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Feminism: Sex & gender discussions

The Alpha-Parent's latest breastfeeding missive

94 replies

WidowWadman · 25/07/2012 22:11

What a lot of patronising tosh. So she says

" obscures the fact that formula feeding is a deviation from the norm.
contributes to the illusion that breast milk and formula are on an even keel.
weakens legal protection for breastfeeding ('choices' are weaker than 'rights').
fuels Mother Vs Mother dialogue ('The Mommy Wars').
relieves formula companies, health professionals and poor support systems of their responsibility (instead all responsibility is placed on the choice-maker).
discourages individual social responsibility.
sees women as weak and unable to field criticism.
shuts down debate, discussion, activism and progress."

In what way is saying "unless you're doing it my way you're doing it wrong" not fuelling the "mommy wars"?
In what way does she not see "women as weak and unable to field criticism?" After all tons of criticism is heaped on women no matter how they choose to feed their babies.

I've fed my first child for a year and a half, and the second is going that way too. I feel quite embarassed that anyone could mistake my long term breastfeeding for agreement with the above illiberal and misconceived shite.

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WidowWadman · 25/07/2012 22:12
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exoticfruits · 25/07/2012 22:24

I find anyone who labels themselves 'alpha parent' so irritating that I really can't be bothered to read their views.

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exoticfruits · 25/07/2012 22:25

I would say someone to totally ignore.

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WidowWadman · 25/07/2012 22:31

I guess that's sound advice. I'm still gobsmacked by the claim that it's totally feminist to tell women what they have to do.

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exoticfruits · 25/07/2012 22:34

But very common!

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Treats · 26/07/2012 10:03

Hmm - I've read the whole thread and I think she argues her case very well actually. She says that women don't breastfeed for the following reasons:


they don't want their breasts to sag.
they see breasts as exclusively sexual.
their husband is uncomfortable with breastfeeding.
they are uncomfortable with breastfeeding.
they don't want to breastfeed in public.
they want to 'get their body back'.

I don't think that's ENTIRELY true - lots of women don't because they find it too difficult. But she's right to say that the reasons she lists are more about making ourselves more pleasing to men. That we are therefore disrupting what's natural to make life more comfortable for men, rather than focussing on what our children need. And I think she's right to say that's anti-feminist.

I think she's right to say that presenting bf and ff as equal 'choices' that women make is misleading. Choice doesn't exist in a vacuum - nicely illustrated with her makeup analogy in the opening - and our 'choices' about how we feed our baby are actually the result of societal pressure and marketing. They aren't equal choices either - BF is just........better. It just is.

When I was feeding my DD two and a half years ago, I was very defensive and very sceptical of a lot of the bf 'brigade' (as I thought of them then), even though I was bf - so I can see why the crusading tone of this piece would make people react negatively. There is nothing about which a parent is more touchy than how their child eats.

With the perspective of someone who's beyond that phase of parenting now, I can look at the argument more objectively and agree with it. But people don't listen to bf/ff arguments before they become parents. And during the short period in which it's relevant (you really only have 6 weeks to establish bf - after that, the 'argument' is academic) - your heart and mind are so full of other things, you can't think rationally about it.

WidowWadman - "in what way is saying 'unless you're doing it my way, you're doing it wrong' not fuelling the Mommy Wars". (Hate the phrase 'mommy wars', btw, although I know it's not your phrase.) I don't think she is saying that. She's just offering her - well-argued - opinion that the alternative to bf is a lesser alternative but that society and the media obscure this fact. At the end of the day - it is a fact. We all know that it's a fact. Depending on our own experiences, we either embrace the fact or prefer to ignore it or fight against it.

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solidgoldbrass · 26/07/2012 10:10

Actually, throughout most of human history, most women who could afford to get their babies fed and looked after by someone else, did so. Wetnursing was pretty much the norm for wealthy women for centuries. (Yes, so was infant mortality, but that wasn't just due to Women's Selfishness).

