Here we go with another “Tyranny of mother’s milk” article. Listen here, I am not opposed in principle to formula. I have even fed it to my children. But I have several issues with rants such as this one, the first one being that hard cases make bad law. A mother felt that her breast milk was not sufficient to nourish her infant and some healthcare providers with inadequate or incomplete formation on breastfeeding made it worse. Can we really draw a public health conclusion about this? As someone who struggled through a similar challenge, I will tell you exactly what the problem was: inadequate follow-up by a nurse with inadequate formation. What we need is more research and information about the root causes of the inability to breastfeed (no, everything is not linked to a poor latch). As long as we have health care providers (whether they are doctors, nurses of nursing consultants) blaming everything on a poor latch, we’ll have situations like the one described in Wente’s article.
But that wouldn’t make a rant, would it? Much better to blame it on an evil patriarchal scheme to oppress women using their own children! Let me try to make something perfectly clear to those who hope that formula-feeding will liberate them from the tyranny of baby: human infants are needy and helpless. The well-meaning nurse who told you that formula-fed infants slept longer, she lied. If that makes infants oppressive, then so be it: human infants are oppressive. It’s not an evil scheme to oppress women, it’s just The Way Things Are. Unlike horses, our infants are not expected to stand-up and flee danger within their first hour of life. Why does liberation have to mean liberating ourselves from our own children? Why do we have to deny motherhood and the fact that we are able to respond to our infants’ needs to be liberated women? But mark my words – I have 6 children and I am expecting 2 more – if you think that formula-feeding will liberate you from your children, you are in for a big shock.
The other thing I would like to mention – and I choose my words carefully – is that healthcare providers, especially doctors, are in the business of making us feel guilty for our unhealthy choices. Read that again and think about it. Do you think that any OB/GYN worth his salt has a fleeting remorse about making a pregnant smoker feel guilty? And let’s not even approach the topic of overweight people, especially pregnant ones. Human milk is the best nutrition for human babies. You may choose not to breastfeed for a long list of reasons but it does not remove the fact that human milk is best for human babies. Once again, this is not an evil scheme to oppress women, it’s just The Way Things Are. Any doctor or nurse who pretends otherwise or avoids mentioning it for fear of triggering guilty feelings is not doing his job. I had to be transferred to hospital for complications following a home birth (baby was fine, I was not). Do you think the duty OB/GYN held back from lecturing me about the dangers of homebirths? Not for a second. Did I feel guilty? Yes. That was the whole point. We start our pregnancies avoiding everything from soft cheese to caffeine and once the baby is out, we’re supposed to avoid finding out that breast milk is better for them? Fight the tyranny, demand proper information!by