Motherhood and the tyranny of the N-words

letter n

Words have power.

Therefore, I am rather surprised at the vehemence with which some people in our multi-day Twitter conversation are defending the use of the word “normalizing” in reference to breastfeeding. Perhaps they simply don’t realize the viciousness with which many mothers wield the two ugliest N-words in contemporary parenting discussions: normal and natural.

Both are used to justify elevating some mothering choices over others, e.g. normal birth, natural childbirth, normalizing breastfeeding, etc.

Obstetrician and bioethicist Anne Drapkin Lyerly explains the problem in her paper Ethics and “Normal Birth”:

… “normal” indicates something that is normative or morally preferable—a state we ought to strive for. The result is a “fundamental tension” between normal as an “ordinary healthy state” and a “state of perfection toward which communities can strive.” In this way, the “normal” birth becomes (in hearts and minds) the good birth, potentially leaving women who use technology to conclude that they have somehow failed …

In other words, there is a fundamental ambiguity between normal as “common” and normal as “morally preferable.”

[pullquote align=”right” color=”#0e533c”]Better to be precise and kind than inadvertently vicious and shaming.[/pullquote]

When natural childbirth advocates and lactivists use the word “normal,” they mean “morally preferable” or normative:

… an ideal standard of or model, or being based on what is considered to be the normal or correct way of doing something.

The word “natural” is used in the same way, and it, too, embodies a fundamental ambiguity between natural as “the absence of technology” and natural as “a state of perfection that can only be marred by technology.” The second use is embodied in the naturalistic fallacy that undergirds so much of alternative health and quackery, the belief that because something is a certain way in nature, it ought to be that way always.

When birth activists promote natural birth or normal birth, they are using the N-words as normative and morally preferable. Natural childbirth is presented as better, safer and healthier than birth with technology. It’s not merely natural, it’s normal, too, the way that birth is supposed to be. Anyone who deviates from natural childbirth has failed her child in a fundamental way.

When lactivists promote normalizing breastfeeding they are also using an N-word to signify normative and morally preferable. Breastfeeding is routinely presented as “best” just in case calling it natural and normal did not convey that good mothers breastfeed exclusively. Anyone who deviates from breastfeeding exclusively has failed her child in a fundamental way.

Birth and breastfeeding advocates are aware that describing childbirth and breastfeeding in these ways is vicious, creating two classes of mothers, good mothers and bad mothers. They want to use these terms viciously but they don’t want to be accused of doing so. Therefore, they exploit the fundamental ambiguity to create plausible deniability. No, no, no, they don’t mean that normal birth is better; they just mean that it is the common way to give birth. No, no, no, they’re not trying to shame formula feeding mothers, they’re simply pointing out that breastfeeding is the normal and natural way to feed an infant.

We shouldn’t let them get away with it.

Words have power and birth and breastfeeding activists use the power of normal and natural to denigrate women who use technology (epidurals in particular) in birth or technology (infant formula) to nourish their babies. Then they capitalize on the ambiguity of those words to claim, with straight faces no less, that they weren’t trying to make anyone feel bad, when that was precisely what they were aiming to do.

Let’s not let them get away with it.

When used in the context of mothering, N-words are explosive and destructive, so let’s not use them. I implore people to think carefully before employing the words normal or natural to describe either childbirth or breastfeeding. We should strike the term “normalize” entirely from any discussions about mothers.

We should support unmedicated vaginal birth for those who seek it, but we should never call it normal or natural, and we should never try to normalize it.

We should support breastfeeding for those who choose it, but we should never call it normal or natural, and we should never try to normalize it.

Words have power, and those who believe they are using the N-words to signify “common” or “expected” should keep that ambiguity in mind. Otherwise, they are contributing to the vicious effort by some mothers to denigrate other mothers. Better to be precise and kind than inadvertently vicious and shaming.

172 Responses to “Motherhood and the tyranny of the N-words”

  1. Allie P
    July 10, 2015 at 8:06 am #

    OT checking in: Induction went great. Better than textbook. Apparently I was ready to pop anyway, as my water broke immediately after my pelvic. Pit started around 9:15, baby born by noon and um, I pushed for thirteen minutes. if only there were a pro league! We’re both great!

    • Mattie
      July 10, 2015 at 8:06 am #

      Congratulations 😀

    • Cobalt
      July 10, 2015 at 8:09 am #

      Congrats! Good to hear things went the uneventful route.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks
      July 10, 2015 at 8:45 am #

      Congrats! Glad you’re both doing so well, and that it went so smoothly! Enjoy those newborn snuggles!

