Tuesday, November 25, 2008


For the sake of making my job easy, we’re going to call her Heidi, and she’s a good friend of mine. Heidi’s one of those women. One that does it all. And does it well. She is pretty. She’s hot for her husband. She’s one heck of a wizard in the kitchen. She’s fresh-food savvy. She’s an exuberant mother who isn't bashful about discipline. (Bless her for that.) She has two healthy, happy, handsome sons.

And both of them were bottle-fed.

Her reasons for bottle over breast?

Not my business. And most certainly not yours.

Want to know what's absurd? Many people reading this absolutely expected me to toss out a forgiving, mitigating excuse for this extraordinary woman having fed her children not by breast, but by bottle. As if she owed the world one.

No, I'm not a mother, but I am a person who can recognize veiled (or otherwise) assertions of moral superiority. And when it comes to the realm of breast feeding, the moral high ground just keeps on getting higher.

“I’m so proud that I breast fed my children.”

I get the part about proud of sticking it out. I've heard it’s a hassle. Can be inconvenient. Can be considered awkward. And you are proud that you kept on keeping on for the sake of your child’s nutrition. Rock on. I understand, respect, and applaud that kind of pleasure in yourself.

But being proud of the act itself? Proud? As if you practiced your whole life, waiting for the time when your milk finally came in. As if you were in training and it turns out your efforts were worth your while. As if you, yourself, have a talent for breastfeeding. As if there were nothing biological about it. As if it were totally in your control.

You are proud of your boobs? You’re proud of them doing something they were created to do? That’s like being proud of your bowels for regular evacuation.

“I’m pro-breastfeeding.”

No kidding. Find me someone who is anti. There are stacks and stacks of evidence that mother’s milk is best for baby, so the concept of someone being anti-breastfeeding is ludicrous. God knows best, right? Well it appears that by-breast is how He set things up in the first place. It’s a good thing. Ain’t no denying it. And it’s pretty hilarious when people claim that they are “for breast feeding.” Duh. Duh. Duh.

Le Leche Leaguers freak out at this (and often do their darndest to refute it), but truth be told, there are plenty of women out there who see the value in it but cannot breast feed. Just can’t. In the instance of Heidi mentioned above, she didn’t make enough milk. Some women produce buckets. Heidi: teaspoons, if she was lucky.

So to the bottle the babies went. And they ate. And they got fat. And they learned to crawl. And then to walk. They got teeth. Learned words. Made friends. Got into fights. Discovered favorite foods. And . . . wait a minute—these kids sound like they grew up completely normal! Healthy, happy, well-adjusted, bottle-fed children.

And it gets better. Heidi’s kids were bottle-fed at the encouragement of their pediatrician. (Which I realize to some mothers is no kind of recommendation. Though there's no denying the validity of Mother's Intuition, it’s amazing to me how many mothers think they know more medical science than specialized physicians.)

See, Heidi bought into Breast is Best and had a sister-in-law who was able and willing to be a wet nurse. The doc said to quit it. He told Heidi that there are really wonderful baby formulas out there today. He said that the wet nurse’s milk was likely lovely, but the risk of bacteria in transit wasn’t worth the potential benefits.

So to any one of you who stomp around with a haughty pride in your breastabilities, looking down on women who would jam a bottle in their baby’s mouth, shame on you. Shame on your for flaunting your ignorance and waving your leaking boobs in the faces of others. (Go on, you have permission, envision that. I know you just did anyhow.) That’s like “regular” people looking down on those that are constipated. Like they just can’t hack it.

The only part of breastfeeding that’s disgusting is the misconceptions about it. And those who buy into them.


rabidrunner said...

Amen. Sadly, new mothers have children and they think they're the most special on the planet. Which they are, to a few. But after a few days they begin to realize that this magnificent feat called "childbirth" has been done by billions before and millions in the present.

At this point they search frantically for something to set themselves apart from the masses - something to be proud of or heaven forbid - brag about.

A few haughty topics to add to the new-mother brag list? No epidural aka natural (as if there's an unnatural way to have a child), childbirth at home, not finding the sex at ultrasound, number of hours labored, underwater childbirth, childbirth with a monkey in the room, taking the placenta home for the dog to sniff... it goes on.

For the record, one might consider me one of those anti-bfeeders. I did it with two and hated nearly every minute of it! hehehe

Holly Anderson said...

