Tough Titty: On Feminist Mothering and the Breastfeeding Doll

20 Jul

Photo via eurweb.com

Dolls and doll-play have been a long-standing point of entry into discussions about the social construction of race and gender. My mother and grandmother certainly invested in all of the latest doll trends of the 1980s when I was a child—I had Cabbage Patch, Kid Sister (though he’d deny it, my cousin Chad had a My Buddy doll and lots of masculine “action figures”),  Black Barbie, anatomically correct newborn twins,  and the coveted Betsey Wetsey, which peed all over my bestfriend Amanda’s bedspread at a sleepover.

In my Intro to Women’s Studies classes, pointing to the gendered implications of toy choice—i.e. little girls are given dolls and little boys trucks or trains—opens my students eyes to just how early gender socialization starts.

Enter the breastfeeding doll.

My first reaction when I saw the video was “Oh, hell no! My future daughter will not be socialized to think about her breasts’ mothering potential before she even grows them.” Just like I won’t teach my daughter that the sole function of her period is to make her capable of becoming someone’s mama. Her breasts tell her things about her own health and development.  They also can be a source of pleasure, both cosmetic and sexual.  Her menstrual cycle, not just her period, is about the whole of her sexual and reproductive health.  Her vagina both eliminates waste and facilitates pleasure. I don’t want my future daughter’s self-conception to be reduced to or primarily shaped by her female anatomy and its  biological functions.

More than my ambivalence about the gendered futures we create for our children while they are still in utero (hence our obsession with knowing a baby’s sex), the doll also speaks to my general ambivalence around breastfeeding (and perhaps mothering). During a rousing FB conversation about this the other day, while there was no consensus about the doll– Some mothers thought it would be an excellent way to help their daughters understand what they saw their mother’s doing for them or younger siblings; Others shared my concern about socializing their daughters too early—there was a resounding consensus that breastfeeding is preferable.

 All the feminist mamas I know breastfeed. For that matter, most of my FB friends breastfeed, no matter race or political belief. What most mothers indicated was that breastfeeding had various health and emotional benefits for their children and them; the challenge many of them suggested was being employed at places that didn’t allow them to pump, or dealing with family members grossed out by the sight of their breasts, or other clearly sexist social taboos.

But the question I’m asking is really a more basic one: “What if I simply don’t want to do it?” I have the creeping suspicion that for those of us, including myself, who are now clear about the completely undeniable health benefits of breast milk, particularly in light of the healthy and organic food movement, our assent to this fact is supposed to be coupled with our automatic consent to breastfeed. It’s like the same problematic logic among Black women in the natural hair debate–“You know how damaging the “creamy crack” is. So why would you continue to get expensive perms (relaxers)? You must hate yourself.” Well, what if the answer as many of my permed-out homegirls continue to argue is simply “convenience. Manageability. Personal notions of beauty.”I rock a natural, but I’m not hatin on the sisters who don’t; nor do I automatically think they must hate themselves.  In the same vein, the breastfeeding convo sounds something like, “You know it’s healthier for babies, and it’s healthier for you. And it’s much cheaper. Good mothers do what’s best for their children. ” By implication, bad mothers make choices out of convenience. After offering nine months of free rent, bad mothers selfishly want their kids off the titty so they “can have their bodies back.”

One FB commenter explained to me that motherhood wasn’t on her five year plan because she doesn’t feel she can make the sacrifices in terms of body and career in order to do it. I share this attitude, which is why B.C. does not only refer to the initials in my government name.

(Perhaps after these latest recommendations, it won’t continue to cost me a grip.)

But there was a not-so-subtle implication in her comment that if I wasn’t ready to breastfeed, then this probably means I’m not ready to make the sacrifices required for my child, and hence unready to mother.

I’m not ready to mother (other than the communal mothering I participate in with the CF babies). But even when (and if) I get ready, I reject the notion that my readiness will be signaled by my willingness to breastfeed.

Feminists have long questioned the all encompassing premise that motherhood is about sacrificing one’s own self to “do what’s best for the child.”  We have rejected this notion when it comes to the prosecution and incarceration of drug-addicted mothers. We have rejected this logic in the abortion debate. But we have been curiously silent of late on the resurgence of this logic in the national breast-feeding conversation.

But social policy is actively being shaped to both support breastfeeding (which is not a problem) and compel breastfeeding (which is a problem.)

The new Obama healthcare law mandates that employers provide non-bathroom based lactation stations for nursing mothers.  The IRS has ruled that breast pumps and other lactation materials are tax write-offs. These moves should be lauded.

Michelle Obama has made breastfeeding a tenet of her anti-obesity campaign, arguing that breastfed children have a lower tendency toward obesity.

One of my students informed me that the WIC program, which provides infant formula, has started to reduce the cans of milk given to mothers in order to “encourage” mothers to supplement with breast milk. Any time the state regulates motherhood based on notions of what is natural and normal and in ways that require increased bodily labor for women, it gives me pause.

Gender socialization, uncompensated bodily labor, and maternal sacrifice are all heady topics that must be a part of the feminist mothering conversation. It goes without saying that I want any future children I have to be healthy. so I’ll definitely consider breastfeeding. But even as I acknowledge that food is a feminist issue, I would caution us to figure out ways to support the healthy food movement and be in coalition with it, without reinscribing dangerously gendered (and sexist) notions about natural gender roles and good and bad mothering practices.

So a few questions, Crunk Fam:

What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?

Would you give your daughter this doll?

Can you be a good mother and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

And more to the point, though I never thought I’d have to ask this question, can you be a good feminist and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

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83 Responses to “Tough Titty: On Feminist Mothering and the Breastfeeding Doll”

  1. Mac July 20, 2011 at 7:41 AM #

    In my experience, breast feeding is a relationship. It should be consensual and happy for both mother and baby. It is feminist to respect the person and their needs, that includes a mother. It would be far more damaging for a child to feel their mother’s resentment than to be fed formula. Being a good mother has nothing to do with doing something with your body that you don’t want.

    I’ve seen women who genuinely do not want to breast feed try to do it and it’s so awkward and painful. The way they approach their child changes. I can’t police a woman’s reasons. To force the relationship between mother and child down a road that doesn’t work for the mother would be a terrible precedent in every way.

    That said, I would allow my daughter or son to play with a breast feeding doll. I have noticed that children of all sexes and genders, when they are exposed to the concept of breast feeding, “breast feed” their dolls. They don’t need a specific doll to do so. I’ve seen quite a few little boys (I used to work at a nursery school) whip up their shirts and “feed” their babies. I’ve also seen more than one child hand a doll off to another child to feed because they had something else they wanted to do. Kids are flexible and open-minded and wise and they are experimenting with how the world should work for them.

  2. Miriam July 20, 2011 at 7:41 AM #

    Not sure about this…I think the difference between choosing to relax your hair despite the possible harm to it is different because you’re only harming yourself. If you choose not to breastfeed, you’re potentially harming a child who has no choice in the matter.

    • Elizabeth S July 20, 2011 at 8:07 AM #

      How? Formula meets the standard guidelines for infant nutritional needs. Given that, how does offering a child nutritionally adequate food potentially harm him/her? I am a huge breastfeeding advocate. Huge. But that sort of language and misinformation is harmful and dangerous. Pointing out the unique benefits of breastmilk is fine. But accusing women of potentially harming their children is, in my opinion, far more (potentially) psychologically damaging than ANYTHING that could come from formula.

      I can see how “potential harm” could be a concern of quality control and contamination, but that is true of any food we feed our children.

      • Elita @ Blacktating July 20, 2011 at 2:57 PM #

        There are lots of risks to formula feeding, even in a developed country like the US with a stable source of clean water. Formula fed babies aren’t conferred the immunological benefits of breastfeeding. Formula fed babies are more like to die of SIDS. Formula fed babies are more likely to get ear infections and have asthma and diabetes. Formula fed babies have more gastro problems. I don’t think anyone would choose formula with the idea of harming their child, but the fact remains that there are real health risks to not breastfeeding, and if you are going to choose not to do it, you should make yourself aware of them so you can make a truly informed decision.

      • hillary August 4, 2011 at 9:15 AM #

        Breastfeeding isn’t “best” or “ideal,” breastfeeding is NORMAL. Breastfeeding babies don’t have “better” vision or “higher” IQs. They have NORMAL ones. That means formula is harming babies. Obviously not every woman can breastfeed, and in American culture people don’t typically seek wet nurses. Formula is the next best thing that we have right now. But it could be a lot better nutritionally. Just as breastmilk is only as good as maternal nutrition, formula is only as good as its recipe, and right now that is not good enough. If women want to formula-feed or can’t breastfeed then they should stop being defensive about breastfeeding and start being angry about the inadequacies of formula. Formula companies need to do better.

      • jenrose (@jenrose) August 14, 2011 at 1:41 AM #

        My children: Child #1 had allergies to soy and dairy. The one bottle of formula she was given, she vomited, quite dramatically. Almost all formulas are based on soy and dairy. “Elemental” formulas are extraordinarily expensive, and I was a single mother. I breastfed her for six years, and she was ridiculously healthy for most of that time. Formula would have harmed her… she couldn’t even keep the regular stuff down. We never bothered trying a more expensive form.

        Child #2 has a metabolic condition and does not metabolize citrates very well. EVERY formula on the market that I’ve been able to find contains citrates. Even the organic ones. When she was 7 months old, I was told to give her formula to supplement her diet because she was gaining slowly (due to the metabolic/chromosome issue) and she vomited it, and got a horrible rash. Not to mention that she had terrible issues with choking on liquids. Breastmilk is very gentle and not prone to causing aspiration pneumonia. Formula does not have the leukocytes, etc. to have that same advantage, and it is very likely if she’d had formula in her first six months that she could have had aspiration issues many times.

        MOST kids do okay on formula. But for some, it is potentially very harmful. And assuming that simply because “it meets federal requirements” that it is going to be hunky dory for every baby is misguided. Our local NICU has switched to using primarily donor breastmilk for the NICU babies. I have a few friends who have issues with milk production: They use donor milk too, if they can get it, because their babies are healthier on it… less vomiting, better growth.

