know absolutely nothing about. *ends rant!*

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  27. THANK YOU. I'm not a mom, hope to adopt kids around toddler age and therefore don't really have a horse in this race, but I am so glad for measured, reasonable voices instead of the OHMYGODYOU'REDOINGITWRONG hyperbole that can often come about with this.

    Thank you.

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  29. I now have a new favorite phrase "nipple-sucking unicorns" lifted directly from that first rant. I have no idea how I'm going to use it since neither I nor most of my friends have kids but I vow that I will find a way. Yes.

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  30. Thank you for writing about this. I am a Mom who bottle-fed all three of my babes. I have had enough people tell me how not good bottle feeding is and how much better breastfeeding is and what an injustice I'm doing my kids for NOT breastfeeding them. We, as a society, are SO judgmental on each other and I wish people would just stick to doing what they think is best for their own families (children included). There is no parent handbook that comes with babies and no baby is exactly alike. Let's just let those new Moms be to discover what works best for them. That article you discussed sounds absolutely ridiculous but, then again, I'm not surprised by the media. You are SO right in everything you said!

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  31. All I can say is I remember pumping in a file room with no lock on the door after my first born. I was walked in on at least three times. Talk about nightmare. What does the world want from us. Give us a break!

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  32. I have a friend on Facebook who posted a link to this same article but she is very much in the pro-this-article camp; she's a very close friend of my husband's. Anyway, she and her like-minded friends have been downright hateful in their comments this week about mothers who don't breastfeed for ANY reason (your inability to produce milk is not a valid reason to them; the fact that you adopted your child is seriously not a valid reason to these women) -- I'm actually kind of shocked, but I'm not sure why -- I guess because it's someone I know. It's really amazing. I wish I had that kind of time to sit around and judge other parents, but I'm too busy parenting my kid.

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  33. Excellent point! The problem really is the support we offer each other as mothers and the one-up-manship that comes with comparing ourselves to each other including BFing.

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  34. I had every intention of breastfeeding, but unfortunately, my body disagreed. My milk never came in to adequately feed him. While we were still in the hospital however, the nurses urged me to "keep going, keep trying" despite the fact that my baby was losing weight and screaming constantly out of hunger. Upon discharge he was 2oz away from being admitted to the NICU. I had enough and got some Similac. Immediately he turned into a perfect baby. I kept pumping to try and force the milk into action, but it never happened and after 3 months my doctor told me to give up. He's not sick, he's not dying, he's healthy, smart as a whip and in the doctor's words "perfect". I could just throttle the people who make formula feeding into such a taboo thing. Like we new mothers aren't friggin scared enough in the beginning!!

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  35. Thank you so much for your post! I agree with you.

    Unfortunately, I was unable to breastfeed, even with medication and a professional grade milking machine, used every three hours religiously to get a few drops of milk.

    I had to use formula. It was sad, but my son is a healthy almost-nine years old!

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  36. i don't have a dog in this boob-feeding fight.

    BUT.

    i've never heard the word obfuscating. and now i am totally about to die i can't find a way to slip it into casual conversation tomorrow. love that.

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  37. Great post.

    This goes both ways. It also goes for natural childbirth/medicated, vaccines/non vaccines and just about every other parenting issue out there.

    Why is it that when so many women become pregnant they instantly become judgmental of everyone else?

    If we all spent a little more time worrying about our own children and not everyone else's, the world would be a much better place.

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