Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Breastfeeding Fascism

The other day, I happened across this poster on a wall in the paediatric OPD in a well-known hospital:
For those of you who can't read Hindi, this translates as: Only a woman who is willing to breastfeed a baby shall have the right to be called a mother.

This irritated me on so many levels...

To start with, since when did motherhood become a right that could be given and taken away by some random authority? The last I heard, Mother Nature made it so that we could have babies and no man-made code of morality can claim to strip that away or tell us that the babies we gave birth to cannot call us their mothers. Sure, we may be good or bad mothers, but mothers we will be irrespective. Next, they will be saying that you aren't really a mother if you chose to deliver via an elective c-section. Or if you don't want to give up your career and be a 24-7 mom. Really, who gave anyone the power?

And yes, I agree, they are people who do not deserve to have children - but they are the ones who knowingly harm and neglect their children. I don't believe that choosing not to breastfeed even makes you a bad mother, forget about being one who should relinquish her right to be a mother.

Don't get me wrong, I am HUGELY pro-breastfeeding myself. I fed Ayaan for eleven months, even though it was one of the hardest things I have ever done - pain, endless fussiness, lots of tears (his and mine) and poor weight gain were all part of the package but I kept at it because of a deep belief in it still being the best source of nourishment for him in his first year (his totally rejecting the bottle also had something to do with it). Feeding Tarana has been much easier and at nine and a half months, we are still going strong. Both times, I have chosen to put my career, social life and beauty sleep on temporary hold because this is the one thing I did not want to compromise on.

But, that was my choice. And while I don't necessarily understand and agree with women who don't want to give breastfeeding everything they have got, I accept that that is their choice. And it is not as monstrous a choice as the breastfeeding Nazis make it out to be. So give it a rest, people. The choice to breastfeed is between a mother and a baby and no one else should have the right to interfere and judge. I think women should be provided with all the necessary information and support and then left to make the decision about what is best for their babies and themselves.

In other news, supermodel Gisele Bundchen has been shooting her mouth off and saying that there should be a law that requires women to breastfeed. So what now? Prison time for women who won't??! Because obviously the only thing better for a baby than breastmilk is a mom locked away in the slammer...

This is one issue on which people really need to lighten up. This kind of rabid extremism really gets my goat.


  1. Anonymous10:32 am

    Yes, I agree.
    Few changes about that slogan should be done. Actually they should write a slogan why a mother should feed a child instead of saying what they are saying.

  2. Like already beleaguered moms need moral judgments about their claim to motherhood.

    And statements like these are where more prejudices spring up. So then an adoptive mother is not a real mother and a birth mother who chooses adoption is also not a mother. Bah!

    Nurturing a child takes place on many difft levels, and while I strongly support b/f too...I abhor labeling and condemnation of choices. People do what they can. Give them the info and free choice....and a lot of sensitive SUPPORT, for heaven's sake.

  3. What craziness. The use of the word 'adhikaar' made me cringle. WTH are these guys to 'confer' authority on mothers? People may choose not to breastfeed for so many reasons... it doesn't help to be judgmental.

  4. I so agree to this one can tell us to feed or not to feed (I did feed R for about 10 months with 5 months of exclusive b/f) but I know of many mothers including my mom and MIL who confessed that they didnt even get any milk to feed their instead of this..couldnt they just write the benefits of breast feeding!

  5. How ridiculous! I support b/f totally. Not just since it is the best food for baby but beacause of the bonding it develops. But its so irritating to hear some one else condemning mothers who dont breastfeed as "not deserving" to be mothers! This is propogating such a wrong message!

  6. The kind of post I would totally agree to, but before that, is Tarana really 9.5 months old?? I am so so surprised, totally lost track of time it seems. Please share some pics and updates.

  7. Agree..Many times - there are medical reasons due to which babies are put on formula as supplementary food. Happened to me- since i developed a breast abscess, and had to have surgery due to neglect and improper care at the hospital. I kept up feeding on 1 side and expressing on the other side for 8 months..The guilt trips and tears were endless though..

  8. with u on this completely though I agree that the child does need a mothers milk but if she choses not to breast feed she is still a mother and could be a very very good one unlike a lot others

    i dont know when will the world stop forcing things on us

  9. Facists .... they seem to be the flavor of the season

  10. Perfectly said... when i read Giselle's headlines.. I was superbly pissed off as well..Cnn had interviewed me once about the hardships of breastfeeding.. here is that link:

    Nursing is hard and a tough job. For some, it comes easy for some it does not... what you choose.. is what works for your health, your limitations and the baby's acceptance

  11. Perfectly said... when i read Giselle's headlines.. I was superbly pissed off as well..Cnn had interviewed me once about the hardships of breastfeeding.. here is that link:

    Nursing is hard and a tough job. For some, it comes easy for some it does not... what you choose.. is what works for your health, your limitations and the baby's acceptance

  12. Perfectly said... when i read Giselle's headlines.. I was superbly pissed off as well..Cnn had interviewed me once about the hardships of breastfeeding.. here is that link:

    Nursing is hard and a tough job. For some, it comes easy for some it does not... what you choose.. is what works for your health, your limitations and the baby's acceptance

  13. Preeti9:58 pm

    Totally agree with you. Though a great way to nurture and bond with ur child, it's obviously no one's business, least of all moralising 'authority' figures', the personal choices that one makes. And yes, nothing worse than moralising celebrities either.