        Saying that feeding formula isn’t harmful is like saying that driving with a baby on your lap isn’t harmful. Most of the time, it won’t cause that many problems, but when it does, it can be a nightmare. I’m VERY glad that formula is available when needed… I had no option but to formula feed my foster son, he did fine once we switched him to a hydrolysate formula. But it’s not the first choice, or even the second choice in the grand scheme of things, for most babies, and painting it as an equal choice does women and babies a huge disservice. I do NOT judge people for choosing to formula feed. But I’m not going to lie to them and tell them that “Oh, every baby will do just fine on it” either.

        I dislike saying that “breastfeeding has advantages”, because in my mind, breastfeeding is the default, and formula has disadvantages, but sometimes we do what we have to do.

        I’ve been a feminist lifelong, and never saw breastfeeding as something that limited me or hemmed me in. Formula feeding was more complicated, time consuming and far less pleasant that nursing my older daughter was, and while nursing my younger was the hardest thing I’ve ever done, she didn’t take bottles anywhere near as well as she took the breast, and most of the kids with her syndrome end up with variations on tube-feeding during their babyhoods because the reflux they get with formula is so horrendous and they’re so bad at bottle nipples. And you can’t tell me that would have been easier. When it comes down to it, we do what we have to do as parents for our kids. And sometimes that means taking on “gendered” roles. There’s not any way to avoid the fact that babies grow inside women… even adoption pushes that job onto another woman. And likewise, women who really don’t want to breastfeed have choices… donor milk is available in a lot of places, and is a choice, albeit one some are not comfortable making.

        We all sometimes have to make choices that are not “the abstract ideal”. So be it. But I’m not willing to paint a less-than-ideal option as more than it is just to make people feel better. If someone REALLY needs or wants to make that choice, make it. Own it. Don’t feel like you have to justify it. I once took a taxicab in Mexico with no carseat or seatbelts and my less-than-two-year-old daughter had to ride down in the footwell between my knees. It was better than trying to walk 2 miles back to a cruise ship through a city I didn’t know or stay on a horrible smelling motor boat a minute longer than we had to, but it was certainly not the safest way to ride in a given car with a baby. And I formula fed a little boy because the state did not allow leeway on donor milk for foster children at that point, and the kiddo needed to eat.

        Ultimately in parenting, the only universal truth seems to be that whatever way you decide to go about it, someone will tell you you’re doing it wrong, and someone will judge you, and what your choices are are irrelevant to that. Breastfeed? You’ll be judged. Formula feed? You’ll be judged. Cosleep? Yep. Put your baby in a crib? Yep. And we just need to get over that and do it our own way, as best we can in a given circumstance.

    • Lisa July 25, 2011 at 9:12 AM #

      OK, I appreciate your sentiment, but those of us that actually can’t breastfeed hate when people say that we are “potentially harming” our child by using formula. And you can’t separate people who are choosing not to and people who simply can’t do it when you make that statement. It’s not like you can say, “Oh, you are choosing not to. You are harming your baby! Oh, and you can’t breastfeed? Your baby will be OK on formula.” Formula is a fine alternative, whether you can’t breastfeed or simply don’t want to. It’s a woman’s choice, and both scenarios result in healthy, happy babies.

      • jenrose (@jenrose) August 14, 2011 at 1:51 AM #

        If I’d chosen formula for my daughters, I WOULD have harmed them. Neither of them tolerated it, for different reasons.

        We did not have a choice for my foster son, and the first formula he was given DID cause him quite a bit of distress. We changed brands to a hydrolysate formula, and he got better, and did fine.

        Formula is not “inherently harmful” to all babies… just as many of us survived our childhoods despite a complete lack of meaningful child safety seat laws. But breastmilk *is* better, and safer, just like using an approved child seat is safer than going without.

        Will every baby fed formula have health issues because of it? No. But their odds of having health issues due to feeding method are statistically much higher.

        I’m not going to gloss over the risks of formula feeding simply because some women don’t have a choice. And the fact of the matter is that you MIGHT have a choice. Many women are able to find other women who are willing to pump extra milk for their babies. Donor milk is becoming a more viable option every day, especially recently. Does that mean you’re wrong for giving your baby formula, or that your baby WILL be harmed by it?

        Nope. But there’s a risk. And I’d rather you know the risk than not, because for a lot of women the idea that “formula is fine” is going to be the difference between persevering through the first difficult weeks and not. If the other option is “just as good”, why fight to breastfeed?

        Saying that formula is potentially harmful is an accurate statement. And it is NOT the same as saying that “by choosing formula you ARE harming your child.”

    • ivyleaves July 25, 2011 at 6:49 PM #

      The mother doesn’t necessarily have a choice, either. And the idea of making public policy decisions, such as cutting off food, with the assumption that one size will fit all is absolutely appalling! I wonder how many kids won’t get adequate nutrition because of that.

      I am a huge breastfeeding advocate, but you will not hear me make a peep of judgment against anyone who chooses what they choose. Doing so is incredibly domineering and patriarchal.

      My mother used breastfeeding for all of my siblings, but could not for me as I refused to suck enough to get fed. She ended up cutting crosshatches in my bottle nipples like some do to allow kids to eat cereal, just so I could be fed. I shudder to think what might happen to both of us these days.

      I breastfed my own child because I did not even want to think about getting up in the night to warm bottles. I cannot fathom how some feel it is easier to feed formula. That said, I felt somewhat dehumanized after awhile – like an on demand snack bar. I still breastfed for well over a year, but I totally get why some wouldn’t like it and choose not to do so.

  3. Elizabeth S July 20, 2011 at 7:47 AM #

    What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?

    I am a huge fan. I nursed my son for 2 years.

    Would you give your daughter this doll?

    Well, I think the doll is a little gimmicky. I also think that children will model what they see and so you don’t need a breastfeeding doll to pass on the notion of breasts having a biological function. Friends of mine have stories of their children pretending to nurse their dolls, stuffed animals, tonka trucks, etc. So, I wouldn’t go out of my way to give a daughter or son this doll.

    Can you be a good mother and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

    Yes.

    And more to the point, though I never thought I’d have to ask this question, can you be a good feminist and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

    Yes.

    I think that raising breastfeeding rates is a worthy goal but I think it should be part of a systemic overhaul that benefits all families (such as longer parental leave, etc) and cannot be achieved by means of guilt and shame, which is pervasive in militant breastfeeding circles.

  4. Timid Aethist July 20, 2011 at 8:32 AM #

    When I had my daughter 8.5 years ago I had trouble producing enough breast milk to feed her. While in the hospital it was a clear fluid and she fussed a lot. Once I got her home two days latter I was still recovering from my C-section and even the act of eating was exhausting and painful. (Which was one of the reasons I had trouble producing enough milk.) When I would feed her the act was painful beyond belief and I developed open sores on my nipples. After two weeks I gave up and started giving her formula. My daughter had lost a pound after those two weeks of breastfeeding but as soon as I started her on formula she gained her weight back plus some and grew like a weed.

    I had a great deal of misery over my decision to stop breastfeeding after only two weeks. All the encouragement and instruction I’d been given made it seem like it was my failure that I couldn’t give my daughter what she needed from my own breasts. It turned out she had a case of thrush on her tongue, thus the painful feedings, but by then she’d taken to the bottle and had no interest in breastfeeding. I’d not been made aware that this was something babies got on a regular basis so it wasn’t until after the fact that I realized the painful feedings weren’t just my inability to “do it right.”

    Part of the problem was the thrush, but another part was the fact that I have larger than what appears to be normal nipples, so trying to get her to latch on was futile at best because no matter what I tried it just wasn’t possible for her to put the entire nipple in her mouth. And this resulted in the sores and further pain.

    There were a lot of factors that all combined into a bittersweet experience while breastfeeding my daughter. I’d do it again, but honestly I think there needs to be more education out there regarding the possible difficulties you can encounter during breastfeeding.

    To answer the questions, no I would not give my daughter the breast feeding doll. She already knows about breast feeding and about the fact that she will have breasts some day, but I don’t think she needs to be familiar with such a thing through a doll.

    After my experiences with breastfeeding I have to say that yes you can be a good mother and not want to breastfeed. My daughter was a wonderful, but unplanned surprise. I decided early on I would try to breastfeed but my decision to put her on formula was the right one at the time and I no longer feel guilty for doing so.

    As for being a good feminist and not wanting to breastfeed, well, aren’t we about personal choices? Aren’t feminists suppose to encourage people to do what is best for themselves as long as it’s not directly harming others?

    I’m still new to the feminist world, still learning the ins and outs and weighing different opinions, but I don’t see anything wrong with not wanting to breastfeed as long as you are taking care of your child and are happy with the results.

  5. Trineka July 20, 2011 at 8:35 AM #

    What are your thoughts on breastfeeding? It’s a personal choice. I have no desire to breastfeed for purely aesthetic reasons. I don’t allow anyone to make me feel bad about my choices. If they don’t like it, quite frankly they can kick rocks.

    Would you give your daughter this doll? Absolutely not and I will not force dolls upon my daughter or trucks upon my sons. I’ll let them choose their own age appropriate toys.

    Can you be a good mother and admit you may not want to breastfeed? Absolutely. I will be an excellent mother and have no intention of breastfeeding.

    And more to the point, though I never thought I’d have to ask this question, can you be a good feminist and admit you may not want to breastfeed? Absolutely… I am a good but flawed feminist -as we all are. But my flaw has nothing to do with the fact that I do not want to breastfeed…

  6. lala July 20, 2011 at 10:04 AM #

    Whether you are an advocate or not there are known benefits to breastfeeding but I think that feminists get uncomfortable because they (from what I SEE) feel more at home arguing for abortion than the welfare of children. Not this one but many feminist sites have a strong anti-kid vibe to them.

  7. Sarah July 20, 2011 at 10:07 AM #

    trigger warning for rape

    I worry about this a lot when I think about how badly I want a child. Even the act of being pregnant is something that makes me incredibly uncomfortable, the idea of another person depending on and using my body for life, not being able to do anything about it since I DO want a child. And then breastfeeding. When I think about breastfeeding I am reminded of my rape, someone using my body in a way I am not 100% on board with. I have heard bits and pieces of stories from women like me but somehow the subject of how to breastfeed or NOT breastfeed while a survivor is not talked about. It is so not talked about in fact, that I KNOW when it comes time I am going to have to make up another explanation as to why I am not breastfeeding because I cannot just talk about my rape as often as women are expected to explain their feeding choices. I’m not sure what to do about it.

