Why I’ve had it up to here with Breastfeeding Zealots…

I don’t mean all breastfeeding moms, but I DO mean the breastfeeding nazi moms I’ve been encountering lately.

As a pregnant woman who wants nothing but the best for her child, like practically every mom I’ve ever met as person and as a teacher, I’ve been looking into all the different options I have.

Crib vs Co-sleeping

Disposable vs Cloth Diapers


Vaccinations and their schedule

and the big one…Breast vs Formula feeding

Without a personalized baby care and feeding guide (seriously…how much would I KILL for one of those…something to unlock all the workings of my baby and explain her to me…I’d take it now or in the hospital..I just want one) I can only guess what will work for us, based on knowing myself for almost 30 years and the husband for 3.5.  I know how we function as a couple and as I want to continue to do so, I have to take that into account.

I’m a geek…so I’ve researched each issue, trying to understand where both sides are coming from.  Some decisions were simple, like picking disposable diapers over cloth.  Yes, I’m increasing my carbon footprint, and yes I know cloth is better for the environment…but you know what?  It’s gross, and I’m lazy.  And while the cloth diaper route is cheaper if you wash them at home, it’s not cheaper when you factor in the service that I am spoiled enough to require.  Other decisions were harder, like the decision to breastfeed.

I’ve never had any romantic views on breastfeeding, unlike every breastfeeding book I seem to encounter which assures me in the most flowery language possible that breast is best and women having been doing it since the dawn of time.  Which is nice, except they’ve also found 3000 year old bottles in archeological digs, too.

So why do it?

The allergist convinced me.  The husband has SEVERE allergies, to the point where he spent his whole childhood sick because his house was trying to kill him and no one could figure out what it was that was making him so sick.  The culprit?  Dust mites.  We have leather couches, and use covers on all mattresses, pillows and go so far as to travel with the covers as well.  Personally I have seasonal allergies that kill me from April until July.  Fucking trees.  He explained that our child had a stastical probability of 75% or better that she’ll develop allergies to something in her life.  He said that considering that, I should strongly consider breastfeeding for the first 6 months at least, if not the first year to help reduce her chances of getting allergies of that magnitude.  I thought about my Mother In Laws descriptions of what it was like to watch the husband be so sick, and I just couldn’t stand it.  If I could make them even a little bit better, I wanted to try.

However, this decision did not mean I was necessarily thrilled at the idea.  While I have zero modesty and zero problem with the idea of publicly breastfeeding my child, I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of having to cart her around all the time so that her food source would always be readily available.  I wasn’t thrilled at the idea of having to get up in the middle of the night for EVERY single feeding with no option to outsource one of them to my husband.  For that matter, I wasn’t thrilled that the husband would miss out on the chance to feed our daughter.  I worried about never having the time to do the kind of intricate cooking that I love and find relaxing because some of my dishes take HOURS (not that I think I’ll have a LOT of time to do this, but that I couldn’t ask my husband to watch the baby for however long it would take to do it for a break of me time).

I think that breastfeeding is feminist.  I also think that bottle feeding is a feminist choice.  In a first world country like the US, I also think that formula is healthy enough as is our water supply that it really is a choice that every mom/family needs to make on their own.

And here is where the wheels fell off the wagon.

Because I have run into rabid breast-feeder after rabid breast-feeder who now is telling me I should feed my daughter for AT LEAST two years or I’ve failed.  Because I’ve run into breastfeeding nazis who tell me that pumping and giving my daughter to my husband for a feeding or two a day means I don’t love her enough.  Because I’ve run into online groups who say if you want to join this group, you need to agree that breastfeeding IS NOT a choice.

How dare they judge an individual mom’s choice on ANYTHING.

I’ve gotten judged for my desire for a medicated birth without anyone stopping and asking me why I need one…and the answer is that I had back surgery two years ago and my back could very well herniate another disc in my back from the pushing without the help of an epidural.  That the right choice for me may very well be an elective C section.  Beyond that…maybe I’m just done with being in deep pain after spending two months unable to walk without a walker or get around without a wheelchair because of the pain my back caused me prior to the surgery.

Breastfeeding is painful and it’s not easy…no matter if it is the biologically “natural” way to do things.  Plenty of mom have tons of trouble with latching, and it not like anyone went into your womb and explained how to latch and suck properly to the baby.  It’s a learning process, and not the easiest one in the world.