    • yentavegan
      July 10, 2015 at 8:52 am #


    • An Actual Attorney
      July 10, 2015 at 9:22 am #

      Mazal tov!

    • Mishimoo
      July 10, 2015 at 10:32 am #

      Congratulations! Good to hear that you’re both doing well!!

    • Megan
      July 10, 2015 at 10:46 am #


    • Roadstergal
      July 10, 2015 at 11:15 am #

      Wait, what happened to the Cascade Leading To The Inevitable C-Section?

      Happy day, congrats on the new family member!

    • Amazed
      July 10, 2015 at 5:18 pm #

      Congratulations! Welcome, little A!

    • Sue
      July 10, 2015 at 5:35 pm #

      Congrats, Allie, and welcome to the tiny one!

    • Liz Leyden
      July 11, 2015 at 10:39 am #


    • July 14, 2015 at 8:46 pm #

      Conga-rats! Hope you both continue to do well!

  2. Aine
    July 10, 2015 at 4:42 am #

    On the language issue and N words, I wonder if any other Irish readers find aspects of the breastfeeding discussion unintentionally hilarious? Where I come from, to “nurse” simply means to hold a baby or small child. I would regularly have kindly family members who offer to nurse the baby so I can get a shower or finish my meal or they just want baby cuddles. My very elderly great granny who had gone blind in her later years would love having young children visit and would often say “at least there’s one thing I’m still good for, nursing a child”. I would love to hear what the more militant American/British lactivists would say if they heard her – she could be their uber-goddess, over 100 years old and still nursing every baby she came across! Language – it’s all about context.

    • Sue
      July 10, 2015 at 5:38 pm #

      Same here in Australia. “Do you want to nurse the baby?” is an offer to hold/cuddle it, not to breast-feed.

    • Maya Manship
      July 12, 2015 at 11:41 pm #

      As an American, I tend to use “nurse” as a euphemism for breastfeeding. I guess it’s more a personal preference than anything else. I think it sounds better in conversation. I think I’m in the minority, most people I know say “breastfeed”.

  3. Dr Kitty
    July 9, 2015 at 5:17 pm #

    Completely OT

    I wanted to share a talk on resuscitative thoracotomies given by Dr John Hinds at SMACC Chicago last month. It isn’t particularly technical, the language is a little salty in places, but it is full of humanity and humour and passion. Even if you’re not medical, or you are medical, but have no interest in resuscitative surgeries, please consider watching it.

    Dr Hinds, a well known local intensive care consultant, died earlier this week doing what he loved- being the course doctor for a motorcycle road race.
    I didn’t know him personally, but his partner is a former colleague. His loss is being felt deeply by the motorcycling and medical communities here.

    His dream was for Northern Ireland to have a Helicopter Emergency Medical Service, and many of us feel that it would be a fitting legacy to make that happen.

    • Gatita
      July 9, 2015 at 7:59 pm #

      I read the BBC article and it’s so strange he wiped out on the first turn since he was such an experienced rider. A sad loss.

      • Roadstergal
        July 10, 2015 at 11:22 am #

        First turn incidents are a bit common – the bike’s tires and suspension aren’t fully warmed up, the rider’s brain isn’t warmed up… it usually takes a turn or two to hit your rhythm.

        Irish Roads Racing is pretty hardcore, not like circuit racing. I actually had not heard of these on-moto medics – what an amazing service to offer, and so sad that he lost his life providing it. 🙁

        • Dr Kitty
          July 10, 2015 at 12:40 pm #

          Our road races are literally what they sound like. You take a stretch of narrow rural Irish roads, potholes, bends, hills and all. You shut it for the duration of the race, stack a few bales of hay as crash barriers on the worst bends and accident black spots, and there you go, that’s your racetrack for as many riders as you have, going at over 120mph.

          Oh, and these guys practice by speeding on back roads in the evenings in the summer.

          It’s considered a good year if no one dies at the North West 200, which would be the biggest race in my neck of the woods.

          I know some road racers: their attitudes can best be summed up by the Irish expression “not wise”.

          • Roadstergal
            July 10, 2015 at 1:06 pm #

            From the friends I know who are fans, the appeal of Roads Racing is the appeal to the past, when men were real men etc. Of course, back then, the bikes had less power, the tires and suspension weren’t so competent, so crashes were slower (and people still died in droves).