    • Ashley July 20, 2011 at 1:06 PM #

      It’s getting more discussion amongst breastfeeding professionals. I attended a conference last year that had two panels on breastfeeding and sexual abuse. If you’d like, I can get you some resources on this. Just email me at ashrprice at gmail. No pressure, but there is help out there. Not sure if it’s adequate, but it exists.

      • startledoctopus July 20, 2011 at 9:12 PM #

        May I also email you and get this information? My mother is working towards becoming a lactation specialist and I think these would be good things for her to read, if she hasn’t already.

      • Ashley July 20, 2011 at 10:55 PM #

        Yes, by all means!

    • Conseula July 23, 2011 at 2:05 PM #

      I was in the situation with my first daughter and had an amazing team of midwives and a pediatrician who helped me work through it. I made the decision to formula feed and it was the best decision I made for myself, my daughter, and my family. 11 years later my kid is tall, healthy, brilliant, and gorgeous, the exact opposite of what breastfeeding enthusiasts would have us believe.

  8. Marla July 20, 2011 at 10:29 AM #

    What are your thoughts on breastfeeding?

    Like most other things, it’s great for the people who like it, and shouldn’t be forced on those who don’t. It’s unfortunate that our sociaety pathologizes women who choose not to breastfeed and try to make those who can’t for whathever reason feel inadequate and guilty about it.

    Would you give your daughter this doll?

    I would if she really wanted it. I see no reason why she should NOT have it, just no reasont o give it to her unrequested.

    Can you be a good mother and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

    Of course you can.. WE’re talking about one miniscule oint ina person’s life; how would you possibly judge a motherhood on something so small and ultiamtely, pretty inconsequential?

    And more to the point, though I never thought I’d have to ask this question, can you be a good feminist and admit you may not want to breastfeed?

    Of course! Isn’t the point of feminism to empower women to amke their own choices, whatever they may bee? (and possibly especially if they fall outside of the norms and expectations of the kyriarchy?

  9. bfp July 20, 2011 at 10:58 AM #

    I actually disagree that feminists don’t really talk about to breastfeed or not and can you be a feminist and not want to. Most feminist sites in blog land are firmly on the side of “breastfeeding=way to keep women down” and/or “bottle feeding=liberation” rather than, you MUST breastfeed or you’re not a feminist!

    It’s often been extremely difficult to exist within those circles as a person who was breastfeeding both of my kids at the same time and breast fed for a total of about five years between the two of them. Oh, and being Latina. So there’s big stereotypes about how latinas are confined by really traditional gender roles, and what’s more–*backwards* gender roles of underdeveloped natives (attachment parenting done by a white mother is endorsed by Dr. Sears and has a whole movement–parenting that a latina learned from her native mother who learned from her native mother will get us criminalized and used as justifiction for our children being taken away see: cirila baltazar cruz). So to feminists (who are very often white and indoctrinated in the idea of upward mobility as The Movement), they see a latina breastfeeding and they see a woman being held down by traditional patriarchal backwards gender enforcement.

    But then at the same time, men also have no problem at all expecting a “good mother” to breastfeed. They want their hot high titties for their whores and motherly nurturing titties for their virgins. they will fight to the death, for example, for a chicana mother’s right to breast feed her child in the fields because that fufills their expectation of women being nobel warriors nurturing the fighting community. They aren’t huge breast feeding advocates, but they look like they are because they are fighting for something women want. And latina women very often do have a baby on their hip while at a protest (I saw one woman breast feeding her child while putting together a union contract)–but that is not because we’re making a point about breastfeeding, but because there’s nobody else to take care of the child (i.e. the men won’t watch the kids, or they’re busy working too) and you do what you can with what you have.

    So, to me–I see breastfeeding not as a question of “do it or not,” but supporting those who do it fully and supporting those who can’t or won’t completely. I think “do it or not” is a false dichotomy created by formula companies who want people to believe that they have a choice, when more often than not, they really really don’t. To me, it’s a situation similar to abortion more than anything else–who has a *real* choice in this world? Sure I can get an abortion, but is my choice to abort a pregnancy as a working class poor person with existing family who is one car break down away from catastrophe really a *free* choice? a *real* choice?

    I think it’s the same thing with breastfeeding versus bottle feeding. Some people (like with the abortion situation) really do have a free choice. Most of us don’t. And have to do what we do according to economic factors like if we have to return to work, ability to afford formula, supportive community or lack of it, whether or not we’ve retained historical community knowledge on how to breastfeed, patriarchal pressure, whether or not we are sexual violence survivors, whether or not our communities have been targeted by formula companies or the government, etc etc etc.

    I mean–think of all the crap we’d have to change in our world so that those who are contemplating the best ways to feed their children have a *real* choice on what they feed and how they feed their kids. Why would it be any less complicated just because the decision on what to feed our children is between breast milk or formula?

    • Elita @ Blacktating July 20, 2011 at 3:00 PM #

      Excellent points!

    • acquanda@LactationJourney July 20, 2011 at 6:31 PM #

      OK. I just had written over half of my blog post for tomorrow and come over here to find out you basically covered most of my points. *Sigh* guess I’ll finish it up anyway :O)

      We need to go BELOW the surface and like I said on the CFC Facebook post, the questions are entirely too simple! We need to look at access, support, marketing tactics, everything.

      I LOVE the way you think!

  10. HoneyChild July 20, 2011 at 11:11 AM #

    Breastfeeding is a choice and I believe that it is very possible to be a good mother and a feminist while choosing not to breastfeed.

    Two things I will say though:

    Baby formulas have been found to not be particularly healthy for babies and I do think women should question the logic of feeding their babies milk from another animal species, particularly with the high levels of hormones found in most brands of cow’s milk. I have two sisters who have chosen not to breastfeed but neither uses corporation-issued formulas; instead, they make their own formulas. So I would just encourage all mothers to do research around the healthiest alternatives to breastfeeding for their babies.

    The second thing: The phrase “uncompensated bodily labor” caused me to pause. Do you mind explaining this further? Something about this phrase is very capitalistic to me, in the sense that there is an expectation of monetary and/or some form of immediate compensation due for every action. For mothers who choose to breastfeed, such “bodily labor” may not be viewed as uncompensated, as the relationship with their baby and the health benefits may be the only “compensation” they need.

    • Tanya Forsberg July 27, 2011 at 12:16 PM #

      Good points. No one asks to be born. Children certainly don’t owe their parents a thing. The idea that everything should have a monetary value is what’s wrong with society these days.

  11. zomelie July 20, 2011 at 11:36 AM #

    I just posted my own response to the breastfeeding doll this morning. I am not in favor of the idea, but I’m also not one to judge another mother should she choose to give such a doll to her child.

    My personal opposition to this doll is twofold:

    1. If a child wants to experiment and/or learn about breastfeeding upon seeing his or her mother do so, that should be promoted by the mother (not by a company seeking a profit).

    2. The doll promotes the idea that breastfeeding is as easy as sticking the baby up to one’s chest. (For me, breastfeeding was not so simple. It took three weeks to figure it out the first time around, and I had to pump for each feeding with my preemie.) When I became a mother, not one individual told me how hard breastfeeding would be. It was simply praised for being natural and the best thing for baby. So it seems that to begin promoting this idea from an early age could be setting a future mother up for failure and disappointment.

    As to the question about whether or not one can be a good mother and not breastfeed. Absolutely!

    Can one be a good feminist and not breastfeed? I’m not sure whether I am a good feminist or not, but I think women should be honest with themselves and with their children as to what they choose and why. I certainly strive to be with my daughter.

  12. Teri July 20, 2011 at 12:02 PM #

    I think we need to see a lot more examples of intelligent, strong, loving moms who cannot/do not breastfeed. Too often, moms like me are made out to be selfish, lazy, ignorant child abusers, even though not being able to breastfeed is not my fault. I have found a lot of help through http://www.fearlessformulafeeder.com (also on Facebook) and Bottle Babies on Facebook. If you check out the notes section of Bottle Babies, there are articles written by myself and others about the damage done by the “Breast is best” movement to many women. Many of the people who post at FFF and BB have experienced medical conditions that preclude breastfeeding, including insufficient glandular tissue and post-partum depression. Others have experienced sexual abuse or assault and find that breastfeeding adds additional trauma. Still others have chosen not to breastfeed, after analysis of the information out there and their situations in life. All of us feel that this does not preclude us from being great parents who love their children to the max.

    Breastfeeding is indeed becoming an issue of coercion, which is not only dangerous but about the most misogynist thing in medicine today. We don’t treat men like this. We don’t plaster “Chemo is best” posters on oncology wards for men suffering prostate cancer. We don’t assume that men are incompetent and unable to decide for themselves what is best by blaming them for making different decisions. Yet if a woman doesn’t breastfeed, she is accused of being ignorant or not as crafty as breastfeeding moms in evading the “booby traps.” We don’t even treat women in this way in other contexts–you don’t see “natural is best” posters slapped up in fertility clinics to encourage people away from IVF.

    One-size-fits-all medicine is sub-par medicine for women and their children. As someone who has seen the bullying not only from other women, but from medical professionals who gave my baby sub-standard care because I could not breastfeed, I feel that nothing could be more dangerous to women and children than the insistence that all women breastfeed when that is not what is best for them or their children.

  13. icia July 20, 2011 at 12:10 PM #

    Love this article & I couldn’t agree more.

    “Her breasts tell her things about her own health and development. They also can be a source of pleasure, both cosmetic and sexual.”

    I think this is a great point. Too often are women reduced to their reproductive functions. I’ve heard feminists celebrate a woman’s “power to create,” etc. & I find this alienating given that so many women CANNOT reproduce.

    That being said, I’m hesitant to buy into the narrative of the mother as self-sacrificial baby factory. & I definitely recognize that narrative (perhaps unchecked) in the kinds of aggressive pro-breastfeeding arguments you cite here.

  14. McApril July 20, 2011 at 12:32 PM #

    Considering that my personal definition of feminism is that women have their *choice* I’d say yes – absolutely – you can be a good feminist and not want to breastfeed.

    Coming from a feminist’s point of view, I think that’s absolutely fine.

    But after experiencing breastfeeding myself, I’d say a mother would do herself a great disservice by not at least trying it . . . because once you try breastfeeding you may find it’s one of the most feminine and empowering things you can do.

  15. Cardenie July 20, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

    A person can be a good mother whether they breastfeed or not, case closed.

