Who gets to decide what’s “best” for babies?

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Pregnancy and paternalism go together like peanut butter and jelly, like milk and cookies, like salt and pepper. Where you find one, you almost always find the other.

What is paternalism? It’s the practice of people in positions of authority determining the freedom and responsibilities of others in the others’ supposed best interest. It’s the belief that those in authority know better than mothers themselves what’s best for babies.

Mothers — not doctors, not professional organizations, not activists — get to decide what’s best for their babies.

Consider the ACOG policy toward alcohol that I wrote about yesterday. According to ACOG president Dr. Howard Brown, since we don’t know the safest upper level for alcohol consumption in pregnancy:

Why tempt harm when all risk can be avoided?

Dr. Brown is clearly incredulous than anyone could even think about accepting a risk in pregnancy, even a theoretical risk. He apparently subscribes to the contemporary view that constant sacrifice is the definitive feature of good mothering.

As sociologist Pam Lowe explains in Reproductive Health and Maternal Sacrifice:

…At its heart, maternal sacrifice is the notion that ‘proper’ women put the welfare of children, whether born, in utero, or not yet conceived, over and above any choices and/or desires of their own. The idea of maternal sacrifice acts as a powerful signifier in judging women’s behaviour. It is valorized in cases such as when women with cancer forgo treatment to save a risk to their developing foetus, and it is believed absent in female substance users whose ‘selfish’ desire for children means they are born in problematic circumstances…

I suspect that Dr. Brown might bristle at the notion that his paternalistic beliefs reflect an assumption that maternal sacrifice is the heart of motherhood. I imagine that he would claim, as he tried to do in his Letter to the Editor, that his admonition is not his personal opinion; it is merely what the science shows. Scientific consensus (therefore doctors) is purportedly the arbiter of what is best for babies. Mothers cannot be trusted to decide what’s best for their babies and themselves when it comes to the risks of alcohol in pregnancy. That’s paternalism.

That’s certainly the justification of The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative and other lactivists organizations. Lactivists might not even balk at the idea that sacrifice is essential to good mothering. That’s why they turn a deaf ear to mothers’ claims of pain, frustration and inconvenience at breastfeeding.

As Michelle, a commentor on the Skeptical OB Facebook page, eloquently put it:

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I care enough to give my kid something that IS natural, than be a selfish heifer and give them something that is meant for a calf. Breastfeeding takes time and you have to sacrifice.

The BFHI and other lactivist organizations are more temperate in their language, but the sentiment behind their mantra “Breast Is Best” is exactly the same. The assumption is that every mother can and should sacrifice to give her child the “best” regardless of the trivial nature of the benefits and regardless of the personal cost to mothers. When confronted they respond, like Dr. Brown implied, that it isn’t personal opinion, it’s what the science shows. In other words, scientific consensus (therefore lactation consultants) is the arbiter of what is best for babies. Mothers can’t be trusted to decide what is best for their babies and themselves when it comes to infant feeding. That’s paternalism, too.

Curiously, natural childbirth, breastfeeding and attachment parenting advocates, who thrill to invoking science as the arbiter in the case of alcohol consumption in pregnancy and breastfeeding are thereafter, are generally horrified when anyone dares suggest that science (therefore doctors) ought to be the arbiter on what is best for babies when it comes to vaccination and homebirth.

The science on the benefits of vaccination is far stronger than the science on the risks of alcohol consumption in pregnancy and the theoretical risks of formula feeding. No matter. Vaccination has become an issue of personal freedom. Forget the scientific consensus! Every mother has to “educate” herself and do her own “research.” Indeed, for anti-vaxxers, explicitly rejecting the scientific consensus is viewed as empowering and a mark of intellectual independence. Only mothers can be trusted to decide what is best for their babies when it comes to vaccination. That’s a rejection of paternalism.

