Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Breastfeeding and Feminism has a 7 year itch....

It truly is amazing how quickly - or slowly - things change. When CGBI first opened its doors in 2006, the main breastfeeding issue in our region was... whether or not we should work on the issue (!)

Today, the issues are increasingly complex and rewarding to address: How long should we breastfeed? Can we co-sleep and breastfeed? Which of the Ten Steps has the most impact? Is every business and every child care sufficiently supporting mothers in mik expression and feeding?

Perhaps my favorite headache-provoking question is: IS SUPPORTING BREASTFEEDING A PRO- OR ANTI-FEMINIST ISSUE?

Paige Hall Smith and I have been discussion the Breastfeeding and Feminism Series as we are planning its 8th iteration, March 21/22, 2013, and we are muddling around with - what should we call it? Somehow, we have not been able to find resources for this conference under the current title, but we know we have a unique and special series that has the specific intent to explore breastfeeding from women's perspectives, not as a child nutrition issue.

Our book based on the 5th conference in the series is out: Smith PH, Hausman BL, Labbok M. Beyond Health, Beyond Choice: Breastfeeding Constraintes and Realities, Rutgers Press.  We are hoping that this book will be used to address some of the macinations coming from recent news articles that complain that supporting breastfeeding is a form of entrapment for women. Dear friends, the feminist movement was born to gain respect for women and the things they have to offer.  Instead, we see writings in which feminist are disrespecting women's own abilities, disrespecting each family's desire to have healthy children, disrespecting  that women should be enabled to act on their best judgement based on non-biased information: these are not feminist ideals that we were fighting for 40-50 years ago, and such disrespect for other women should not be part of feminism today.

So, should we change our name to Women and Breastfeeding, Breastfeeding: A women's issue, or should we stay with Breastfeeding and Feminism?

Personally, with the way so-called feminists are writing about the issue these days, I wonder....

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Helps to look around the world to find ourselves!!

Dear Fellow Frustrated Friends and Colleagues:

Marketing of formula brands is increasing, no question. Somehow, we need to raise consciousness again, or we will have a major downturn in breastfeeding rates...again.

I was delighted to read this blog:
that provides a UK view on the marketing practices we see here, and here and matter where here is to you!!

Please read and relate to your own country's marketing issues...there may be some that you have missed.

Here at CGBI we have research showing how much the ads and labels can undermine women's confidence - we are hoping to share these data as soon as they are accepted for publication.
It seems if it is not one thing, it is another:

And, at least one formula manufacturer now sells water...please tell me that that isn't a scam and a half in countries with a good water supply... and they are getting their brand into everyone's hands. If Mom is drinking that brand, she obviously assumes that it is good for all...

Until I feel the need to rant again, signing off, DocLabbok

Friday, May 11, 2012

Another must read - Ban the Bag; Gag the Swag; just the facts, Ma'am!!

Dear Colleagues and Friends:

The word is getting out!

This wonderfully clear and comprehensive column written by Elizabeth Mitchell Armstrong, an associate professor of sociology and public affairs at Princeton, spells out the problems that have led Massachusetts, North Carolina, and many other states to act to Ban the Bag.

If you wish to read about or join North Carolina's Golden Bow Award effort, also visit:
The award is named after the international symbol for optimal infant and young child feeding - read more about this symbol on this blog!

Best to all,

Monday, April 30, 2012

Nestle and Newark....sigh

Here is a "Must Read"

Bonnie Rochman does it again - she lays out the underbelly of Nestles' 'nice' support the city of Newark of $100,000 to combat...obesity?!?.  The Mayor expresses pride in this donation.

We really need to get behind these folks and expose this for what it is: marketing that will harm mothers and babies in a city with a high population of vulnerable folks.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Public Breastfeeding- Not Always a Statement

It’s no surprise to encounter misinformation about the push to remove formula marketing from hospitals.  “Ban the Bags” campaigns to stop manufacturers from distributing hospital gift bags have been painted as anti-choice, anti-consumer, and even “dictatorial.”  So it was hardly shocking to hear a popular morning talk show claim that some hospitals have decided to remove all access to formula for mothers and babies in maternity wards.  What was surprising was the choice to follow the ensuing discussion about how society needs to let mothers feed their babies however they choose with a discussion about why mothers should not openly breastfeed in public.
Reaction to a radical public breastfeeding movement?  No, in fact, the discussion was based on one occasion in which one host witnessed a mother publicly breastfeeding without a nursing cover.  The subtle implication was that the blame for such supposedly judgmental, anti-choice policies falls to the breastfeeding community, and that the breastfeeding community is represented by publicly breastfeeding mothers. 
Since when is public breastfeeding a political statement?  Why are mothers who find themselves out in public with a hungry baby necessarily aligning themselves with any particular policy or philosophy?  Aversion to seeing nursing bosoms is not universal, as much of the rest of the world will attest- including societies far more conservative than ours.  And certainly, open public breastfeeding has been used as a political statement, usually in protests designed to secure that same right.  But the fact remains that open public breastfeeding is seen as the alternative, statement-making, attention-grabbing way to feed a baby in the US only because it’s not the mainstream way to feed a baby. 
Breastfeeding is a basic care and caring act, in the same category with holding a child’s hand, kissing a baby, wiping a nose, and cutting a grape.  All acts that are repeated over and over again throughout the day.  Acts that, by their very ubiquity and banality, say everything and yet make no particular statement at all.  Like most acts of parenting, breastfeeding has both an inherent messiness and a transcendent beauty.  To separate breastfeeding from other acts of mothering, and require it to happen in secret or behind closed doors, is to make it into something unusual, some part of parenting with which we still can’t quite reconcile ourselves as a society.  Likewise, to make it into a statement- an act loaded with unintended meaning, is to disempower breastfeeding mothers and rob them of their own voices.  We cannot fully enable breastfeeding without enabling public breastfeeding- not just for logistical reasons (how many older babies like their heads covered?), but as confirmation that we are ready to accept it as a normal part of the human condition.
A truly breastfeeding-friendly society would not devote its national airwaves to a discussion of one instance of public breastfeeding.  Members of a truly breastfeeding-friendly society would hardly notice any one particular instance of public breastfeeding, because it would be ubiquitous.  Though enabling breastfeeding would mean everything, breastfeeding itself would cease to mean one thing in particular.  Like other everyday acts, it would continue to mean everything, but say nothing at all.