    As for this doll, the only problems I have with it is that it’s expensive and it’s trying to force what already comes naturally, i.e., a daughter copying what she sees her mother does. If a little girl sees her mom breastfeeding, and never sees bottlefeeding as the norm, she will probably take any old doll and pretend to nurse it (in fact, my SON has copied me nursing his brother with some random stuffed toy). But I see what the company is trying to do in attempting to help get society to normalize nursing again. The key word is “again” because for most of human history, we have been nursed by our mamas.

    Formula a great (and very recent, remember) invention and it certainly matches better with our increasingly individualized, capitalist, westernized society. But breast milk is superior. It’s not a value judgement, it is a scientific fact. It will keep your baby alive, but it is a processed food that will not support optimum health. There is nothing wrong with choosing formula, just know all the facts and not kid ourselves.

  16. Pencils July 20, 2011 at 12:41 PM #

    I tried to breastfeed. I really did. My daughter was in the NICU, and I pumped, and pumped, and pumped, until I had more blood in the damn bottles than milk, and even my lactation consultant told me to quit. I felt like I had to, that I wasn’t going to be a good mother if I didn’t do this one thing. Then my body told me “nuh-uh, sorry, no milk here.” (Why? Who knows, some women just can’t.) After a little while though, a creeping sense of relief worked in. Yep, it’s more healthful, and better for the baby, and cheaper, etc, but I enjoyed not having all the issues of my breastfeeding friends. No leaky breasts, no painful nipples, no biting, no horrifically painful infections. I had to go back to work when my daughter was two months old and I was very relieved at not having to pump. And it’s nice to let your partner deal with half of the feedings. Why should the non-lactating parent miss out? And you can’t tell me that breastfeeding mothers love their kids or are more bonded than I am with my baby–who is now a toddler.

    Anyway, of course you can be a good feminist and not breastfeed. (BTW, I hate the term “good” feminist–who is a “bad” feminist?) Of course we want the best for our babies, but it’s the best that each of us can give. I would have loved to stay at home for an entire year, and to give my toddler daughter Chinese lessons, and to bake my own organic bread and raise all our own vegetables, but I can’t do that, I have a life of my own that I’m not giving up because I became a parent. I’m a better mother because I’m a happy and fulfilled person, and if that’s not the essence of feminism than I don’t know what is.

    As far as the doll is concerned, it doesn’t bother me. I’ve seen the children of breastfeeding mothers stick their dolls under their shirts instead of sticking a bottle in the doll’s mouth. Kids learn what they see. I don’t want my daughter thinking breastfeeding is weird just because I didn’t do it. OTOH, I don’t like dolls that “do” things in general, like wet, talk, walk, etc., so I wouldn’t buy it. I’m not an “organic Waldorf doll or nothing” type, but I think dolls should be open-ended toys, not specifically designed to do one thing. I think kids tend to get bored with those dolls.

  17. Meredith July 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM #

    It is such a sad thing to me that women who have not breastfed feel so attacked by those of us who do. I’m sorry.

    The problem with the “Breast is Best” message is not that it’s incorrect, it’s that it’s unsupported. The concept is that the woman is the one responsible for making the breastfeeding relationship work, when really in order to have a successful relationship you have to have a supportive culture (like an appropriate amount of maternity leave, preferably paid), informed medical professionals, and a normal view of a woman with a baby at breast.

    I don’t breastfeed because I wanted to feel superior or be a better mother. I breastfeed because that was the first way I attempted to feed my child, and we both took to it.

    It’s such a weird thing to me that only about 35% of mothers are breastfeeding at 6 months and under 15% to one year (which is the AAP’s recommendation) and yet everyone who uses formula should feel so attacked. I think part of the problem is that people are encouraged to breastfeed and most people who don’t breastfeed are people who tried and were unable, as opposed to people making a conscious decision not to.

    I am glad to support people’s choices and for me, a lot of feminism is about choice. My concern is that the choice to breastfeed is so very unsupported and I don’t mean that people aren’t telling us to do it, because of course we hear all the messages. It’s that lip service where the support begins and ends. The onus is so strongly on the woman to make it work and frankly a new mother in America is very ill-equipped to breastfeed. She’s probably never seen people do it, she doesn’t know what normal is, her doctors don’t know what normal is supposed to look like, and they don’t know how to troubleshoot problems.

    Then, when she can’t breastfeed, that state becomes a personal failure and is treated as such, instead of being treated as a medical, cultural, or societal problem that we’re all responsible for working on.

    That said, I don’t judge women for using formula and shame on anyone who does. Motherhood is hard enough without that shit.

    Having said that, I bristle at the idea that breastfeeding has hampered me or it’s a kind of bondage I’m in with my child. I love breastfeeding. If I didn’t I wouldn’t still be doing it with my 14 month-old with an intent to continue. Just because my choice baffles you, don’t assume that I made it under duress or because I’m trying to fulfill a sexist expectation made of women. Having parented for 14 months I can say with good confidence that this is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, and I understand why people don’t want to, but don’t insult me by implying that I didn’t make this choice with my eyes open, or I made it because I fell in a gender trap. Every choice we make as parents involves sacrifice. Had I a view of formula feeding as easier for me, I would do it, rest assured. I just don’t.

    I don’t need to give my daughter an electronic doll for her to model breastfeeding. She does it herself with her own dolly, or she will bring me her toys to breastfeed.

    • Annabelle July 20, 2011 at 8:33 PM #

      “The problem with the “Breast is Best” message is not that it’s incorrect, it’s that it’s unsupported. The concept is that the woman is the one responsible for making the breastfeeding relationship work, when really in order to have a successful relationship you have to have a supportive culture (like an appropriate amount of maternity leave, preferably paid), informed medical professionals, and a normal view of a woman with a baby at breast.”

      Exactly. It’s always about blaming individual mommies for their failures and not about making real change.

  18. Ashley July 20, 2011 at 12:59 PM #

    I’m an accredited peer breastfeeding counselor who exclusively breastfed my infant, and who is still breastfeeding my 2 year old. I’m obviously very passionate about breastfeeding, and it is a huge part of my life. I’m also a pro-choice feminist, and consider myself to be a pro-formula breastfeeding advocate. What this means is that I want breastfeeding to resume its position as the norm for infant feeding. I want all medical staff that deal with mothers and small children to know the norms for breastfeeding behavior, which are fundamentally different than formula feeding. I want people to not be skeeved out at seeing a breastfeeding infant in public, and I really want to combat the idea that anything involving the breasts is inherently sexual. I want the US to sign onto the WHO Code for breastfeeding and consequently hospitals to stop pushing formula and for formula to stop being advertised.

    Most of all, I want women to be able to make a free choice about how to feed their infant. We have an 80% breastfeeding initiating rate, but it drops to something like 15% are exclusively nursing by 3 months. Something is wrong there. Most mothers formula feed not because they choose to, but because their breastfeeding is undermined, usually in the hospital, and if not there, then once they go back to work. I could tell hundreds of stories about how this happens, but there’s a clear pattern and it boils down to the education of medical staff. No Lactation Consultant should hand out a nipple shield to a mother 2 hours post partum because the baby’s latch isn’t perfect. No LC should recommend bottle feeding to combat nipple pain in a woman 24 hours PP. In both cases, and most others that I deal with, there is a solution that gets to the heart of the problem and preserves breastfeeding.

    I also think it’s great that we have such an excellent breastmilk replacer. The breastfeeding community has emphasized the negatives of formula for so long that I know half a dozen people who would rather make their own formula or feed their infants just plain milk than buy the “crap in a can.” This is why I call myself a pro-formula breastfeeding advocate. Formula really is very good, and an infant can easily thrive on it. However, breastfeeding is still the biological norm and should be treated as such. I would love it of the only women using formula were those who actively choose to, not who are forced into it because of bad advice.

    • Ashley July 20, 2011 at 1:00 PM #

      Oh, andI wouldn’t buy that doll for the same reason I don’t buy any other doll that does things. My 2 year old will nurse a variety of her toys and inanimate objects.

    • Kelli July 25, 2011 at 6:36 AM #

      I didn’t feed my son formula because “I actively chose to”, nor because I was “forced into it because of bad advice”. I had NO milk and nothing I did changed that. And my son couldn’t digest what I did give him, regardless of what I eliminated from my diet. That $27 can of Alimentum saved his life, whereas continuing to try to breastfeed him would have killed him. LCs and other breastfeeding educators fail to acknowledge time and again that not every mother and baby can breastfeed. The “everyone can breastfeed if they try hard enough” is just as psychologically damaging as the “breast is best” mantra. Guilting a woman into keeping with breastfeeding for show at the detriment of their baby’s health is irresponsible.

    • ivyleaves July 26, 2011 at 4:42 AM #

      It has been my impression that one of the main reasons mothers stop breastfeeding is the huge pressure to return to pre-pregnancy weight. You generally cannot breastfeed successfully and diet at the same time. I am not sure that women even get the message that you must keep up nutrition in order to keep up a good milk supply, instead they are counting intake and trying to lose weight as fast as possible.

      • Leslie August 3, 2011 at 9:35 PM #

        Actually, one is far more likely to lose weight while breast-feeding than not.

      • Hilary Jacobson August 14, 2011 at 6:59 PM #

        At MOBI Motherhood, a forum for women with exceptional breastfeeding problems such as insufficient glandular tissue and the associated hormonal condition, PCOS, we find that mothers who hormonally tend toward low supply tend to quickly lose what supply they have if they count calories. When these mothers build their supply over time, they frequently gain weight.

        This is the opposite of what is traditionally said about breastfeeding–that it promotes slow weight loss. The weight gain comes as a shock and is never pleasant, but most of our mothers want to breastfeed and they learn to live with their larger size, putting off dieting until they wean.

        The pressure that many mothers feel to get their old body back as soon as possible definitely undermines supply in some. We have often heard the mantra that diet doesn’t matter for milk supply, but for some mothers, eating enough, and eating certain “lactogenic foods and drinks” is clearly important to maintaining a good milk supply, and this information needs to become part of their breastfeeding education.

        I am loving the tolerance and wisdom in this discussion. What a great board.

        Hilary Jacobson, author of “Mother Food”

  19. Ms Bean July 20, 2011 at 2:18 PM #

    There are a million dolls that drink from bottles. Nice to have an alternative representation. I don’t have a girl, but I’d get that doll for my son if he wanted it :)

  20. moyazb July 20, 2011 at 2:47 PM #

    Thanks Crunktastic for always keeping it 100 on the blog! I so appreciate you opening up this conversation!