Similarly, homebirth in the US increases the risk of perinatal death. The best statistics we have thusfar, from the state of Oregon, show that homebirth with a non-nurse midwife increases the risk of death by 800%! Over the years, the Midwives Alliance of North America (MANA), the organization that represents homebirth midwives (CPMs, LMs), has been forced to ado it that their own statistic show that homebirth markedly increases the risk of perinatal death. Yet, they, too advocate rejecting the scientific consensus and focus instead on women’s autonomy and personal values.

Homebirth is an expression of a woman’s autonomy … A woman has the right and responsibility to choose the place and care provider for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and to make decisions based on her knowledge, intuition, experiences, values, and beliefs.

Only mothers can be trusted to decide what’s best for their babies when it comes to place of birth. That, too, is a rejection of paternalism.

Ironically, most anti-vaxxers and homebirth advocates are hypocrites, invoking science when it suits them and ignoring it when it does not. Nevertheless, the issue they raise is crucial: who gets to decide what’s best for babies?

In my view, medical ethics with its emphasis on patient autonomy, requires that mothers — not doctors, not professional organizations, not activists — get to decide what’s best for their babies. Hopefully those mothers will have accurate medical information at hand, but we cannot and should not force people to make decisions that those with accurate medical information prefer. That’s paternalism. The only exception is vaccination since that affects the health of others. The government may therefore choose to make vaccination a prerequisite for attendance at schools and childcare facilities.

That means that women can and should be free to make bad decisions; it is their right. Why? First, science is not always correct in its conclusions. Second, individuals have different values from each other and it is those values that they call upon to determine which risks are acceptable and which are not. As a general matter, people deciding for themselves (autonomy) make better decisions than authorities deciding for them (paternalism).

Women may elect to drink alcohol during pregnancy or they may elect to have a homebirth. That doesn’t mean that either is a good idea; it might be a very bad idea but as long as they are apprised of the risks, it is their choice. Of course they are also responsible for the consequences. The right to make a bad choice doesn’t mean that the rest of us have to approve of it. Very few people are going to applaud a woman’s decision to handicap her child with fetal alcohol syndrome just because she has the right to drink during pregnancy. Similarly very few people are going to applaud a woman’s decision to have a homebirth if it kills her baby.

To the extent that authorities choose to insert themselves in the promotion of one health choice over another, it is entirely appropriate for government to mandate vaccination in order to protect everyone. It is not appropriate for health authorities to mandate breastfeeding through programs like the BFHI since a woman’s decision to breastfeed or formula feed her baby affects no one outside of her family.

Women are people — not incubators, not breastmilk dispensers, not individuals whose only purpose in life is to sacrifice their needs for the theoretical needs of their children. Although “why tempt harm when all risk can be avoided?” might be my personal philosophy when it comes to pregnancy and birth, we cannot and should not mandate that it be everyone’s philosophy. That would be paternalism and that would be wrong.

  • New Mom

    Hello again. I’ve been gone from this blog for a while, taking care of the LO who just turned 1year.

    I am pregnant again and I have an OT question:

    I’m only 7 weeks, so we obviously don’t know the gender yet. Anyway, what are the medical advantages of circumcision? There are supposedly a reduced risk of STIs? From what I understand, this info is based on parts of Africa with little medical infrastructure? I’m under the impression that circumcision isn’t as common in Europe? How does the STI data compare in this regard? would risky sexual behavior play a bigger role in STIs?

    I’m under the impression that circumcision had more cultural reason than medical? All I can find regarding this is from crazy anti-vax, stunt-birth types.

    Thanks:)

    • kilda

      oh no, someone said circumcision. Trying to get this in before the crazies descend on us:

      there is a small reduction in the risk of STIs and HIV. Risky sexual behavior definitely plays a much bigger role. Most likely circumcision makes it less likely for infection to happen if he does engage in risky behavior. You have to weigh what that small benefit is worth to you.

