Okay, my post about breastfeeding has stirred some controversy, which I expected.
Now, I want to talk about WHY lactation activists, like myself, can make other moms feel judged even when we focus on the information (which I linked to), concentrate our fight on the barriers to breastfeeding, and make sure we point out our belief that not ever woman can, or wants, to breastfeed and that is fine because “that does not make them “bad” mothers” and assure the reader that there “is no SINGLE best way to parent for all families.”
Even with that, feeling can still be hurt. That sucks.
I can see being torqued at a Molly Better Mom who sneered at your formula feeding, but why is there almost always a feeling of being found wanting when breastfeeding is defended or promoted? Let’s look at this comment:
I still believe that I made the right decision for our situation. And yet I sit here and feel shamed and diminished by the way this post is phrased. Am I choosing to feel that way? sure, I’ll grant you that. But when you make a choice that goes against what every doctor, every lactation specialist, every birthing class teacher, and many glowing maternal friends tell you is the “best” thing for your baby, any reference to it makes you cringe and doubt yourself.
This is obviously a mom who loves her children, and like all of us, is trying to do the best thing for her family. So why does she feel inadequate when choosing formula? There may be some individuals who are asshats about formula, but I maintain that the majority of attachment parents (and pro-breastfeeding sites) are understanding of the socio-cultural pressures and personal needs that motivate, or require, the use of formula.
The reason why moms feel judged, and why they, no matter what parenting style they use or how they have feed their kids, then have to “fight” to defend their choices, all comes down to the patriarchal insistence that woman have to compete for the “approval” of the power structure, which awards only ONE “ideal”, and thus correct, version of womanhood/motherhood. Women are expected to duke it out for this coveted honor, and this idea is reinforced and encouraged though socio-cultural messages, especially via “agents of the media … actively try to pit women against one another”.
(The patriarchy does this shit to men, too. Men are told to fit into the mold of hegemonic masculinities, or they are girls, and it is a pernicious assault on their personhood.)
The plot thickens. Since “authoritative knowledge” is often the voice of the patriarchy, and medicine/science is considered authoritative knowledge, then women who bring up the fact breastfeeding is the medically proven best option are inadvertently sending a subliminal message to other women that breastfeeders are the “winners”, because authorities say so. If pro-breastfeeders are the winners, then women who don’t breastfeed are, by logical extension, “losers”. Because the patriarchy has drilled it into us that there is ONLY ONE way to be a “good” woman/wife/mother.
Ergo, this is the frequently the discussion between breastfeeders and formula users —
What the Pro-boobs faction says: “Breast is best. We have evidence. You should do it if you can and culture should make it a reasonable option for all women.”
What we mean = Breast is best. We have evidence. You should do it if you can and culture should make it a reasonable option for all women.
What Formula users hear = We are the ideal and if you don’t want to be a bad mother and/or a bucket of pus you better breastfeed too, bitches. You didn’t breastfeed? Well, then you are Mommy Dearest. Where do you keep your wire hangers?
How offended Formula Users respond: “Fuck you! We are too good mothers.”
How the now offended Pro-Boobs camp responds: “We never said you weren’t, so eat a bag of dicks for being so rude.”
Formula users: “ You were SO judging us, you patchouli-smelling saggy-titted hippies! At least we have jobs and sex with our men.”
Pro-Boobs: “Kiss our ass, you uppity twats! We have jobs and get laid, too. You are just bitter because you know you are sperm-dumpsters who don’t love your kids enough to nurse them.”
Formula users: “Oh, it is on.”
Pro-Boobs: “Bring it.”
*The sounds of Armageddon while the patriarchy eats souls in contentment*
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, our culture makes it really difficult to breastfeed, so lactivists (breastfeeding advocates) are trying to encourage breastfeeding and fighting for the rights of mothers who want to nurse but are being thrown out of stores and mocked on twitter. Yet every time we start to foment for change … POW! Backlash from moms who feel judged. This backlash makes us really testy, since we are not out to crucify formula users and resent the accusation that we are, plus we are the ones being publically castigated for our choice to nurse.
I need amaretto. I already got milk.