            Modern roadracing at circuits is a totally different animal, and something I find quite fun. But when you have runoff, air fences, turn workers, and paramedics, it makes quite a difference in safety.

            When THE greatest roadracer of all time was asked what he thought of Roads Racing and if he regretted it not being part of GP anymore, he said “Hellz no, too dangerous” (in his charming media-savvy way).

  4. indigosky
    July 9, 2015 at 5:05 pm #

    These people wouldn’t know normal or natural if it punched them in the face. It just drives me insane that they think water birth is natural, when no primate or human culture in history has done it. Scented candles, birthing stools and soft music in an air conditioned house are also not natural. And proclaiming how natural they are from the very unnatural technologies of computers, smart phones and the internet is laughable if their diatribe wasn’t hurting so many women and babies.

    What is truly natural and normal is dying in childbirth. Having your child die in child birth. Not being able to nurse and have your child starve to death. Having a life expectancy of 30-40 years. Dying of disease, malnutrition, unsanitary conditions. I much prefer the “unnatural” world we live in today.

    • fiftyfifty1
      July 9, 2015 at 9:56 pm #

      But that’s just it. They are not using the word “Normal” to mean “common outcome”, they are not using the word “Natural” to mean “what happens in nature”.

      To them the words are used as value judgements. Normal means “not abnormal and defective like some other mothers” and natural means “not unnatural and tainted like some other mothers”.

      They will say it doesn’t mean that, but of course it does, and that’s why they have no problem bragging about it using any form of technology they can get their hands on.

      • Amy M
        July 10, 2015 at 11:59 am #

        And yet the same people will insist that formula feeders “just own their decision” and “don’t be defensive and make excuses.” Well, those people should own their goals, and just say straight out that they think they are better people [than formula feeders], that they wish to disparage, embarrass and upset them and that they know full well this makes them mean and nasty jerks. Trying to tell us that they just mean “common” or “happens in nature” is defensive and making excuses.

    • Liz Leyden
      July 11, 2015 at 10:36 am #

      “The Killing Fields” depicts natural childbirth pretty accurately. After a long, painful, stalled labor, Mom and baby die.

  5. July 9, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

    It is a kind of bullying – one that is no longer tolerated on a wide variety of fronts, but gets a free pass from women and society in general. Think about it – when it comes to sexuality, the words “normal” and “natural” have always been associated with hate for differences. This is no different – there is a kind of hatred for those who, for whatever reasons, deviate from the arbitrary standard with very little reflection on how arbitrary the standard really is. I think more people should read John Stuart Mill – who quite beautifully expounded on the value of letting people be free, so long as their choices do not harm others.

    • fiftyfifty1
      July 9, 2015 at 10:11 pm #

      “Think about it – when it comes to sexuality, the words “normal” and “natural” have always been associated with hate for differences.”

      Exactly. This idea that Normal and Natural are used to shame is not a new idea. This was something that gay thinkers pointed out over 40 years ago. That the opposite of “Gay” was not “Normal”. That to be gay was not “unnatural”.

      It’s ironic really. These same women who would never utter a phrase such as “My youngest brother is gay, but the rest of us are normal and natural” will have no problem using these same words when bragging about their births or feeding choices.

  6. wookie130
    July 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

    OT: The Huggies commercial that mentions that it’s diapers are meant for breastfed babies NB-3…just…ugh! Apparently they added that little disclaimer, due to how runny breastfed baby poop is compared to more solid baby poop, but still… I immediately assumed (and perhaps not wrongfully) that this was another “normalize breastfeeding” statement by the media. It is rather annoying to me, either way.

    • Laura
      July 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

      I think it’s addressing some ignorance on the matter of what’s normal for breast fed babies. I’ve heard of people who stopped breastfeeding because they thought that the babies were having diarrhea.

      • wookie130
        July 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

        Well, sure. Except in light of all of the other “normalize breastfeeding” messages being tossed around currently, it can easily be misconstrued to mean that their diapers are intended for breastfed babies only. And I’ll add that both of my babies were formula-fed, and still had runny breastfed-esque poop, which Huggies diapers failed miserably to contain. Even my daycare provider commented on how similar my son’s dirty diapers were to those of a breastfed baby’s…so, to me, diapers should be designed to contain poops of all caliber, be they runny, explosive, solid, what have you. Hahaha!!!