  14. True. 'Rabid' is the right word for this kind of moralizing. Anyway, mothers are fed all kinds of guilt the minute their babies are born. There's no shortage of jack-asses.

  15. It is just that opinions are switch from one extreme to other is the season of supporting breastfeeding so nothing else will do ...its real crazy ..

    I had a problem of less milk so I could not feed Akshaj for more than 4 months ..I only know what all comments I had to hear for it ..directly or indirectly.

  16. If only the world and its brother (or sister, more likely here) would mind its own damn business. Surely a woman's ob-gyn will give her good advice and assistance regarding breat feeding. Less Fascism please.

  17. you know i had quite a bit of trouble with breastfeeding with Cub not being able to get it right to me not having milk and he was always on a combination of breastfeed and lactogen. but the social pressures and stigmas were the most annoying part of it!

    and i later told a friend who had similar problems that motherhood goes so much beyond "ma ka doodh". and this kinda poster is just enough to guilt trip mother a l'il more! gah!!!!

    one slap to whoever made it!

  18. gisele bundchen's comment annoyed the hell out of me. who made her the supreme lawmaker on breastfeeding for heavens sake? and what kind of hospital puts up such posters? while hospitals and pediatricians must do everything they can to encourage breastfeeding for at least the first 6 months, its still a matter of choice, and women should not be judged for not breastfeeding. Secondly, such posters and comments like Gisele's completely fail to take into account cases such as mine, where i was unable to produce much milk owing to a highly stressful pregnancy caused by my baby having IUGR from the
    4th month onwards. Added to that my baby was unable to breastfeed with ease since he was born with a hole in the heart (since healed) and a slightly underdeveloped left lung. It makes me mad as hell to hear such smug pronouncements. I was desperate to breastfeed and when it didnt happen after a period of time i blamed myself for it and added that guilt to all the other conflicted feelings one has after childbirth. it was a terrible time but finally i was able to move on and do what was best for my baby (but no thanks to judgemental pediatricians). sometimes with all the best intentions in the world, things dont work out. but there are always people out there to make us feed bad about those things.

  19. Agree.

    A close friend had mastitis soon after she delivered her baby. Instead of treating her with antibiotics the doctor told her she has 'to learn to bear pain now that she was a mother' and not take antibiotics since it will get passed on to the baby. Thanks to this, the mastitis got out of hand completely and multiple surgical procedures were required over the next 18 mo.

    Good thing I don't live anywhere near where the doc is. Else I'd be inside the slammer on murder charges.

  20. @chox: I'd be in there with you. What a cruel *#&&#@#.

  21. For a change...let me speak against the grain here...

    When a father neglects his children and does not fulfil his fatherly duties, it is women who say - "He does not deserve to be a father"...I have heard that enough times...

    There are numerous standpoints on which fatherhood is judged...

    If a man beats his woman, doesn't provide for his children, treats them badly, why does everyone say that the guy does not deserve to be a father...?

    You yourself say - "And yes, I agree, they are people who do not deserve to have children - but they are the ones who knowingly harm and neglect their children...."

    Then who are YOU to decide whether such people "deserve" to have children or not...

    It is very easy to judge someone else, and very hard to accept someone else do that to us....why ? Isn't this getting to be "double standards" ?

    Sorry, couldn't tune into the string of "yes-es" that the others have put in here...maybe just to please you...or not to offend you...or just to be here...or God knows why...whatever...but thats what I have to say...

    By the way, I'm a man....hope that isn't a problem...

    You've got two very lovely kids...and I see that you're doing your motherly duties pretty well...I wish you, both your kids and your whole family All the Best...God Bless...

    See ya !


  22. quite honestly i think it is not meant for college educated women...sort of an attention catching phrase for educating breast feeding amongst the lesser fortunate who may not know the great benefits or be able to psychoanalyze the phrase. maybe?

  23. [Appu/ Starry/ R's Mom/ Sandhya] It's the tone and language that jars. Convince rather than coerce or blackmail...

    [Apu} That was the very word that made me stop and stare. And click and post...

    [Violet] Ten months this week! Cannot believe how time has flown... must post on her doings soon :)

    [i-m-m] OUCH! Now see, that's where an even bigger problem is. That someone like you who tried so hard and persisted despite all the problems should still feel guilty...

    [Monika] I guess they'll stop when we stop paying attention and feeling guilty about every darn thing

    [Ritu] You ran into some too?

