Tuesday, March 17, 2009

I can't hear you when you're screaming at me

like weather in NY (revisited), originally uploaded by toyfoto.

I strode out of my lukewarm shower Monday morning (thanks to a the shenannigans of an impish little toddler I know who kept opening and closing the door) to the sounds of The Today Show talkingheads discussing A Case Against Breastfeeding.

I shuddered.

And not from the cold air in the kitchen (thanks to a thermostat perpetually set below 60 degrees), and not from the work that went into the Atlantic journal story. I shuttered at backlash that would result from such an inflamatory headline as "A Case Against Breastfeeding." Why does it always seem that in order to get to the truth of an emotional topic we have to have raze everything to the ground?

I knew what was coming next: Tweets. Twitters. Angry, thoughtful, painful blog posts.

Women who choose not to breastfeed, striking out because they believe the medical community and upper-income women have shamed them into feeling they've done irreperable harm to their children by giving them formula when in their heart of hearts they know they haven't.

There would also be women pushing back, feeling attacked by the magazine's message; women who chose to breastfeed and who feel strongly enough about it that they join groups to help others do it, too. And those who just plain disagreed with its conclusions.

Many have already told painful tales of being confronted by people -- some of them total strangers -- who thought it their place to inquire as to what substance these mothers' babies were guzzling from the bottles tilted into their mouths, so intent were they on setting errant moms straight if it were anything other than breastmilk.

They feel judged, shamed and unfairly villified.

What worries me about this new declaration ... another slogan, if you will ... is that it doesn't even speak to the information contained in the piece. It seems to seek vindication for those who have felt the hurt and guilt of NOT breastfeeding. It seems to bring one down to raise one up - A never-ending see-saw ride.

Perhaps in order to make everyone sit up and take notice we feel the need to bash heads. To work up a good lather of righteous indignation to wash off the debris of feeling wronged.

We seem to forget that the most important part about feeding a baby is making sure the baby is getting proper nutrition, whichever choice is made. That the baby is growing and healthy and thriving is everyone's desire.

We also seem to forget that we only have control over ourselves. When we become parents it almost seems as if our lives get put into a glass box that some giant inserts into the center of shark-infested waters. No matter where we swim we can't get away.

Only these people aren't really sharks. They are merely passersby looking in through a window. They are unwise to think they know more than we do about what's inside the glass, and we are imprudent if we allow it to be their business.


Fairly Odd Mother said...

Unfortunately, I don't think this will ever go away. I just wish it didn't have to turn so "us" vs "them". I think a huge number of us did a mix of both and maybe we are the ones who need to shout a little louder for these "all or nothings" need to quiet down.

toyfoto said...

I don't think so, either. But I do really believe that MOST people are pretty tolerant of each other. For every one person that says something hurtful, two more are trying to be supportive.

I know that sometimes the things strangers say really do have more of an impact on us than things our loved-ones say because, in part, we have no way to file the information. All those people who shock us with their willingness to ridicule a stranger makes an impression, and one that gets stored separate and apart from all the things we think we're doing well.

saradgoldberg said...

Thank you! My local parenting list serve has blown up over this article. I'm not sure it's helped anyone at all. Instead there are a lot of hurt feelings hanging around in email-land because of it.

Sarah @ BecomingSarah.com said...

I think this is the sort of topic that gets blown out of proportion in part because people have nothing better to worry about. That sounds awful, but I really do think it's true to some extent. As long as a person is not abusing their child, their choices are none of my business, regardless of whether I agree with them or not. I wish other people felt the same.

jasi said...

I'll stop complaining about her formula feeding if she'll forgive me the occasional chicken nugget.

That's my final offer. Take it or leave it. lol

Oops! My laziness is showing. =)

gkgirl said...

this was a fantastic post.