By now you’ve probably heard Gisele Bundchen’s quote from a recent magazine interview in which she said, “There should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.” Well this, of course, caused an uproar to which she later gave an explanation of her opinion on her blog—which I feel is absolutely ridiculous. First of all, it was her opinion. Second of all, I think she’s right—no explanation necessary.
Reality star/chef/author/business woman/wife/breastfeeding mother, Bethenny Frankel responded to Gisele’s comment by saying, “That’s the most absurd thing I’ve ever heard,” then went on to say, “Breastfeeding is one of the most rewarding experiences, but it isn’t for everyone.” That’s a shame because what a great advocate she could have been, especially for those who use their careers as an excuse not to breastfeed. I would like to pose this question to Bethenny Frankel. Do you think it’s absurd to put your child in a car seat? I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I’m guessing your answer would be, “no.” Not only is it a law put in place for the safety and protection of children, it’s pretty much, as I read in one article, common sense and a maternal instinct for a mother to want to protect her child. You tell me what the difference is between a law mandating the use of a car seat and a law mandating breastfeeding.
These women who ridicule advocates of breastfeeding, accusing them of making them feel guilty, fit into one of three categories: 1) uneducated, 2) selfish, or 3) lazy. To those women who choose not to breastfeed,
I would like you to make the following statements—out loud, holding your baby, looking directly at their face:
“I CHOOSE for you to have a weaker immune system.”
“I CHOOSE for you to have a greater risk of having chronic ear infections.”
“I CHOOSE for you to have a greater risk of having asthma.”
“I CHOOSE for you to have a greater risk of having juvenile diabetes.”
“I CHOOSE for you to have a greater risk of having childhood leukemia.”
“I CHOOSE for you to have a greater risk of dying of sudden infant death syndrome.”
THEN say, “I make this choice because ________,” and fill in the blank with your excuse for not breastfeeding.
Harsh, isn’t it? Those are the facts. Hopefully, someone out there is in agreement with me. It is that serious. Do your own research. Numbers don’t lie. There is an urgent need for a movement, yet every time someone makes a statement, or breastfeeds in public, there are those of you who can’t wait to spew your negativity on those who are just doing what is right. Does this make you angry? If so, why? Does this make you feel guilty? Well, let me share something with you. NO ONE can MAKE you feel anything. Your feelings are your own.
Here’s another thing, the definition of guilt is 1) fact of having committed an offense, and 2) painful feeling that one has done wrong. If you feel guilty, then congratulations!! This means you at least know that you’ve done wrong and you’re not a heartless person without a conscience. The bad news is that you are the only one to blame, so stop pointing your finger!! That being said, there are those who argue that there is a serious breakdown in this country’s health care system (with which I strongly agree) that is to blame for the low percentage of mothers who breastfeed, therefore relieving the mothers of any personal responsibility to educate themselves (with which I strongly disagree).
I’ve seen this breakdown first hand, over and over again. I have yet to figure out why our hospitals and health care professionals are not requiring their patients to TRY breastfeeding and spending more time on education. If your ob/gyn prescribes you prenatal vitamins, you fill the prescription and you take them. If they put you on bed rest because you have a high risk pregnancy, you stay in bed. No questions asked, Dr. knows best, right? So someone explain why, if formula manufacturers themselves are printing, “breast milk is best” (as required by the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes), right on their labels, then why aren’t health care professionals requiring their patients to breastfeed? In our country today, only 12% of women breastfeed exclusively for the first six months. And 43% of women try and either dry up or give up.
That leaves 45% who are going straight to formula. I encourage everyone to do their own research on the medical issues, health care costs and infant mortalities that are directly connected to the lack of breastfeeding in this country. But I will share this. After the introduction of the rubber nipple in 1845, there was a dramatic increase in the use of breast milk substitutes. In 1846 there was an increase in the number of medical problems and infant mortalities directly associated with breast milk substitutes. The facts were and remain the same. Breast milk is best and formula should be used ONLY as a last resort. Our government and media are famous for using scare tactics to sway our thinking. Apparently, it’s not working in this case. Perhaps anger will work, but make sure you are channeling your anger in the right direction. Don’t get angry with me because I made you “feel guilty.”
Get angry with your employer who is unwilling to accommodate your need to do the best thing for your child. Get angry with a society who looks at breasts as sexual objects rather than what their intended purpose is. Get angry with the women who are dragging you down, making believe formula is acceptable when you know it is not. Stand up for yourself, but more importantly, stand up for your child! Everyone keeps calling for a movement, but it has not yet happened. If we can’t unite as women and do what is best for our children, then perhaps the government should intervene and require women to breastfeed for six months. Women fought for the right to vote, and won. Women fought for equality in the workplace, and won. Why in the hell can’t we fight for our children’s health and lives?? We need to unite and command respect from a society that looks upon public breastfeeding with disgust. We need to unite and demand that ALL employers give adequate maternity leave and facilitate pumping once you’ve returned.
Finally, we need to EDUCATE, EDUCATE, EDUCATE ourselves and everyone around us to change the way society views breastfeeding to give our children a healthier life.