I have posted less in recent days than I meant to, because some of my time and energy has been spent on trying to think up some sort of vaguely articulate response to this.

It’s bad enough that this woman had to put up with the kind of attitudes she describes in the article.  It’s bad enough that the breastfeeding experts she saw were also of so little practical help to her.  (I thought I had a hard time finding someone who could solve the mystery of why breastfeeding was so excruciatingly painful, but I only had to devote three or four days to consulting with three or four different midwives before finding someone who realised that the problem was Jamie’s tongue tie.  Exactly how is it possible that both a La Leche League leader and Jack Newman’s clinic both somehow missed thinking of that – or other oral problems in the baby – as a possible diagnosis??)  But the bit that angers me the most – to the point of reducing me to spluttering incoherence, barely able to summon up a thought as to how to respond – is the fact that, when she wrote about these experiences, people responded by getting angry with her.

Why, how dare she have the temerity to say anything negative about breastfeeding supporters?  The nerve!  Doesn’t she realise that all breastfeeding supporters are saints?  She can’t possibly have had a different experience!

Anyway.  This is the e-mail I eventually strung together to send to INFACT about their article.  And if Hathor wants to give me a Y Award, I’ll wear it with pride.


I am writing in response to an article
which I found on the webpage of Hathor the CowGoddess,
about the recent Chatelaine article “Breastfeeding Sucks”.
Hathor’s webpage identified the article as coming from your
organisation, so I hope I am correct in thinking that this is the
correct place to send my response to it.  I am copying this letter to
Chatelaine, as requested.

Firstly, to clear up a detail: I
believe it is fairly common practice for editors, rather than
authors, to choose the titles of pieces written for magazines.  I
dislike the title as well, but suspect that the author may well not
have been the one to blame.

Secondly, with regard to your dismissal
of the main body of the article, I fear you may be the ones missing
the point.

I entirely agree that the health care
system should be doing far, far more to support and encourage
breastfeeding.  However, their failure to do so was not
what caused this author’s problems.  From the article, it seems that
she is one of the few women articulate and determined enough to get
access to the kind of expert advice that should by rights be
available to all women.    Her problem – regardless of how
‘unacceptable’ you find it that she dares to voice it – was that
when she did speak to breastfeeding supporters, they treated her with
criticism and judgement rather than with sympathy and support.

I am at a loss as
to why you would feel it ‘misdirected’ for a woman to be angry with
people who have treated her that way.  Surely, no matter how glaring
the faults of the government when it comes to encouraging
breastfeeding, we still retain responsibility for our own actions?
This author was clear about what she most needed and wanted from the
pro-breastfeeding camp – she wanted breastfeeding supporters to
acknowledge her problems, to sympathise with what she was going
through, to respond to her pain with encouragement rather than blame.
That simple change in attitudes could have made a major difference
to her breastfeeding experiences; and the fact that this did not
happen is not something we can blame on the government, no matter how
tempting it is to avoid looking at our own flaws.

Yes, this woman did
continue breastfeeding – an achievement in the face of the odds for
which she should be resoundingly applauded.  The majority of women
are not going to be so determined.  Surely we should be trying to
learn from this woman’s experience in order to make sure that we, as
individuals, are doing all we can to provide women attempting to
breastfeed with genuine support, rather than putting them off?  Are
we going to have the courage to do this – or are we going to brush
this author’s experiences aside, hiding behind excuses about what the
government should or shouldn’t be doing, using their flaws as a handy
excuse to ignore our own?


1 Comment

Filed under Grr, argh, Milky milky

One response to “Suckiness

  1. Beth

    Well, in the spirit of your blog I’m going to disagree a little. What I got from the article is that sometimes people can’t hear what other people are saying because of filters they have unknowingly set up. So it may be impossible to give people the information they need when they need it. For example, I find it incredulous that anyone considers the idea that childbirth is painful a “big secret” that she was lucky enough to penetrate before the shocker of the event. Uh, hello?
    So it’s not that surprising that a woman who thinks that everyone is telling her that childbirth is pain-free also has never heard anyone mention that nursing isn’t always perfect from the get-go. I’m not saying that that anyone deserves to suffer, or that her pain wasn’t real, but it sure seems like she wouldn’t have heard anyone telling her the things she wanted to hear. And I’m a bit baffled by her anger at the people who kept saying “latch” when that is indeed the biggest issue with the vast majority of new nursing moms. I’m still not sure whether nipples toughen up after a few months or whether most babies just get big enough and grow enough neck muscle to achieve a decent latch at that time. That “boob is bigger than baby” issue is a tough time for everyone.

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