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The rhetoric about formula feeding

post #1 of 173
Thread Starter 
I'd like to see an open discourse on the use of deragatory or negative connotations by lactivists in regards to formula feeding. Do you think the general use of "formula bashing", terms like inferior and 4th best, etc. hurt or help the cause? Why or why not? Supporting evidence is welcome. I would like this to stay nice, but I think its a much needed discussion in our community
post #2 of 173
I think those terms ("inferior" or "4th best") are neither negative nor derogatory. They are simply facts. One should not be offended by factual information. I am not one to "bash" FFing moms openly...but that doesn't change what IS. And formula IS those things.
post #3 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmzbm View Post
I think those terms ("inferior" or "4th best") are neither negative nor derogatory. They are simply facts.
I agree with this. Breastfeeding is the biological norm. We have many good studies that show that infants who are fed formula are at a higher risk of a variety of different illnesses.

Now, if formula is medically necessary, then obviously the increased risk of those illness from formula feeding is completely outweighed by the risks of not formula feeding. But those cases are the exception. For the bulk of the population, formula feeding increases the risk of health problems, which is why the WHO lists it as the 4th choice for infant feeding.
post #4 of 173
Thread Starter 
So what about the risk of running off those members of the lactivist community who don't agree with blanket statements about formula feeding?

I see this as being online with civil rights movement splits such as MLK v. the Black Panthers. Violent vs. non-violent - While neither breastfeeding promotion is violent per se, its a choice in honey or vinegar it seems. Guilt vs. education. And I see it driving a wedge in the lactivism movement today. I wonder how it can be reconciled so that lactivism is not weakened. I know there are a great many members here who use formula for a variety of reasons, and this discussion comes up regularly but has never been discussed as to the effects it has on lactivism as a movement.
post #5 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kierdan'sMom View Post
So what about the risk of running off those members of the lactivist community who don't agree with blanket statements about formula feeding?

I see this as being online with civil rights movement splits such as MLK v. the Black Panthers. Violent vs. non-violent - While neither breastfeeding promotion is violent per se, its a choice in honey or vinegar it seems. Guilt vs. education. And I see it driving a wedge in the lactivism movement today. I wonder how it can be reconciled so that lactivism is not weakened. I know there are a great many members here who use formula for a variety of reasons, and this discussion comes up regularly but has never been discussed as to the effects it has on lactivism as a movement.
I will not, personally, sugar coat facts to not offend the easily offended. Sorry. If a "lactivist" is "run off" because someone states a factual bit of info. - well...that's bizzare. Saying formula is inferior to BM does NOTHING to "weaken lactivism."
post #6 of 173
Well I agree that comparing formula to things like rat poison (something I've seen on this and other forums) is both untrue and harmful to the cause but going along with the idea that formula is "just as good" has been harmful to breastfeeding in the past.

I know that there are moms here who formula fed or have suplemented with formula. I know that this was not a choice thay came to lightly. I know that they are doing the best that they can for their children. And are doing a great job. Sometimes as parents though we give our all to our children and they are still exposed to things we would rather they not be. It makes no sence to down play the potential harm.

In recent years, lactavism has been councious of language. For years, we heard breast is best but formula is alright. This makes breastfeeding out to be "the extra mile" "above and beyond" something that really specially dedicated moms do. Not nessisaraly what the avarage mom who knows that she is imperfect needs to do.

We have been counciously trying to change the language to breastfeeding is normal and formula is an inferior substitute. Because this is true.

I'm really sorry if this hurts feelings. In cases where there is no breastmilk avaliable, formula does an admerable job of supplying baby nutrition but where breastmilk is potentialy avaliable, it is a poor choice.

Now having said that, I've always felt that the focus of lactivism should be less about convincing individual moms to breastfeed and more about breaking down the social/political/leagal/medical barriors to breastfeeding so that the choice becomes easier.

If a mom uses formula because she was given bad advice from her doctor. It's not her falult. But it's still not the best thing for the baby.

If a mom uses formula because she has to go back to work at a place where she can't pump. It's not her falult. But it's still not the best thing for the baby.

If a mom uses formula because she was pressured by family and friends. It's not her falult. But it's still not the best thing for the baby.

If a mom uses formula because she is afraid of being harrased for nursing in public. It's not her falult. But it's still not the best thing for the baby.

