When It Comes to Breastfeeding, We Can’t Handle The Truth

Every single time a new study is published proving that formula feeding costs the lives of mothers and babies, people come from the farthest corners of the internet, flame throwers in tow, to argue with the research. But no amount of denial is going to change the truth. This week the Journal of Pediatrics published some very serious new findings indicating that 911 babies in America die every year from not being breastfed. Usually when we talk about infant deaths related to formula feeding, people assume it’s in other, impoverished countries where there’s no running water and rampant disease. But this time, we’re talking about the deaths of American babies.

So what’s going on right here on our own soil? We have clean water. We have a welfare program. We have free vaccinations. It is clear now that the formula itself, and the lack of breastfeeding, is what’s killing these 911 babies. Okay, so how are they dying? As CNN reports,

“Nearly all, 95 percent of these deaths, are attributed to three causes: sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS); necrotizing enterocolitis, seen primarily in preterm babies and in which the lining of the intestinal wall dies; and lower respiratory infections such as pneumonia. Breastfeeding has been shown to reduce the risk of all of these and seven other illnesses studied by the study authors.”

And for those Americans only interested in the bottom line, it should be noted that the same study found that if we can get 90% of mothers breastfeeding for the minimum amount of time recommended, then we’d save 13 billion dollars a year in medical costs. (that’s BILLION, with a B, people.)

So what the hell is the problem, then? Why can’t we get on board with this research? The problem is that people don’t want to hear it. But I’ll say it anyway.

Breastfeeding. Saves. Lives.

You know what else saves lives? Car seats. So, why aren’t people spitting mad at the NHTSA for saying that? Why aren’t they leaving thousands of comments on car seat articles saying “But I just couldn’t afford a car seat, why are you trying to make me feel guilty?!?!” Well, maybe it’s because our society will admit that car seats save lives, and we’re willing to give them out free at fire stations and hospitals if we have to because it is that important.

So why aren’t we doing the same for breastfeeding? Why won’t they hand out free breast pumps and visits to a lactation consultant when we know it would save lives and money? Well, I think the obvious answer is that there are breasts involved, and people just lose their minds when female anatomy comes up in conversation.

Of course then people say “It’s her CHOICE to formula-feed – leave her alone!” But I don’t believe that most women are making this “choice.” The CDC shows that 3/4 of women are initiating breastfeeding in the hospital, but only 13.6% of women are still exclusively breastfeeding at 6 months. What this tells me is that somewhere along the way, they gave up on themselves, and the reason I hear most often is, “But, I tried! I just couldn’t make any milk!”

Here is the cold hard truth ladies: You have been lied to.

If only 13.6% of us could make enough milk, the human race would never have survived. And it’s not your fault. It’s the fault of this system that completely fails mothers and babies, and sabotages a mother’s good intentions. Somewhere along the line, some one told you that you couldn’t make milk, and you believed them because we’ve all grown up in a culture that tells women their bodies aren’t good enough for much of anything except being toys for men. Is it easy to make this milk? No, not always – but neither was bringing that baby into the world and your body did a fine job of that. Think about that. Think hard. Your body created an entire human being inside from nothing more than the joining of two single cells. Your body is a miracle worker. So what leads you to believe that, after creating a whole person with organs and tissue and a beating heart, that your body would call it quits when it came time for feeding this thing? The major problem here is that someone in your life probably put their own ignorance ahead of the short and long term health of you and your baby, and you believed them because women are used to feeling shamed.

But it’s really difficult to change this thinking when we have popular bloggers perpetuating myths and projecting their own guilt onto others, like here:

So, what can we do? We have to keep pushing back against this misinformation, and luckily there are strong women who will go to bat for mothers and babies, as seen here:

Or here

Or here

At this point, if you are arguing with solid, consistent research, you are on the wrong side of the issue. Your anger over these breastfeeding studies is completely misdirected and juvenile. Get mad that we have no paid leave to help support the breastfeeding relationship. Get mad that moms aren’t being given free breastpumps, lactation consultants, and healthier food. Get mad at a system that puts Girls Gone Wild tits on the cover of every magazine, but bans breastfeeding pictures on Facebook. These are the issues that need our attention as mothers, or as feminists, or simply as women with brains. But perpetuating the myth that women are incapable of utilizing their own biological functions won’t get you any respect from me. I believe women are capable. Give them the tools. Give them the time. Give them the respect they need. Women are creators and sustainors of LIFE, and there is absolutely no reason to feel guilty about saying so.

And this about sums it up (thank you Noble Savage):

End. Of. Story.