Guilt and breastfeeding

Guilt and breastfeeding

Speaking of breastfeeding, here is a June post on the blog of Selkie about guilt and breastfeeding.

In all the discussions about the breastfeeding ad campaign and the NYT article, guilt figures prominently.  Mothers feel guilty, and guilt is bad.  Guilt, I think, is part and parcel of being a mother: motherhood is a rocky road, with a remorse-mallow ribbon running all through it.  (Wait! Come back! I promise to be done with terrible puns now.)  Do mothers really feel more guilt, or more inappropriate guilt, about breastfeeding than about other choices they make?  And who is “making them” feel it?

Standard disclaimer for breastfeeding posts:  I understand that breastfeeding is about both individuals and populations.  To recognize the need for increased breastfeeding is not to disparage individual decisions about weaning.  Sometimes breastfeeding sucks in more ways than one.  Sometimes you take a cue from that fine philosopher Don Schlitz:  you gotta know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em.

That said:  why is the guilt card a conversation stopper?  If I were into conspiracy theories, I would think there was a formula-company-sponsored social marketing program afoot.  Can we talk about guilt today?

She makes some interesting observations about guilt and strong reactions against breastfeeding campaigns. Why are some women so upset about promotion of breastfeeding? Is it because we’re telling them what to do with their bodies? Heck, pregnant women are told how to care for their bodies and children all the time. So on and so forth.

The comparison of the stats of infants without car seats who die in car crashes and neonatal deaths that could be prevented with breastfeeding (as cited in the study in the previous entry); more than twice as many death could be prevented with breastfeeding. Go figure. (Of course, this might be comparing apples to oranges, so take it with a grain of salt, to mix some metaphors.)

I never would have imagined a year ago that I would write two blog posts in a row on breastfeeding.

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  • My wife is due with our first shortly (T-4 weeks), and we’ve made several “alternative” (i can’t think of a better word, unfortunately) decisions.  We are going to attempt a natural childbirth by using the Bradley Method, we are going to use cloth diapers, and we are going to breastfeed. Mind you, these are decisions we reached together, after alot of discussion.  The ladies I work with all felt compelled to weigh in, and I thought they would bite my head off!  I heard from “why would you put her through that (Natural childbirth)” to “why would you make her wash all those diapers.”  I was amazed at the vitriol with which they dished this out. Also worth noting is their assumption that I wouldn’t be helping at all.  However, the pro-breastfeeding-clothdiapering-natural childbirthing crowd uses their fair share of guilt to egg you into their train of thought.

  • Eileen, I don’t think anyone here has said mothers who can’t breastfeed are selfish. In fact, I think everyone has gone out of their way to say that breastfeeding is an individual decision. There is no denying that, assuming a healthy mother and a healthy baby, breastfeeding is the natural alternative.

    Heck, I’ve told Melanie a dozen times now that if she ever feels that total breastfeeding (not even pumping) is too much for her and that feels that the lack of sleep is harming her or the baby, that I would support her decision to do something different.

    Eileen, I can understand that others may have presumed upon your decision, but there’s no reason to get defensive her. After all, that was the point of the original post, that women who don’t breastfeed shouldn’t be made to feel guilty.

  • One of the major issues I have seen is the pseudoscience behind the La Leche movement does not hold up very well under scrutiny. 

    They have absolutely 0 valid statistics within their propoganda, yet they are allowed to evangelize within your hospital in complete defiance of health privacy laws, and common sense.

    Perhaps if the evangelists of bf would take an introduction to statistical methods class at their local junior college, and showed a tiny bit of respect and modesty towards new mothers, they could deliver some valuable advice and assitance, rather than their gut wretching propoganda.