Saturday, August 28, 2010

So Gisele, If Breast Is Best, What About The Rest?

Being in the public eye can afford you many privileges and put upon you great expectation to shine as a role model. Why then, would one such celebrity abuse this special power by making extreme and insensitive comments that are bound to offend a majority of women the world over?

Yes, Gisele Buchden, with your impossibly long legs and lithe model’s physique, but apparently little brain power, I am referring to you.

Your recent inflammatory comments regarding instating a mandatory 6-month breastfeeding sentence on all mothers has sparked an inferno that no amount of backpedalling can put out. It’s akin to saying all women should be a size 10 – the same level of absurdity applies.

The simple, inescapable fact is that not all women CAN breastfeed. Period. For so many, like me, It.Just.Does.Not.Work. Do you then let your infant go hungry, less it be exposed to the so-called perilous evils of Baby Formula? And while I am no medical expert, my son now aged two, appears to be the epitome of health and happiness!

Many of us would have loved nothing more than to be able to share this special experience with their newborn. Try as you might, often persevering to the detriment of your own physical and emotional health, you eventually get to breaking point where something has got to give. And if it comes to a choice between your sanity and duelling with a dwindling milk supply I recall only too clearly which one I was forced to opt for. PND is a very real looming presence amongst new mothers, and with statistics showing that one in ten will succumb to this insidious ailment, it threatens to strike the most vulnerable. They are the Mums already struggling with the cataclysmic change in dynamics to their once ordered world; you couple that with breastfeeding issues and they can swiftly find themselves toppling over into a big black abyss of pain, that can be avoided by switching to bottle feeding.

Controversial comments such as those from Gisele do women, who are already donning a heavy necklace of Mother’s guilt, no favours at all. At a time when you are just trying to adapt to “the new normal” life that has becomes yours, after the trauma of childbirth, with hormones rampantly raging through you, and you find you have a baby who wont latch, wont sufficiently suck and therefore wont take a proper feed, you DO NOT, on top of this heavy burden, also require a complete stranger remonstrating you for failing at something that just does not come naturally to many. As one nurse so succinctly put it, as a part of an online forum; “I am a huge advocate of Breast is Best, but could she be anymore self-righteous about it? The women of the world do not need to be dictated to by a "super"model. Bugger off Gisele. New mothers are conflicted enough as it is”.

I can recall a similar agonising moment of unwanted interference. I was in an elevator with my three-month-old son when a stranger started nosily inquiring if I was breastfeeding him. She then proceeded to make hurtful, and extremely insensitive remarks about his being bottle fed, without knowing at all why we had resorted to it. I was inconsolable for hours after… What fragile first time mother needs that sort of weight hanging like a noose around her neck, ready to constrict at any moment?

And let us not forget the mums, so brave, who give birth amidst the trials of extreme illness. Surely it is ill-advised to breastfeed when there are chemicals coursing through your veins or you are undergoing intense medical treatments to be cured? Or this mum, who remarked “I literally popped a lung when I gave birth and tried so hard for so long to breastfeed and simply couldn't because my body was too busy repairing my lung to make milk properly. I had no other choice but to feed my son formula as there was no other option”.

What of the Mothers who are forced to return to the workforce only mere weeks or months after giving birth? How does one breastfeed exclusively and on demand if you must be out earning an income to survive? Not all of us are able to earn a seven figure salary for flashing our flesh to the world and therefore able to stay at home til baby starts solids.

So Gisele, perched high above in your ivory tower of self righteousness, let it be known that for many mums, this excruciating inability to breastfeed your baby is far from some selfish choice, but more so a necessity for your child to ultimately survive and thrive. Many bubs are born premature and the mother will not as yet have had her milk come in – these delicate little souls need nourishment more than any other. Would you deny them this because of your bewildering belief that baby formula is riddled with chemicals?