      There is also a decreased risk of penile cancer (but penile cancer is very rare – I believe your son has a larger chance of eventually getting breast cancer than penile cancer, to put it in perspective). Also, I believe penile cancer is mainly caused by HPV, which we can vaccinate against now, so that risk may become even less.

      And a reduced risk of UTIs, which again are pretty uncommon in boys.

      The medical benefits in my opinion are small, but the risks are small as well. I do think it’s more motivated by culture than by medical reasons.

    • Azuran

      Healthcare triage did a good video about it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tRncUbscZY
      Basically comes down to: both risks and benefits are so small and pretty much ‘equivalent’, its basically a personal choice.

      • Mattie

        Love HCT 😀 pretty sure they were at Nerdcon in Feb in Boston, along with the other vlogbrothers related channels 🙂

      • Eater of Worlds

        The only thing I don’t really agree with in that is, and it’s not really disagreeing, is their statement that after circumcision there’s no difference in sensitivity. Right away, sure, you’re going to be just as sensitive. You scrape your knee badly, replace it with fresh new skin and that skin is going to be really sensitive. So the head of the penis is freshly exposed to things and it’s just as sensitive as it was with a foreskin on it and it’s super easy to orgasm. But what about several years down the line when you have had time for your penis to toughen up, is that response the same? I don’t know, and from the info they gave they also can’t really say it’s the same several years later.

    • Heidi

      I would just go with what you feel is best! I have a boy so I know the frustration. I think in the US we are nearing 50% uncircumcised so it’s not likely to ever be a big deal in social situations, which was something I took in consideration.

    • swbarnes2

      As everyone else is saying, health wise, the potential benefits and risks are both really small, so health wise, either choice is responsible.

      On the other hand, it is a non-necessary, not very beneficial medical procedure on someone too small to consent. For me personally, that would tip against…but it’s also not a decision I have ever had to make, or plan on making.

    • Eater of Worlds

      I also wouldn’t worry about “looks like dad” if that’s a concern. My father is intact, my brother is not, his child is intact. My inlaws are the same, dad is circ’d child is not. The national average of babies being circumcised is 20% higher than in the 70s and is still going down. Your son wouldn’t be singled out in the locker room.

      Speaking of penises, let’s look at 100 of them including a micropenis. https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2017/may/27/me-and-my-penis-100-men-reveal-all

    • New Mom

      I hope it isn’t weird for me to reply to my own post, this seems like the easiest way to reply to everyone. Anyway, thank you, everyone for your input. I guess a main concern I have is properly caring for an uncircumcised penis. You are never supposed to retract the foreskin, is that correct? I would be a little nervous about family and babysitters regarding diaper changes.

      *Note to crunchy anti-circ, anti-vax, anti-whatever people- I know there is info regarding uncircumcised penis care on MDC and such, but it’s hard to trust anything you say. When you reject any and all science, any valid point or good advice is negated by your rabid anti-science views. Anything you say feels tainted and untrustworthy. /rant

      • demodocus

        I never have; i just wipe it when it needs it, same as the rest of his diapered end. He’s not had any infections or anything. Never worried about his babysitters either. As your daughter’s ped. S/he’ll know.
        Also, that AMA book may have some unsupported areas but they seem fairly reasonable on the practical how-to stuff.

      • Mel

        My understanding was that you don’t force the foreskin to retract before it can retract on its own – which was supported by my quick foray onto WebMD.

        My little guy was a micro-preemie so we had a few months of diaper care before he could be circumcised. We wiped the penis if there was poo on it and cleaned it off with a wet wipe after urination.

        We circumcised because I knew a guy who needed a circumcision as an adult. It’s crazy rare – but we tend to attract really weird medical issues and figured it would be easier on him as a baby.

    • BeatriceC

      I know I’m a little late to this question, but I thought I’d add some of my own thoughts. At this point the AAP’s position is that there are some slight advantages of circumcision, but not enough to recommend the procedure universally. The risks and benefits mostly balance each other out regardless of which way you choose, so they leave it up to “family choice”.

