Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Get me a beer and a smoke while I hop on this bull

Nutso Ranter, my good friend and attorney/mother-in-arms, pointed me to this story in today's New York Times. Because she thinks it's fun to make my head explode, apparently.

"Just like it's risky to smoke during pregnancy, it's risky not to breast-feed after," said Suzanne Haynes, senior scientific adviser to the Office on Women's Health in the Department of Health and Human Services.

It's also risky to drive a car (there are more car accidents than airplane crashes, don't you know) and wear high heels (sprained and twisted ankles, not to mention the spine-assaulting results of years in those uncomfortable shoes). Women: don't go back to work after the birth of your child -- stay at home and breastfeed!

I also love how HHS is now equating sucking in carcinogens with giving your baby a bottle of formula.

A two-year national breast-feeding awareness campaign that culminated this spring ran television announcements showing a pregnant woman clutching her belly as she was thrown off a mechanical bull during ladies' night at a bar — and compared the behavior to failing to breast-feed.

"You wouldn't take risks before your baby's born," the advertisement says. "Why start after?"

Well, I guess my mechanical-bull-riding days are over. I had such high hopes of winning $100 later this month.

Dr. Haynes, of the Health and Human Services Department, said, "Our message is that breast milk is the gold standard, and anything less than that is inferior."

Inferior, maybe. But that doesn't mean it's the same as feeding your child rhino droppings or battery acid.

Don't misunderstand me. I know that "breast is best," and I am in favor of the government and various health organizations encouraging breastfeeding. But promoting breastfeeding with scare tactics and misinformation, while never actually providing women with the assistance they may need is both pointless and cruel. As Nutso Ranter ranted to me: "There's already enough guilt surrounding this, without making Moms feel like they're giving their baby crack-cocaine every time they open the formula. And it just doesn't recognize the reality of most working-moms situations. Lots of people in this country are lucky to get 6 weeks off ... frequently unpaid... so many of them HAVE to go back to work after only a few weeks. I can just imagine the reaction of some assembly-line employer, or Walmart, when the employee says she needs 4 30-minute breaks a day so she can go pump."

What's the take-away message of these ads for women like that? Will Tom Harkin come and breastfeed their babies for them?


Blogger liz said...

a iop oire ueri itu wea oui ewou

(So sorry about the gibberish, I was banging head on my computer keyboard)

11:21 PM, June 13, 2006  
Anonymous Lisa V said...

I think this is more woman hating bullshit. If it were men who nursed a) they would be given plenty of support and time off to make it work if possible b) if it didn't work they would be given formula for free and a spa vacation as an atta boy for trying.

I know this isn't all men behind this. I am really not trying to man bash, but why do most parenting issues rely solely on mom for success?

I totally nursed two of my children, not one ounce of formula ever. The other two were exclusively bottle fed. None of them have health issues, as far as bonding goes they only hate me as much as they should, and mentally they are as stable as someone being raised by wolves should be.

12:20 AM, June 14, 2006  
Anonymous Genevieve said...

Yeesh yeesh yeesh.

9:39 AM, June 14, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Liz - thanks for explaining about the gibberish, 'cause I was trying to decode a message without much luck.

APL - you know, I would pay good money to watch an Angry Pregnant Lawyer ride a mechanical bull on pay-per-view.

Here's another case of the perfect being the enemy of the good. Of course there are many benefits to breastfeeding, but stop making woman who, for a wide range of reasons, can't breastfeed feel guilty for trying to balance their lives the best way they know how.

10:45 AM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger KLee said...

I hate articles like this. Not only do they make women who, for whatever reason, can't breastfeed feel terrible; they also make any woman who might be considering formula feeding panic and get all wrought up. It sends pregnant women into a tizzy at a time when they most need to be reassured.

I agree with Lisa V that it feels like woman-hating stuff -- you just KNOW men had to think up something as cornball as the mechanical bull crap. And to equate something like that with not choosing to breastfeed? Puh-leeze.

I breastfed my daughter exclusively until my milk ran out after about seven months. I felt like a total failure when my milk dried up -- having someone make me feel even worse for having to resort to formula would not have flown.

11:35 AM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Quinn said...

KLee, I had a similar experience with my second child -- breastfed exclusively for nine months, until I ran out of milk. I cried and cried about having to switch to formula, yet I was raised on it (as were most children of the 1970s), and I turned out fine! :)

Expectations are so ridiculously high, I've got friends who lie about how long they breastfed because they don't want people to look down on them. How is this helpful to mothers?

11:55 AM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger oshee said...

I agree with the other commenters. I breast fed my first three for at least a short time. My last two I was unable to breastfeed because of medication I need to be on. My last two have been healthier. The guilt I faced and had shoved at me as I made the decision to not breastfeed was horrible and completely not fair.

3:29 PM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Phantom Scribbler said...

Man bash? No, there are plenty of equal-opportunity reasons to bash around here. There are LOTS of good ways that you could try to increase the number of women who breastfeed their infants, and increase the duration of breastfeeding. You could mandate six-month maternity leave, for example. You could require employers to provide accomodations for mothers who need to pump at work. You could provide incentives for the creation of on-site daycare for nursing infants. You could help remove the remaining stigmas around breastfeeding by making sure that women and children have the right to breastfeed in any public or private place, exempting them from any public obscenity laws. You could provide subsidized home visits by lactation experts to low-income mothers to help them get successfully established with breastfeeding.

Or - hey! You could frame it as totally about personal responsibility and bad motherhood choices, throw tens of millions of dollars at an ad campaign, and call it a day. Because I'm sure that research will show that to be a *really* effective way of creating social change.

Another triumph for Our Nation's Health Authorities!

4:34 PM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Yankee T said...

Oh deargodinheaven spare me. Such bullshit, so to speak.

6:09 PM, June 14, 2006  
Blogger Rev Dr Mom said...

Phantom Scribber hit the nail on the head here. That seems to be the way the government works these days--lots of "you have to do this" bs without any sort of support to do it, nor with any accurate perception of what sort of support would be necessary. You see this in the "no child left behind" fiasco; you see it in "welfare reform"; and now you see it in this statement on breastfeeding.

8:00 AM, June 15, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

A blogging friend turned me on to your site -- great post! I couldn't agree more. Please see my posts on the "Breastapo" at my blog:


Guess what I'm doing as I type this? Sitting hooked up to a breast pump.

It *definitely* isn't all men behind this, as lisa v mentioned. Most of the judgment comes from women, usually women who had no problems BFing and can't understand why other women might.

The breastfeeding rhetoric is alarmingly like the weight loss rhetoric. If you don't want to or can't seem to, it's because you're not committed enough. Pisses me off to no end.

7:03 AM, June 16, 2006  
Blogger halloweenlover said...

Blech, I don't even know what to say about this, it is so ridiculous. Thankfully, I'll have 6 months off, and the head of the group breastfed for over a year while pumping in her office. During conference calls. People would ask "what's that noise?" and she'd pretend she had no idea what they were talking about.

Even with all of that, I know it'll be hard. I don't need more guilt heaped on!

12:29 PM, June 16, 2006  

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