Whilst valiantly advocating you are that worried about the health benefits attached to choosing bottle feeding over breast, I envisage its more so proclamation that performing this task helped your body “bounce back” into shape after the baby was born. Rest assured, if we all had access to a team of chefs, personal trainers and nutritionists, there is no doubt we would all give you a run for your model money.

And instead of adapting this ridiculous notion and overflowing our prisons with apparently delinquent formula feeding mothers (and therefore creating a separate and much larger issue of detaching the mother from her child) how about we encourage these frustrated new mums and comfort them when they cry? Because I believe its much more crucial to have a happy, emotionally stable mother than a child who is suckling breast milk over formula.


Bec @ Bad Mummy said...

I'm very pleased to read this. As much as I agree that breast is better for baby it's sometimes not what's best for a family. In my situation I'd been discharged from hospital with a brand new baby (my first newborn seeing as Erin came home at five months old) with no manual to a home with a three year old who was very used to being the apple of everyone's eye and the centre of attention.

It really was a HUGE reality check. I'd thought that if we didn't have latch problems breastfeeding would be clean sailing. Well we didn't have latch problems but I did have a baby who wanted to feed about 90% of the time. She fed for hours at every feed with the longest being the overnight feed which easily lasted 5-6 hours each time. This went on for weeks.

Now I suffer depression at the best of times so couple that with a serious lack of sleep and a completely insane extended family and I was going crazy.

I resisted giving Abi formula and I certainly didn't tell anyone that I was thinking about it, but when the crunch came what I had to do was decide what was best for my family as a whole (myself included) and what that turned out to be was a baby who was topped up with formula after a breastfeed so she'd actually stay full so I could have some time that wasn't breastfeeding that I could spend with my three year old, husband and maybe even, horror of all horror, by myself.

It was really a hard decision to make but, honestly, I don't regret it like I thought I would. I regret that our situation wasn't different but it wasn't.

NappyDaze said...

Thanks so much for your comment Bec - I was really nervous about posting this as you never know how it will be received. Its the first time I've opened up like this so it was such a relief to read your thoughts and know I am not alone in thinking what I was.

At then end of the day, your health and wellbeing is just as important as bubs so we do what we have to, to survive! Thx again!

Bec @ Bad Mummy said...

I know how you feel. You'll notice I haven't mentioned formula feeding on Bad Mummy, I'm just not in a head space to deal with that kind of criticism.

ash said...

Any mother/supermodel/person who tries to make another mother feel guilty about this (or lots of other things for that matter) makes me angry. I think there is way too much judging and not enough supporting. I am a PND survivor and mother guilt was definitely a huge part of what was going on in my head. Thank-you for a great read!

Kristie said...

here here... tried for 3 weeks and almost made myself crazy.... turned out son was lactose intolerant and had reflux!... in just three weeks he was dangerously loosing weight... I'd like to se Giselle keep feeding under those circumstances

NappyDaze said...

Thanks Kristie & Ash - nice to know its not just me who thinks this super model needs a super reality check!

Marita said...

I was on immune suppressing medication when Annie was born - very high doses too. There was no way I was going to be allowed to breastfeed her. It hurt but I knew I was doing the right thing for my baby so I could ignore the comments because I knew better. The decision had been taken out of my hands.

With Heidi, we tried, she and I, we tried to breastfeed. It just didn't work. So in the end we went to formula, a special wheat free, dairy free, soy free formula for a child who was allergic to pretty much everything under the sun. I felt like such a failure, like there was something I could have done differently, better.

People like Giselle just don't help.

Beth said...

I am pro-breastfeeding and bf my daughter for two years. HOWEVER - in my opinion, what is more important than breastfeeding, is having a happy mama. I was lucky - it worked for me, but honestly, she was so boob fixated that she would *never* take a bottle, I was unable to go back to my part time job and had to work from home (not as good as it sounds). I was so sleep deprived that the idea of being able to hand her over with a bottle of almost ANYTHING was like this fantasy that I was desperate to fulfil...
Anyway - I am tired and have two days until my second babe is due. I have already bought a bottle, and intend to try it once breastfeeding is established. I, like BadMummy, have an almost three year old who has very much enjoyed being the solo ray of sunshine, and am really keen that she still gets her share of attentions...

