Reading Between the Lines

This post is more for my non-lactivist readers. Really, you lactivists out there can try to help people not say it too by spreading the word. The correct wording comes so second nature to me now, but it’s the number one thing that I see people do that shows we’re obviously a bottle-feeding country. It’s a simple thing and the people who say it are well meaning, but hearing it on a regular basis unconsciously promotes the notion that breastfeeding is bad.

How we refer to food when speaking about a nursling.

If you were telling a breastfeeding mother that you gave her child a piece of apple, how would you describe it? This probably isn’t something you even think about when you’re trying to convey that message, but your wording can easily be offensive. I can think of countless times that someone words this wrong and it’s frustrating. Since it’s not something that’s blatantly anti-breastfeeding, I feel awkward to even correct them. Actually, many times when people word it wrong they are trying to acknowledge our breastfeeding relationship and show that they support it. Talk about ironic.

Example #1: “Peanut seemed hungry for some food food.” The italics show emphasis. What exactly does food food mean? If you’re using food as an adjective to describe the food you gave her, wouldn’t that say that my breast milk isn’t food? Under that circumstance, what exactly is my breast milk? I’m fairly sure that breast milk is as food as food gets considering the fact that it’s the most well-rounded nutrition that Peanut will ever experience.

Example #2: “I gave Peanut some real food.” Whoa, really? This one is by far the one I hear the most and you would be surprised how well meaning the people who say it actually are! Even as I typed that on the page, I felt offended. This is pretty impressive with out much it takes to offend me. I have had some of the biggest breastfeeding supporters around me say the phrase “real food”. It takes everything in my being to not snap back “So is my breast milk fake food?” Alas, I do not because I would like to maintain my few good relationships. Then of course the shyness prevents me from saying anything at all to explain to them the offense they’ve causes. Ho-hum.

So what should you say instead?

It’s so simple! You will be amazed and awestruck at the simplicity of these alternatives!

Alternative #1: “Peanut seemed hungry for solid food.” Why yes, my breast milk is liquid! Liquid is the opposite of solid (we’re leaving gas out of this for the sake of the analogy)!

Alternative #2: “I gave Peanut some table food.” Ah-ha! It is food that you would likely eat on the table! *Insert flabbergasted faces here*

Alternative #3: “I gave Peanut an apple.” What? You can just describe the food as what it actually is? I bet that this will even eliminate the later need to describe what type of food you gave the child (because I sure want to know what you gave my child)! Soooo good! (teehee, I need to watch that again)

So the next time that you’re telling a mother about what you fed her child, mind your words. Really, it’s always good to keep a mind on your words. 😛 Also, try to spread the word. If you’re not a breastfeeding mom, you’d be surprised how many people say anti-breastfeeding things without meaning to. I know, you probably feel awkward about it, but you will feel less awkward with time and that’s the beginning of societal change.


5 thoughts on “Reading Between the Lines

  1. That is such a good point! You SHOULD say something next time you hear someone say ‘real’ food. It will enlighten them and make them think about that when they probably never have.

  2. FYI, us formula feeders have the same problem. But think of it this way: formula and breastmilk = baby food, while everything else is real/adult food. Yeah, it’s food, but do adults (well, normal ones) drink it? You can see why people differentiate between adult food and baby food.

  3. I have the same issue, though mostly in trying to find the words myself, less in being offended by others. I have also offended myself by thinking about calling table food “real” food. I joked with my baby as she was starting solids and would enjoy playing with “food toys” and then came back to Mom for some “real food.” When we started signing, I’ve had an easier time calling it “food” and “milk.” For some reason, supplementing the word “food” with the motion of picking something up and putting it in my mouth feels like it differentiates itself from the best food that I make.

    to Shasta: I think it’s more complicated than that. Jarred purees would also be considered baby “food,” and babies would be eating “adult” food long before they are adults. I think there’s still a complication with wording for formula feeders, but not in the same way as for breastfeeders. Calling table food “real food” implies that the milk is not “real food,” and for formula feeders this implies that the baby is moving on to bigger and better things. To a breastfeeding mother, this feels more like an affront to her person because it sounds like the food that her body makes specifically for her baby is not “real food.” It feels like her body isn’t good enough that it can’t make “real food.”

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