I can’t wait to stop writing about breastfeeding in public

Some day I won’t write another thing about breastfeeding in public.  Because I won’t have to.  Eventually, some day, everyone will have grown weary of the debate and realize just how silly it is.  Mothers feeding their babies will be left alone, in peace to care for their children by meeting their needs for food and comfort.  In time the fact that message boards and news broadcasts filled up with comments arguing about the “appropriateness” of feeding babies in public will seem ridiculous and celebrities that dissed women that breastfeed in public will be dismissed as ignorant and intolerant.  In a lesser but similar way that we feel looking back at other civil justice issues and wonder how in the world anyone could ever have had any question about where people sit on a bus or what water fountains they drink from, breastfeeding in public debates will be an embarrassing mark on our social history.  As a society we won’t bat a collective eyelash at a woman breastfeeding in public whether she’s using a cover or not.  The idea that a women is permitted or not permitted to feed her child in public will seem as archaic as women not being permitted to vote.  There won’t be polls posted on news affiliate sites and Facebook pages won’t explode with heated arguments that resort to name calling to prove one’s point about how inappropriate/appropriate it is to breastfeed in public.  Instead, it will just be normal and nobody will even care any more and maybe they’ll take up some more important issue to pour their passionate energy into.  Some day.  Apparently, not today.

Please don’t tell me it could all be avoided if women just had some “decency” and used a cover or went some place private.  That’s not the issue nor is it the solution, women should not be ostracized from society for feeding their babies and covering is a personal choice much like clothing choices.  Not that it helps, plenty of women are harassed for breastfeeding even when they choose to cover.

The comments in those online threads often quickly turn to comparing breastfeeding to some other bodily function that people find disgusting and “nobody wants to see.”  Comments like:  “If breastfeeding in public is acceptable then I should be able to just piss anywhere I need to!”  “That’s disgusting, why can’t they just pump and use a bottle?  I don’t want to see someone getting a blow job while I’m shopping and I don’t want to see breastfeeding.”  “We go to the bathroom to take a dump and don’t just crap on the sidewalk, women can go to the bathroom to pull out their boob, we don’t have to see it.”  “If a woman can just whip out her boob and stick it in a baby’s mouth, I should be able to just whip out my dick and jerk off.”  And more, so many more.  I usually roll my eyes and move on dismissing the writer as someone that doesn’t understand some very basic and crucial differences that flaw their comparison rendering it completely invalid and not worth my time.  Moving on is also to keep me from commenting “well, when you’re ready to prepare a bottle of piss or serve up some human shit in a beautiful dish for your dinner guests and when grocery store shelves are stocked with products claiming to be ‘as good as human urine/feces’ then I might hear your point.”  But then it happened in real life and I couldn’t bite my tongue and roll my eyes in time to not decidedly educate the poor individual that would dare to compare breastfeeding in public to taking a dump in public in my presence.  As it turns out, maybe people really are confused on some of these basic differences.  I decided to see what a larger sample size thought of the issue and how breastfeeding in public compared to these body functions commonly argued as being equally as disgusting (their words, not mine) as breastfeeding in public.  To gather some admittedly biased information considering my poll group consists of fans of The Leaky Boob  (and some got very confused that I’d even ask such a question, a few were a bit upset, they didn’t expect to see that kind of question there and I can’t blame them) I asked the followers of TLB FB, Jessica The Leaky Boob Facebook page, and my own personal friends to vote which was the most disgusting: urinating in public, defecating in public, sex in public, blow job/masturbation in public, and breastfeeding in public.  The results:

In case you’re wondering, breastfeeding didn’t make it on the graph.  Nobody in our unscientific and poorly constructed poll voted for breastfeeding as being the most disgusting option of the 5.  But since not everyone followed the directions (to only pick one that was most disgusting) we ended up with another pie chart illustrating how many of those polled think  urinating in public, defecating in public, sex in public, and blow job/masturbation in public is more disgusting than breastfeeding in public.

 

 While it could be argued that this sample is biased and not indicative of the general population given that they were drawn from a breastfeeding support community, I still would argue that they all make a good point that even those not in favor of breastfeeding would find valid.  However, in case some have yet to understand how it could possibly be that breastfeeding in public is considered less gross than defecating, urinating, masturbating, oral sex, or intercourse in public I created two tables and some notes in order to help clarify.  You can find those here.  It would make me very happy if you went and checked those out, I actually made myself sick doing the research for those puppies.  Reading that much about poop while pregnant and dealing with HG is asking for trouble.

Some day my dream will be a reality and I will stop writing about breastfeeding in public.  Nurse-ins will be a thing of the past and idiotic celebrities won’t be concerned about the PR nightmare they create for themselves simply because we’ll have all moved on and they won’t be saying stupid comments about breastfeeding in public.  Kasey Kahne and Kim Kardashian (what’s with the Ks?) will be cited as examples of ignorance regarding breastfeeding and society’s attempts to control and shame women for their bodies and mothering for future generations.  For now though, I’ll keep talking about it even though I’m tired of saying the same things and I’ll be grateful for moments of sanity in rational mainstream media articles like this.  But to keep it interesting I’m going to have to start making fun of the people ignorant enough to be serious about certain comparisons.  I just can’t help it, when someone confuses urine or feces for breastmilk or thinks there’s something similar with breastfeeding and masturbating in public, I have to laugh at the absurdity or I’ll go crazy.