      Now for my own thoughts. Most people here know I’m not heteronormative; i.e., my sex life is not traditional. Without going into too much detail, let’s just say I’ve seen a lot of adult penises (probably over 1000). I’ve had sexual partners of both types. It really doesn’t make that much of a difference. Every man I know is quite happy with his penis. Baring a medical complication, whatever you decide will be fine with your son (assuming the peanut is a boy).

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Kind of OT, but not: Who gets to decide what’s best for babies or themselves? Apparently, not mothers. Catch this great Mississippi lawmaker…

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2017/06/01/mississippi-gop-legislator-we-must-uphold-gods-law-by-outlawing-abortion/

    Let’s start out at the beginning:

    Conservative state legislatures have been hesitant to defy tyranny for many years.

    Oooo, defying tyranny. That’s good. Not as good as Defying Gravity, but still a good thing. Right up there with the founding fathers. So what is this tyranny they haven’t been fighting?

    The right to choose abortion.

    Yep, that’s it.

    I am calling on the Mississippi Legislature to pass a law outlawing abortion after a heartbeat is detected, with the only exception being if the mother’s life is at risk. … The time to act is now. Young women should not be faced with this burdensome decision any longer, it should simply not be an option.

    That’s the big tyranny that he is fighting against! Allowing women to choose to have an abortion. Nope, the state will decide for them. Don’t worry your pretty little heads about such things. The good old Mississippi legislature is here to relieve of that burden.

    Asshole.

    • momofone

      The Mississippi legislature is full of them. 🙁

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        • momofone

          The thing I really hate is that many people assume that everyone who lives here (in Mississippi) thinks the same way the dumbass legislators do.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            They get voted in by majority of the people, so, while certainly not all think that way, there is a problem (See: Bofa’s Law)

          • Mattie

            eh…not really :/ like, they just get the majority of the vote, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the majority of the people. Just for maths reasons, they might get 40/100 votes, but then candidate 2 gets 30, 3 gets 10 and 4 gets 20. 60 people didn’t vote for them but they still won (at least that’s what it’s like here)

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            eh…not really :/ like, they just get the majority of the vote, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the majority of the people.

            According to surveys, Mississippi runs about 46% Republican, 38% Democrat. Yes, the republicans are the majority in Mississippi, and that is reflected in the voting.

            Trump got 58% of the votes in Mississippi. That’s not about 3rd party candidates, it’s a reflection of the demographics.

            Yes, it is absolutely a reflection of the majority of the people.

          • Mattie

            Fair, that’s pretty clear cut haha although having looked extensively at the voting data for the presidential election for a uni assignment the ‘non-voters’ are also important, often large numbers of people don’t vote and their voice is important although they did not choose to back a candidate.

          • momofone

            There is, of course, but there are also lots of people who are offended by the thinking and the actions of the legislators, and who vote (as I do); unfortunately the wealthier heavily conservative majority hasn’t been upset yet. I hope that will happen.

  • evidencebasedbreastfeeding

    I don’t know. I mean, I agree with you up to 95% but there is a remaining 5% that doesn’t sit right with me.

    In the UK now, it’s illegal to smoke in a car with a child. I think that’s right. It’s illegal to have a child in a car not in a (proper, whatever sort is the approved sort) car seat. I think that’s right, and not paternalism.

    We have evidence based policies that have specific recommendations to *do* or *not do* something specific, eg, not cosleeping in particular contexts, as it’s not safe, or the importance of giving vitamin D to a baby that is exclusively breastfed. We don’t have a policy that just “gives information” eg, saying “your child is at XYZ% increased risk if you don’t give vit D or if you cosleep in situation ABC”.

    Personally I feel that is right. In the vast majority of situations it’s OK to just give information and people make their decision. In some situations a responsible body needs to give a recommendation. In other situations which are at the very extreme and these are very few, there is a legal mandate to forbid certain things.