  7. Megan
    July 9, 2015 at 2:48 pm #

    Well I guess those of us who can’t breastfeed are screwed. Survival of the fittest and all… I have to admit this was a new and unique way to shame FF moms. #breastfeedfordoomsday

    • Megan
      July 9, 2015 at 2:49 pm #

      This was supposed to be in reply to yentavegan. Stupid phone…

  8. yentavegan
    July 9, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Yes. The studies show that in Western Modern Countries like the United States of America breastfeeding does not have a significant impact on the over all health of a child. However, our modernity hangs on a thread and tomorrow we can wake up to no electricity, no money in the banks/ATM’s no clean running water and chaos in the streets. Mothers with breastfed infants buy themselves time until normalcy returns.

    • Megan
      July 9, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

      Well I guess those of us who can’t breastfeed are screwed. Survival of the fittest and all… I have to admit this was a new and unique way to shame FF moms. #breastfeedfordoomsday

      • DelphiniumFalcon
        July 9, 2015 at 3:02 pm #

        #breastfeedfordoomsday omg… You win.

    • DelphiniumFalcon
      July 9, 2015 at 3:00 pm #

      Except in Utah. Have you seen how well prepared Mormons are for a total collapse of civilization? You can’t throw a rock in Salt Lake City without hitting an Eagle Scout and then our food storages are rather impressive. Including formula, iodine tablets for sterilizing water, water filters, and some even have huge barrels filled with fresh water.

      I can start a fire with steel wool and and old battery if pressed. Never mind all the other ways I know how to get a fire going. Easy enough to boil and sterilize water once you have a good fire.

      Boom. No lactating breasts needed and babies still get fed.

      Be prepared!

      • Bombshellrisa
        July 9, 2015 at 4:21 pm #

        I live in a Mormon neighborhood, I have been trained by a bishops wife : ) the only thing different in my prep kits are the gigantic bottles of whiskey, vodka and gin.

        • Amy M
          July 9, 2015 at 7:57 pm #

          Well, you’ll need some kind of currency, as American dollars will be worthless when the world ends.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 9, 2015 at 8:11 pm #

            That’s why I will be stockpiling coffee in and tight containers! I personally hate the stuff but I worked as a Barista long enough to see what lengths people will go to for a nice cup of coffee. Barista skills so it doesn’t taste like dirt are extra.

          • Bombshellrisa
            July 9, 2015 at 9:08 pm #

            That is exactly what I was thinking. I have lots of tequila too because I hate it and people keep giving it to me as a gift. I am sure someone is gonna want a drink during the zombie apocalypse or at least the next bad power out. Before I had a child, hubby and I would drink mulled wine or schnapps for breakfast during a power out if we weren’t working.

          • Inmara
            July 10, 2015 at 2:05 am #

            Jokes aside, hard liquor can become currency faster than you would thought. Not even mentioning WWII when many farmers made their own spirits to bribe soldiers etc.; during 1980s when Gorbachev’s USSR prohibited alcohol use and trade, many households wiped the dust from their father’s heritage devices and started to produce alcohol so they had a currency to hire workers, bribe clerks etc. It was illegal, of course – I remember how my grandmother’s kitchen was turned into spirit factory one day, and the biggest fear was that nosy neighbor will come and see it.

          • SporkParade
            July 10, 2015 at 2:57 am #

            Heck, the US almost had a rebellion in the late 1700s because the government thought it would be a good idea to tax whiskey production, and the Americans living in the Appalachian Mountains were using whiskey as their currency. But George Washington politely asked them not to rebel, so they didn’t.

          • Kesiana
            July 10, 2015 at 5:46 am #

            …a plot like that would make the most awesome Breaking Bad-inspired series EVER.

          • An Actual Attorney
            July 10, 2015 at 8:09 am #

            My neighbor is a tradesman. He works for a company, but also does some sidework.Occasionally, when people are short of cash,he’s paid in weed. He doesn’t smoke himself, so he just shares the story and the product with friends.

        • DelphiniumFalcon
          July 9, 2015 at 8:12 pm #

          Ah so you access to the good food storage stuff. Not the MRE crap survival stores sell.

    • guest
      July 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

      I always base my decisions on apocalyptic science fiction film fantasies.

    • Roadstergal
      July 9, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

      But if it’s a proper doomsday, the rest of us will eat the breastfed infants to acquire those precious IgAs. #MadMax

      • DelphiniumFalcon
        July 9, 2015 at 3:18 pm #

        They probably taste better because of all the good fats from the perfect balance of fore and hind milk that of course they baby got the proper proportions of.