Thank you for posting this! I, too, made only teaspoons of milk for my little one so to the bottle we went.

It took months and months for me to forgive myself for not being able to give my child that "liquid gold" (what the Leche Leaguers call it), but you know- she might just be one of the smarter and happier toddlers I've had the opportunity of associating with.

Boobs, schmoobs. They're not all they're cracked up to be.

Lindsay said...

Whew...and you aren't even a mom yet. Let it all out Meg! Talk to your Aunt she is a breastfeeding psycho. But...just so you know...breastfeeding is a ton of work, so for that I was proud that I stuck it out when my boobies were bleeding and raw and felt like daggers when Carter ate. I think that is why some moms are proud. Proud because sometimes it is easier to quit. I get that some people can't do it, or don't want to do it. To each their own doesn't bug me either way.
I was a bit of a lunatic about it with Marin. It had to be breastmilk but rightfully so with her little heart. It was the only thing I felt like I could be in control of to help her. If it did at all, who knows. But it made me feel better.

Kasi said...

I would just like to say that I am totally proud for breast feeding my children. Because, in my case, it would have been so much easier to hand them a bottle, especially as they got older, especially when I was bleeding and raw, especially when I was sick and just wanted to sleep and hand them to their father. I'm proud that I stuck it through, because I am proud that I did something I didn't want to do at times, for the sake of my children.

Do I think less of women who don't breast feed? Heavens no. Not even of my friend who, in her words, just thinks it's "gross". Fine. It is a totally, completely personal choice. I am aware of that. I don't think my way is "better". Just as I am proud of my chocolate chip cookies, but certainly don't think that some else's brownies deserve less pride. (Sorry, weak analogy, but do you get the point?)

I am also aware that in some instances it isn't a choice. I became very aware of that when my third decided at 3 months he preferred a bottle. It didn't matter what I did, and when I lost my milk it became a totally lost cause.

I am not proud that my boobs magically produce milk or that my infants instinctually know how to suck on them. But I am proud I made the sacrifices I needed to in order to get through it, and more than that I am thankful that I was able to do it.

Ashley Thalman said...

ha ha ha ha ha
ha ha ha hah ahaha hahha hahha.

i am dying. cade is dying.
this post deserves to be in a parenting magazine, in the NY Times and surely read out loud.

your images.....wait a minute, did i just get lost in the writing style? yes i did! you are a damned genius and i love you muchly.

go "heidi". go meg. go me- whatever may come!

whitneyingram said...

who's heidi? She sure sounds a lot like me.

[Morgan] said...

i used to wonder what the so called mommy politics were, then i had children, then i attended ward playgroup.
i've used the term proud before when referring to brestfeeding. not in reference to my boobs though. there nothing to be proud of. rather,because it's not something i planned to do or found appealing. then i read of the benefits and had loads of milk so i was proud of myself for sticking with it. however, i both breastfed and formula fed BOTH of my children. together.
breast may be best but formula isn't poison. you should have seen the looks of disapproval i got from the mothers at playgroup when i said that one. almost as good as when i told them i'd had two c-sections...
i don't freaking dilate. zip. nada. zilch on the cervical opening. but, thank them, for making me seem like less of a woman. a mother. ha!

great post! i agree with ashley.

[Morgan] said...

oh, and i have to sis in-laws who are full anti-breast.
they think it's completely barbaric.
ha ha.
as if it somehow makes the human SPECIES animalistic.

My crazy crazy life said...

Not sure you care for me to comment, but I'm going to anyways...tee hee. I found your site from Rookie Cookie so I took a gander....I love this post! It's all so true! I breast fed 4 children and I loved it and I hated it. I got talked about for breast feeding my daughter till she was 2 and I got talked about for breastfeeding my son ONLY till he was 10 months. So even if you are a breastfeeder, you still get slammed. But as for the mommys out there that can't or choose not to breastfeed, more power to you guys...breastfeeding isn't all it's cracked up to be and you shouldn't be made to feel bad if your choice is to refrain or give it up. My sister couldn't produce milk and was sad...I produced TO MUCH milk and was sad...uggghhh, the insanity of it all. I agree with you, it's nobody's business but your own and here's my motto "To Each Their Own"...I wasn't breastfed and I'm brilliant...okay, well I won't go that far, but I'm happy and healthy and produced 4 of my own children who I breastfed but not because I was told, because it felt right...but when it stopped feeling right, I let it go. Once again, it's OUR choice as individuals and those La Leche Freaky Deaky's need to find new careers or just stick to helping and not lecturing.

