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How are Cigarettes like Infant Formula?

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My first born child was a super-sucker right from birth. She was born about 45 minutes after my OB/GYN had prescribed me some sleeping pills to get me through what looked what was going to be a long night of labour. Then, just after the meds kicked in, she whisked me off to the OR for an emergency C-section. So, with most of my daughter’s arrival a drug-induced blur, I had top rely on my baby and the nurses to start her on the path to feeding success. I may have had the boobs, but I certainly wasn’t in control of that first experience.

I breast fed both of my babies, almost exclusively, until they became too interested in the world around them (at around 9-10 months of age) to have their mother’s boob in their face. It was a mutual parting of ways, although truth be told I was the more reluctant party in the weaning process. For me, breastfeeding was cheaper, more convenient and the calming effect of oxytocin and prolactin on a stressed out, exhausted mother cannot be beat. Some days I wish they could bottle the stuff.

I enjoyed the process, but I have heard many mothers who don’t want to breastfeed, or who cannot breastfeed for some reason. I made my own choice, and it was mine to make, I believe, as it is every mothers’.

I remember the intrusive hands and clucking of the nurses in the hospital while I was being taught to position my baby for more effective breastfeeding. Even though I had been, for the most part, mentally absent from my daughter’s first feeding, I adapted quite well, even though some of the nurses made me feel like I had to acheive the perfect latch or their job wasn’t done.

I had more women touching my breasts at that time than in a soft-core porn, but I was too overwhelmed to do anything about it, which says a lot for my level of exhaustion at that time. You see, I’m a pretty direct person and not really that open to strangers touching me. I’m sure that they meant well, and I am appreciative of their help in the long-term, but perhaps the delivery could have used a little softening.

It was the medium, not the message, that made me uncomfortable.

My second child was also breastfed, but when the lactation consultant arrived, I promptly told her I had it under control, even with the odd positioning issue or improper latch.

When New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg urged hospitals to stop giving formula samples to new mothers, to document when and why a newborn baby is given a bottle, and to “hide” all infant formula in cabinets currently reserved for cigarettes behind variety store counters, I believe a serious line was crossed. It was that point between encouraging and shaming that can be a fine line when dealing with all things maternal.

Surely there is somewhere between “breast is best” and essentially legislating that all mothers breast feed? Aren’t there enough issues in the U.S. without infantalizing post-partum mothers? After all, according to feminist author Gayle Tzemah Lemmon, “giving birth to a baby doesn not make you an infant.”

Did the physical presence of free formula make me abandon breastfeeding? No, of course not, nor did the rough hands and corrective instructions make me instantly decide to breastfeed.

I made the choice. Not the doctors, the nurses or the mayor. I did.

I did what I believe was best for my infant . I may have been her mother for only a short time, but to assume that childbirth had completely robbed me of my ability to make decisions is completely offensive.

By all means, promote breastfeeding for the benefits it provides for both mother and baby, but when you start locking up formula like cigarettes, you’ve gone too far, in my honest opinion.

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