All this earth-mother-maternal-instinct shit is actually fairly anti-feminist, reducing women to breeding stock. Parent how you like; the differences between breastmilk and formula (given a healthy mother and access to clean water to make up formula) are negligible.

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24HourPARDyPerson · 26/07/2012 10:17

Is there any way of saying your piece without being accused of telling women what to do?
Not a snarky question btw, it's just that if you share your informed opinion you are hectoring. I recognise that's a tonal thing of course, but at the same time nobody has to listen. Or should we just not say what we think?

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TheCrackFox · 26/07/2012 10:26

Being a wet nurse was very well paid. (not adding to the debate).

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Treats · 26/07/2012 10:41

Without fence-sitting - I sort of also agree with sgb - and this was always my main objection bfing DD. I think AlphaParent's argument is pretty weak when it comes to addressing this issue. She basically diminishes Elizabeth Badinter's argument (which is pretty much making this point) and then dismisses it on the basis that Badinter has an interest in a formula company. Which doesn't really address the point that Badinter makes.

I think in my original post, I'm just trying to say what 24hour said better - that an informed and well-argued pov on breastfeeding does not equal telling other women what to do. And that I thought it was a pro-feminist argument rather than anti-feminist.

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24HourPARDyPerson · 26/07/2012 10:45

But TheCrackFox it wasn't such a simple solution, for all that. 'Wetnursing' sounds like such a harmonious solution, but it hids a lot of pain.

You would have to be lactating to become a wet nurse. In a lot of cases the nurses' own baby had died. How awful to be grieving your child with someone else's at your breast.

Alternatively, the wetnurse fed both her own baby and the nurseling. The custom was to give the nurseling the first milk. In the days of inadequate nutrition for mothers how much milk could she produce? It was not uncommon for the nurses' own child to end up undernourished and small, in comparison to the bonny baby brought in. Again, terrible to watch.

Thank god for clean safe formula, I say that as someone who breastfed my own two.

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exoticfruits · 26/07/2012 10:50

Not only did they have wet nurses they farmed them out when young. Jane Austin lived with a village family until she was about 2 years old. I think that bottle feeding would be better and keep them at home.

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TheCrackFox · 26/07/2012 10:55

A lot of wet nurses were well paid professionals and I have read of examples of women doing it well into their 70's and often out earning their husbands.

Anyway, to get back to the debate we cannot uninvent formula milk. It is here to stay.

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solidgoldbrass · 26/07/2012 11:07

I am not saying that wetnursing was an entirely Good Thing, 24Hour is quite right that the wetnurse's own babies often suffered, for instance. Just pointing out that the idea of not BFing your own baby isn't an invention foisted on women by the Evil Capitalist Formula Machine.

I intended to BF, but couldn't manage it, for a combination of reasons. DS, now nearly 8, has not suffered from being FF, and it did mean that I could go on a night out or two and leave him with his grandparents or a friend, knowing he would be well-fed and I wouldn't have aching exploding tits.

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lurkingaround · 26/07/2012 11:09

I like that article. Harsh, perhaps, but true. And I think she's right.

Whether we like it or not, we are biologically and genetically engineered to feed and nurture our children. It's plain old biology. Our huge brains can make us logic this away but that is the fact.

The wet-nursing thing is more complex than just being able to afford it. Many wealthy women were considered to be breeders, wet-nursing their children meant they returned to fertility alot more quickly than if they were breastfeeding. Doesn't sound like much of a choice to me.

This, by the way, is from someone who dyes her hair, wears make-up daily etc etc (draw the line at surgery or even Brazilian waxes, certainly vajazzling)

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TheCrackFox · 26/07/2012 11:20

It wasn't much of a choice for rich women. I think they (in the olden days) were encouraged to have no maternal feelings - made to use wet nurses, children with nanny all day, packed off to boarding school at the age of about 7. This was all done so lady of the manor could get back to to her real purpose in life which was pleasing and always being available to her lord and master.

I FF one baby (he never latched on and I have often thought was the first indication of his dyspraxia) and BF another. They both have their pros and cons TBH.

