When a woman has difficulty breastfeeding and becomes emotionally distraught because she WANTS to breastfeed, it is often the pro-breastfeeding movement that gets blamed for making her unhappy. The argument is that if breastfeeding advocates would just stop harping on about breastfeeding, then women could formula feed with much less stress.
Okay, I understand that our culture puts a ridiculous amount of pressure to be a “good mom” on mothers while simultaneously demanding an unattainable level of perfection to win the desired “good mom” accolades. The ‘mommy wars’ could drive anyone batshit. I get it.
However, it isn’t the pro-breastfeeding sites that are calling formula-feeding mom’s “bad”. I just check dozens of sites and all of them have at least a sentence or two about how a woman should cut herself some slack if she chooses to formula feed or cannot breastfeed. It is the misogynistic, patriarchal culture that treats motherhood as a ‘contest’ with only one way to ‘win’ that is to blame. Because breast is best, any mom is implicitly told BY HER CULTURE that formula feeding is ‘bad’ because second-best is equivalent to dead-last and for total losers who don’t really love their babies and are bad moms. This is profound bullshit, but most of us buy into it anyway, because we’ve been exposed to the messaging for decades before we become moms.
Instead of breastfeeding advocates being called “Nipple Nazis”, what we need is push back against a culture that acts as if there is only one right way to be a mom and if you don’t win first prize then you lose and have failed your kids and are a horrible worthless woman. Just like you have to be a size zero twenty-two year old or you are ‘ugly’. Culture, not breastfeeding advocates, is the culprit in making moms feel inadequate and wretched.
For example, my kids act as though green veggies are dog poo in arsenic gravy. It is a battle to get them to eat green veggies and I know they are NOT getting the ‘ideal’ amount of green veggies that pediatricians recommend. Yes, that makes me feel bad because I too want to be a “good mom”. Nevertheless, I don’t assume pediatricians and their obsession with nutrition are to blame for my feelings of failure. I don’t regard nutritionists as “Broccoli Nazis” because they keep yammering on about the health benefits of green comestibles. It is my yearning to live up to the cultural ideal of motherhood that makes me feel bad. THAT is the part I am trying to resist, even as I try to coax my kids into eating their veggies.
Moreover, the women who are unable to breastfeed aren’t ‘inadequate’ or ‘failures’ and it is only the cultural message of win/lose parenting that makes them feel that way. Worse, they are usually sabotaged by their culture and set up to ‘fail’ before they even start playing. And I am not just taking about easily seen phenomena, like the fact women aren’t given enough maternity leave and breastfeeding becomes ungodly hard once you return to work. Nope. I am talking about the fact many women have been poisoned by endocrine-disrupting chemicals and pesticides as kids (or even when they were fetuses) and there is no WAY they can breastfeed because they never developed mammary tissue, or didn’t develop enough of it:
“research finds that some pre-adolescent daughters of mothers exposed to pesticide spraying will never be able to breast-feed their babies. With others there is uncertainty. Although there is breast growth, some daughters lacked development of the mammary tissue needed to produce milk, or developed a minimal amount. As the girls in the exposed group matured, their breast size became much larger than normal, yet they had less mammary tissue and often none at all, while the unexposed girls were normal.”
Don’t think you were exposed to pesticides? Think again. Your conventionally grown food is laden with pesticide residue, which the government insists won’t harm you in such small amounts. These are the same folks who gave you the okay to the now-shown-to-cause-cancer-and-diabetes artificial sweetener aspartame.
Endocrine disrupters, or EDCs, aren’t just in pesticides either:
“Chemicals that are known endocrine disruptors include diethylstilbestrol (the synethetic estrogen DES), dioxin and dioxin-like compounds, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), DDT, and some other pesticides.
Bisphenol A (BPA) is a chemical produced in large quantities for use primarily in the production of polycarbonate plastics and epoxy resins. The NTP Center for the Evaluation of Risks to Human Reproduction completed a review of BPA in September 2008. The NTP expressed “some concern for effects on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and children at current human exposures to bisphenol A.“
Di(2-ethylhexyl) phthalate (DEHP) is a high production volume chemical used in the manufacture of a wide variety of consumer food packaging, some children’s products, and some polyvinyl chloride (PVC) medical devices. In 2006, the NTP found that DEHP may pose a risk to human development, especially critically ill male infants.
Phytoestrogens are naturally occurring substances in plants that have hormone-like activity. Examples of phytoestrogens are genistein and daidzein, which can be found in soy-derived products.”
Oh, and let us not forget the dioxins! “Dioxin exposure (perhaps in utero) has been shown to have a profound effect on mammary gland development — rendering exclusive breastfeeding impossible in some cases … Studies have indicated that dioxin exposure can affect mammary gland development in mammals, including humans (see Rudel, et. al; Fenton, et. al; and Markey, et. al in references).” The amount of dioxins in the air/soil/water have declined, but have they been phased out enough? Because 90% of the dioxins in our bodies get there via our food; even if we aren’t breathing it in, it’s in the soil for decades and thus in our food supply. The foods that are most highly contaminated with dioxins are:
- dairy products (cheese, ice cream, yogurt)
So, try not to breathe, eat, or drink and MAYBE you can breastfeed your baby before you return to work and have no place to pump and your supply dries up. If this upsets you then you know who to blame – breastfeeding advocates, because if we would just hush then you wouldn’t even know what you had been cheated of.