Misery Loves Company

I don’t put a gate at the top of my stairs.

That’s just what works best for my family. Yes, I am putting Peanut at risk by not protecting her from the stairs. I have decided to assume that risk by not putting a gate up to prevent her.

Would I blatantly recommend all parents shouldn’t gate their stairs? No. Would I say that people who gate their stairs are lying about the benefits of the gate? No. Would I say that gates are obviously unnecessary because my child hasn’t fallen down the stairs? No. If a mother came to me with a situation that called for her to also not put a gate at her stairs, I would gladly tell her how we handle the stairs and maybe even advise her to do the same. But I do not know everyone’s situation.

(To stretch the analogy a little too far)

Maybe a mother would see my recommendation of no gates when she is very frustrated and ready to throw her gate out. Maybe she has a different situation than mine that can be simply fixed by a different type of gate. Now she gives up on gates when she didn’t necessarily need to and her child is also put at risk of falling down the stairs. Maybe my child is lucky and doesn’t have an ill effects of her lack of gate, but who says this child is as lucky?

Now replace that gate with breastfeeding.

Yes, formula feeding is something that works best for some families. It’s something you have to decide on after weighing the benefits and risks—and there are many risks of formula feeding. Would I ever judge a mother for making that decision? No. I will judge the system that didn’t help the mothers that had to make that decision, but never the mother. Each mother does what’s best for her family. Yes, that includes the decision to stop breastfeeding in some cases.

Just because you made that decision doesn’t mean it’s best for all other moms. Don’t try to hide the risks of formula feeding. It’s not fair for you to take that educated decision away from other mothers. You can’t say that formula feeding didn’t hurt your child and therefore isn’t bad. Formula feeding runs the risk of lower IQ, more illness, and (in and out of the US) even death, but a risk is just that—a risk. If your child had zero ill effects of formula feeding—which you can never know for sure because you don’t know what your child would have been like had they breastfed—that just means that your child is lucky. Don’t let your guilty feelings rob another mother of her happy, healthy child.

Misery truly does love company.

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7 thoughts on “Misery Loves Company

  1. “I will judge the system that didn’t help the mothers that had to make that decision, but never the mother.”

    Exactly. I read an excellent post about breastfeeding/feminism today that talks about the construct of calling breastfeeding a “choice,” and how that detracts from every woman’s decision to give her child the nutrition that should be the only standard.

    Ok I found it for you b/c I figured you would enjoy it 🙂
    http://bfmed.wordpress.com/2010/06/12/what-does-feminism-have-to-do-with-breastfeeding/

  2. Just to mention that until you die you don’t know how formula has affected you (the baby of course). Formula feeding doesn’t allow for the full genetic makeup to benefit that child and make him/her all he could be.

  3. I don’t know if this is in response to the debate that went on in the comments section of our last FFF Friday post, but if so, I honestly do not think that is what Brooke was trying to say. Or anyone else who has posted on my blog, for that matter. I think that what most of my readers/FFF sharers believe is that breastfeeding would have been the ideal, but for whatever reason, it didn’t work out, and they are comfortable with formula as a backup plan.

    I think your gate analogy is a decent one. I’m sure there are a lot of people who would think that not babygating your stairs is a dangerous and irresponsible mistake. And that you are damn lucky that nothing terrible has happened because of it. Or that it still might. And you’d be right to defend that choice, and urge that person to trust your parenting instincts.

    But since you brought up feminism, I’m afraid that is where the gate analogy peters out. Because putting up a baby gate does not demand a serious impact on your time, professional aspirations, or mental health. Not that breastfeeding does this for all women, but it certainly does for some. And since feminists tend to congregate on the pro-choice side when people try to tell them what to do with their uteruses, I’m not sure why this keep-your-beliefs-off-my-body philosophy doesn’t apply to breasts as well.

    Not that I am a raging feminist or anything, I’m just sayin’…:)

    • This could just be my one-sided view because it is impossible to view something so all-consuming as parenting objectively, but I would say that is wasn’t calling formula feeding “a backup plan”. To me, it felt that she was saying that formula feeding was equal to breastfeeding. By saying that her child hit milestones early, it sounded to me that she was saying that formula feeding was actually better for her child than breastfeeding. Also to clarify, I’m not trying to debate that formula feeding was the better choice for her and her circumstance, but rather that biologically it was not the better choice.

      I think your pro-choice argument is an interesting one. I am personally very pro-choice (I actually spent much time volunteering with Planned Parenthood prior to Peanut’s birth) and I had never thought of the choice of formula feeding that way. Though my real issue with formula feeding isn’t the mothers who choose to do it (for instance, if a mother looks at the benefits and risks and makes an educated decision to formula feed, I thoroughly believe that is her choice and should be respected), it’s the mothers who are tricked into it. The messages that are sent out by our society that breastfeeding is dirty make women not want to seek help when they have problems (as many moms do), the formula companies boasting that their formula is “closest to breast milk” implies that there is practically no difference so moms should switch to formula, etc. So if a mom just decides not to breastfeed because she just doesn’t want to, that’s her choice to make. If she has problems with breastfeeding that don’t get addressed because of our system, that’s where my issue lies.

      • Fearless Formula Feeder and I continued our conversation via email and I wanted to post a comment of hers (with her permission).

        Honestly, I could not agree more with what you said in the second paragraph of your comment. And I definitely agree that a system that makes women feel ashamed to breastfeed should be railed against. You know, it’s hard for me to remember that many parts of our country are still like that… where I live, and where all my friends live (big, liberal, metropolitan cities), breastfeeding IS the norm. But I am aware that this is not the case in most of middle America, and I’m glad we have people out there like you fighting to make sure more moms and babies are able to enjoy all the incredible benefits of breastfeeding. Seriously.

  4. You said: “You can’t say that formula feeding didn’t hurt your child and therefore isn’t bad.”

    Can YOU prove that it DOES hurt MY child?? Sorry, but I dont think you can.

    And you hide behind the notion that you are open minded, and do not judge mothers who formula feed, when in reality, you DO judge them. People can always speak of and judge something they do not know about. Walk a day in my shoes, sweetie, and you will change your tune.

    You also said: “If your child had zero ill effects of formula feeding—which you can never know for sure because you don’t know what your child would have been like had they breastfed—that just means that your child is lucky.”

    My question for you: how do you know MY child would be different if she WAS breastfed?? How do YOU know YOUR child would be “less” of a child then she is if she was formula fed? Honey, YOU will NEVER know!! You are making all assumptions that your child isnt “at risk” simply because you breast feed. You child could very well be the SAME as she is now if was formula fed. Though you will never know so DON’T make the assmuption (judgement) that any child would be BETTER if they were breast fed, because when it comes down to it, YOU dont know.

    • Thank you for your comment, but I do not follow your logic and therefore offer no rebuttal. I don’t believe I said a single thing you said I did. Oh well, we all misread at times.

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