        • D/
          July 9, 2015 at 11:11 pm #

          No, no, no! This whole zombie baby brain eating scenario has me totally squicked out, but I have to point out that breastfed baby brains taste *normal* not better. Since nature always protects those individuals with perfect nutrition, formula would in fact make for the tastiest of little brains.

          Wonder if there will be a “Trust Zombies” mantra among the breast tribes??

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 10, 2015 at 11:08 am #

            Trust Zombies! They eat all natural flesh!

          • July 11, 2015 at 2:16 am #

            Breastfed babies: zombie veal.

    • Fallow
      July 9, 2015 at 3:09 pm #

      You’re saying formula feeders are inferior because their children might not survive the fall of civilization if the formula supplies dry up?

      I have disturbing news for you: A hell of a lot of babies wouldn’t survive a literal collapse of society of any length. You don’t just need running water to mix up the powdered formula; you also need it for the disposal of waste, and basic hygiene. To prevent the spread of disease. Like diarrheal disease, which kills breastfed babies, too.

      But good work, erm, prioritizing just the right set of ideals.

      • DelphiniumFalcon
        July 9, 2015 at 3:17 pm #

        And the likely starvation or infectious disease scenario that would dry up mom’s milk if we’re going to assume breastfeeding is the highest priority. Breastfeeding is a rather calorie rich activity.

      • nom-nom-nom?
        July 9, 2015 at 4:01 pm #

        Yes, Fallow, but you forgot to account for zombie attacks. Breastfed babies will be far more resistant to zombies eating their brains.

        • MegaMechaMeg
          July 9, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

          I would think that Zombies would sense the poisonous formula and instinctively avoid them to preserve their wholistic diet.

          • Megan
            July 9, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

            Do those 4 extra IQ points in breastfed babies make for tastier, more scrumptious brains? 🙂

          • fiftyfifty1
            July 9, 2015 at 10:25 pm #

            Sadly the discordant sib study debunked those supposed 4 IQ points. So breastfed baby brains taste no better than formula fed ones.

            Breastfed baby stools, on the other hand, may indeed be tastier…

    • Bombshellrisa
      July 9, 2015 at 4:18 pm #

      Really? I have an emergency go kit in both cars and one for my house in case of major disasters and power outages. All kits have water and formula and all kits cover at least a weeks worth of food and for everyone in the household.

    • JellyCat
      July 9, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

      In such case, they will have to eat all formula fed babies to provide enough calories to support lactation. There are surely not enough squirrels in Central Park to support all population of NYC …

      • EmbraceYourInnerCrone
        July 9, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

        No but there’s probably enough rats in the sewers and steam tunnels…

    • seasiren
      July 9, 2015 at 5:19 pm #

      When my daughter was a baby I always had two weeks worth of formula and bottled water in my home in case of an emergency. So we would have been fine for doomsday.

      Or I’d just send my husband looting. We have a Target and two grocery stores a block away so he could just load up a duffle bag of formula and we’d be good.

      • Sarah
        July 10, 2015 at 3:56 am #

        Me too. Mine’s from Belfast, he’s been in a few riots in his time…

      • Taysha
        July 10, 2015 at 8:54 am #

        Some of my family members have looting strategies in place for the upcoming end of the world >.>

      • Daleth
        July 10, 2015 at 10:43 am #

        You and me both, Seasiren (maybe we should agree to team up in the event of an apocalpyse?). We have lots of formula in the house (both powdered Holle and ready-to-drink Similac), and both my husband and I are prepared to loot for baby formula. Heck, we even have guns. We are good to go!

    • LibrarianSarah
      July 9, 2015 at 5:31 pm #

      Am I the only one who just assumes that if an apocalyptic situation occurs I’d probably die? If an event happens that is catastrophic enough to knock out our infrastructure for a significant amount of time I am most like not going to be walking out of it. …so yolo?

      • DelphiniumFalcon
        July 9, 2015 at 5:34 pm #

        Not the only one. I’ve stated multiple times to my husband and friends regarding the nuclear war scenario that I’d rather be at Ground Zero of a nuclear bomb strike than the outskirts. Radiation poisoning is probably one of the more grusome ways to die that I can think of. I’d rather be a shadow burned into a wall that didn’t see it coming.

