Originally Posted by MeepyCat
So it's not a comparison between formula and cigarettes anymore. Now it's formula is like the food you can buy cheap in the grocery store (you know, the GMO stuff). Which is also just like giving your baby diet coke.
That goes a long way towards making advocates for breast feeding sound clueless about their personal levels of privilege.
The women least likely to breastfeed in this country aren't shrugging at the marginal benefits of mothers' milk in order to do something easier. They're headed back to waiting tables in order to keep a roof over their heads. If you make it clear at the outset that you're espousing an unaffordable standard, they won't feel obligated to hang around waiting to see if you have something useful to offer.
I think at bottom we disagree that the benefits are marginal. Nothing I've said is an attack on low income women. I completely agree that there needs to be improved access to breastfeeding support, supplies, etc. I don't think we are going to get there unless we get real about the fact that babies need breastmilk.
In my mother's generation, all babies were bottlefed as a sign of higher economic status - only those who couldn't afford formula nursed their babies. Historically, breastfeeding was associated with low income. Nowadays, it's assumed only upper middle class SAHMs can breastfeed - and that's just plain false. Lower income, working women need more support - but the bias toward formula is also deeply cultural. Many lower income, foreign-born women in this country, for example, still breastfeed their children.
My friends include single moms working hard at low-paying jobs to support their families - I am absolutely sympathetic with their challenges. I think the best way to support them is to improve their access to education and resources. Formula is expensive - either they are paying for it, or the state is. How could we help people to reallocate those resources toward breastfeeding counseling/supplies? What would the maternal and child health impacts be?
To me, formula vs. breastmilk is absolutely no different than any other public health issue. It is why I fight for awareness of food deserts, and I try to help people find healthy alternatives to ubiquitous convenient junk food for the same price. Healthy habits aren't impossible on a tight budget. This isn't about privilege - it's about making it work, at any income level. Breastmilk is far cheaper than formula.