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Sep 13, 2011

Here we go again...

One cold, December morning shortly after Mia was born, I was sitting at the kitchen table, pumping (again) to try to build my milk supply. Gavin, who had not yet turned 2, looked at me and said simply, "Moo."

I've often thought of entering that story in one of those "kids say the darndest things" contests, and I'm still not sure how he made the connection.  He'd certainly seen me nursing his sister, but I don't know that he'd ever seen a cow being milked. In any event, he would have known how his sister got her nourishment, if for no other reason than because he'd wondered why his sister was hanging off Mommy's chest for nearly an hour, every two hours, for an entire month.

When Gavin was born he was a big baby - over 9lbs.  I anticipated that breastfeeding would be challenging because I'd had a reduction when I was 19, but I still wanted to try.  It soon became clear that, despite my best efforts, I would need to supplement.  So for more than six months I would nurse Gavin, then offer him formula afterward until he was full.  Most night feedings I would nurse exclusively. He grew like a weed, barely got sick and when I went back to work when he was 9 months old there was no major feeding transition.

His sister was born - VBAC - less than two years later. I was determined to try to nurse exclusively, and that I did.  I had a lot of well-meaning lactation consultants, nurses, and pediatricians tell me that the more I breastfed, the more milk I would have and it would all be peachy-keen. Except that it wasn't. Mia was jaundiced and gained just four ounces in her first month. It was only after she was admitted to hospital and I started supplementing her that she finally got healthy. Like her brother, she is growing rapidly and hardly ever sick.  I nursed her for over nine months.

I guess the point of all this is: I tried. I really, really tried.  It would have been so much easier for me to give up and not nurse at all, but I was well-versed in the benefits of breastfeeding and wanted that for my children. I appreciated having the option to nurse my babies instead of stumbling out to the kitchen in the dark to make up a bottle in the middle of the night.

Yet, it didn't seem right that every time I took a bottle out in public to feed one of the kids I felt like I had to justify my actions. Like I wasn't a good mother for bottle-feeding my baby.

So why am I talking about this now?

It would appear that some of the blogosphere's most prominent breastfeeding advocates (see here) have taken it upon themselves to support a petition for to remove formula advertising from its website, or at least to adhere to the International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. Honestly, until this petition I wasn't even aware that there was an International Code of Marketing of Breast-Milk Substitutes. 

The backstory is long and convoluted, but my main problem with the petition is the inherent assumption that women can't make informed choices about how to feed their children. It is especially ironic because the women whose actions inspired this petition, Emma Kwasnica, actually stated the following in the comments section of PhD in Parenting's post:

" is an impossibility for women to make any kind of an informed choice regarding the feeding of powdered infant formula, or learn about its inherent risks, simply from seeing/reading formula adverts.[....] This is a question of ethics; the advertising of formula to pregnant or new mothers, in any capacity, is unacceptable."

If I follow her logic, because women are too stupid to realize that a formula company has an inherent stake in how she chooses to feed her child, all formula advertising needs to be banned.  I know of not one mother - not one - who made the choice whether or not to formula feed her baby because of an advertisement.  In my experience, how a woman chooses to feed her child is a deeply personal decision and WHY CAN'T YOU JUST LEAVE US ALONE!!! (Sorry for yelling, but you get my point).

Thank heavens for Catherine Connors.  Granted, as an editor at Babble, she has a personal stake in this petition, but holy if this column today didn't hit the nail on the head.  Reading the comments brought tears to my eyes because I realized that I was not the only mother who felt shame and judgement for simply trying to do what was best for my children.

Demanding that advertising for a certain product be banned suggests that the product itself is so harmful that it shouldn't be seen. It also assumes that its target audience cannot be trusted to make an informed decision about whether or not to use the product. Most disheartening, it implies that those mothers who use the product are bad mothers. It's insulting. It's divisive. We have to do better.

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