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GoodButNotOutstanding · 26/07/2012 11:21

I hate to disagree with you sgb but I don't think the difference between breastmilk and formula milk is negligible. The statistics about SIDS was enough to convince me to persevere with bf (I can't remember the websites that found me those stats but it is definitely a recommendation by fsids even though it is the last recommendation, I'm sure a more thorough google would turn up some more)

I am completely aware that women make choices and not everyone can/wants to bf for whatever reason, but we should really be making sure that choice is more informed than it currently is. It is completely up to the woman in question whether she decides to bf or not but I kind of agree with the Alpha Parent (although she may have worded it in a way that some people have found offensive) that some of the reasons that choice has been made are as a result of living in a society that does not value breastfeeding and views formula feeding as equal when it isn't.

Speaking of wet-nursing, I'd love to do it now. I would be quite capable of doing it without losing a baby as I am 'still' bf my 2yo so am still lactating and would be perfectly happy to tandem feed. I know that sometimes it hid a lot of pain for the wet-nurse but quite often it was a harmonious solution, especially if the wet-nursing resulted in reduced fertility and prevented an unwanted pregnancy when the family involved couldn't afford another baby of their own and had no access to contraception (as it hadn't been invented yet)

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Empusa · 26/07/2012 11:30

TheCrackFox That's interesting about the dyspraxia. DH has dyspraxia and I've read it can be hereditary, and DS would not latch on to the breast at all. Wonder if he'll turn out to have it too?

I can't believe in that article she seriously uses smoking around your child as a analogy for FF. I also dislike the repeated use of "choice". I didn't choose to FF my DS. He needs to feed in order to grow, I feed him the only way I can. That is no choice whatsoever. Saying that BF is normal and FF just a choice belittles the efforts of those who have no choice.

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GoodButNotOutstanding · 26/07/2012 11:35

Empusa I don't think she intends to dismiss or belittle your intentions to bf and having to ff due to problems. I have read a lot of her stuff (having been seduced into lentil-weavery when dd2 was tiny. I'm better now Grin) and she regularly has a good old rant about how the support is ridiculously bad for anyone experiencing problems in various parts of the country. I am fairly confident that she is just voicing her opinion on reasons people make that choice as a choice rather than a necessity.

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TheCrackFox · 26/07/2012 11:37

When I started to FF DS1 it really didn't feel like a choice - more sort of foisted on me as the BF support at the hospital was laughable.

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lurkingaround · 26/07/2012 11:39

Disagree with GoodBut.
How can breastmilk from a woman (a carry mammal) be no different to breastmilk from a cow (a follow mammal)? Not to mention the many other obvious defference between humans and cows? Why on earth would you think the difference is negligible?

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Empusa · 26/07/2012 11:41

"Their argument is that it is love that counts in infant feeding and care, not what goes into the baby. We see how ludicrous this displacement strategy is when we consider how we would we feel if the tobacco industry used the same argument: "It doesn't matter if you smoke in front of your baby, as long as you love them"."

I don't know. That sounds quite a lot like belittling FF

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GoodButNotOutstanding · 26/07/2012 11:42

TheCrackFox I think that was kind of her point in the article, a society that views formula as a perfectly equal choice (or a choice with negligible difference) does not see the need to spend more money in order to facilitate women's 'choice' to bf. It 'relieves formula companies, health professionals and poor support systems of their responsibility', so nobody felt they needed to be responsible for helping you to bf because ff is an equal choice so it makes no difference. I'm sure that a lot of women would have preferred to bf if they had the support they needed to manage it, but that 'choice' is not as important as if she had the 'right' to good bf support.

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GoodButNotOutstanding · 26/07/2012 11:44

lurking I know, that's why I said I don't believe that the difference is negligible. I was replying to an earlier poster who said it was.

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lurkingaround · 26/07/2012 11:53

Sorry Good, I misread your post.

I think Alpha's writing is quite inflammatory, but her basic points are good.

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