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Unsupportive Support- For a profit

In recent years offering breastfeeding support has gained popularity.  Which is a good thing, strange though it is to say.  In fact, it’s uncouth to not be supportive of breastfeeding in light of the magnitude of research showing breastfeeding to be so beneficial to babies and mothers.  So magazines, websites, even businesses now offer frequent support with articles on breastfeeding, pages devoted to trouble shooting potential breastfeeding problems, staff experts responding to breastfeeding questions, and even live support available online or to call in to speak to someone.  In theory it sounds great and in some ways it is.  But even in offering support there are opportunities for unsupportive support.  And this time it’s a little more unsettling because it comes with resounding financial gains to those offering the support raising the question, is it even support at all?  This time in the series on unsupportive support we’re taking a look at the murky waters of advertising support, marketing, and profits.  (We’ve already looked at how breastfeeding advocates can offer unsupportive support here.)

 

How not to support and how to avoid being unintentionally unsupportive- part 7.

Unsupportive support is…

Breastfeeding help hotlines or websites breastfeeding pages sponsored by formula companies.

This one is controversial and I kind of understand why.  But the way I see it this is one of societies most insidious forms of unsupportive support.  It looks like support.  It sounds like support.  It is even advertised as support.  Except it’s run by a company that profits when breastfeeding moms quit breastfeeding.  Maybe I’m cynical but when a company’s profits can be directly tied to how well moms that intended to breastfeed fare in reaching their goal, it just seems a little hard to believe that there are altruistic motives in supporting those moms.  When a website that is supposed to be addressing questions about breastfeeding is plastered with a formula company’s brand with images of smiling, peaceful babies presumably fed with their product all the while supporting content that uses carefully selected language about how hard and difficult it can be to breastfeed and give your baby the best, it’s underhanded marketing to someone looking for help.  This isn’t support, this is marketing, make no mistake.  Formula companies are smart, they would not waste their money sponsoring and creating these sites and helplines if they didn’t feel it increased their branding opportunities and bottom line.  I believe women are smart, they can make their own decisions but I also know that there are times when a decision can be influenced one way or another and when someone is in need of help that super happy looking formula fed baby sure is enticing and the wrong information given to address her particular need could be all that is required for the mother to become a regularly paying customer.  Which is exactly what this form of unsupportive support is counting on.

Free formula samples in breastfeeding support bag in hospitals and doctor offices.

Another controversial one.  Some see removing formula samples from hospital bags and doctor offices as removing a woman’s choice in how she feeds her baby.  I don’t understand that argument, the choice is still there, you just have to pay for it upfront.  Concern is that not giving out free formula samples is being unsupportive to those that choose to formula feed.  That just isn’t the case, not handing formula out to each woman that comes through their doors and gives birth would be more supportive of formula feeding moms in that it would lower the overall expense of formula by the formula companies no longer spending millions on the free samples hospital program.  Those free samples aren’t free anyway.  They are absorbed in the price of the product, it’s all a part of their business plan.  Again, a company would not waste their money handing out free product if it did not yield a return on their brand and profits.  Make no mistake, they aren’t handing out free samples to help moms, they are handing out free samples to hook buyers and to give the impression that the hospital endorses their product.  These companies are smart, and they should be, they have shareholders and employees to take care of.  Formula has it’s place, that’s not the issue here.  Nor is there any judgment on formula feeding.  Rather the problem is that marketing tactics masquerading as support undermine breastfeeding and do so for a profit.  This study reveals how this is unsupportive with numbers such as “Women who didn’t receive the free samples were 3.5 times more likely to be breastfeeding exclusively after 2 weeks…”  (Read more about how the numbers really break down from PhD in Parenting.)  Tacticts to get formula into the hands of moms when they are most vulnerable, exhausted, and in that crucial time when milk supply is being established in those early weeks isn’t supporting them in their attempts to breastfeed.  Nor is it supporting formula feeding families either, instead, these samples going to everyone leaving the hospital with a new baby drives up the price they have to pay at the register for the next 2 years of formula buying.  For those that truly need assistance buying formula to feed their baby, there are options through aid programs that can and should be utilized if necessary and while in the hospital formula should be covered by insurance.  Hopefully more and more states will make the decision Rhode Island made recently to refuse to allow formula samples to continue sabotaging breastfeeding and both breastfeeding moms and formula feeding moms can find some real support from formula companies just by having them back off, stop undermining breastfeeding, and maybe even lower the register cost for their product by not sending the free stuff home with those that really want to breastfeed.  Better idea for support?  Sending the name and number of a lactation consultant home with the mother, free access to a lactation consultant during her hospital stay,  independent breastfeeding resources, and the information on a breastfeeding support group would be real support.

