It’s World Breastfeeding Week and as most conversations about breastfeeding go, it is not without its share of controversy. I recently came across this article by Dr. Amy Tuteur detailing the reasons she is NOT celebrating the event. She goes so far as to say that the organization behind the event (World Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy), whose apparent goal is to make breastfeeding a “cultural norm” is akin to being against gay marriage and anti-choice (seriously? I mean, really?)
I was a bit taken aback reading this woman’s statements until I realized she’s also the woman behind the blog The Skeptical OB (which I won’t even link to because she does not need any more traffic). In her blog, she makes no secret of how anti-home birth and anti-low-intervention birth she is, going on to basically call anyone who would not blindly follow a doctor anywhere a complete nutbag. So there’s that. And while I have my own feelings about home birth (mine was a transfer-to-hospital situation), that does not mean I am completely opposed to the right of thousands of other women who choose to birth this way–I am pro-choice about nearly everything, baby.
But I digress. World Breastfeeding Week, just like breastfeeding and breastfeeding advocacy in general, should not make anyone feel bad because that is simply not the intention behind it. It’s a celebration (for those who choose to participate) of the very real dedication it takes to be a breastfeeding mother.
Breastfeeding is no joke. Yes, everyone can and should feed their child whichever way is best for them and their family. I think we are all adult enough to agree on this. But let’s face it: Over time, it very often can be much more stressful on a mother who is solely breastfeeding (oftentimes overcoming things like a bad latch, chaffed nipples, a teething baby, etc.) than it is to pour formula in a bottle and feed the baby. I’m not saying that all bottle-fed babies have no complications when it comes to feeding, either (some have reflux, some experience hypotonia and have trouble sucking as well, etc.) Bottle feeding can be challenging, as all feeding of children (up until they are grown) can be challenging (anyone ever hear of a picky toddler?) But breastfeeding comes with its own extra-set of hurdles to jump, including the one with the WABA is looking to combat during this year’s WBW: Breastfeeding and Work.
Raise your hand if you breastfed. Now raise your hand if you breastfed while working. Many mothers know the difficulties of finding the time and privacy to pump on the job. Some offices will allow women to go into a separate room for this, but what about those who are servers at restaurants or toll-booth cashiers or bus drivers? The point of this year’s WBW is to bring awareness to this specific challenge, so that employers are more aware and to challenge them to begin to make the changes necessary for breastfeeding women to feed their babies in the way they want.
The snark of the Skeptical OB, especially seeing as she may not have even read about the objectives of this year’s WBW. In her words:
It appears that we are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in the US to extol mothers who breastfeed and to shame those who don’t.
No, actually. That’s not it at all. And if she’d taken even one second to read something that was not part of her agenda-heavy, judgmental-as-hell blog, she might have figured that out.
I had major difficulties breastfeeding William. While he latched on beautifully and painlessly, it appears my body did not produce enough milk (one lactation consultant told me she believed I had insufficient glandular tissue). Between my low supply and his feeding troubles from birth, and our time spent apart due to his time in NICU, it wasn’t meant to be.
We went four months where I pumped and fed constantly, did everything in my power to produce more, and finally gave up and allowed myself the rest that I was sorely needing. I enjoyed the time I got to breastfeed him, and bonded nicely, but I also bonded with him afterward (and still do) bottle-feeding him. It was not a failure to go to exclusive formula feeding. I do not judge mothers who cannot breastfeed for x, y, and z reasons, or those who simply choose not to because it is not for them. This is why we have CHOICES.
If you breastfed your baby, or wanted to, or are an ally to women who do (including the fathers, the sisters, the brothers, the friends, and grandparents who did not breastfeed outright but helped support the women in their lives who did), thank you!
You don’t need to breastfeed yourself to be an advocate for breastfeeding, and you don’t need to feel badly or persecuted if you chose to formula feed because breastfeeding women on the whole don’t care one way or the other (they’re too busy wincing when their young toddlers accidentally bite their nipples or pull their hair during a 5 a.m. feed–and goddess bless ’em for that).