food and failure
So we've been debating all week about whether we really are "all for" the AAP recommendations after all. The big news is that we are all encouraged to breast feed for at least one year and for the first six months exclusively (that means no additional formula, or food).Of course, it is the American Academy of Pediatrics, so their agenda is Best for Babies. And breast milk is clearly better in almost all cases, as their heavily footnoted studies on the superiority of breastmilk to formula prove. But beyond the biology it gets a whole lot murkier.
On the one hand, if we don't make it clear that breastfeeding is important, people won't do it. But on the other, there's the fact that breastfeeding is something many women find really, really difficult...both because it sometimes just is, and because there's still not much in the way of supoprt for it. Policy is one problem, but the lack of support goes way deeper: professional, medical, emotional, cultural. It’s hard to pump all day long, it’s hard to breastfeed in public, it’s hard to lasso the energy it takes to be your baby’s sole food provider for six months, it’s hard to breastfeed when neither your OB nor your pediatrician can talk you through the problems… And yet so many of us feel that if we don’t breastfeed we have failed in some way. So what does this new mandate mean for moms? More pressure, and more guilt for those who are unable to undertake this "natural" process turned cultural shitstorm. Moms who give up breastfeeding for perfectly valid reasons feel huge guilt. Moms who can't breastfeed feel desperate to conjure up some magical milk elixir, even if it's from an uncertified source. It's good, but is it good enough to justify the damage?
If not breastfeeding feels like failure, we need to make it easier to succeed.