I have to say, I love the Atlantic Monthly. It is one of the only magazines that I get. It is hard to read much of it these days because of the kids and general business but I try. I am however starting to wonder if their major funding is received from Similac or something because of two articles they have done about how basically lame, bad for marriages, and over-hyped breast-feeding is.
First, in 2009 Hanna Rosin got a great big cover article titled "The Case Against Breast-Feeding" and just the other day we were treated to a father's version, "A Father's Case Against Breast-Feeding" by Chris Kornelis.
(I will now try to tear apart this article without sounding mean. Heaven help me.)
So the dad (Chris) begins by talking about how awesome, smart and wonderful his child is. You know he is leading up to something- something he did wrong! That is always how people start. "Well, you slept on your stomach, played with matches, ate paint chips, etc, etc, etc, and turned out just fine!" say defensive parents, grandparents and humans everywhere.
Then he talks about how hard breast-feeding was for his wife and how hard both of them tried at this. Pumps, night feedings, pain, latch issues, etc. It's a sad and dirty story and it is told by many women everywhere.
He talks about the hard decision to quit the breast-feeding and buy the formula.
And then- JOY. The formula was a lifesaver in many ways.
"When we switched to formula, everything changed. Only one of us got up. That meant that I could get up on my own and feed Thomas while his mom went for six hours of sleep."Awesome daddy bonding.
"I got to bond with my son. I got to sing him songs and tell him stories. Those hours of father-child bonding were a good thing. I got to take him to my parents' house for the day—without worrying about having enough milk or keeping it cold—and give Betsy an afternoon to rest."Better marriage.
"Betsy and I got to go away for a long weekend-to be together, to work on our marriage, something that was not just good for us, but good for the baby, too."
Then again, because of evil lactivists everywhere there was, (Dun, dun, dun) THE GUILT!
"We brought it home, shook up a batch, and noticed the comforting words placed prominently across the front of the box: "Experts agree breastfeeding is best." Thanks. We needed that. Betsy really needed it. She already thought she'd failed."
(I am just going to go ahead and ignore his comment about how he sure hopes marriage counselors don't make people feel guilty about divorcing just because they have kids. I am one of those idiots who tries to stay married because (GASP!) there are children involved. Among other reasons of course.)
|Yes, breast-feeding can be relaxing and bonding too.|
I planned on breastfeeding my first baby. I have nursed all my babies. I can openly admit that it wasn't all roses and oxytocin. There was pain and crap and no sleep and all that jazz. I managed to hang in there which was probably a little bit of luck, a little bit of genetics, lots of support and a little bit of knowledge too. (Did I mention that successful breastfeeding has a TON to do with the birth experience? It does.)
I think most women who have "successfully" breast-fed realize that doing this can be hard. In fact it can be incredibly hard. I guess what I am trying to say is that I kind of "get it". I get that nursing can be hard. I get that parenting has challenges. I get that there is a bucket load of guilt involved. And I get that sometimes our bodies seem to fail us. Sometimes we don't get to do what we really want to do or what is "best".
That sucks. It really does.
Chris sounds like a wonderful dad. He was getting up with mom for all these feedings. Holy FREAK! I didn't know they made men like that. That is crazy. He was right there along for the ride. A good dad. A good husband. That is awesome.
But I have to break this down. There are some issues I have with this article. Big issues.
1) One big problem with an article like this is that it really does serve to discourage breast-feeding. I know that he and Hanna are always talking about how judgmental all those breast-feeders out there are. They are mean. They throw milk on you. Evil lactivists. Lactivists aside- the state of breast-feeding in this country is one very sad joke. I can't imagine people feel that guilty about formula when it is so absolutely widespread and so incredibly WELL FUNDED.
The CDC is excited because breast-feeding is on the rise.