Kel said...

Fantastic post! I was unable to breastfeed due to low supply and my milk never 'came in' so I was fighting an uphill battle from day 1. I tried and tried for 3 weeks to establish breastfeeding, but in the end Elena had to be formula fed to avoid starvation. It also didn't help that a midwife at my Mum's and Babies group gave me a roasting and told me that if I truly wanted to breastfeed then I would be able to and that my milk supply failed because I was selfish and didn't try hard enough. Needless to say I never went back and a lot of guilt has been part of my PND.

I think I felt betrayed too as I always viewed midwives as being understanding and helpful with their guidance. Not this one - this one also accused me of giving too much eye contact to Elena and that's why Elena wouldn't sleep. Um, no - Elena wouldn't sleep because she was starving on your evil regime of almost no breast milk and had colic too. I was wrong of course. But at the end of the day formula saved my sanity and Elena's life and I'm grateful to live in a time where formula is available and nutritious. And the happy, healthy, vibrant toddler we have is a testament to the value of formula, a healthy, non-stressed Mum and a non-stressed, un-worried Dad.

Apparently, Giselle and my ex-midwife must be pen-pals...

Lori @ RRSAHM said...

Briliant post. I'm a staunch lactivist but I was disgusted by the ignorance she showed here.

MultipleMum said...

This was such a hot topic on the 'net in August 2010, wasn't it! Happy to relive it here, from the Fibro. You make some excellent points. I wonder if Giselle is still breastfeeding??

Being Me said...

Oh yes. I remember this. So well-meaning, but only served to pit mother against mother (or at least... against her and her notions, which were most likely very well intended).

Life In A Pink Fibro said...

I remember this post - not sure why I didn't comment last time around. I believe, and have always believed, that it's up to each of us to get on with what's best for us and stop telling each other what to do!

Thanks for Rewinding at the Fibro!

MultipleMum said...

I still can't believe your encounter in the elevator. Aren't women unkind to each other? Thanks for Rewinding x

Cath said...

I'm a firm believe in a "fed baby is best".

I dearly wanted to exclusively breast feed, at least until I went back to work after 3 months mat leave, but a low milk supply had him on formula from Day 2. Strapped up to an electric breast pump, I tried to summon "my inner cow". I breast fed, then bottle fed, then expressed - every 3 hours - for 6 weeks! My milk still didn't really come in... It was only when my maternal health nurse told me I was crazy, and that I was doing the equivalent of feeding triplets, that I let it go and worked out a pattern that worked for us. I happily breast fed my boy twice day for 5 1/2 months, with his other feeds being bottle feeds.

I was lucky, and realised it IS possible to do both (for me at least). And I don't think it's worth the tears, sleeplessness, suffering to your baby or anything else, for the sake of a high-horse.

A good controversial post for the Weekend Rewind!

mamabook said...

Terrific post. All mamas need support.
I have been a breastfeeding mama for many years now but with my first came very close to not succeeding. And I know that the last thing I would have needed if things had swung the other way was more heapings of guilt on top of my own.
Of course govt policy should support breastfeeding but not in a way that is punitive (cannot even begin to imagine) or judgemental.
And of course you toddler is now a very happy and healthy kid! Congratulations.

The Mummy Hat said...

I wonder what the guys think when they see us being so mean to each other! As a whole I think we look out for each other but then you get the strays like Giselle and Elevator Cow and you just wonder... are you serious?
But it is a good reminder to teach our kids to be tolerant and not judgemental. We can always find a silver lining, sometime we just need to look a little harder.
Rewinding with Multiple Mum