Phrases that really have no place in an article on breastfeeding and formula, no matter how crafty they are:
“Suckled at the corporate teat”
Something else that doesn’t need to be done in order to make a point? The vilification of mothers.
I know that I’ve ranted ad nauseam for the last couple of weeks about the so-called mommy wars, and the way the media and various corporations help push the idea for profit. Well, here I am ranting again (surprise, surprise). But this time, I have a bit of a different focus.
Mother Jones posted an article yesterday that takes a look at Mitt Romney’s relationship to big pharma, particularly his past connections to the formula industry. Being a resident of Massachusetts, I’m quite aware of Romney’s push to support Bristol-Meyers Squibb (and by association, Enfamil) and how he actively worked to overturn the ban of formula “swag bags” in hospitals.
I’ve seen the arguments on both sides, and am no stranger to the breastfeeding/formula swag bag debate. I’ve seen this fight occur numerous times, and it usually ends up with mothers on opposite sides of the fence, arguing and playing up to the mommy war stereotype.
Before I continue, just in case there are a few of you out there that don’t know my stance on breastfeeding, I figure I will make it as crystal clear as I can.
I am 100% pro-breastfeeding. I believe it is the most ideal way to feed a baby, and has many benefits that cannot be artificially reproduced.
That being said, I’m also not ignorant to the many, varied obstacles that new mothers face when it comes to breastfeeding. Breastfeeding can be challenging for even the most “nursing-friendly” mother/baby pair. I had what I would call a relatively easy time nursing, and even then there were days in the beginning where the pain was excruciating, when my nipples were tinted purple from gentian violet while treating thrush, when I’d wake up in a cool puddle of my own milk, when I had to deal with plugged ducts and cracked nipples. I also had oversupply issues which came with their own special set of challenges.
I was lucky, however. I had what many women do not. I had support. My husband was absolutely supportive. My family and friends were incredibly supportive. My midwives were supportive. I had the phenomenal support of my wonderful doula who literally sat and watched, counting, as my son nursed during his first week of life, reassuring me that he was getting more than enough.
You’ve heard the saying it takes a village? Well, it can sometimes take a village… to nurse. And that’s the problem. We don’t have a system of villages set up in this country.
What we do have, however, are corporations. Corporations whose primary goal is to make money. So what do they do? They create mass marketing campaigns to send free formula to anyone who registers at any baby store anywhere (or maternity store, birthing classes, etc…). They also create these “swag bags” which are pure marketing campaigns, provided with the sole purpose of getting more customers.
Where are the swag bags for breastfeeding? The ones that include a free pump, breast pads, and nipple salve? Or perhaps a few free hours with a lactation consultant who will come to your home and help you establish a productive nursing relationship and answer all your questions? Where are the mandatory breaks and clean spaces for women who need to nurse (beyond, oh – just use the toilet)? Where are the commercials and magazine ads and newspaper inserts promoting breastfeeding? Where is the option of donor milk in hospitals?
There’s not. And that’s the problem. You can’t even begin to judge or vilify mothers when the playing field is hardly even.
Listen, some women might make the choice to use formula for personal reasons, and “leveling the playing field” wouldn’t even matter. I get that. Other women don’t have a choice due to a number of issues. I’m not saying we should deny these women the chance for free formula while at hospitals. But for the rest of the women who may have had even the fleeting wish to try to breastfeed their babies? We need to fortify our villages. We need to ensure that they’re equipped enough to rise up to the level that formula companies are currently at, hawking their wares.
For those that are strong proponents of breastfeeding, let me implore you – instead of throwing shade and judgement in the way of mothers who don’t nurse, let’s instead focus our attention on those that deserve it. On companies that wheel and deal with politicians to get their product into the hands of women who might have breastfed, had they been given some support and encouragement. Let’s vilify the real people that deserve it – those who put profit over people.