"Breastfeeding initiation increased from 74.6% in 2008 to 76.9% in 2009 births. This improvement in initiation represents the largest annual increase over the previous decade. Breastfeeding at 6 months increased from 44.3% to 47.2%; breastfeeding at 12 months increased from 23.8% to 25.5%. "Pretty good I guess, but less than 50% are still nursing at six months and about one quarter of women don't even begin breastfeeding. There is still lots of work to be done by those who wish to see more breast-feeding.
Formula isn't just some innocent bystander in this little game of numbers. Formula was actively and aggressively pushed for many years as a superior alternative to natural infant feeding. It was successful in replacing it. An entire generation missed out on this. To switch a cultural norm, especially one that was well funded and backed by experts takes work. Lots of work and lots of time and we are just beginning.
He complains about the "warning" label on cans of formula. My guess is that they HAVE to put it there because, much like cigarette companies, the formula companies spent many years actively marketing something that, as it turns out, was inferior.
Maybe we should take warning labels of cigarettes too? We wouldn't want smokers to feel guilty, would we?
Fact is, people will read this and they will give up. They will see his point of view and not bother to fight through some of the winnable trials of nursing. And why would they- all this guy and his wife got from quitting nursing were positives.
2) The next problem is that he seems to be under the false impression that life is supposed to be easy. Trips to the park. Babies that sleep all night. Date nights. Vacation. Kissing.
I have bad news for ya Chris.
LIFE IS NOT EASY.
I know. I took it hard too when I found out.
Yes, babies sometimes CRY. Sometimes they don't want to SLEEP. (Believe it or not, this happens NO MATTER HOW YOU FEED THE FRIGGIN KID!) Sometimes life is stressful and it stresses the marriage and the people in it.
I don't want to sound mean, but seriously, I sometimes wonder about all these people out there who expected their children to be 100% convenient all the time. THEY AREN'T. Want more bad news? You aren't convenient all the time EITHER.
The sad thing about giving up or walking away or simply throwing a big boy tantrum every time life is hard is that when we walk away from the HARD STUFF we miss some of the BEST STUFF.
I am so very glad that I breastfed my babies. It wasn't always easy and sometimes it was downright painful. Sometimes I didn't sleep much. Sometimes parenting was stressful on my marriage. But I can't even express to you how very rewarding something is when you DO IT- and how much MORE rewarding it is when it was HARD.
Maybe we should stop thinking about the hard stuff in life as a problem, and recognize it as an opportunity to have a bigger blessing.
3) It's getting late but I have to briefly mention how irritating I found Chris's talk about how easy it was to bond with the baby once the bottle feeding began. Dads of the world- you can bond with your baby when mom is a nursing mom. There are TONS of things that only a dad can do just right and that are a gift to you and them and their mother. Please don't believe that bonding will be better if you feed the baby with a bottle. This is not necessary.
4) And problem number four- the guilt blame game. Chris seems sure that the guilt he felt was because of the labels or the doctors or the lactivists.
And Chris- I have something to tell you. If you sincerely know that breast-feeding wasn't going to work for your family and it was a physical necessity, then I hope you don't feel guilty. I repeat- YOU and YOUR WIFE should NOT feel guilty when you did what was best for your baby and your family. Only you know what that is. But I have to say something else- nobody can MAKE you feel guilty. You are in charge of you and you are in charge of your emotions. I know. It requires big boy pants. Go put 'em on.
Is there a lot of judgment out there in the parenting (not just lactivist) community? Ummm.....YEAH.
Get used to it. If you don't develop a thick skin you are going to spend lots of time weeping into your soup. If you feel right about how you are raising your kid then stop wasting your emotional capitol worrying about what other people think. Who cares? You shouldn't. I sure as heck don't.
There are lots of things I do as a parent that aren't on the approved list that I don't feel bad about. Why? Because I realize that I need to do them or my sanity will come into question. Only I know my crazy place limit.
There are also lots of things I do as a parent that I feel deeply guilty for. Why? Because I know that I can and should do better. But I feel that guilt. Nobody makes me. I am in charge of me. Nobody can take that away from me.
And Chris, nobody can take that away from you either.