    I don’t have an opinion on where the alcohol pregnancy sits within this though. But I do think there can be a variation in degree and sometimes things go so far into the extent of risk that more prescriptive decisions need to be taken, by the appropriate bodies, providing good evidence exists for making that decision.

    • Roadstergal

      “In the UK now, it’s illegal to smoke in a car with a child. I think that’s right. It’s illegal to have a child in a car not in a (proper, whatever sort is the approved sort) car seat. I think that’s right, and not paternalism.”

      But it’s not illegal to be pregnant and smoke, is it?

      I feel like there is indeed a line, and that’s where mom’s bodily autonomy is at stake. We all know that smoking in pregnancy carries fairly well-defined health risks for the fetus, and communicate that and, hopefully, give societal resources to women to help them not do that if they want to stop – but curtailing female bodily autonomy in the name of the well-being of the fetus is a slippery slope that I’m not willing to travel down.

      • maidmarian555

        I have to say, the support you get to quit smoking when pregnant is a bit of a lottery here in the UK. When I was pregnant with wee man, I was told that really I should quit cold turkey because NRT ‘wasn’t safe’ and still contained nicotine. This lead to multiple quitting attempts that ended in failure, a lot of tears and I felt horrible about the fact I couldn’t stop and it sent my anxiety into overdrive. This time, my midwife sat me down, went through the different types of NRT available and advised me to give vaping a proper try as although it’s not ideal, getting rid of the cigarettes was the most important step and once I’d done that I could work on perhaps cutting the amount of nicotine down etc etc. I stopped completely a month ago and have been able to go from 18mg of nicotine to 12mg. I am hoping to cut that down again. This is the longest I’ve managed in a decade. Having a midwife who was actually interested in giving me some proper support has made an enormous difference.

    • Azuran

      I think the situation is different for a child and a pregnant woman.
      As long as she is still pregnant, she has bodily autonomy. I don’t have to like her choice, but we can’t make it illegal for pregnant women to do stuff.
      However, when the baby is born, that is entirely different. It’s not your body anymore and they have the right to live and be safe. I too didn’t understand why Dr. Tuteur made a distinction about only vaccination. Parents have the legal obligation to take their child to a doctor if they are dangerously sick and they cannot refuse treatment and let the kid die of a treatable disease.

    • Sarah

      That’s true when the decision doesn’t impact on the bodily autonomy of a competent adult.

  • Roadstergal

    “Similarly very few people are going to applaud a woman’s decision to have a homebirth if it kills her baby.”

    I wish.

  • Madtowngirl

    Musings that are a bit related: So I just came back from Southeast Asia, and I spent a fair amount of time in Vietnam and Thailand – both places where access to clean water is questionable. We were advised to drink only bottled water, and boil water for washing dishes/brushing teeth/etc.

    I noticed a fair number of women bottle feeding their children. I am making the assumption that it was formula, because I am skeptical that there is adequate access to breast pumps. I did not ask any of these women why they were bottle feeding, as opposed to breastfeeding, because it isn’t any of my business. But I began to wonder if they were formula feeding BECAUSE there is a risk of contaminated water. Granted, the women I observed were more of the “rich” people in the area (meaning they had enough money to get by), but if one were to mix formula with bottled water, that is probably the surest best of preventing exposure to bacteria and contaminants of the water. I do not know if the bacteria can be passed through breastmilk, though.

    I mean, I drank bottled water, used it to wash my toothbrush, and only cleaned things with boiled water….and I still managed ingest something contaminated. Maybe a knife that cut fruit wasn’t washed properly, or something was washed with contaminated water. And I felt like garbage – I can’t imagine it would be fun to breastfeed while sick like that.

    So…I dunno. Maybe I’m completely wrong, and formula feeding is the “rich people’s” thing to do. Maybe it’s done out of necessity due to heavy work schedules. Or maybe they don’t like it. Who knows. Either way, it would seem to me that anyone should be way more concerned about getting reliable access to safe water than breastfeeding in these countries.