    [Garima] Saw the article and the post. Very cool!

    [Preeti/ Banno/ Dipali] Somehow, the qualities or lack thereof, of a good mother seem to be everybody's business!

    [Vandana] Everyone seems to have a point of view on milk supply. With Ayaan, I kept doubting myself. But when my mom asked me whether I was sure Tarana was getting enough, I said that that was between me and my baby and was not up for anyone else's random speculations!

    [Abha] motherhood goes so much beyond "ma ka doodh"... Amen!

    [Nina] Just googled IUGR. Along with the hole in his heart, those must have been some pretty scary times. You so didn't need to be saddled with guilt and judgment on top of that.

    [Choxbox] OMG. What an ass the doctor was/ is. He should have his license revoked!

    [Summit] I have absolutely no problem with you being a man. But I do have a problem with you equating (even indirectly) a women who chooses not to breastfeed to a man who 'beats his woman, doesn't provide for his children, treats them badly'

    [Sinusoidally] I might have agreed with you if I had come across this poster in a government hospital. But it was in the paediatric wing of a very swanky private hospital...

  24. I completely agree. I had my fair share of struggles with breastfeeding- excruciating pain mostly .And the last thing I needed then was to be judged on how and what I was doing.

    My best friend just had her first baby and I can see her going through the same trauma(mostly caused by insensitive remarks from family and friends).

    Thankfully reading mommy blogs like yours gave me some perspective and I am passing that on to her too :)

  25. A topic close to my heart Ro! I don't do mommy guilt trips but this is one thing that always has me wondering "what if?"

    With S, I didn't lactate. Now when I look back at how things were, I am not surprised that I didn't lactate. Things were absolutely horrible at the in-laws' home where I chose to have my delivery. And it was compounded by a post-partum depression. SIL's friend asked her to tell me to try a breast pump to boost the milk supply. My OB/GYN who was there with her immediately shot down the idea and even berated the poor woman for the "stupid suggestion". S was put completely on formula on day 15.

    When M was born, I was in the US and was fortunate to have access to the best possible care and support from understanding people who also respected me as a mother. No stress this time around because we decided to go it alone and did not ask J's or my parents to come over. My supply was still insufficient but I used a hospital quality breast pump and extended the nursing (supplemented by formula) for 3 months. After that I HAD to put M on formula because I could feel I was slipping into a depression over not being able to produce enough milk.

    I know I did my best - for the first two months I was either nursing the baby or pumping milk the entire day. And I know both my kids are healthy despite having been brought up on formula. But even today, if someone were to taunt me about not breastfeeding my kids, I know it would hurt me deep within. Heck I have a lump in my throat while typing this. This kind of judgment destroys a mom's heart and being. These people who pass such judgments and comments should just zip their lips.

  26. gettingthrenow - hugs! i had a lump in my throat as i read your comment. i think you did the best you could and others can really shove it.

    even i HATED the pressure everyone chooses to bring as if it is everyone's business.

    i really dont think you should guilt trip yourself, EVER! :)

  27. Thanks Mama-Mia! And hugs back. I wish I had this community back when I had my older one. I really needed someone to tell me that I could tell those who were giving me guilt trips to go take a hike. Never got that kind of support.

    But I more than make up for it now :D:D

  28. I know what you mean...

    When I read things like this, I actually feel small and guilty for stopping when I did...and I am so pro-breastfeeding!

    It's a choice, isn't it?

  29. this is a class thing. mothers of that class are put through a lot of shit. my gyne once mentioned that everytime she opens up a poor woman for a csec, she quietly does a tubectomy. isnt that bloody illegal?

  30. Totally agree with you. Just like all other choices, Breastfeeding should also be a choice. After getting the mother completely aware of the pros of mother's milk, it should be left to the woman to decide what she wants to do

  31. Anonymous11:52 pm

    I went to India with my daughter for the first time. Naturally, my aunt wanted all the details on the birth and I was telling her how great epidural is. She immediately tells me that true motherhood can be experienced only if I have also experienced labor pains. WTF??

    And this is my highly educated aunt with a Masters degree in literature who regularly writes / publishes.

  32. My wife said the same thing, then like 5 minutes before our daughter was born she said, "I changed my mind, give me the shot"! And the nurse told her it was too late and she squeezed my hand so hard she almost pulled it off.

  33. Anonymous4:51 am

    You foreigners should not be so damn picky. If India could just drop the Hindi BS, and realize things were better under British rule, they may actually get farther than praising cow feces.

    Gandhi was a child molester obsessed with enemas. It's nice to see Indians evolve. God bless water born illness.

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  35. Amazing, my last post in on breastfeeding, and I so agree with everything that you have written.
    Breastfeeding is a physically and mentally most draining activity, you have stiches down there and are leaking, and you are leaking from the top, and if its not enough, you have some 100 people advising, scrutinizing and sermonizing. I think this last bit is even more painful than the initially discomfort of breastfeeding