I don't like to buy into the stereotype about supermodels being vapid brainless beautiful beings. I hate to think that supermodels should just shut up and look pretty. But. If it's not one thing, it's another. Seriously, if Naomi Campbell isn't busy hucking a cell phone at the help's head and Kate Moss isn't being busted for coke, Gisele must be pissing women off left and right with her perfect post-partum body (which we're really all just jealous of) and her supermodel-knows-best assertion that breastfeeding should be legally mandatory, world-wide.
Recently, in Harper's Bazaar, while gushing about being a new mom, Bundchen waxed philosophical about breastfeeding, saying, "Some people here (in the US) think they don't have to breastfeed, and I think 'Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?' I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months."
I'm sorry, what now?!
Don't get me wrong. I absolutely support breastfeeding. 100%. I worked for several long and agonizing months to establish an adequate milk supply & a good breastfeeding relationship with my baby. I worked closely with a lactation consultant and attended hospital-sponsered breastfeeding support groups twice weekly for almost the first year of Ethan's life. I pumped, I popped Fenugreek, I used nipple shields, weaned from nipple shields, drank dark beer (oh, the sacrifices!), borrowed my LC's digital scale to appease my fears that my child wasn't getting enough. I breastfed in public. I attended the Delta airline ticket counter nurse-in of November 2006 and was filmed breastfeeding at the nurse-in for the evening news. I'm genuinely proud that I was able to breastfeed my son and give him the best I could give him during his first year of life. I get some seriously riled up when I read about women being discriminated against for breastfeeding in public or about formula companies peddling their wares in developing countries where there is no potable water to mix it with. I have signed petitions, written to congressmen and women, yadda yadda yadda. I am down with breastfeeding, and all that.
Gisele's comment, which she has since sugar-coated and edited by saying, "I understand that everyone has their own experience and opinions and I am not here to judge. I believe that bringing a life into this world is the single most important thing a person can undertake and it can also be the most challenging. I think as mothers we are all just trying our best," which, by the way sounds NOTHING at all like what she originally said and was clearly slapped together by a frustrated publicist, is just offensive to me on a number of levels. Let me count the ways....
1.) Mommy versus Mommy--I hate this. I hate the "the way I'm doing it is the only one right way there is to do something." Gisele's a new, first-time mom, so I really do get that need to ego-identify with something she's doing as the "only" acceptable way. I fell into that trap, too; mostly because I was so afraid of doing the wrong thing, that I wrapped myself up in my newly formed ideals like a safety blanket and railed against the idea of doing anything else. So, yeah, I get it. I still feel strongly about some of Husband's & my parenting beliefs; but four years of parenting and seeing other people who I love and respect do things differently have taught me to shut my yap about it and have a bit of tact.
2.) A lot of women who are using formula are doing so after a heart-breaking and agonizing attempt at breastfeeding. Suggesting that we criminalize them? Is asinine and cruel. I know the statistics that people cite about how only something like 3% of the population truly "can't" breastfeed, and who knows? That might be true. But we are not machines. Many women would have given up in the face of the supply issues and latch issues that I had with Ethan. But I don't say that to sound like some kind of hero. I'm far from it. I had a lot of support. I didn't have to go back to work. I had a lactation consultant in the family, and another friend of the family LC who held my hand through months of tears and pain and frustration. Sometimes I absolutely believe the only reason we succeeded is because I was pushed along by the momentum of their desire to see me succeed; the thought of letting down all those people who had helped me was far more painful to me than the idea of giving my child formula. If I hadn't had that help and the sense of responsibility that came with it? Ethan would have been a formula-fed baby. No question in my mind. And to think, on top of the post-partum depression and the self-imposed guilt, a failure to breastfeed would have also made me a criminal? Um. Yeah, I can't get on board with that for a nano-second.
3.) What happened to choice? I am a big supporter of a woman's right to choose what to do with her body. I can't possibly reconcile that belief with the idea of making breastfeeding legally mandatory. I can't tell a woman what to do with her breasts. Period. I might want her to breastfeed and offer her support and encouragement and information and all of those other things that are shown to improve the likelihood of a successful breastfeeding relationship. But no matter how good breastfeeding is for her and her child, I can't support legislation that will mandate that she breastfeed her child.
Nevermind all the silliness of who would enforce the law and how? Would I have to show some sort of baby ID when buying formula to prove that my child is over 6 months old? What government agency, exactly, would be overseeing this particular law? And nevermind the fact that not having access to formula would have meant my 4lb 13oz preemie would have spent who knows how much longer in the $20K/week NICU he spent his first week in. Seriously.
Now, I get it's all hypothetical. I seriously doubt any lawmakers are going to Gisele Bundchen for advice on new and exciting bills to propose. And thank goodness for that or on top of being legally required to breastfeed, I'd also probably be legally required to weigh 120lbs and wear big fluffy wings with my bra & panties.
But really, can we just work towards providing the most education, support and encouragement we can to those trying to breastfeed, WITHOUT the ridiculous, judgmental "those who do/can are better than those who can't/don't" rhetoric? Can't we just celebrate these amazing little creatures we brought into the world without everything being about how I'm doing something right and you're doing something wrong? So please, Gisele, tell me all about how your child is beautiful and awe-inspiring and how much you love him. By all means. But when it comes to inventing laws about how we should all raise our kids? Perhaps you could just shut your pretty mouth up, mkay?