    • AnnaPDE

      Bottled water in countries with dodgy tap water is semi-safe. Seeing how bottles can be refilled from the tap and closed back up with a tiny bit of plastic, which some sketchy vendors and restaurants do. Boiling water is definitely the safer and cheaper alternative for formula. I’m pretty sure that’s what the mums there did.

      • Mattie

        Side note, is bottled water better for making formula (assuming it isn’t just tap water in a bottle) than boiled tap water? I thought bottled water had high levels of minerals that made it unsafe for formula

        • AnnaPDE

          Depends on the specific water, AFAIK.
          Some bottled waters brag about the lots of minerals in them, others about the lack thereof (usually the “baby water” kind), and some are just regular tap water in a fancy bottle.

  • Mel

    Um…heifers fairly frequently panic after their calves are born and refuse to feed the calf colostrum or milk.

    I’ve seen heifers who have just given birth run away from their calf and look relieved when my husband opens the gate to let them into the fresh cow group sans calf.

    It’s not just a dairy thing, either. The beef cattle rule for culling the herd is “raises a calf a year after the first birth”. The first calf is expendable because many heifers that will be excellent mothers on calf 2 and up absolutely suck with the first.

    That’s why every place that caters to farmers sells both calf colostrum and formula; many mammals do not successfully breastfeed.

  • Mel

    Oh, lord.

    Yes, breastfeeding takes time and requires sacrifice. *rolls eyes*

    Pumping takes more time and requires additional sacrifice. I was looking forward to Spawn being able to breast-feed mainly because attaching him to a breast would take a heap less time than expressing milk and feeding it to him in a bottle.

    But, you know, formula feeding may take the most time and therefore the most sacrifice. Lactivists are always yammering about how much effort it takes to make formula, warm formula, feed the baby, wash the bottles etc. Fine – let’s say it does. Additionally, you have to buy the formula after driving, walking or taking public transportation to get said formula.

    So….what’s your point again?

    • Sheven

      Boobfascists can’t keep the story straight. It’s a natural thing that your body is designed to do in order to fully nourish and bond with your new baby but it’s also a difficult, frustrating, painful slog that requires endless sacrifice. Which?

      • Whichever fits the argument they want to make right now, of course.

    • Azuran

      wait……breastfeeding is going really well for me with basically no sacrifice and efforts and very little time. Does that mean I’m doing it wrong? How can I bee a good mother if I’m not suffering?

      • momofone

        You’re going to have to find some other ways of martyring yourself, and you need to do it quickly or clearly your baby will suffer. Have you thought about ginning your own cotton for cloth diapers (it goes without saying that it must be super-extra-organic)?

        • kilda

          no, skip the diapers altogether and do elimination communication.

          then when the little one is potty trained, forsake toilet paper and do “family cloth.”

          • demodocus

            That is a dumb name. It sort of implies you all share the same piece of fabric, without cleaning in between.

          • Heidi

            I have to wonder if it doesn’t end up being more resource intensive than TP? I don’t know, I can’t just let a pile of poopy cloths soak in water in order to wait for a big enough load to wash them. I can’t imagine the smell opening the bucket of poopy cloths once a week. Sometimes the hamper for bath towels stinks and I do towels once a week at least!

          • Amazed

            I won’t be surprised if it does end up more resource intensive. I clearly remember how cloth diapers led to the purchase of a washing machine. The moment my grandmother saw how my mom’s machine washed the Intruder’s diapers, she went off and bought a new one for herself. A more modern version as well.

