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Is formula feeding a feminist act?

(203 Posts)
FeelLikeTweedleDee Sun 09-Jan-11 18:29:25

Excuse me as I'm high on Lemsip so my musings may seem unusual - I've been thinking about womens motivations for NOT breastfeeding.

Out of all the pregnant women I have spoken to who plan to formula feed from birth, the most common reason given is "I don't think it's fair that I should have to do all the feeds/shoulder all the responsibility for our baby's nutrition" which is an argument I can sympathise with. I understand the lactivists response: "there is so much more a man can do than feeding" but one must admit, feeding is pretty much the bulk of what a newborn needs. It also ties the mother to the baby in an exclusive manner which nappy changing, soothing, playing, etc does not.

I admit (online only because I'm a pussy) that women who chose not to breastfeed before even giving birth used to anger me. I couldn't understand why they would not put their baby's needs first. Why they wouldn't even give breastfeeding a shot? But perhaps sexual equality is sound reasoning?

What is your opinion on womens non-medical motivations for not breastfeeding?

If you're thinking "it's none of your business what feeding choices other mothers make", I disagree. Formula feeding costs the taxpayer a substantial sum every year re: NHS resources as well as its impact on the environment, etc. Thus womens non-medical reasons for not breastfeeding is an important issue.

cobbledtogether Sun 09-Jan-11 18:35:07

To be a true feminist we need to make like Seahorses and get the men to carry the buggers around for 9 months.

On a more serious note, I think there are a lot of personal reasons held by those who FF from the start, but I wouldn't put feminism among them, although its certainly a different perspective.

foxytocin Sun 09-Jan-11 18:35:15

biscuit

Don't see what sexual equality has to do with the 'bulk of what a newborn needs'

The bulk of what a woman who has just given birth needs is to put her feet up rest, recover and bond with her baby.

Not handing the baby over for someone else to feed so that she can get back into the kitchen go back to work as she may feel inclined to do because other than that she's sitting around doing 'nothing'.

FeelLikeTweedleDee Sun 09-Jan-11 18:40:32

Foxy - would formula feeding not aid rest and recovery whilst breastfeeding hinders it? That has been my experience.

BornAgainBokononist Sun 09-Jan-11 18:42:30

In short, no I don't. HTH

foxytocin Sun 09-Jan-11 18:43:04

Your experience and mine are two anecdotes which together does not make data.

FeelLikeTweedleDee Sun 09-Jan-11 18:45:38

No it doesn't make data but I'd be interested to hear about your experience. So in your experience breastfeeding > formula feeding for giving the new mother rest?

MoonUnitAlpha Sun 09-Jan-11 18:46:57

There's certainly a (radical) feminist argument that our biology is part of what subjugates us, and we need to use technology to free ourselves from childbearing/rearing.

Of course the counter argument is that patriarchal society devalues women's skills/abilities/bodies so instead we should celebrate those things women alone do.

sethstarkaddersmum Sun 09-Jan-11 18:50:24

for formula feeding to be an inherently feminist act, breastfeeding would have to be antithetical to women's liberation, which I don't think it is.
however given the current anti-woman situation in which women are told they ought to breastfeed but not given enough support (and hence many women EITHER find breastfeeding a painful and stressful experience OR can do it fine but don't get the help they need with other domestic tasks to enable them to focus on bf), some women find that formula feeding suits them more than breastfeeding in these circumstances does; for them to have the choice to do it is therefore important.

JoanofArgos Sun 09-Jan-11 18:51:26

No, it isn't.

mousesma Sun 09-Jan-11 18:53:02

I think your argument for having this discussion is a bit weak and actually it is none of your business.

I don't think there is any real evidence that the decision to BF or not BF has any more impact on the tax payer than any of the choices any of us make day to day. i.e. to smoke, to drink, to eat cakes, to drive instead of walk, to play sport etc.

I don't think it's appropriate for you to try to dictate what is or isn't an acceptable non-medical reason for breastfeeding.

TruthSweet Sun 09-Jan-11 18:53:48

I think it's a very feminist thing to do (i.e. breastfeeding) as it's what the female form is for - gestating the next generation then lactating for it. The male form can't do any of it (bar supplying the sperm) so that in and of itself is a feminist act.

That having said I don't think child rearing is all the female mind is for the same as I don't think men should be all about making sperm and having sex. We are more than a derivative of our biology and should be treated equally but with regard to our biological needs.

The trouble is it is more of the same - if a mere female can do it, it must be easy for a man to perfect it and control it. Though the perfect and control has not exactly gone to plan.......

FeelLikeTweedleDee Sun 09-Jan-11 18:56:04

mousesma - it's been proven that FF babies use the NHS a lot more than breastfed babies.

mrshubbard Sun 09-Jan-11 18:56:56

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

littleomar Sun 09-Jan-11 18:58:42

i don't see what is "feminist" about men taking over a task that, biologically, only women are capable of doing. what truthsweet said basically.

FeelLikeTweedleDee Sun 09-Jan-11 18:58:59

TruthSweet - true. Try as it might, the patriarchy/capitalism cannot replicate breastmilk. Although perhaps ironically it would be beneficial for women if they hurried up and did so?

TruthSweet Sun 09-Jan-11 19:00:20

I should add that to have the choice of bfing or exc expressing or mixed feeding or exc ffing is an important one to have - yes, most women do want to bf (though some absolutely do not) the other options do give them the choice to not be quite so bonded to their physiology as exclusively breastfeeding does.

That is not to say exc.bf is restraining but that to have the option of not can be mentally freeing even if it is not exercised as a choice IYSWIM.

mrshubbard Sun 09-Jan-11 19:00:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

WimpleOfTheBallet Sun 09-Jan-11 19:01:18

Women who have been sexually assaulted or raped can have many issues surrounding their breasts...basically anyone touching them can make you want to throw up.

Those women have every right in the world to decide to formula feed before the baby has even arrived.

So do others.

blinder Sun 09-Jan-11 19:04:56

I'm a feminist. For me (and I have NO opinion on what choices other mothers make) I breastfed as a feminist act, proudly, publicly, led by baby and my instincts. No-one will take away my right and ability to nurture my baby, especially not bloody Nestle and other formula manufacturers.

StealthPolarStuckSpaceBar Sun 09-Jan-11 19:07:10

Interesting question OP
I certainly think breastfeeding is a feminist issue, but need to consider whether the choice of ff is IMO (other than being part of the breastfeeding issue)

I think a lot of people have jumped onto this thread without really readong the OP

mrshubbard Sun 09-Jan-11 19:10:50

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

MamaChris Sun 09-Jan-11 19:12:38

Wimple every woman has every right in the world to decide how to feed their baby.

But many women who have been sexually assaulted also find feeding a baby a very healing experience. I just wanted to make the point that women who have been sexually assaulted won't all make the same choice about feeding their baby, regardless of their issues.

mrshubbard Sun 09-Jan-11 19:14:36

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AnnieLobeseder Sun 09-Jan-11 19:18:19

Women have various reasons for not breast-feeding, and while I have absolutely no issues with any woman who has tried and found it didn't suit her, I have little tolerance for women who won't even try for anything less than medical or mental health issues.

If any woman told me she didn't breast-feed as a feminist standpoint, I'd have little or no respect for her view. We are women. We are given this wonderful biological gift of being able to grow and give birth to babies, and then continue to meet their nutritional needs after the birth. To fail to use this gift under the guise of being a 'better and more powerful woman'? No. I reject that absolutely. And I speak as a feminist.

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