Saturday, January 8, 2011

Fearless Feeders

In my previous post, I mentioned The Leaky B@@b, a Facebook group that offers support to breastfeeding moms. True to its tongue-in-cheek name, it really is a place of overwhelming support and acceptance where there are no holds barred. Tonight, however, one of its new members complained that her daughter, an exclusive pumper, was bullied on the site:

"I can assure you I have seen [the bullying] and so has my daughter. I brought her to this site to help her and encourage her. She was at a point when she was pumping pure blood and had to stop. Someone actually told her that she should get someone else to breastfeed her baby since she did not have the talent. That was on this site. It was 1 person but she felt like such a failure."

The complaint and follow up explanation brought the site to a screeching halt, as various members either expressed disbelief or offered their apologies on behalf of an unknown offender. When I was a member of the group before its multiple suspensions, there were approximately 4,800 Leakies in attendance. Now, the page has swelled to over 11,000 members, and the page owner has had to call in the reserves to try and administer the page and ensure that such bullying does not take place. 


Just yesterday, I was skimming through various parenting blogs when I came across Fearless Formula Feeder. The Blog is maintained by a "Mom and 'factivist'" who claims to be "standing up for formula feeders, without being a boob about it." I read through some of the submissions by moms who formula feed their children, and my heart broke for them. They felt as if they were looked down upon by breastfeeders for giving their children artificial nutrition. And I have to agree with them: there are many self-professed "lactivists" out there who, rather than celebrate breastfeeding, waste their time berating women who couldn't breastfeed, or who simply chose not to breastfeed.

Not cool. As someone very wise once said, "You have to feed your child." (That goes nicely hand-in-hand with my other parenting mantra, "You do what you have to do.")

I have never bullied a fellow mom for how she chooses to feed her child. So long as you're not spoon feeding your kid mashed up McNuggets, I've got your back. But I do post a lot of links to pro-breastfeeding articles and news items on my Facebook and sometimes wonder if I am alienating those moms on my friends list who didn't or couldn't breastfeed. I hope I'm not. Unlike the haters above, I don't publicly humiliate non-breastfeeders. But I do celebrate breastfeeding, I do promote it, and I do (in my own way) fight for it.

Fight for it, you say?

Yes. According to a 2006 joint position paper, Newfoundland and Labrador has the lowest initiation rate, and only 11% of infants are still exclusively breastfed by 6 months. Why? It ain't easy to breastfeed, folks. Here are a few reasons:

  1. There is nothing natural about it.
  2. Not everyone gets the support they need, from either their healthcare team or their family & friends (especially in NL, where our healthcare system is severely behind the times).
  3. It can be difficult to get up the courage to do it when you're out and about, and not every baby will take a bottle of expressed breast milk (and you may not always have one at the ready).
I could write a post about each reason (and may just do so at a later date), but reason #3 is the one that gets me worked up the most, because even if a woman was confident about nursing in public, she may not be able to. Women worldwide are being ridiculed, ostracized, and abused for nursing their babies in public. They are being asked to leave restaurants, are being kicked out of shopping centres, and are made to feel like criminals, all for trying to feed their children. Essentially, breastfeeding moms, and the act of breastfeeding itself, is being labelled obscene. When was the last time a formula feeding mom was leered at for feeding her child in the middle of the park? Or told to go feed her child in the public washroom at the mall?

Fearless formula feeders, I salute you. All I ask is that you realize where we breastfeeding moms are coming from, and understand that when we band together and celebrate, we are not doing so to attack you. We are simply looking for strength in numbers, whether virtual or real, when we venture outdoors into the public world with our (apt to be hungry) little ones.

Next time you see a breastfeeding mom nursing her child on the bench in the mall, give her a little smile. Your mother-to-mother support, well hidden amongst all the leers and jeers she received, might just be the push she needs to continue feeding her child the way she has chosen to do so.


  1. I totally can vouch for the fact that formula feeders feel like they are being picked on at times...I know a few moms who could not breastfeed and were scared to death to give their child formula. Not because they were concerned about the nutritional content in the formula, but because they were afraid what other people would think of them. As an exclusive pumper, I also have had some of the same fears. I always wanted to breastfeed. Even when I was younger, I always said when I have a baby, I was definitely going to breastfeed him/her. My mother breastfed me until I was 15 months old, and she always told me of the many benefits of breastmilk. After I had Noah, and the breastfeeding didn't work out, I felt like the biggest failure ever. I cried so many times because I was giving my child expressed breast milk in a bottle. My boyfriend kept reminding me that Noah was still getting the good stuff, and to relax about it. But I still felt horrible. One night I had such a hard time getting enough breast milk to feed him, that I had to resort to giving him 1 oz of formula and I felt even worse after that (even though it was the only time I ever had to do it). Then at the doctor's office last week I was terrified to pull out the bottle of expressed breast milk to feed Noah when he was crying....because I was afraid the other moms in the waiting room would think I was feeding my baby formula. It's have to feed your child. And I'm not sure why we beat ourselves up about it when we can't do what is "supposed" to be natural. Like you said, it's not as natural as you might think. I assumed it would be easy, and that couldn't be further from the truth. Now that Noah is 3 weeks and I've had some time to let it all sink in....I've given myself some slack and am just happy that my child is happy and healthy. I am feeding him the best way I can....and that's all that matters! :)

  2. You're right; breastfeeding is far from easy. Have you seen the commercial comparing breastfeeding to learning a new language? So true. My son and I were really lucky. He was a great latcher, and although I was in recovery for 3.5 hours, our nursing relationship wasn't affected, and the Lactation Consultant was able to give my husband and I the tools we needed to keep it working.

    I think you're doing an amazing thing for Noah. Exclusive pumping requires such a strong commitment from the mom. All I have to do is whip out a boob for my son. I admire your dedication :)