Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Oh, Those Crazy Supermodels

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?


Corinne said...

She's been quite outspoken about being a mother, for someone who's been at it for less than a year.
She needs to stop talking.

Hyacynth said...

I'm with you on being a huge supporter and advocate for breastfeeding. Completely and totally.
And I'm also with you on the whole laws thing. As a supporter of small government, I obviously don't like government telling me what to do even if it's good for me or my family. It's my body. Period. And Amen.
Gisele, perhaps, meant well?

Sarah said...

Don't forget the privilege involved here. Of course she can BF easily; she has access to her baby whenever she wants him, but that's not the case for millions of moms who work and don't have time/space/bodily autonomy to pump at work.

LM Book club 2007 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amy said...


Although, for once, it's nice to see a celeb go in the other direction and advocate BF! Too bad she had to be an idiot about it.

I say all the time that I am all about choice for moms. Can't breastfeed? Give the formula. And let's thank our lucky stars that we're not living on the prairie where without the formula, those babies would be screwed.

HOWEVER (climbing on soapbox) I do think there is something to be said for making every new mother at least try BFing in the hospital. I know people who didn't even want to try because they were so skeeved out by the idea of using their breasts to feed their babies. OMG gross! That's not what boobs are for! (That is an honest-to-God direct quote.) It should be part of the birth process to at least try. OK, now I am done being preachy. :)

KMW said...

Okay, just tried to leave a few comments but deleted both for fear that I sounded too strong.

Suffice to say that I thnk there are a lot of complicated reasons women don't or can't breastfeed that are very legitimate I am also sick of the judgement. It cofounds me how many harmful things we do to our children that are not that judged, but the % of difference between breastmilk and formula fed babies ignites such strong feelings. Here here to the class issue too.

Also, here is the interesting article from The Atlantic by Hanna Rosin (who I love) that also was controversal, but makes some good points:


Anonymous said...

"Perhaps you could just shut your pretty mouth up, mkay?"

I guess this explains why people seem so quick to take GB literally, and jump all over her case --afterall how can a supermodel say something worth listening to. Just shut up and stand there!

Obviously she is not talking about actual, literal, for real, legislation. Maybe what she is really saying is equivalent to "If I could wave a magic wand, every mother would breastfeed." There, is that so shocking? Lighten up, folks, its not a beauty contest.

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Enjoy Birth said...

Obviously we can't have a law about making moms do it, but maybe we could have some laws or rules for hospitals that make breastfeeding more likely to happen.
Give all nurses Lactation Education training.
Stop giving out free samples of formula.
Leave baby and mom undisturbed for 2 hours after birth. (don't even weigh the baby for 2 hours)

Those are some easy changes that could be made that might make a huge difference in moms success in breastfeeding!

Debbie said...

Well, obviously I have to weigh in here....as a 1st time mom to my 3-month old miracle, it never occurred to me that I would not have the "perfect" breastfeeding experience. Boy, was that a fantasy! I also worked with a LC, got advice from everyone and everywhere I could find it, cried almost constantly through the first 2 months and have had to come to terms with the fact that my son is now primarily a formula fed baby. It was devastating and I take serious issue with anyone who judges me as a bad mother for it. As someone going back to work full-time, I decided that my son deserved the best of me and of our relationship as mother and child for the brief time we can spend our days and nights together. Having my mother and husband care for my son while I pumped every 2 hours to try (unsuccessfully) to build up a milk supply broke my heart and I don't need legislation telling me otherwise. If we need legislation anywhere, let's focus on getting laws passed that will allow women to stay home for 1 year like Canada!!!

Becca said...

I agree with what Amy said--I wish everyone would at least give it a TRY. I mean, you only get one shot, right? But I'd never dream of even suggesting it should be mandatory!

I'm sure breastfeeding is a dream when you have all the household help you could ever need at your fingertips. When you are in the position to say when and where and how you will work to accommodate yours and your baby's needs.

Tiffany @ Lattes And Life said...

I am so with you on CHOICE. What a woman does with her body is her CHOICE, no matter what. As a member of that supposed 3% who can not BF, I am SUPER sensitive to this issue. So thank you for the way you addressed it...I appreciate the pro-BF arguments, of course. But requiring every woman to BF or even try to BF is just not jiving with the CHOICE so many of us fight for!!

Rachael said...

My hugest problem with this is #2 that you stated. I am one of those moms. I could not breastfeed my sons. I already feel guilty about it, despite the fact that I have no control over or choice about the fact that my body refuses to make any significant amount of milk. So, it's really pretty mean to add to that guilt. Ugh. Why does anyone care what anyone else is doing anyway? Shouldn't we all support each other as people whether we agree with each other's choices every single second or not?