"Reclaim Your Wife"

Have you seen the recent ad campaign for Bittylab bottles?  Last week they tweeted to new dads:

The idea is that the bottle is so much like a breast that your baby won’t know the difference and you can get your wife “back.”

Um, ew.

As this blog post at Ms. so aptly notes,

When wives aren’t feeding their child, they shouldn’t be expected to be “reclaimed” by their husbands. Women aren’t property waiting around to be used by babies, husbands or anyone else.

Obviously, when you have a baby, your relationship with your partner has to readjust — as you find a new balance, there is less time for everyone.  And it’s totally normal for non-nursing partners to feel, among their feelings, some jealousy of the new baby, even some resentment at the lessened attention from his mate.  There are a lot of ways to cope with the big relationship changes that happen when you add a baby to your life.  

It’s just … ‘reclaim’?  Was she his chattel before the baby annexed her?  

Bittylab touts the bottle as “mom-invented” as though this undoes the annoying misogyny of the “Your Body And Attention Actually Belong To Your Dude And Your Baby Is An Interloper” message.  But the idea of a bottle as “liberating you” from your baby is all wrong — it sets up the mom as a slave to her baby, instead of what she is: an adult caring for him and calling the shots.  

I am not saying it’s wrong to use a bottle.  I’m saying the idea of the bottle as something that “sets you free” implies that breastfeeding is a kind of slavery.  You may indeed, sometimes, feel like a slave.  We all have our hyperbolic moments.  I suggest you keep these thoughts to a minimum and try to reframe it, and think of motherhood as demanding, but not demeaning.

And when we suggest that the bottle sets you free so that you can take care of your man?  

WTF year is it?!  

It reminds me of that essay last year by Erica Jong protesting the way that new moms get involved with their babies (rather than going to parties, as she apparently did after her daughter was born) and saying, reproachfully, that when a woman “breastfeed[s] at all hours” her mate feels that her “breasts don’t belong to him,” and this is bad. 

Your breasts don’t belong to your mate.  Your body is yours.  If you’ve chosen to have a baby, there are difficult moments and wonderful moments.  You’re entitled to find it hard or complicated; you’re entitled to want a break; you’re entitled to think creatively about what might give you a break; you’re entitled to try to design a life where you get what you need in order to meet all your responsibilities.  None of that is wrong or inappropriately selfish.

But don’t support a company that tries to get your money by telling you you’re a slave and that your real job is to service your man.

"Breast Is Normal"

Here’s a really interesting recent piece by Ceridwen Morris on the “Breast Is Best” slogan.  We’ve all heard “Breast is Best” for years, but, come to think of it, doesn’t it sound a little too “goody goody” to you?  Do you really need to be “best” at everything?  Some breastfeeding folks point out that calling breastfeeding “best” makes it seem like an extra special A+ you might not feel you need to go for, instead of what it is:  the normal way our species feed our young.  You give birth and your breasts get milk.  Whether you use them or not, we are mammals.  

But once we describe breastfeeding as plain old “normal,” what does that make formula?  When we call breastfeeding “beneficial,” formula feeding sounds “normal”.  If breast is normal, formula is:  worse.  Inferior.  Not as good.

I know this is a touchy subject, but before you click “unfollow,” let me finish.

Here's another article I saw today, noting that 96% of US hospitals fail to support, or undermine breastfeeding. 96%!!  No, hospitals don't say “Don't Breastfeed!”; they undermine it with inconsistent and misinformed practices, and by not implementing WHO's 10 step plan to become “Baby Friendly.”

It matters. Moms trust hospital caregivers and assume the hospital staff gives appropriate, state-of-the-art feeding advice.  But when moms are discharged without establishing breastfeeding, or having been given inconsistent or misinformation, many go on to wean, saying they “couldn’t” breastfeed / didn’t make enough milk /  etc.  Often they don’t realize the whole endeavor was sabotaged in the first days after the birth, by misguidance, inconsistent advice and inappropriate practices in the hospital.    

Then, moms who’ve weaned feel criticized by pro-breastfeeding advocacy that describes breastfeeding as “normal” or formula as “inferior.”  And we all dance around, trying not to hurt anyone’s feelings.  

Here’s the thing.  We shouldn’t hurt Moms’ feelings.  There is no use making any new mom feel like crap about herself, or suggesting that breastfeeding is the be-all-end-all, or that there is no place in the world for formula, or that it’s evil.  There’s a place for formula.

We need to support mothers’ choices, and respect their individual situations.  We don’t support them when we get sidetracked on a “did she or didn’t she” discussion of infant feeding, or act like mothers who formula feed are weak of character or inadequate.  But we also don’t support them when we pretend breastfeeding isn’t the normal way human young are meant to be fed, species-wide. 

Instead of Mom On Mom Criticism, here is where to focus our energies instead:  We MUST change what happens in the hospital. Hospitals’ newborn protocols are a crucial element of breastfeeding outcomes and all but 4% are failing.  Why are almost no hospitals “Baby Friendly”?  The answer has to do with money and time.  To be “Baby Friendly,” a hospital cannot accept free formula samples.  It must develop a comprehensive breastfeeding policy.  It must provide staff training.  It costs.  And if formula is “normal” and breastfeeding  ”extra-specially beneficial” then, that cost seems too much to bear.  Especially since  most exhausted and overwhelmed mothers will blame themselves if breastfeeding doesn’t work, and most won’t turn back to the hospital, saying, “How could you have failed me in those early days when my baby and I were fragile and needed your help, support and information?”

Why are any of us giving our business to hospitals that fail us in *any* area of care?   Write to your hospital and request that they become “Baby Friendly.”  If you are pregnant, take a prenatal breastfeeding class with your partner.  If you’re in NY use this website to look at breastfeeding outcomes in your hospital (scroll down to find the percentage of babies who are “fed exclusively breastmilk” as the AAP recommends).  If the breastfeeding rates are low, bring contact info for an IBCLCwith you to the hospital when you go into labor.  You may well not need her, but if few babies leave your hospital exclusively breastfeeding, why would you trust what the maternity nurses tell you about breastfeeding?  Consult with an expert when you have questions.

Breastfeeding is not simply a matter of what fate has in store for you.  You, your partner, and your support people are factors in the outcome.  Get educated; ask for help; reach out when necessary.  Reach out to the right folks.

P.S. For those in NYC:  Only two hospitals are “Baby Friendly”:  Harlem Hospital Center and NYU-Langone Medical Center.