Breastfeeding isn’t compatible with every job…and assuming you’re not in the middle/upper middle classes, working probably isn’t a choice.  As a former teacher, I was shocked to find out that a female dominated profession like teaching is inherently breastfeeding unfriendly.  Many jobs that will at least agree to let you breastfeed don’t provide you with a place to do it (and under your desk or in the bathroom isn’t a great choice).  The few that do provide rooms or are labeled breastfeeding friendly, aren’t, necessarily (See the book “The Milk Memo’s” for more about this).  I can hardly blame a working mom for going the easier route.

In their zelousness to get us all to breastfeed, the nazis have gone so far as to make me (I’m sure among others) so annoyed with them that I’m almost (ALMOST) considering feeding my baby formula in protest.  But I know that is a juvenile move and accomplishes nothing but the equivalent of sticking my tongue out, which is nowhere near as important as the allergy protection I might be able to give Emby.

I get that when you’re fighting for a cause, you have to push that cause for all you’re worth.  But I don’t think that pissing off your allies is the way to do it.

Why is it that whenever women try to band together on an issue, we end up fighting amongst ourselves?  Why not fight against the three states without breastfeeding laws (I’m looking at you Massachusetts, North Dakota and West Virginia.  I know you have a bill in the Senate, MA–let’s see you pass it before the session is over)?  Why not fight to make employers with more than X number of employees responsible for providing a breastfeeding room that is NOT in the bathroom?  Why not fight to make breastpumps covered by medical insurance for all women (instead of specific cases), or at the very least a flexible spending account (they’re not covered by mine)?

Why is it that we must attack one another and create dichotomies and insecurities?

The second wave of feminism was about CHOICES.

Staying home and working are both valid choices–stop trying to claim you’re better than the other.

Breastfeeding and Bottle Feeding are both valid choices—stop trying to say Breastfeeders are BETTER.

I realize it’s along the lines of “Can’t we all just get along?” but seriously…

Can’t we all agree that we love our children and want to make the best choices for them.?  That the best choices for our families may not be the best ones for our friends families?  And especially let’s agree that we don’t know what’s best for strangers families.

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7 Responses to Why I’ve had it up to here with Breastfeeding Zealots…

  1. shllywlly says:

    I’m really saddened to hear that you have been judged for the choices that you are making as a soon to be new mom. I formula fed my son due to difficulties latching, but I am still breastfeeding my 19 month old daughter. It has truly been a wonderful experience. It has been difficult at times when she’s only wanted me, but compared to bottle feeding it is SOOO much easier. You don’t have to worry about the bottles, the formula, the stinky spit-up or even having to get up in the middle of the night to make a bottle. My daughter sleeps with us and when she needs to nurse we both just sort of roll over and do it without ever having to wake up.

    The point I’m trying to make is there are give and takes to both choices. What I’ve discovered is that when moms stand up for one another regardless of the choices they make it works out better for everyone. We, as breastfeeding moms, are finding ourselves in a real battle with society on the appropriateness of breastfeeding. It’s so difficult to nurse our children without someone either giving us a look or actually saying something to us about “doing that” in public. When we try to stand up for ourselves and fight for new laws or have a nursing rally at places such as Applebees, who tried to kick a mom out of the restaurant for nursing her child, we are faced with stark criticism and made out to be people who just want to put on a show or show our breasts to everyone. Some people even compare it to urinating and masturbating in public. We made the best choice for us and we are only trying to feed our children.

    This comes from people who call us all “Breastfeeding nazi’s”. It’s very disturbing to me that whenever anyone supports breastfeeding and attempts to educate new moms on how important it is to give your baby the best start in life, we are labeled as “Nazi” and “rabid”. Those labels are preventing us from making a change in society and getting better laws and really supporting one another. It’s hard to really support and not criticize someone for formula feeding when you are immediately judged and criticized yourself.

    I’m judged everyday by people on the street, my friends who no longer breastfeed, and even my family, all of who have a problem with me nursing my toddler. Are those people any better because their judging a breastfeeding mom versus someone who’s making the choice to formula feed?

  2. I’m sorry you are being harrassed. I hope you can look past it and focus on what’s best for your family. Moms are constantly being told what is wrong with their children and their parenting; eventually you learn how to sift out and even deflect unwanted comments.