If a mom uses formula because social conditioning has given her a distorted view of her breasts and their function. It's not her falult. But it's still not the best thing for the baby.
post #7 of 173
i don't think it's a matter of guilt versus education at all. i don't want any FF mom to feel guilty. guilt accomplishes nothing. i want moms to truly know the facts about breast milk and formula, and also to have all the support they could need to successfully nurse, and then make an informed decision.

i think if moms knew the truth about each, and knew how to BF (weren't told undermining things about 10 minutes per side or not letting the baby use you for a pacifier, etc., etc.), a lot more women would nurse their babies for a lot longer.

as for those who would choose formula anyway, there is no need for guilt. i assume if you do what you think is right for your situation, you would not experience guilt. i don't feel guilty for having a c-section, for example. i feel disappointed and regretful, but not guilty because i did the best i could.

but i would never say c-section is as normal and as healthy a way to birth. it's not. it's necessary in some cases, and lifesaving because of that, but in most cases it's not necessary and it can be harmful. just like formula feeding. and even though i had and needed a section, it doesn't mean i can't say they are an inferior, less normal way to birth.

for me it comes down to not taking the facts personally. if you need to use formula, that is fine, and thank goodness it exists!--but it doesn't change the fact that it is typically not necessary and is biologically inferior to breastmilk.

ETA: and i agree with PP that a lot of the problem is social context. i think workplaces need to ALL be friendly for pumping and storing milk, for example. breastfeeding is a health issue AND a basic human right for babies and mamas. there is no excuse for these cultural barriers that make it so hard for mamas to choose to do the most natural thing in the world.
post #8 of 173
I think there's a fine line between stating facts and bashing formula feeding. I feel like I see the line crossed here quite a bit, but obviously other's don't feel the same way. I hate the sentiment that someone's a lesser mother because they formula fed their child. Perhaps they're not informed, perhaps they are, perhaps they have a valid reason. It doesn't always have to be a competition.

And yes--I will obviously admit that there is no way that formula is in the same league as breastmilk. Not even close. But it's more the attitude that I see.
post #9 of 173
Gotta agree with Marie. Formula is what it is. It IS a miracle when needed for medical reasons. No question.

It is also factually substandard.

-Angela
post #10 of 173
I think it totally depends on the context and the "tone" in which it's said.

Bunch of lactivists in a room together using "bashing" terms to vent? Totally understandable.

Bunch of lactivists on this - or any - forum using those terms to shame, in an accusing way, well-aware that new, insecure mothers or pregant women who don't know much about bf may be reading? Downright stupid, in my opinion.

If the goal is to educate and encourage, I don't see why anyone would choose belittling terms to discuss formula or women who use it. I really don't get it.

And I don't think the term "inferior" is anything but a statement of fact. But t's all about how it's used:

"Breastmilk is actually the biological norm. But because formula is so heavily advertised as 'almost like breastmilk' lots of women don't realize how inferior it really is."

vs.

"I can't believe how many women feed their precious babies something as inferior as formula. Don't they even care about their children?"

I don't think it weakens lactivism to be kind and encouraging to anyone.
post #11 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by zinemama View Post
I think it totally depends on the context and the "tone" in which it's said.

Bunch of lactivists in a room together using "bashing" terms to vent? Totally understandable.

Bunch of lactivists on this - or any - forum using those terms to shame, in an accusing way, well-aware that new, insecure mothers or pregant women who don't know much about bf may be reading? Downright stupid, in my opinion.

If the goal is to educate and encourage, I don't see why anyone would choose belittling terms to discuss formula or women who use it. I really don't get it.

And I don't think the term "inferior" is anything but a statement of fact. But t's all about how it's used:


"Breastmilk is actually the biological norm. But because formula is so heavily advertised as 'almost like breastmilk' lots of women don't realize how inferior it really is."

vs.

"I can't believe how many women feed their precious babies something as inferior as formula. Don't they even care about their children?"