          • Mattie

            I think the bucket has disinfectant in it, not that that makes it tons better :/ I’d still just buy toilet paper, you’re not really saving much cause you’d be using a lot more water with all the laundry

          • Heidi

            I have yet to see any family cloth proponent advocate putting a disinfectant in the bucket. From what I understand, disinfectants don’t work very well anyway if you don’t remove the soil. They all seem to be big into wet bags and just throwing them in there. Now, not to say there aren’t some, but generally it seems if you wipe adult poop with a reusable cloth, you are morbidly scared of anything you perceive to be chemical. I understand how cloth diapers could under certain circumstances be more environmentally friendly than disposables because probably in two or three days, you’d have enough to wash. I will note that it seems family cloth for poop users say they throw them in with the rest of their laundry in cold water. So maybe it uses less resources than TP but I really don’t want my stuff floating around in visible poop.

          • Mattie

            Grim :/

          • Heidi

            Seems like a bidet or a removable shower head would make more sense to reduce TP usage.

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            That is a dumb name. It sort of implies you all share the same piece of fabric, without cleaning in between.

            Are you sure it isn’t?

          • demodocus

            Nope. And I’d rather not know

          • Eater of Worlds

            I have a friend whose family uses a family cloth. But theirs is not for wiping of shit. They use a bum gun aka bidet sprayer, like the sprayer people have in their kitchen sinks. So they use the toilet, wipe with TP, scootch over, use the sprayer, dry with the family cloth. I never used one, even the guest one, because STDs still makes that squicky.

          • kilda

            ok, now that made ME gag.

          • Amazed

            Sweet memories of time long gone! That brings me back to the period when all children here were cloth diapered because nothing else was available. You can bet there were lots of mothers – all of them, in fact – who did whatever version of elimination communication was the norm of the day. Of course, no other option was available. Then, there were those who used newspapers instead of toilet paper. Toilet paper was in high demand and low offering. I don’t remember the elimination communication but oh, I have not forgotten the newspapers.

            Thanks for reminding me how good I have it now. Just in time: today, the successor of the old Communist party demands that we study the Communist period here as time of prosperity. Prosperity, my ass! Literally.

          • Eater of Worlds

            My relative came to visit and we had to explain a few times that no, there is no waiting in line for anything at the store except for when you pay. Yes, the tall buildings in downtown Chicago are real. No, really, the US is one country. The states are not separate countries even though they are bigger than your own country. Yes, really, it’s one country. One country. One. Ok, um, how about some more of this pizza you like that you’ve never had before? How about this fruit, now you know what a banana tastes like. This was all prior to reestablishment in 1990, a lot more innocence.

          • Amazed

            I first tasted a banana when I was in 5th grade. 11 year old. I remember not knowing from which end I should start peeling it. We had a song that basically said, “Tangerines, all on holiday displays! Here, tangerines only come with Santa Claus.” There were lines for EVERYTHING. And women my mom’s age toilet-trained their children from an age that was certainly too young – but they were desperate. Washing cloth diapers all day long was no fun. Whatever trickstery came their way, toilet-training wise, they grabbed it. For this alone, I tip my hat to the decadent West.

          • Charybdis

            Kind of like a roller towel?

          • The Bofa on the Sofa

            then when the little one is potty trained, forsake toilet paper and do “family cloth.”

            Thanks. I read that while I was brushing my teeth. Gagged on my toothpaste…

  • Sarah

    What is wrong with all these silly fuckers who think infant formula is meant for calves? I’m pretty sure cows don’t lactate Aptamil.

    • Mattie

      Yeh that’s always confused me, most of them probably drink cow milk and that’s even weirder, most species don’t drink milk after babyhood.

      • Charybdis

        A certain lactivist has a meme that says something like:
        “Interesting how people say ‘Isn’t he too old to breastfeed?’ As they offer their own child a glass of cow’s milk”
        Makes me roll my eyes.

        • Mattie

          Although I do sort of agree with that, if someone wants to do extended breastfeeding that’s their choice and it doesn’t bother me lol it would seem daft to say that a child is ‘too old’ for breastmilk but not too old for milk in general. I don’t drink milk, although I’ll have it in things lol and am a total cheese fiend

          • Kerlyssa

            it’s not because it’s milk, it’s because it’s coming from a human breast. 12 year old = too old to be sucking on mother’s teat. wouldn’t matter if she was lactating gatorade.

