Breast, bottle, whatever: How you feed your family It is a shameless series about what babies eat.
Michelle Branch, a singer, took to Twitter a few months ago to share an unfortunate experience she had breastfeeding her 6-week old baby at the playground where her older child was playing. According to Branch’s tweetShe was confronted by another mom, who made a slur about her nursing in public, and then told her that she wasn’t being modest. Branch was stunned and did not respond. Later, she wrote that she was shocked that a mom had made such a judgment about her.
Branch is not the only mom who has been criticized for her willingness to nurse her baby while others are watching. Fame isn’t the only exception. Yahoo Life’s Hunter McGrady, a model, said last year that she was a plus-sized woman who got “the most disgusted looks” while nursing her baby boy. Jessica Alba and Ashley Graham opened up to her in a 2020 episode. Red Table Talk About being called “gross for breastfeeding in public.” Alba said that she was also criticised for posting a picture of herself giving her infant son a bottle.
To put it mildly, that’s not the case. In the face of an epidemic that has put parents under severe strain, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), this summer issued updated guidelines. It recommends exclusive breastfeeding for the first six-months of a child’s lives, as well as continued breastfeeding for at least 2 years. But, as this year’s infant formula shortages — and the desperation they induced — demonstrated, breastfeeding isn’t an option for countless families, due to nursing struggles and/or a lack of resources, allergies and other medical complications, adoption, surrogacy and myriad other factors, including parental preference and individual needs. Pat suggestions such as “just breastfeed,” are not only unhelpful but also ignore entire communities and make it seem like a privilege that is beyond many’s reach.
Even those who choose to breastfeed and are physically capable of it, many Americans lack the cultural or systemic support needed to keep the practice alive in the United States. After months of interminable Build Back Better negotiations, Congress pulled a 12 week federal paid leave proposal off the table. Instead, it pushed for the Inflation Reduction Act. It does not contain the family-friendly provisions like an expanded child tax credit or universal pre-K, as many had hoped. Only 11 states and the District of Columbia have paid family leave programs. A 2017 survey found that only 50.5% working mothers aged between 18 and 34 could receive 12 weeks of unpaid Family Medical Leave Act (2012, 2012). In 2012, a survey found that 62% reported financial difficulties. 46% of FMLA eligible employees stated that their reason for not taking leave was lack of pay. While federal law requires that breastfeeding employees have access to private space and breaks, it is not uncommon for them to be disappointed (pun intended).
So moms are forced to use dingy bathrooms or risk painfully over-feeding their babies. They breastfeed on the move, often in front of other women, and are sometimes scolded, or even sexually abused. Others stick with it and are shamed for their continued breastfeeding. Others switch to formula and are treated as if they have abandoned their child. And then suddenly the grocery store shelves are bare, and parents are dealing with a formula crisis, on top of a childcare crisis, on top of a global pandemic, on top of the 10 million other things that parents — particularly mothers — have to worry about. This doesn’t even cover the challenges — included a general lack of maternal health support and a complex history with breastfeeding — that are heightened for BIPOC parents. “You’re damned, if it’s true, you’re damned again if it’s not” barely scratches at the surface.
All this brings us to Yahoo Life’s new series. How you feed your family. Because not every family looks alike or has the same resources or needs, the deeply personal decisions each one makes about how to keep their baby nourished — via breast, bottle, whatever — can vary wildly. The process pits parents against each other, creating a universal, intimate experience that is fraught with shame and stigma. How did we get here? Are there ways to provide more support and less judgement? In the coming weeks, we will be discussing the fascinating historical roots and formula-shaming of wet nurses; speaking to experts, activists, influencers and others in the baby-feeding industry; and having candid conversations about parents from celeb moms to the woman that famously breastfed her toddler on the cover Time.
We are also interested in hearing from you You. Do you have any thoughts or memories about your parenting experience? Please share your story with us using #ShareHowYouFeed in the comments or on social media by using #ShareHowYouFeed
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