I don't think it weakens lactivism to be kind and encouraging to anyone.
ITA with all of this - great post, zinemama. Being rude to people does not promote a cause. It only promotes an individual's sense of righteousness. Those who are truly out to inform and advance the cause, do this effectively by not insulting people and their choices along the way, even if they don't agree with them. No matter how "true" anything is, it doesn't need to be said in the most tactless way you can muster... not if you really want anyone to listen to you and heed your advice.
post #12 of 173
I, personally, don't have a problem with guilt. Again, to be clear, I don't go around trying to guilt induce a "desired behavior" out of others - but if one feels internally guilty over something, it can lead to posative change. (For example - I feel guilty over many things...circing my sons, vaxing my kids without looking into it, spanking my DS, allowing my oldest son to be prematurly weaned and fed inferior food, etc...I could go on.) It's internal feelings of regret that motivate people for the most part. You can preach lactivism all you like but if there's no inner turmoil there's no room for change. Guilt is an emotion & like ANY emotion, it's not inhearently wrong or bad.
post #13 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmzbm View Post
I, personally, don't have a problem with guilt. Again, to be clear, I don't go around trying to guilt induce a "desired behavior" out of others - but if one feels internally guilty over something, it can lead to posative change. (For example - I feel guilty over many things...circing my sons, vaxing my kids without looking into it, spanking my DS, allowing my oldest son to be prematurly weaned and fed inferior food, etc...I could go on.) It's internal feelings of regret that motivate people for the most part. You can preach lactivism all you like but if there's no inner turmoil there's no room for change. Guilt is an emotion & like ANY emotion, it's not inhearently wrong or bad.
But it's an emotion that should not be thrust upon people intentionally. And honestly, I don't think it's the motivation for most change. I think good information via conversations where people feel respected is a much stronger motivator. People don't like to feel guilty and they like it even less when they feel others are putting that upon them. I don't see it as an effective route for instilling positive changes.
post #14 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamameg View Post
But it's an emotion that should not be thrust upon people intentionally. And honestly, I don't think it's the motivation for most change. I think good information via conversations where people feel respected is a much stronger motivator. People don't like to feel guilty and they like it even less when they feel others are putting that upon them. I don't see it as an effective route for instilling positive changes.
Isn't that what I said? :
post #15 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmzbm View Post
Isn't that what I said? :
Was it? I guess I didn't completely understand you.
post #16 of 173
Well - here I do:

Quote:
Originally Posted by rmzbm View Post
Again, to be clear, I don't go around trying to guilt induce a "desired behavior" out of others
I don't want to berate people or make them feel bad. But if they DO, well - good can come from it.

I think it's immature and stupid to scream things like "rat poison" the way of FFBCing mothers. What good does that do? BUT if any are genuinly offended because I say formula is inferior - too bad. It IS. You'd be amazed how many don't even know that, I have heard oodles of moms go on about formula being "just as good." It is not, not even CLOSE...and my saying so is not to induce guilt or make someone suffer, it's to make sure they have facts. They can do (or feel) what they like with it. But, to be sure, guilt is not always bad...it can make people make better choices. And the FACT is, if more moms felt guilt over FFing babies would benefit.
post #17 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by rmzbm View Post
I don't want to berate people or make them feel bad. But if they DO, well - good can come from it.

I think it's immature and stupid to scream things like "rat poison" the way of FFBCing mothers. What good does that do? BUT if any are genuinly offended because I say formula is inferior - too bad. It IS. You'd be amazed how many don't even know that, I have heard oodles of moms go on about formula being "just as good." It is not, not even CLOSE...and my saying so is not to induce guilt or make someone suffer, it's to make sure they have facts. They can do (or feel) what they like with it. But, to be sure, guilt is not always bad...it can make people make better choices. And the FACT is, if more moms felt guilt over FFing babies would benefit.
I guess we are in agreement. I think its more the sentiment and how it's said that can make all the difference. I hear you that you are saying you don't say it in an insulting way, but I gathered from other posts on this thread that some happily and proudly do.
post #18 of 173
I think it is one thing to state the facts such as "inferior to breastmilk", "artificial baby milk" etc. but to make judgments about a mother that I don't know and haven't walked in her footsteps is a different story entirely. I am not one to pretend that formula is "just as good" as breastmilk but I know that we are all moms trying to do the very best we can for our babies. I won't judge someone else's choice but do like to inform when I can. I don't think we can make other mothers feel guilt by informing them of the facts. They may intrinsically feel guilt for choices they have made, I know I do and feel bashed if someone touches on those sore points. I do know that I have elicited a lot of anger in mothers that were misinformed about breastfeeding vs. formula feeding. They feel duped and cheated and sometimes guilty. I try to be understanding and informative and meet moms where they are at the time. I do know that from my personal experience that I can reach a lot more women by speaking rationally, calmly and with information rather than emotion and rhetoric.
Wendi
post #19 of 173
Quote:
Originally Posted by mamameg View Post
I guess we are in agreement. I think its more the sentiment and how it's said that can make all the difference. I hear you that you are saying you don't say it in an insulting way, but I gathered from other posts on this thread that some happily and proudly do.
I don't insult people. Ever. But if asked something & my factual answer induces less than fuzzy feelings I accept no responsability for that either. I am sure some people DO get a rise out of looking superior & I cannot comment on that. I think they have more issues than FFing mothers to be sure.
post #20 of 173
well, i would disagree with marie wrt guilt -- i think it can lead to making incredibly unwise choices in a given situation out of guilt to "make up for" a past decision. when guilt blinds us to everything but making up for what we've done in the past it doesn't serve anyone well.

but specific to lactivism, i agree with zinemama. i think that using charged language like "inferior" is understandable when brainstorming about how to effect change, but when you slip into using it all the time the chances of it offending the very people you're trying to convince are too great to make up for any benefit. jmho.
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