        • Amy M
          July 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

          My entire immediate family (including me, husband and children) is asthmatic. If a new strain of killer death flu is the apocalypse scenario, we’d probably all die of that. Which to me, is preferable than being one of the 10% of humans who survived to a new stone age.

        • An Actual Attorney
          July 9, 2015 at 8:06 pm #

          During the post 9/11 “wrap your windows with plastic and duct tape” panic, I asked a colleague at NIH (incidentally a Shoah survivor) what I should really do in the event of a chemical attack. His reply: We can’t evacuate you. Open the window, breathe deep, and hope it’s quick.

        • DaisyGrrl
          July 10, 2015 at 11:29 am #

          I was a military brat. When tensions heated up with Russia in the early 80’s, my mom asked my dad what she should do if a nuke was on its way to the base. His reply, “Put the kids in the car, and drive towards the main base. You won’t have time to escape the deadly radiation zone so you want to be vaporized by the initial blast.”

          My mom did not appreciate that advice. I, on the other hand, think they’re words to live by.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 10, 2015 at 5:59 pm #

            Your family sounds like they’d get along great with my family!

            I only figure I’d maybe live through a nuclear war longer than ten minutes because I live in the middle of bum-fuck-nowhere. Bombs are expensive and made of somewhat difficult to refine materials. They’re not going to waste one on a place that’s already desolate with ridiculously low population density.

          • mabelcruet
            July 17, 2015 at 1:00 am #

            Did you ever see the BBC film ‘Threads’, produced in 1984? It’s a drama documentary style about the days leading up to global nuclear war and the years afterwards surviving nuclear winter. Horrifying, probably scarred every person who watched it at the time. Yes, you’d definitely want to get wiped out at the time and go quickly.

      • Hannah
        July 9, 2015 at 7:29 pm #

        Definitely not. My health problems means that 50 years ago, I wouldn’t have lived much past 20. So if the initial calamity doesn’t kill me, the eventual lupus flare and kidney involvement definitely will.

      • MegaMechaMeg
        July 10, 2015 at 11:36 am #

        Yeah… when people ask me if I have an apocolypse plan I kid of draw a blank, because my plan is pretty much to die? I am an asthmatic, I am physically weak, I wear glasses, and I have a heart condition. My only shot would be to fall under the protection of a stronger group who might keep me for my various skill sets. Even then I would not be worth the resource drain, artisans would likely not be needed until things settle down and that would probably take some time. The stars would have to align pretty hard to bring about my survival and even then if my husband were to die I am not sure I would want to go on. Life without him would be near unbearable in the best of cases let alone a post apocolyptic hellscape.

        • The Bofa on the Sofa
          July 10, 2015 at 11:53 am #

          Yeah… when people ask me if I have an apocolypse plan I kid of draw a blank, because my plan is pretty much to die?

          You’ve had “people” (as in, “more than one person”) ask you if you have an apocolypse plan?

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 10, 2015 at 11:59 am #

            Technically it’s asking if they have a Zombie Plan for me but because nerds, geeks, and other such people’s are scarce around here, asking if they have a Zombie Plan is a quick way to know who is one and likely shares your warped sense of humor.

          • Amy M
            July 10, 2015 at 12:03 pm #

            I went to college in the late 90s, so Y2K was on everyone’s mind. My husband and a bunch of his friends had an apocalypse plan, as a running gag. They had decided on jobs for everyone, and there was one guy who didn’t have any great skills for that sort of thing, so he was designated as the one to sell his body for necessary resources.

          • MegaMechaMeg
            July 13, 2015 at 8:24 am #

            My friends have weird priorities.

    • Gatita
      July 9, 2015 at 5:37 pm #

      Except if you look at what happened in Haiti after the earthquake there were babies whose mothers were killed or whose milk dried up and had to be fed formula by relief workers. Tits aren’t magical wonder organs that work under any conditions.

    • Glittercrush
      July 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

      Do you actually believe this? Or are you just playing some deranged form of devil’s advocate? This is the second or third strung out, fear induced scenario you have proposed in the last couple of weeks. It would take a catastrophe of massive proportions to induce that kind of panic. And like several other posters have said, in a catastrophe of that proportion, keeping your baby alive from the myriad of deadly forces you would encounter would be difficult no matter how your child is fed.

      • yentavegan
        July 9, 2015 at 5:43 pm #

        I am trying to re-arrange long held ingrained beliefs that had been drummed into my head when I was steeped in the woo. Your replies are like a post brainwashing deprogramming session.