 

If you don’t want to breastfeed then don’t.  I’d encourage you to try it before you completely make up your mind but if you don’t want to do that, nobody’s going to force you.  Your body, your baby, your choice.  And I hope nobody undermines your attempts to formula feed.  Free samples and formula company support advice isn’t about choice, it’s about marketing.  There is a distinct difference there.

If you want to breastfeed beware of the unsupportive support that aims to line someone else’s pockets.  Formula isn’t evil and it can be a needed tool in feeding our babies but it can also sabotage any breastfeeding relationship.  The companies that make it aren’t inherently evil either but they are watching out for their shareholders and bottom line profits before they are concerned about women experiencing breastfeeding success.  The more women that breastfeed, the more it cuts into their profits.  Their marketing tactics are getting more aggressive as breastfeeding gains more mainstream attention and accolades.

Still, some truly supportive support receives financial gain for those offering the support.  Lactation consultants do and should get paid for the work they do.  Even this site earns some income through the sponsorship of the companies whose ad buttons you can see on the side.  So is earning a profit from supporting breastfeeding really only self-serving?  I don’t think so and I don’t think I’m saying that to defend myself.  I don’t think it’s self-serving and thus unsupportive support, for one important reason: there is nothing to gain from a woman not reaching her breastfeeding goal.

_______________________________

Did you receive samples of formula and did you use them?  Do think formula samples can undermine a breastfeeding mother’s efforts?

Do you feel formula companies can be trusted to dispense advice and support on breastfeeding?

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One Step Forward, Two Steps Back

Remember that fairytale?  It even got a fairytale ending.  For a little bit anyway.

It felt like a victory, like one small step for women-kind when Facebook reinstated The Leaky [email protected]@b page around 3 on Tuesday, January 4, 2011.  The whirl-wind of the previous 2 days seemed like it suddenly stopped.  There was virtual celebrating and our little fairytale community picked up right where it had left off plus a few thousand more members.  The wall on the page was hoping, after the celebrating calmed down posts asking about everything from how to deal with teething to is it ok if my baby wants to nurse all the time and is it ok to breastfeed past 12 months (it is, by the way) filled the page.  Leakies got back to the business of feeding their babies and supporting other Leakies.  Well wishers popped in congratulating us on getting our space back.  The energy was like a good party, a good party with good friends.  People that had never heard of TLB before joined and expressed how excited they were to know they were not alone.  Several others expressed how they wished they had something like TLB when they were breastfeeding and were so happy to see our community there for other moms now.

Personally, I was looking forward to a good night’s sleep.  You know that big sigh you heave when something intense, requiring hard word is over?  I couldn’t believe that after just a few short days I was already there, heaving that sigh and moving on.  For a moment my mind even wandered to other posts I had been planning before the page went down.  Everything was normal again.  I looked around at my neglected house and tackled a few areas.  I took Earth Baby to ballet, made dinner, spent some time on Facebook, read with my girls, made a batch of bread dough, did dishes, fed Smunchie, fiddled around on Twitter, fiddled around on the new web page, worked on an outline for another post, answered some emails, went back to Facebook.

And it was gone.  Not Facebook, The Leaky Boob.  I tried 3 times but I knew right away what was going on.  So I tried the Bring Back The Leaky Boob page.  Same result.  Both pages were gone.

Last time I cried.  This time I didn’t cry.  I closed my eyes and put my head back.

There was the same form letter email in my inbox, deleted for violating the terms of service.  Violators don’t get to come back.  I’ve heard that one before.

We’ll get the pages back.  It’s just not over yet.  But I already knew it wasn’t over.

It wasn’t enough to get The Leaky Boob page reinstated the first time because the problem is more than that one page being deleted. The Leaky Boob was reinstated and that was a very exciting and important piece of what we wanted. Still, Facebook needs to do something about the problem with deleting (erroneously or otherwise) breastfeeding pages and materials. Their system is not working and ignoring the problem positions all groups related to breast health including breastfeeding and breast cancer to experience the same treatment simply because any Facebook user can report or flag them for being obscene. Breast health is not obscene. Breasts are not obscene. Facebook needs to create some way for breast health pages, images (including personal breastfeeding photos), terminology and information to be exempt from automatic deletion when reported, or some other way to keep truly obscene content off the site without blocking legitimate pages.

The Leaky [email protected]@b fan page is missed by thousands of “Leakies.”  We need it back.  Studies show that support is crucial to breastfeeding success and a support community is what this is all about.  But this isn’t just about breastfeeding support, it’s about breast health, normalizing breastfeeding, infant nutrition, women’s rights, the objectification of women, and so much more.  This is about public health.

One step forward, two steps back.  I’m ready to run a marathon.

Two new pages have sprung up on Facebook, one aimed to Bring Back The Leaky Boob- again and the other invinting you to Join TLB in Support of Women’s Health.  Like these pages on Facebook to get up to date information.  I shared here ways for you to help, working together a community can accomplish great change.

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