    I appreciate the language of “choice” in the comments but I also want us to think about women who don’t have choices when it comes to breast feeding. I think about Inuit women who live in the Arctic whose food supply has been so contaminated by industrial pollution they don’t breastfeed because their milk is toxic. I think about working class women who do not have the time or supportive job environments to pump but are then demonized for not breast feeding their kids.

    I am also mindful of the fact that in theory and biologically, you don’t have to have been pregnant to produce milk. Milk production can be stimulated. I know that there are middle class women who sell their breast milk in the US and abroad but this makes me think about the possibility of such collectives for low income women or anyone who desires it.

    I have very similar reactions to the toy and the inherit gender fuckery that it produces. Perhaps if men are so concerned about breastfeeding their kids they should do it themselves (they can!).

  21. kokoesquire July 20, 2011 at 3:53 PM #

    Enjoyed reading your post.

    A few things:

    1. Whenever one seeks out the governments assistance it comes with the subtext that one cannot make the best decisions for themselves and government therefore has to do it for them. As it relates to national WIC program, which primarily is administered on a national level by nutrtitionists, the idea is to encourage the most healthy choices for women and baby. Scientifically breastfeesing is undisputed champ. I know for a fact, as I used to work with these women, that they arent pushing an anti-feminist choice agenda. However when you go to the government for help parens patraie rules the day.

    So…and obviously…if you don’t want the additional nutritional info being forced down your throat, buy similax wit your

  22. kokoesquire July 20, 2011 at 3:57 PM #

    Enjoyed reading your post.

    A few things:

    1. Whenever one seeks out the governments assistance it comes with the subtext that one cannot make the best decisions for themselves and government therefore has to do it for them. As it relates to national WIC program, which primarily is administered on a national level by nutrtitionists, the idea is to encourage the most healthy choices for women and baby. Scientifically breastfeesing is undisputed champ. I know for a fact, as I used to work with these women, that they arent pushing an anti-feminist choice agenda. However when you go to the government for help parens patraie rules the day.

    So…and obviously…if you don’t want the additional nutritional info being forced down your throat, buy formula with your paycheck. Personally I see nothing wrong with the msg and encouragement to make healthy choices. No different than anti-smoking, drinking, trans fat, etc etc warnings.

    As for the doll…I would purchase it, probably before I would purchase my daughter a bikini.

    • crunktastic July 20, 2011 at 5:09 PM #

      If only it were that easy to just “buy formula with your own paycheck”…Women who use WIC have limited resources to being with hence their enrollment in the program, so I simply don’t support the idea that needing government support means that you should have less say so in terms of how you feed your child.

      • kokoesquire July 21, 2011 at 6:19 PM #

        But it does mean that the government is going to push what they believe to be best the same as they do in goverment lending, housing, and other programs.

    • Shiftless Mommie July 25, 2011 at 12:32 AM #

      “Whenever one seeks out the governments assistance it comes with the subtext that one cannot make the best decisions for themselves and government therefore has to do it for them.”

      I find that statement both erroneous and insulting. Having received WIC briefly after the birth of my first daughter, I was more than capable of making responsible healthy food choices–I just couldn’t afford them. I breastfed and I was told incorrect information by a WIC staff member, who was not a nutritionist or a nurse. I was also made to feel guilty when I supplemented with formula so that I could return to college. In the end, I refused to continue with WIC because they would not allow me to buy hormone-free milk, organic food, or food without HFCS. Ironically, that meant there was less food in my house, but at least I could feel good about what I was giving my child. I understand that this type of food is more expensive, which is the primary reason it is not allowed on WIC. However, it seems suspect to extol the nutritionally altruistic mission of WIC and the idea that “WIC Nutritionists” know best, while the program encourages women to buy bread and juice loaded with sugars. Moreover, the agricultural industry benefits from the WIC program, which is why there are rules about which food can be purchased, so the program has multiple benefactors and functions.

      There are serious problems with the WIC program, but none of them as troubling as the general attitude that families that receive assistance from WIC are not capable of making their own decisions or that they should just be happy with what they are given. From a pragmatic stance, these attitudes are counter-productive to educating people about nutrition, since patronizing lectures are usually ignored.

  23. “One of my students informed me that the WIC program, which provides infant formula, has started to reduce the cans of milk given to mothers in order to “encourage” mothers to supplement with breast milk. Any time the state regulates motherhood based on notions of what is natural and normal and in ways that require increased bodily labor for women, it gives me pause.”

    Not true. If you say you are breastfeeding WIC will supplement the mother with food, something they normally stop once the baby is born. And in many cases, WIC will also give formula in case the baby has to be away from the mother. I have worked with numerous women and WIC. WIC is more than accommodating. I have never seen a case of a mother wanting/needing to bottle feed and WIC pushed breastfeeding.

    • crunktastic July 20, 2011 at 5:06 PM #

      As I don’t use WIC, I am unsure. But I know that my student wasn’t lying to me. What she told me was that WIC offered a few cans short of what she needed to feed her child, that this policy had changed, and that what was being encouraged was supplementing with breast milk. So I’m not hating on WIC, but offering testimony from what I believe to be credible sources.

      Thanks for the perspective though.

      • Elita @ Blacktating July 21, 2011 at 6:03 AM #

        There is no way to “supplement with breastfeeding” if you are formula feeding. The milk is long gone. WIC would never tell a mom who is formula feeding to supplement with breastmilk as that would be impossible. WIC has also NEVER given a full month’s supply of formula. Never. It is a “supplemental nutrition program,” it was never meant to give people a full month’s supply of anything. That said, what changed to the recent WIC food package was that moms who say they are breastfeeding are no longer given formula in the first 30 days post partum to encourage them to not fall down the “supplementing with formula” trap (the easiest way to have your nursing relationship sabotaged). In addition, mothers who are breastfeeding are given a larger supply of vouchers for food for the month because it is better for a woman who is providing her baby’s food with her body to be eating as nutritiously as possible.

        Promotion of breastfeeding at WIC offices varies widely from county to county, state to state. Some offices are great about supporting women who run into problems and hire lactation consultants and train other WIC moms as Peer Counselors. Other offices tell the moms to just switch to formula. WIC SHOULD be promoting breastfeeding as not only a health benefit to the people who need it the most, but as a cost savings to the government, which is the largest purchaser of formula in the country. Formula is a billion dollar business and poor children and children of color who stand to benefit the most from being breastfed are not. IThat is where the outrage should be.

      • crunktastic July 21, 2011 at 6:19 AM #

        I appreciate the clarification. I am unsure whether this mother had been breastfeeding and decided to supplement with formula or to switch to formula in the process. Perhaps this is where the discrepancy in interpretation lies. That being said, the larger point of the example is that the government should not compel mothers to breastfeed in any way; nor should it encourage them to bottle feed. It should encourage them and assist them in making the choices they deem nutritionally best for their children. Thus, I’m not anti-WIC. I am, however, against any policy that mandates how a mother should feed her child. We can agree to disagree on that point.

  24. teglet July 20, 2011 at 8:14 PM #

    My thoughts on breastfeeding?

    Probably the best thing we’ve got going in terms of nourishing infants at the current time. I’m not willing to say it’s the best EVER period hands down because, well, evolution is responsible for its existence and evolution fucks stuff up and does what it can with what it has to work with. Maybe someday a substitute that is superior could be devised. But that’s just idle speculation–so yeah, I’d say it’s the best thing possible now.

    Can you be a good mother and not want to breastfeed?

    This is the first time I have ever, ever encountered the framing in the current state of things that such a thing is *possible*. The only stories I know, either social narratives or anecdata, is that a woman *wanted* to breastfeed but couldn’t (virtuous), was initially reluctant about it but tried and saw the error of her ways (unfit->virtuous) or an evil /lazy/vain woman who bought formula because she Just Didn’t Care (unfit). The only time I’m remembering seeing “good mothers can bottlefeed” is from material from fifty-odd years ago (back when science was going to save the world…), generally only brought out in the context of refuting it or demonstrating how horrible things were back then, aren’t you glad we’re past that now? (I rather suspect I am significantly younger than other commenters on this blog).

    As for me personally, I want to believe that it’s very true that one can be a good mother and not breastfeed. But, well…I’m not sure if I *believe*-believe it, because I also know that I’ve considered my deep revulsion at the idea of me personally breastfeeding (I’m fine being in the room with other women who are nursing) as one of the many signs that I’d make a horrible mother.

    (This is also the first time I’ve encountered another woman who felt comfortable saying she was not comfortable with the idea of breastfeeding. I’d just kind of considered myself a weirdo prior to this).

  25. startledoctopus July 20, 2011 at 9:21 PM #

    If I had a child, I would not buy that doll for hir. Zie would learn about breastfeeding if/when zie had a sibling or when I teach hir about hir body and the bodies of all humans.

    Having a healthy relationship with a baby (I say, never having had one) I believe seems more to be about having a healthy body and a healthy baby, in whatever configuration one needs to achieve that.

    This reminds me of a debate in an anthropology class I once took. We read “Birth as an American Rite of Passage” which excoriates hospital birthing practices. Most of us were all on board with the message that most pregnant bodies don’t need all these interventions to give birth, until we were assigned to ask our parents about our birth. One student interrupted those of us sharing our birth stories about how “when my mom had me she didn’t get knocked out on pills and it was so much better” to say that her mom had *chosen* to get a C-section and it was upsetting to her to hear us talk like that wasn’t a legitimate choice.

    It should all be about education and agency, not indoctrination and coercion.

  26. Elita @ Blacktating July 21, 2011 at 6:25 AM #

    I can’t figure out how to respond to your latest reply, but the government doesn’t mandate how a woman feeds her child and couldn’t. Any woman who says she wants to formula feed gets the same amount of formula per month. What WIC is saying is we want to support moms who are breastfeeding and these moms both need and deserve more food than formula feeding moms. I am not anti-WIC, I think some offices are doing amazingly good work supporting moms who are breastfeeding. I do take issue with the language of choice that is being used in this conversation. Women who breastfeed aren’t making a choice, women who formula feed are. Once the placenta is delivered, your body automatically makes milk. That is what lactogenesis is. After that, milk is made on supply/demand. But the idea that the woman who puts her baby to her breast to drink the milk her body is already producing is making a “choice” is sort of absurd. The choice is when you bind your breasts or take a shot to dry up the milk and give your baby a bottle instead.

