“Ban the bottle”

Supermodel Gisele Bundchen wants there to be a law preventing mothers from using formula milk to feed their babies, making them breastfeed for the first six months of their baby’s life.

Some people here [in the US] think they don’t have to breastfeed, and I think, ‘Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?’ I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”

As a side note, ladies, Gisele credits breastfeeding for helping her get back into shape so she could model swimsuits six weeks after giving birth! So, you should totes do it for you figure too.

I understand what she is trying to say, and that she has the best of intentions, but I don’t think a law forcing women to breastfeed is at all ok. To me (and I am a non-mother, so this is all really from an outsiders perspective here), it screams of privilege: I do believe that breastfeeding is awesome and should be promoted, but I think individual women’s experiences with their own babies should really be what dictates their choice to do so. Not all women have the privilege of an ‘easy’ or ‘good’ experience, and not all women have the privilege of someone (nurse/midwife/lactation consultant/family member/etc) who can advise them and maybe help them to make it a better experience. So while I all completely behind the promotion of breastfeeding, and think providing support to women who can/do breastfeed is very important, I don’t think that what is essentially a big fat dose of shame will help women who can’t/don’t (for whatever the reason). Women  face so much pressure to be perfect, and do the ‘right’ things, and the pressure on women to be perfect mothers (do this, don’t do that, don’t you want what’s best for your child??, etc) already sets women up to feel like failures when they can’t meet expectations. So maybe less ostracism and villification, and more support, yeah?

11 Comments

  1. Deborah says:

    Absolutely. Well said, Steph.

    • steph says:

      Thanks Deborah. I am a bit ignorant about this (breastfeeding), but from what I have read (on very excellent feminist mothering/parenting blogs!), the pressure on mothers ( regarding lots of parenting choices) is immense. And that sucks.

  2. Amanda says:

    Maybe if Ms Bundchen is so intent in making sure all women will breastfeed, she can also be instrumental in eliminating the stigmatism behind breast feeding in public. Because as many a Herald debate can attest, there’s just NOTHING like being ogled, gawked at or shamed with that.

    But I guess if you’re sexy enough laydeez, it shouldn’t matter, amirite?

    • steph says:

      And hey, why should the baby get to enjoy it all to his/herself, yeah? We should totes be able to ogle if a lady bares some flesh in public.

      • steph says:

        Haha, the best comments on The Hearld are the “sure, it’snatural, but people don’t want to see that while they’re trying to eat” ones. Yeah buddy, someone other than you is also trying to eat: the baby! Duh. Maybe just focus on your own meal, and let the baby have theirs.

      • Amanda says:

        Haha “enjoying it” – I don’t think they’ve thought through that implication. Are they implying that they’re sexualizing the baby?

  3. Boganette says:

    I’m glad you blogged about this Steph. It’s pretty dear to my heart even though I don’t have kids. I watched a dear friend of mine AND my sister be abused almost daily about the fact that they didn’t breastfeed. My sister has a tumour and is on medication that leaves her unable to breast feed. While in hospital a nurse told her that she should go off the medication that is essentially keeping her alive so she could breastfeed. She was repeatedly called selfish and told she was a bad mother by hospital staff and other carers who were meant to be helping her. When her milk wouldn’t come (which a doctor had already said would happen because of the medication) she was told she wasn’t “trying hard enough”. She had an horrific labour and didn’t need to be abused afterwards by people who are paid to look after her. While this was in Australia I don’t think it’s that different in NZ. My friend in Tauranga was told by her midwife that if she didn’t breast feed the midwife wouldn’t work with her. She had to get another midwife very close to her due date which was incredibly stressful for her. Her playgroup isolated her and eventually forced her out when they found out she wasn’t breastfeeding and the formula she used was called “poison” by other mothers. Her Plunket nurse told her off about not breastfeeding also calling her selfish and she was regularly on the phone to me crying about the way nurses, Plunket and other mothers treated her. I told her to file a complaint (as I told my sister too) but both were just too traumatised and exhausted from their ordeals dealing with judgemental assholes to do so.

    Now we have an idiot model in the press not only judging women who don’t breastfeed but also pulling that shit about formula being ‘chemicals’ AND on top of that spouting shit about how if you can have an easy birth if you just do all the things she did. When guess what hunny it’s fucking LUCK OF THE DRAW. I might sound sort of crazy but I’ve seen the pain this has caused my sister and my friend. And the bullshit ‘easy labour’ stuff is another thing that pisses me off. My sister had a very traumatic labour and didn’t need a bunch of stupid morons telling her what she “should” have done to make it better. It’s all crap. It’s not your fault if you had a bad birth.

    Anyway – that’s my rant. Gisele is a fucking human coathanger she should STFU. And if people want to encourage breastfeeding (which of course they should) the way to do it isn’t to spread misinformation (like this chemicals/poison shit) and it isn’t to abuse women who don’t or can’t breastfeed.

    • steph says:

      Thanks Boganette for you story, I’m so sorry that anyone had such an awful experience and I hope things are improving now (not trying to sound patronising, promise!). I really appreciate you telling this. When I said I had very little personal experience of this, but that not every woman is privileged enough to be able to breastfeed, this is exactly what I meant (but had no real story of my own to tell to back it up). This is the reason that we should be providing all the support and resources we can, but making sure that the support extends to everyone, because everyone has different circumstances and experiences, and just because they are different to the ‘ideal’, doesn’t mean they should be overtly shamed and villified. Women already have enough people telling them what they should do, and don’t need more guilt. So while promoting breastfeeding is crucial, slamming mothers who don’t (often because they can’t) shouldn’t be part of the plan at all.

    • Amanda says:

      WTF “forced out” and “refused to work with” because of choices in formula? WTF is this, high school all over again?!

      Lawd, the more I learn about the ridiculous double standards in parenting, the more I want to loose my bananas.

      • Boganette says:

        Well more because she wouldn’t breast feed rather than formula choices. Because ALL FORMULA IS POISON according to certain mothers/nurses/Plunket women. Yep I had no idea it was that bad. And this was before my sister had her baby – I never expected people would tell women to literally risk death to breastfeed. I realise how much worse it is now after hearing everything my sister went through. It made her post partum depression even worse. And that of course is her fault too.