        • Glittercrush
          July 9, 2015 at 5:46 pm #

          Ah. Understood. I am sorry you have lived under that kind of fear.

        • Busbus
          July 16, 2015 at 1:35 pm #

          I understand. When we had a formula fed infant in the house, we made sure to always have at least one extra canister of formula and a few gallons of bottled water in the house for the unforeseen emergency (water outage etc.) That gave me peace of mind.

    • Who?
      July 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

      Assuming Mum survives, doesn’t herself get sick from the contaminated water or other causes, doesn’t need to pay for food for herself to maintain breast feeding and isn’t the target of/affected by rioting in the streets, maybe.

      And you’re assuming normalcy (whatever you mean by that) will shortly return. Ask the people affected by the tsunamis and earthquakes across Asia over the last decade or so-the closest thing to your scenario that doesn’t involve human action that I thought of-how that’s going.

      If we get knocked back to the 14the century I hope to go out quickly and cleanly in the first wave.

    • fiftyfifty1
      July 9, 2015 at 10:19 pm #

      Survival of the fittest is a real thing. But it doesn’t mean what people think it does. It’s not “the person who can survive the harshest conditions” or “The person who would have survived best in the stone age”. What it means is a person who is adapted to the actual here-and-now conditions that they live in. If you put all your time, energy and resources preparing for some future armageddon that shows no signs of coming, you are failing to adapt yourself to the present. That’s not survival of the fittest.

      • KarenJJ
        July 10, 2015 at 7:32 pm #

        Which is why I put more faith in our ability to do technology than the ability of an individual’s body to survive a sudden and severe loss of technology. I really think that some of the first things people would try to re-invent post apocolypse would be anti-biotics, vaccines and anaethesia and decent surgicial techniques (eg c-section). That and electricity.

    • Taysha
      July 10, 2015 at 8:52 am #

      You’re a regular rainbow of happiness, huh?
      I’ll die if tomorrow we wake up with no electricity. That simple. Should I go ahead and lay myself down now?
      Mother that can’t breastfeed will find a way. It’s what humans DO.

    • Michele
      July 10, 2015 at 10:51 am #

      If you really want to prepare, mothers with breastfed infants should make sure that their child will take a bottle and accept formula. If something happens to mom, baby still needs to eat something and you’re unlikely to have a wet-nurse available when the zombie apocalypse comes.

  9. SporkParade
    July 9, 2015 at 1:55 pm #

    I got into exactly this fight today. I said that it is completely reasonable to prefer an unmedicated vaginal delivery and request that your medical providers take a minimalist approach to interventions, but that doesn’t mean you need to associate with a movement that tells women that there is a correct way to give birth and those who can’t give birth that way are lemons. So, of course, all the “natural” mothers accused me of attacking them.

    • nervousprima
      July 9, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

      It’s also completely reasonable to request an elective section, as well as appropriate pain medication after the birth. I’m horrified that women are sent home after what everyone describes as “major abdominal surgery” with instructions to take some aspirin.

      • momofone
        July 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

        I don’t know about anyone else, but my experience was the opposite; I didn’t want (or need) stronger pain medicines after the first day, and the doctor and nurses insisted that I take a prescription for one. Of course it was up to me whether I filled it, but they wanted to make sure I had it if I needed it.

        • Cobalt
          July 9, 2015 at 4:31 pm #

          Pain sometimes worse after going home (time, overexertion), probably trying to avoid you coming back just for that.

    • Cobalt
      July 9, 2015 at 4:20 pm #

      I am so with you. I have my preferences, but I completely support others having their own. I place value on the freedom to give informed consent to whatever will work best for each individual circumstance, not on any blind ideology.

      I don’t ask any mother to choose what I choose. I ask that mothers have their choices respected.

    • indigosky
      July 9, 2015 at 5:15 pm #

      Of course they did. Because they truly believe that unmedicated birth is the only way and you “attacked” them by suggesting otherwise. Because that is their one hold on being a “superior” mother and better than you. I’ve seen this attitude time and time again.

      • Liz Leyden
        July 11, 2015 at 10:24 am #

        If getting an epidural isn’t a sign of weakness, then the “natural mamas” endured a whole lot of pain for nothing.

        I’ve heard unmedicated vaginal birth compared to running a marathon, which is neither natural nor normal. According to legend, the first recorded marathon runner was a soldier who ran 26 miles to deliver a message, then collapsed and died.