    Breastfeeding should not be painful, but pleasurable. If it’s painful something is wrong; get help. Because you are having a medicated birth, you may need some extra support at the beginning.
    By the way, if the main reason you are breastfeeding is because of allergies, you will want to avoid artificial supplements entirely. Supplements are most likely to be given in the early days, so I suggest you and your husband learn as much as you can on this topic in advance.

    Wishing you an easy birth and pain-free, trouble-free nursing experience.

  3. 2babes2breast says:

    I agree with you that judgement of one another is a futile and painful act to engage in.

    However, please consider that it is really illogical to associate the nourishing, nurturing, loving act of breastfeeding your child with the fascist, genocidal regime of Hitler’s Germany. I strongly suggest you edit this blog and remove the word “Nazi” from it. It is an affront to breastfeeding advocates and and affront to the millions of people who died and the families who suffered during the Holocaust of World War II. It completely dilutes your point and turns off your audience to use such a loaded word.

    And, regarding the breastfeeding, don’t knock it till you try it. You might be very surprised where you find yourself 6 months, 12 months, even 24 months down the road. I’d love to see what you have to say then.

  4. Pingback: More on Breastfeeding « Taking a chance on baby…

  5. ks says:

    I completely agree with you. I tried to breastfeed and encountered so much pain and so many problems with latching that I cried for 3 weeks. Yes, I saw lactation consultants, lactation nurses, etc. I pumped and tried to breastfeed again and again. I was absolutely miserable and in pain.

    Breastfeeding is not for everyone, no matter what anyone says. There’s a whole generation of people who grew up on formula and we all turned out just fine. There is a lot of propaganda out there regarding the joy of breastfeeding and while that may be the case for some people, it’s not for everyone. I didn’t think I had bought into the hype, but 3 weeks of frustration and tears and exhaustion later, I realized I had to a certain degree.

    Good luck to you and your family.

  6. I am a mother of two little girls, My First born was born at 11.45 pm and was breast feeding beautifully by 12.10am, I fed her exclusively for 9 months as a single parent – which was hard as it was a full time ‘job’ so there was not much point in ‘expressing/pumping’. My Partner and I reunited and we had another daughter who had rejected me from day one, It turned out she is VERY dairy intolerant and has a severe dairy protein allergy that caused her much distress and resulted in her going in and out of hospital, she is now on a dairy, soya, egg, goat and sheep free diet, and absolutly fine but the thought of having to explain everytime I fed her a formula bottle was awful, I have to give her a special ‘milk’, publically bottle /formula feeding fills me with dread, as I get such disaproving looks, mainly from other mothers, What I have realised is that the people who have an opinion on your parenting will have a opinion on what ever you do – I can almost guarentee the same woman would complain about you publically breastfeeding and then whinge that you are formula feeding, You can’t win, Womens attitudes really must change as people do not realie the lasting impact peoples views an another parent can have, I have recently been to the doctors to have anti depressents as I struggled so much, I am sure that a majority of it was bought on by the pressure I had to breast feed the 2nd time, even though my child clearly could not take to it at all and it was making her ill.
    The best advice I had when I was pregnant was do not listen to peoples tips and advice, find your own way as no one is ever going to have the same child and the same bond as you and your little one! It is true and helped me so much, as I had no expectation!

  7. Mike says:

    Thank you for posting this. And best wishes and greatest luck to you and your baby and partner.

    I can totally relate… my wife and I are going through some of this with our newborn. The judgment in our case comes from websites as we research things.

    Fact is, some mom’s just *can’t* make enough milk. That’s no ones fault! It isn’t that big of a deal! And you are right—I observe that breast feeding *is* hard and doesn’t always work out.

    Watching my wife cry because some breast feeding zealot website makes formula out to be some kind of powdered evil is really pissing me off and I’ve had it up to here. Formula is not poison! It’s good. It’ll raise kids fine. I was raised on formula (that was a lot less advanced than what we have today, forty years later, mind you) and I turned out a-ok, and a lot of people I know were formula babies and they turned out a-ok too.

    We’re going to choose what we feel is best for our baby and all these other a-holes that dare to tell us how we should raise *our* child can stick it up their collective posterior.

    That’s all we can do and I think people could all use more support and encouragement from each other and a lot less judgment.

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