    • crunktastic July 21, 2011 at 7:27 AM #

      As I said before, I don’t think the government should deem one practice better than the other. I think they should support a mother doing what’s she feels is best for her baby. And I think the notion that lactation is not a “choice” is absurd and intellectually disingenuous. The ability to choose not to do it, means one has the ability to continue to choose to do it. Perhaps you should just be clear about your agenda, namely that you think breast feeding is best and you think the government should support this point of view. If in fact this is not your position (or I have misstated it), then we have nothing to argue about. My position is that there should be no feeding hierarchy, but that mother’s should make choices that they deem best, and if they are in need of governmental assistance, government should support those choices.. If on the other hand, you do think government should take an active pro-breastfeeding stance, then as I said before we can agree to disagree, because from my standpoint, such a stance amounts to an illegitimate regulation of a woman’s body.

    • L.D. July 21, 2011 at 10:49 AM #

      I will have to agree with an earlier post, where the language of “choice” is debated. Many, many women do not “choose” to bottle feed, but are victims of rape or suffer from diseases that preclude breast feeding. There are many other things that prevent a woman from “choosing” breast or bottle feeding…access to food or money is also a factor in a woman’s “decision.” And like Crunktastic, I am very against a male dominated government making choices and laws for women. Especially a white privileged male government using language which stigmatizes poor women and women of color.

      • ivyleaves July 25, 2011 at 7:07 PM #

        I have to say that I don’t care whether the decision maker is male dominated or not. No one should be making choices for women except for the women themselves.

      • L.D. July 27, 2011 at 4:25 PM #

        @Ivyleaves
        Of course, I believe women should make their own choices with their families and bodies. I am merely pointing out that most of the decision makers in this country have not even the remotest idea of what the experience of most of its citizens are. Policy makers are largely white, male, and affluent, while most people in this country do fit that description. I do not believe Americans will see social justice on a mass scale without diversity in the ranks of the government and policy makers.

  27. Cardenie July 21, 2011 at 11:09 AM #

    On the point of making choices, I get what Elita is saying. Our bodies go through changes at the start of pregnancy, over which we do not make a choice about, in order to support another life. And people need to realize that, biologically, lactation is a continuation of those changes to support that life. Assuming the goal is to keep the baby living, and our bodies are in working order, we don’t have to do anything except put the baby to the breast. The choices come in when we formula feed; we have to stop our bodies from making milk so we can feed the baby the processed milk. I think society is so used to having formula as an option, that it is treated like a natural step, but it is not. Biology has already provided a way for mammals to feed their young, and humans do indeed make a choice when they decide to go out of that norm.

    • L.D. July 21, 2011 at 11:59 AM #

      Biologically, breast feeding does come naturally…to most women. But some simply can’t. And I think that most breast feeding advocates pick and choose what natural thing they do and what convenient thing they do. Nature has provided a way for us to travel…legs. But we all drive or use buses. TV is not the best thing for children to watch, nor is it from nature, but I have never seen a breast feeding advocate that doesn’t put on a movie for their children sometimes so that they can get things done. The choice between formula feeding or breast feeding is a false *choice* because for many women in society, the factors that allow us to breast or bottle feed are beyond our control.

      • Sarah July 21, 2011 at 12:15 PM #

        Thank you for this reply. I tried to reply to a comment upthread but it seemed to be too deep in the thread, but also we need to be mindful that breastfeeding is CONNECTED to benefits like less instances of SIDS or ear infections or whatever else, but has not been PROVEN to CAUSE these things. Correlation is not causation. In fact, many of the supposed benefits of breastfeeding are more likely benefits of a child living in a house where a mother has enough support to breastfeed exclusively which is often a symptom of other privileges, not the breastfeeding itself.

  28. Micaela Cadena July 21, 2011 at 12:11 PM #

    I write today from Young Women United, we are a community organizing project founded by and for young women of color in Albuquerque, NM. Working in reproductive justice, we are often incorrectly identified as an organization fighting only for a woman’s right to choose, with many believing that all we fight for is access to abortion. For us, ‘choice’ spans the full range of a woman’s reproductive health options and decisions. We believe that every woman has the basic right to decide if, when, how, and where they become a parent, and that every woman be trusted to make the best decisions for herself and her family.

    As part of our organizing framework, we understand that there are many complicated and not so complicated factors that impact a woman’s choice- or more directly her access to choice. At crunk collective, you all know that we make ‘choices’ at the intersections of our lived realities, and through our race/gender/sexuality/class identities. While I agree with most of the basic arguments laid out here, and respect the author’s space to bring up these really important questions, it is still really hard for me to read a piece talking about the choice of women to breastfeed, without much race/class analysis.

    After years of energy, intention, and love a group of YWU’s women have formed a Community Birth Companion Collective…Our Community Birth Companions now offer FREE and comprehensive support to women, babies, and their families.

    Our collective will do this work in two ways:

    1) Through our one-on-one birth companion program, we will support individual women’s physical, mental, and emotional health through pregnancy, birth, and post-partum period. Our collective is designed to provide birth companion support for teen women, substance using women, incarcerated/ recently incarcerated women and poor/working poor mamas of color.

    2) Through our Community Education Conversations, we will use a popular education model to learn about aspects of pregnancy, birth and parenting. We understand education to be a political act and a way to build strong women, strong families, and healthy communities. These conversations will be grounded in the understanding that every person carries experience and knowledge and the current realities of our communities are shaped by a relevant historical context.

    Every 6 weeks, we will have a gathering in which pregnant women interested in support can meet our Community Birth Companions and others interested in pregnancy, birth and parenting can be part of our Community Education Conversations.

    On Tuesday night, we held our first community education conversation, and it was incredible- the theme of the evening was Breastfeeding for New Mexico families. And on this point I want to be very clear- our space was not designed to judge those who are not breastfeeding. Instead, this space was created so that as peers, we could build community and support for each other by acknowledging so much that can make breastfeeding really difficult (like minimum wage jobs, crappy public transportation, and disrespectful health care providers…just to name a few). We also created the space to talk about historical factors that continue to shape the ways that entire communities exist…this piece is about giving room to move from individual behaviors and actions, to calling out institutional factors like racism, and how they shape whether or not a woman in albuquerque really has a choice to breastfeed. For this piece of this discussion, we together read a blog post from blacktating, thanks Elita! This particular post tells the story of the Fultz quadrpuplets, four black sisters whose stories/lives were bought by a formula to sway more black mothers into using formula.(http://www.blacktating.com/2010/10/little-known-black-history-fact-fultz.html)

    There is clear evidence that mamas/babies of color in this country are not as healthy as our white counterparts. Poor health outcomes are not a coincidence, nor to be blamed on bad decisions made by individual people of color- these outcomes are a result of systematic racism. There is no argument that breastfeeding impacts the health of an infant. We understand that women’s decisions are not often made in a privileged space of doing giving/providing whatever she wants/believes to be best for her child, decisions are usually made in the circumstance of life, commonly between a rock and a hard place. In being accountable to ourselves and our communities- when we talk about choice in breastfeeding, lets not have conversations in which we leave out a woman’s capacity to make a real, informed and educated decision about how to best feed her child.

  29. Cardenie July 21, 2011 at 12:16 PM #

    Well, we drive or use buses because it is impossible to walk everywhere you may have to go in the kind of society we now live in. Technology and industrialization has created this new situation; you may now need to go to London from California. You can’t now, nor ever have been able, to walk from what is now London to what is now California.

    Assuming a woman can lactate (I am not speaking of a woman physically unable to make milk after giving birth) and most can, there has not been any forcible change in our society (i.e.the creation of cities, globalization, etc.) that makes it impossible to breastfeed your baby. A societal change that has made breastfeeding difficult, is the advent of formula, which has caused many women to have never even seen a woman, much less their mothers, sisters, cousins, etc., breastfeed. So that when its our turn, we don’t have models, and we have to learn how to do it.

    • L.D. July 21, 2011 at 2:28 PM #

      I do understand your point on industrialization. I was really intending to be factitious with that example, however, as was illustrated earlier, there are forcible changes in our society that has required bottle feeding for may women. So while I see how the prevalence of bottle feeding has made it harder for women who do desire to breast feed, I wasn’t questioning that point, but rather how casually we toss around the word “choice” in these dialogues.
      To have to choose whether to work a longer shift to make more money to support your child or spend that time pumping enough breast milk to feed your child for the 12 hours they need to be in the care of other people, isn’t a real choice. Neither is breast feeding because you have access to nothing else. I am not a mom and do not plan to have children biologically, but I can only imagine how hard it would be for me as a teacher and a graduate student to breast feed. If I did or didn’t, my “choice” would be informed by the fact that I have to go to school to make more money, and work full time to make money to support my child. I don’t see how that is a real choice, but I do understand the passion that many moms have for how they feed their children.