          • Mattie

            but why is it anyone else’s business?

          • Kerlyssa

            why is anything anyone else’s business? communities set and enforce various standards in various ways. noone gets to live in a society and be exempt from the social mores of their fellow community members. this is especially true when it comes to children. as much as parents (at least in the us) lobby to have kids treated as their personal property, society at large doesn’t consider it so. so a parent’s interactions with their child is going to be judged and impinged upon in various ways by their community, ranging from stinkeye to legal action.

          • Mattie

            If it’s harming the kid, yeh, but there are plenty of choices that are a bit wacky but as long as they’re not harmful then it’s not anybody else’s business. “I don’t like it” is not a good enough reason to infringe on someone’s personal freedoms as long as those freedoms don’t themselves infringe on someone else’s (not vaccinating, drunk driving). Also, if you believe something is dodgy, it is your responsibility to report it to the appropriate authority, not to fix the problem yourself.

          • Heidi

            In the extreme case of a 12 year old breastfeeding, I think we should maybe make it our business. If I saw a 12 year sucking at the nipple of an adult woman in public, I wouldn’t even assume it was breastfeeding or necessarily that it was the mother of the child. I would assume it was some form of sexual assault inflicted on the child and I would call the police. However, if I saw like a 3 year old still breastfeeding, I’d keep my personal thoughts to myself. I can’t give a black and white answer to what I’d feel obligated to act on it, but I know 12 is past it! It’s hard to fathom under what circumstance either publicly breastfeeding or showing breastfeeding on social media that involves a considerably older child wouldn’t be some form of abuse.

          • Mattie

            Yeh true, I believe that most children lose the ability to suckle after around 6 or 7 (but that might be wrong, I can’t remember where I heard it). I personally would feel weird BFing past around 2/3, definitely not when kid was at school. But I also wouldn’t want to assume that it alone is a form of abuse :/

    • Mel

      Yeah, don’t feed your calves human formula or your human babies calf formula. It won’t end well…..

      • Sarah

        Formula shill.

        • Mel

          Damn straight. My little guy is gaining 8-16 oz of weight a week on Alimentum. Long live the fake milk!

  • The Bofa on the Sofa

    Homebirth is an expression of a woman’s autonomy … A woman has the right and responsibility to choose the place and care provider for pregnancy, birth, and postpartum and to make decisions based on her knowledge, intuition, experiences, values, and beliefs.

    “Autonomy and empowerment are manifested in the ability to choose, not in the choices we make.” – me, and you can quote me

    Having the ability to choose whether to have the baby or have an abortion is an example of empowering women. Insisting that only having an abortion is an expression of that empowerment is similarly nonsense. Choosing to have a baby is no less pro-choice than choosing to abort.

    These people don’t understand what autonomy and empowerment mean. Women in third world countries have homebirths all the time. They are empowered to do anything. In fact, it is the complete opposite. They don’t have the ability to choose.

  • demodocus

    I’m a selfish heifer* I chose to formula feed rather than continue to fantasize about my kitchen knives every freaking time i even thought of breast feeding. I’ve done it, and i do not like it at all.

    *nice variation on “cow” btw, but since i’m on my 2nd calf, I’m not sure it applies.

    • Mel

      In most places, a heifer is a female cattle that has never given birth.

      In some areas – including my area of the Great Lakes – a cow is a cattle who has given birth twice. Therefore, a female cattle is a heifer until she gets pregnant –> pregnant heifer –> first calf heifer after giving birth –> second calf heifer when pregnant with the second calf –> cow after giving birth for the second time.

      This one took me a long time to get because I got “pregnant heifer” and “first-calf heifer” mixed up.

      • demodocus

        Thought it might be something like that, but I wasn’t sure