Sue said...

Good heavens - what is all the fuss about? If you can do it - great. If you can't great. Who cares?

Babies have been fed on goats milk, cows milk, sheep milk, and yak milk for centuries. Babies are fed. They spit up. They mess their pants. They grow. The end result is the same no matter the mode of nutrition.

I nursed six. Good for me. But big deal. Real parenting has nothing to do with breastfeeding. Monkeys breastfeed. Real parenting is a lot bigger than the size of your nursing bra.

Parenting is for life - breastfeeding is for 18 months max.

You can snuggle and love on a baby who is sucking a bottle just as well as one nursing.

Both disciplines have their charms.

Those who look down on the non-nursers have a lot to learn; because in the whole scheme of things, it really doesn't matter one iota.

Let's look at the bigger picture, people.

(how's that for a rant?)

whitneyingram said...

Dear Mom, I love you.

M to the E to the R to the I said...

Whatever floats your boat, I say.

Robyn said...

I found you through Rookie Cookie, and I have to say YOU ROCK! I have been rolling around the same thoughts in my head for about a year now. I have a daughter that through no wfault of her own, has not been able to breastfeed her son. I was appalled at the ostracism she has suffered by women who should know better.

I'm all for breastfeeding, but hey, it is a personal choice and sometimes made in difficult situations. Thank you for articulating this so well.

Carina said...

I don't have a problem with moms that use formula. A large number of my friends use formula.

My issue, my significant issue, is with the way that the formula companies market their products.

It is a problem: especially the kits that they distribute to hospitals and that are handed out to women that want breastfeed--they've been proven to reduce the duration of nursing.

Someone, maybe you, maybe someone else, linked this post on a blog discussing the new Enfamil breastfeeding kits that contain two cans of formula.

Whatever you do with your family is your choice.

Whatever the hospital hands out, paid for by the formula companies, even if you indicate that you are choosing to breastfeed, isn't about choice, it's about marketing.

Megan said...

Wouldn't be hilarious if I had visited an Enfamil blog? I wouldn't even know what search terms to use.

Carina said...

Yeah, I tweeted about the new Enfamil kits and someone linked back to this post--which I've read before by the way!

It's rough because in talking about the tactics that the formula companies use, sometimes women feel like they are being attacked for their choices. I don't EVER want anyone to feel that way.

Megan said...

Ah. I followed the link on your Twitter, Azucar, and found said blog. Nice that whoever posted it was anonymous.

Best thing about this here post that I wrote is that it was done at the behest of "Heidi" herself.

Emma said...

My two sisters and I are adopted. Bottle fed from the start, we ate, and ate, and ate. In fact, I was probably fed the "not-so-healthy" formula because back then it wasn't all it is now, and guess what? I turned out okay. Still healthy, only had the flu once, etc. It's totally in my unknown genetics - lucky me. You do what you want, or NEED to do and pray that everything works out. But acting like your choice is superior to someone else's is uncalled for. Come on.

Emma said...

I loved reading this. Thanks.

Kim said...

Well put. My first baby chewed me so raw that although I only nursed him for two months, the sores didn't completely heal for a year! Unfortunately, the lactation consultant acted like I was a criminal for not wanting to spend all my time pumping my milk, only to turn around and feed it to him in a bottle. I've been able to nurse my last 3 for longer periods of time and have been grateful for the lessons learned from my first.

I'm working my way through your "classics" and having a blast!

Julie said...

I realize this post is like, a year old, but I need a break from packing...

I love this and sooo appreciate this. I wanted to breastfeed Liv, so badly. However she has a larynx condition that keeps her from breastfeeding. She cannot breastfeed and breathe at the same time. So, I pump and bottle feed her.

Normally the reacetion I get when I say I don't nurse is "Oh. I see," and they give me a high and mighty look. However, when I say that I PUMP and bottle feed they respond with, "What?! Why? That is SO much work! Why not just give her formula?" A little contradictory, no?

People are stupid.

I'll say it again, you are brillant.