  30. Gabrielle Hosein July 21, 2011 at 4:34 PM #

    i’m a caribbean feminist and breastfeeding mother of a 8 month old. I think breastfeeding is amazing, but it also requires tremendous involvement of your body. in fact, for me, its not about ‘i carried you for 9 months’ which for me was an easy experience, but ‘i breastfeed you for (at least) 9 months’ which, while also easy, required my physical body to be wholly responsible for another life…with all the good and demanding implications included.

    i love breastfeeding my baby, i love its easiness – for me, i love the change to hold her close and bond, i love the fact that i’m not giving the formula companies my mom when their product is substandard to mine, i love knowing her health will benefit because of what i was born with the capacity to choose to provide.

    i believe that women should be empowered to breastfeed if they choose. i’ve had incredibly disempowering experiences around breastpumping and storing milk while doing my work in the public sphere and directly experienced the taboo and ‘contamination’ associated with breastmilk….the structures need to change so that this is not seen as ‘private’ but enabled to be what it is, part of life without shame, stigma, secrecy or exclusion.

    but would i compel, force or make the choice for women to breastfeed. absolutely not. breastfeeding is something you have to choose for yourself as a woman. anything that involves your body – even if its for your own baby – needs to be chosen and consented to. not all women want to breastfeed, not all feel comfortable, not all find it easy, not all will. we have to make sure that there are safe and healthy alternatives out there for you and your baby. sure i wish all women would breastfeed, but every woman has her story and we must be understand before we engage before we empower…and when we empower, we have to support the choices with thought, care, conversation, love, honesty and a sense of helping sisters along the way on their own path, a path we can only encourage to be safe, healthy, powerful, fulfilling – and true to our sisters’ sense of themselves, their bodies and their aspirations.

    yes, you can be a good mother and not want to breastfeed….being a good mother is about bringing up a sane, healthy, smart, self-loving child to be able to look after herself and contribute to the world….the rest is small stuff that is gonna reflect the divergencies of life.

    yes, you can be a good feminist and not want to breastfeed…though i can imagine how this is the less popular discussion to have in a feminist world full of earth goddess community organising powerful anti-babylon moms who are champions of breastfeeding…..should we beware of the silences that get created even by empowering discourses, yes….should feminists be able to speak their truths about their bodies, sexualities, families and selves…yes yes yes…..and we should hear with love

    Would I give your daughter this doll? absolutely not. i find the doll disturbing..i find the ‘indoctrination’ of nurturing and motherhood and responsibility for care among girls to be incredibly gendered and sexist. i can see why some women might like it, their daughters can pretend to breastfeed while the women do so with a younger sibling of the child….but that experience, if it comes, will come when it is right for my daughter…and as a child, i dont think it is. but, then i’m not going to be buying prams and other symbols of domesticity for my daughter too..she’ll have dolls yes and cars and toys along a gendered continuum, but she wont be getting practice in the physicality of motherhood though childhood play…i’d like her to be free of that until she decides its something she wants to do.
    gabrielle hosein

  31. Susan July 21, 2011 at 9:14 PM #

    The doll? I don’t really have a problem with. I’d totally give it to a kid *if they wanted a baby doll*.

    What wigs me out is the strap on breast avatars. WTH is that? A doll that makes sucking movements/noises is fine. (You could just as easily stick a fake bottle in its mouth if you wanted too.) I think the fabric flower petal strap-on nipples, however, send a VERY creepy message to young folks about breasts. They should be delicate and feminine? They can in no way be connected with nudity? In no way connected to non-sexual nudity? Not actually a part of your body? Eek! I can’t think of a single good message the faux breasts give.

    • Jolene August 3, 2011 at 9:50 AM #

      This is what I had the biggest problem with, too.

  32. kherbert July 22, 2011 at 8:11 AM #

    What about Mom’s who can’t breast feed. I have severe allergies and some other medical problems. I have had people say – yes but if your mother had breast fed you – you wouldn’t have these problems.

    Some problems with the assumptions that are loaded in that statement
    1. That my mother could medically breast feed. Mom was a research scientist involved in renal research and kidney transplants. They were tested monthly for hepatitis because of handling blood and this being new research at the time. Mom tested positive. There are reasons to believe the test was faulty, specifically that someone made a mistake in the math. Still mom had to operate under the assumption that she had had it and that meant no breastfeeding.

    2. I know that there is evidence that breastfeeding reduces allergies. KEYWORD REDUCES. I have a cousin who has done the extended breastfeeding attachment parenting and her son still has allergies. In my case I had my 1st of many massive lifethreating reactions less than an HOUR after birth. Either I was reacting to the pollen in the Houston air or residue of detergent on the sheets they wrapped me in.

    • Cardenie July 22, 2011 at 10:05 AM #

      Mothers with hepatitis can breastfeed because babies can’t contract the infection through milk. So I’m assuming the concern your mom had was passing the infection on if her nipples were cracked and bleeding during the early months of establishing supply? That is definitely a legitimate concern.

  33. Fearless Formula Feeder July 24, 2011 at 11:37 PM #

    This is, sadly, one of the only blogs I’ve read that addresses the complicated relationship between feminist sensibilities and breastfeeding pressure. Luckily, you do it so well that it more than makes up for the deficit. ;)

    I’m a feminist, if being a feminist means believing that every woman should have the ability to decide what being a woman means to her. That includes the right to decide how to mother, when to mother, if to mother. For me, being a mom means more than how I feed my child in the first year. It meant finding a way to parent which worked for my entire family, and breastfeeding brought me down physically, emotionally, and professionally. It angers me that my generation of feminists has essentially abandoned women who do not subscribe to what is deemed “appropriate” feminist parenting. I love my kids. I love my husband. I love my job. I don’t love my body so much, which definitely played into my BF issues… but in my case, the solution was not to push through, to grin and bear it when something was so painful for me on many levels. I wish breastfeeding were as rewarding for me as it is for so many women, but it just isn’t. I can support breastfeeding without supporting pressuring women to do it, you know?

    Rambling…but I appreciate this article, on many, many levels. Well done and thank you.

  34. Darcie July 26, 2011 at 7:24 PM #

    In response to Elita’s comment about “risks” of formula feeding; there are many proponents of BF that constantly take any study published about formula/ BF and state how formula is harmful. I echo Elita in her urging women to educate themselves about formula vs. Breastmilk, understand what the actual studies say and even more importantly what they don’t say. Understand what correlation is vs causation; what rates and percentages mean in statistical context and what relative risk is. If something says there is a 40% increased risk of something understand that 40% of 1 million is a whole lot different than 40% of 20. Don’t let people scare or intimidate you with their selective interpretation.

    • Elita @ Blacktating August 5, 2011 at 9:43 AM #

      Do you really need a study to tell you that if you can breastfeed, it is going to be better for your baby than giving them cow’s milk that has been processed and turned into powder and lives on a shelf in the grocery store until you buy it and mix it with water? Breastmilk is the normal way to feed a baby, anything else is going to be subpar by definition. If you are physically able to breastfeed and your baby is physically able to nurse and you instead formula feed, there are going to be consequences to that. We know that formula causes gut issues with babies, even the Joan Wolfs and “fearless” formula feeders are forced to acknowledge that much. And most of these comments are coming from the perspective of women who are middle class and have access to clean water and can buy formula easily (though it is expensive). Even though you may live in the US or another developed country doesn’t mean that you are eliminating the risks of formula feeding. The case of the mom in Tampa watering down her baby’s formula because she couldn’t afford to buy it after her WIC supply ran out comes immediately to mind. The baby suffered from water intoxication and had to be hospitalized. When the media asked the mom why she wasn’t breastfeeding she said because the baby wanted to nurse all the time which in her mind meant she wasn’t making enough milk, when in actuality it was probably just normal newborn infant behavior. Because formula feeding has become the cultural norm, people don’t recognize the biological norm.

      And honestly, when it comes to the debate about whether or not the studies about breastfeeding are flawed, I am going to go with the physician who went to one of the top medical schools in the country and works at Harvard over the mom on the Internet who thinks she can do a better job with meta-analysis.

      • crunktastic August 5, 2011 at 11:42 AM #

        @Elita, the thing is that breastfeeding does not need to be defended here. My article was not anti-breastfeeding. It was anti-sanctimonious-breastfeedERS, mothers who are evangelical in their commitment to convince other women that there is no justification for using formula when one is able to breastfeed. I simply wanted to point out that the issue is more complicated than that, and that guilting women into breastfeeding by telling them that they are hurting their children by giving them formula is counterproductive and unnecessary. The bottom line is that most mothers want what is best for their children, but parents make different decisions every day about what that is.

        I completely agree that we need to create a culture in which moms who want to breastfeed can do it in any environment and not feel ashamed, can have lactation stations at work, and tax breaks for hiring lactation specialists, and any other thing that is needed to facilitate the process. What I don’t agree with is the notion that we should get on our bandwagons and preach at moms about what they “ought” to be doing. These pressures around being perfect moms are already stressful, and I fundamentally reject anyone trying to add to it. 20 years ago the debate was about whether or not one should stay at home with their kids, or if being a career mom when you had the option not to was selfish. We also have similar health debates about giving kids fast food and organic food. Clearly the latter is preferable, but not always affordable or convenient. So what we need is a healthy dialogue and an embrace of a range of practices for moms trying to figure it all out. It’s cool that you are a fan of breastfeeding and its cool that you share that info and encourage other women who want to do it. It is not cool to get on a judgmental bandwagon about it, or to perceive any resistance to breastfeeding as a threat to the movement to create a more pro-breastfeeding culture over all.

        Bottom line, If I have children and choose not to breastfeed, and I very well may not, this does not make me a bad mother or a mother uninterested in the health of her child. It makes me a mother making the negotiations that work best for me and my child. Period.

  35. Rebecca August 3, 2011 at 7:36 AM #

    I appreciate this discussion (and LIE for sending me here) since I often feel like the lone voice battling the women who breastfeed but need their choice validated by denigrating women who feed with formula. The answer lies both in normalizing breastfeeding beyond the enclave of privileged white middle class women (including environments with men in them), making sure that breastfeeding is actually a viable choice for all women and insisting on the celebration of whatever choice a woman makes. She’s keeping a child alive – nay, helping her thrive – and we shouldn’t lose sight of that miracle regardless of method.

    Anything less is unfeminist.

  36. Rebecca August 3, 2011 at 7:42 AM #

    Oh, and it’s worth googling “Hanna rosin breastfeeding” to find her article on the topic. The most helpful line to me as I sit here nursing in the wee hours of the morning? Breastfeeding is only free if we value a woman’s time at nothing.

    I don’t want to be monetarily compensated and I do love the emotional rewards but telling me that being pinned to a chair 8 hours a day is ” less expensive” is insulting. There is a huge opportunity cost to my life and my contribution to society. My cost benefit analysis deems it worthwhile but let’s not pretend the cost isn’t being paid.

  37. Bex August 3, 2011 at 11:49 AM #

    I work as a Chinese medicine practitioner. I am also a mother who breastfed. I regularly attend births and assist new mothers with breastfeeding.

    To me, this doll is awesome. I’ve heard a number of men on Top 40 radio during the last couple weeks attacking the Spanish breastfeeding doll – poking fun at it in a way that comes from a perspective in which breasts were created purely for sexual enjoyment. Breasts serve many purposes and I would support both my son and daughter in playing with this doll, as a symbol of a healthy representation of how breasts can function in our world in a non-sexual, but still intimate way.

