Thursday, September 16, 2010

Marketing and Breastfeeding, Who Hasn't Been Duped?

So I've been thinking and re-thinking this formula-guilt issue. First things first: I do not feel that moms who choose to formula feed are bad mothers or that they do not care about their children's health. Now that this has been said, let's get to the titty gritty here. Not to generalize too much because every mother's story is different, but I do find there are 3 main reasons that mothers choose to formula feed:

1. The mothers have tried to breastfeed and due to circumstances beyond their control (formula friendly hospital practises, no family support, a lack of lactation professionals in their area, poor advise from a medical caregiver and in very rare circumstances the mother is physically unable to produce enough milk on her own to solely meet her baby's nutritional requirements) have "chosen" to formula feed. Let's face it though, in many of those circumstances moms don't feel as if there is a choice.

2.The mothers who after hearing or witnessing the circumstances of the mothers in group #1 decide to fore go breastfeeding altogether believing that formula is a perfectly safe alternative.

3. The mothers who have suffered from body image issues and/or have been sexually abused and cannot see their breasts as anything other than sexual objects.

And after reading those reasons, who can blame them? They certainly should not be blaming themselves. After all, formula companies have been doing an amazing job of convincing families for 50 years that not only is formula as good as breast milk, that it is better. Take a good look at a formula commercial; big healthy happy baby crawling on immaculately clean carpets, with beautiful and well put together mother. Now I want you to recall the big healthy happy breastfed baby commercials have you seen on t.v., you know the ones done by expensive marketing companies. The ones that play before after and during "A Baby Story"? The ones that directly market to pregnant mothers? According to research a mother chooses how she will feed her baby when she is pregnant. OH WAIT, There are no breastfeeding commercials made by top advertising companies. Those are all formula advertisements. Even a breastfeeding site I was on the other day had a Nestle formula add on it. I wrote them an email (perhaps one that was a bit too harsh) and they apologized saying sometimes they get "slipped in" and they are not aware of it. So yeah, there are government sponsored breastfeeding posters in our area and all the models in them are small breasted, small waisted and white. Even in nourishing our babies we have an advertised difficult if not impossible to obtain "norm" to conform to. So anyways back to me and my opinions. So in jumps the self-righteous part of me "I saw those commercials and I still chose what's best for my baby, blah blah, blah." Okay, so maybe I did- but to pretend that I have not been convinced by a marketing company to use something that was unhealthy either physically or emotionally would be dishonest. To say that I have not made poor choices for my baby's and my health based on a caregiver's advise would also be a lie. For example:

I woke up this morning and after doing my usual brush teeth tame hair thang, I put on mascara. This is because I believe it makes me more attractive. because I have been convinced that my eyelashes are not long or dark enough on their own, that I must purchase and apply product to my face because it is not perfect enough as is.

I used a moisturizer with cancer causing ingredients when I was pregnant so that I would have less stretchmarks (got to remember to stay sexy while taking part in the miracle of life) I didn't know that the ingredients were toxic at the time, but I didn't bother looking them up either. After all, who would sell something that could increase the risk of cancer and other health issues to a pregnant woman?

I agreed to a cesarean with my breech baby because I had been told by an OBGYN that this was the safest route for my baby to be born. A few years later this recommendation changed because it was deemed not to be the safest way for a breech baby to be born, due to the complications for mother and baby associated with cesarean delivery.

So here I sit. 1.Believing that my body is not good enough on it's own, 2. Also believing that products advertised for mothers and babies are safe and healthy and 3. having made a poor choice for my baby and I based on a health care provider's advise. I can say truthfully, I too have been duped. Do I feel guilty? No. Do I feel angry? Yes. Am I going to attack other victims of this type of deceit? No. Am I going to attack women who weren't as deceived as me? Nope. So what am I going to do with this anger and knowledge?

I am going to take more courses on breastfeeding and educate whoever will listen.
I am going to let every person in my life know that they are beautiful exactly as they are.
I am going to teach my children to not take everything at face value, to ask questions and to take responsibility for their choices.
I am not going to support companies who's products and advertisements are damaging physically and emotionally.
I am not going to join in on this back and forth bashing of breastfeeding vs formula feeding mothers. As long as we fight amongst ourselves on this one symptom we cannot unite against the disease. The disease of markets that profit solely on the belief that our bodies are not good enough, not good enough to be sexually attractive, not good enough to give birth and not good enough to nourish our babies afterwards. A simple statement that could bring down this entire empire of insecurity "Not only are we good enough, we are better just the way we are."