    As for the feminist comments, I lost some feminist friends for choosing to have a child in the first place. One of them didn’t speak to me for two years, she said that she “fights for the right to choose for a reason”. I live in a place where breastfeeding is supported, where I’ve only taken a couple of raised eyebrows for doing it in public (as opposed to being removed from some place of business for it), etc…but I have many friends in the south and the midwest who have been asked to leave restaurants and boutiques for breastfeeding their children. I see this doll as a way to promote it as a natural and healthy choice for women – to children – and stop raising adults who would expect exposed breasts to occur only for sexual purposes (and for those breasts to look like they belong to young girls).

    Of course breastfeeding should be a choice. My niece was just born with a cleft hard palate and cleft lip. Her mother pumps as much milk as she can (not much) and feeds her formula…obviously the baby can’t breastfeed. I have friends who have to work full-time jobs in order to pay their rent while their children are in subsidized daycare centers. Of course those mothers would have a helluva time breastfeeding their kids and obviously formula is the best option, as what kind of mother would risk a roof over her kid’s head so that she could breastfeed?

    However – having a child in this culture means that you understand that most of this culture still works against breastfeeding, including many feminist paradigms. Most hospital workers still offer bottles of formula to babies while the mother’s milk is coming in, resulting in a situation where the baby won’t latch onto the breast and without a whole lot of work and counseling, the baby won’t be able to breastfeed. That’s not acceptable.

    Many women here have been raised in a culture that shows us a really skewed version of beauty, that overly sexualizes our bodies towards a male perspective and we often don’t have a healthy perspective about our own flesh and bones in the first place. As someone raised in this culture and also as a victim of rape, I had a really hard time putting my baby to my breast because I had to get over all kinds of weird overly sexualized mental bullshit about my breasts, about molestation of children and sexual perversion, etc. It took me a lot of mental work to understand that intimacy and sexuality are not the same thing and that it is perfectly okay to have an intimate relationship with my child, one that includes breastfeeding.

    Breastfeeding my child wasn’t just about his health. (We still don’t understand the complete make-up of breast milk and cannot recreate that in a formula, nor can bottle feeding provide the same bacterial seeding to a child’s intestine that breastfeeding can, which is much of why it helps prevent digestive disorders later in life). It was about my healthy understanding of intimacy.

  38. Dr Sarah August 4, 2011 at 12:21 AM #

    Really interesting article with some great points, but this one (and I do realise I’m going off at a tangent from the main point of the article) really puzzled me:

    ‘Just like I won’t teach my daughter that the sole function of her period is to make her capable of becoming someone’s mama.’

    But surely the sole function of your menstrual cycle (of which your period is a part) *is* to make you capable of giving birth? Women who’ve had hysterectomies with removal of both ovaries can still enjoy sexual relationships as much as any other women, as can women who have no periods while on Depo-Provera (a common side-effect of the injection). The menstrual cycle isn’t there as part of sexual functioning – it is indeed there for the sole purpose of making a woman capable of reproducing.

    Sorry – that point just leapt out at me and left me saying ‘Huh?’

    As for breasts, I already have talked to my daughter about how they make milk for babies. I don’t think that’s going to lock her in to a lifetime of thinking of them only in that way. But I wouldn’t buy the doll because I suspect it’ll be a very expensive way of doing something that, frankly, doesn’t take a breastfeeding doll. If she wants to play at breastfeeding she can hold one of the dolls we’ve got against her chest.

  39. momsomniac August 4, 2011 at 2:38 PM #

    “One of my students informed me that the WIC program, which provides infant formula, has started to reduce the cans of milk given to mothers in order to “encourage” mothers to supplement with breast milk. Any time the state regulates motherhood based on notions of what is natural and normal and in ways that require increased bodily labor for women, it gives me pause.”

    This gives me pause too. I breastfed both of my bio sons to the best of my abilities for as long as they wanted (son 3 is still at it, as a matter of fact). I am a big believer in the benefits to Mom and babe BUT I see classism here: supplementing with formula is bad and breast-feeding vs. formula is an either/or proposition.

    A mother who works a 12-hour shift at the local superstore may be legally entitled to pump, but that does not mean that she has the means to take the risk in demanding that right. If the atmosphere is not supportive, she will likely have her hours cut (at a minimum) in retaliation. She can sue, and will probably win. But what will she and her baby eat while they wait for the decision and settlement? How will they pay rent while they wait?

    Sure, SOMEONE needs to put these rights in place, but to put lower-income women in this position…just…no.

    Why not encourage women to breastfeed to the best of our abilities? Some women would still breastfeed exclusively, some would do both, some would use formula. Would you (OP) feel more inclined to breastfeed when/if you have a child if it weren’t presented as an either/or proposition?

    Would I buy my daughters this doll? Well, I would buy my SONS this doll, and if they wanted to pretend they were feeding it, that’s fine. But then…buying my sons this doll addresses a whole different set of cultural norms than you are considering in regards to daughters.

    If I had daughters, I would still buy it IF they were into dolls…mainly because I’d rather they FIRST think of their breasts this way, rather than as man-pleasers/attractors, which is definitely a message they’d get (repeatedly) outside the home soon enough.

    As for whether you can be a good feminist and admit you may want to breastfeed…well, yes, if you are asking ME. But there are still plenty of folks around who think I can’t be a good feminist and enjoy being a Mom…so I might not be the one to ask.

    • momsomniac August 4, 2011 at 2:42 PM #

      I should note that I cannot play the video right now, so I might be missing something about the doll. I scrolled up to the other comments and saw something about “strap-on breast avatars”…um….I give that a “no thanks”….

  40. Jenn August 10, 2011 at 5:49 AM #

    Yes, you can be a feminist mother and not want to breastfeed. Even if that means that’s it’s unhealthy for you or your child. Why? Because health is not a virtue. If, given all of the information reasonable available, you decide that you’re not interested in breastfeeding, you don’t have to breastfeed just because it’s heathy. Furthermore, what does healthy even mean? We equate healthy with good, even though health is not a moral decision. Decisions about your body are personal (and often political), but they are not to be made based on this idea that health is a public good that you are obligated to contribute to. Fat studies does a lot of really interesting work on this– being fat doesn’t mean that you’re unhealthy, but even if you are an unhealthy fatty, you still deserve respect.

  41. 040503 August 14, 2011 at 9:37 AM #

    I understand that their are risks to formula. I had to try a number of brands and types before I found one that my son could eat. I understand it’s not as “perfect” as breastmilk. I am not saying that. Sometimes I think there is an underlying sentiment that formula feeding parents are not educated and just give it to their kids without doing any research or getting any info on possible risks. I don’t believe that’s true. Maybe I have more faith in my fellow parents, but I think most parents have done quite a bit of research on the pros and cons of formula. My children thrived on it (I do understand that not all children can tolerate it). I have spent over 2 years grieving over my inability to breastfeed, researching, talking to other breastfeeding moms and physicians, and I have finally had closure and been able to move on. I truly was not able to breastfeed, and I am not going to explain why. I thankfully have moved past the point where I feel like I have to explain in to total strangers. I also don’t feel comfortable using donor milk. Again, my personal feelings. I’m not judging others who do, I just did not want to. I just don’t understand why some breastfeeding mothers can’t just appreciate the fact that they can breastfeed, without trying to make the rest of us feel guilty. I know some women feel their trying to “educate” the rest of us, but don’t they think we’ve exhausted all resources and looked into every possible solution? Trust me, most of us have. It’s just hard for us when, yet another person pops up on the computer and tells us that what we’re doing is harmful to our kids. That is such a personal statement, and it can cut you very deep. We’re talking about our children. I wanted more than anything to breastfeed, but I couldn’t. Formula was the best option for me, and my kids are doing very well. I don’t think formula feeding parents are putting their heads in the sand and ignoring the information out there. I think that they know the information and are doing what they know is best for their kids.

  42. ldfinder August 14, 2011 at 9:39 AM #

    I understand that their are risks to formula. I had to try a number of brands and types before I found one that my son could eat. I understand it’s not as “perfect” as breastmilk. I am not saying that. Sometimes I think there is an underlying sentiment that formula feeding parents are not educated and just give it to their kids without doing any research or getting any info on possible risks. I don’t believe that’s true. Maybe I have more faith in my fellow parents, but I think most parents have done quite a bit of research on the pros and cons of formula. My children thrived on it (I do understand that not all children can tolerate it). I have spent over 2 years grieving over my inability to breastfeed, researching, talking to other breastfeeding moms and physicians, and I have finally had closure and been able to move on. I truly was not able to breastfeed, and I am not going to explain why. I thankfully have moved past the point where I feel like I have to explain in to total strangers. I also don’t feel comfortable using donor milk. Again, my personal feelings. I’m not judging others who do, I just did not want to. I just don’t understand why some breastfeeding mothers can’t just appreciate the fact that they can breastfeed, without trying to make the rest of us feel guilty. I know some women feel their trying to “educate” the rest of us, but don’t they think we’ve exhausted all resources and looked into every possible solution? Trust me, most of us have. It’s just hard for us when, yet another person pops up on the computer and tells us that what we’re doing is harmful to our kids. That is such a personal statement, and it can cut you very deep. We’re talking about our children. I wanted more than anything to breastfeed, but I couldn’t. Formula was the best option for me, and my kids are doing very well. I don’t think formula feeding parents are putting their heads in the sand and ignoring the information out there. I think that they know the information and are doing what they know is best for their kids.

  43. Becky August 14, 2011 at 1:08 PM #

    I think the person who created the doll saw their child mimick them and thought “hey, I could have one of those one million dollar ideas and invent a doll specifically for breastfeeding! YAY!” but seriously, just like any of those other ideas–it’s not needed. It’s a cool but really, not needed material thing.
    I got such a kick out of seeing my 1st and 2nd child roll play with their dolls and/or stuffed animals as moms who give birth, breastfeed, and mother so no I wouldn’t buy a doll specifically for it because they did it just fine with regular dolls. :)

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. The Breastfeeding Doll is Coming for Your Daughter - July 22, 2011

    [...] I’ve heard does focus on the physiological process of breastfeeding. A writer from the Crunk Feminist Collective wrote a lengthy response. Her piece does lots of things from raising concern that the doll socializes girls about breastfeeding too [...]

  2. Quoted: Tough titty–on feminist mothering and the breast feeding doll | Love Isn't Enough - on raising a family in a colorstruck world - August 3, 2011

    [...] to be reduced to or primarily shaped by her female anatomy and its biological functions. Read more… Share and [...]

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