    • Young CC Prof
      July 9, 2015 at 6:03 pm #

      I am militantly indifferent to other women’s birth choices, barring choices that seriously compromise safety. Indifferent, because it’s none of my darned business, and militantly, because I will defend your right to choose either way.

      • Dr Kitty
        July 9, 2015 at 6:48 pm #

        Amy Poehler has some advice to live by:
        “Good for you, not for me”.

        You do you, but I’m going to make a different choice, for my own reasons that are NOYB, ok?

        I’ve made it absolutely clear to my own care providers that I consider a VBAC to be an unacceptable outcome for this current pregnancy, for my own reasons. They are being very supportive, for the most part.

        However, I think appropriate candidates for VBAC who wish to have a TOLAC should absolutely be supported in that choice. Not what I would do, but doesn’t mean it isn’t a perfectly good choice for other people.

    • fiftyfifty1
      July 9, 2015 at 10:29 pm #

      Yes, this group is used to constant praise. When it dries up even a little they feel they have been insulted.

      • SporkParade
        July 10, 2015 at 12:51 am #

        I think it goes even deeper than that. Their birth preferences have become a part of their identity, so that just the idea that this isn’t something that should be a matter of ideology is an attack on who they are.

  10. LibrarianSarah
    July 9, 2015 at 1:40 pm #

    OT’ness ahead.

    I don’t think there is a word that caused me more pain than the word “normal” accept for maybe it’s counterpoint “weird.” Those who think that the word normal is no big deal should consider themselves lucky. I for one have been told throughout my childhood that I need to act “normal,” think “normal,” get into a “normal” school or an “normal” classroom, befriend more “normal” kids and “just be normal.” That kind of shit weighs on your psyche. And the idea that their is something intrinsically wrong with you because you are not this undefined “normal” will haunt you for a lifetime.

    And yet every time I hear someone say “What is ‘normal’ anyway? Aren’t we all a little weird?” I want to punch them in the mouth. This is the NT equivalent of “I guess I don’t see color. I just try to treat everyone equally.” It sounds great in theory but there are real consequences to being perceived as not being “normal.” It affects your ability to make friends, date, get a decent job, and pretty much any other life event. There is a good reason why most people who can fake “normal” do so even at great emotional cost.

    So yeah normal is a big deal. It exists and it’s pretty much the opposite of pornography. You know it when you don’t see it.

    • DelphiniumFalcon
      July 9, 2015 at 3:27 pm #

      All of this! It’s okay to be “properly” weird like being a non-comformist free spirit. But if you don’t look someone in the eyes when they’re talking suddenly you’re a sullen, disrespectful waste of potential.

      “Reading” people is the most exhausting part of acting “normal” for me. So much concentration needed to do what comes naturally and is expected with so called normal people.

      • Roadstergal
        July 9, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

        Oh god, I hate playing the Eye Contact game. Is this the right amount? Is this coming across as the piercing stare of a psychopath? I feel like I should be blinking more, or less… Can I look at something else now?

        • DelphiniumFalcon
          July 9, 2015 at 3:55 pm #

          Yes! Yes this exactly! Especially in job interviews. How much is enough to show you’re not a shrinking violet and how much is too much looking like I’m going to bite their face off?

          • LibrarianSarah
            July 9, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

            Years ago I had an interview and the interviewer had a deformity by one of her eyes so I was constantly tugged between “look her in the eyes” and “don’t stare.”

            My problem is that I can’t think of what I am saying and make eye contact at the same time so a lot of people think I am being deceptive because I look away to talk and then make contact.

          • Kelly
            July 9, 2015 at 8:16 pm #

            I am not on the spectrum but I have this issue too. Plus, I blink a lot. So all I can think about is trying not to blink too much and try not to stare too intensely.

        • Gatita
          July 9, 2015 at 5:39 pm #

          A trick a high school teacher taught me is to look at the person’s left ear (your left). It will look like you’re making eye contact without the intense discomfort of actually making contact.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 9, 2015 at 6:44 pm #

            I use that one and looking at noses a lot. Puts your eyes in the general area without being obvious. It’s the timing that you have to figure out after that! Lol

            I’m lucky that the people on the ASD spectrum in my family tend to be very good mimics. It’s why my uncle and I went so long without being diagnosed because we’d observe people that were popular and good communicators and consciously mimic those behaviors to appear more socially acceptable. It was pretty hit and miss though so we were still the friendly but odd kids.

        • fiftyfifty1
          July 9, 2015 at 6:17 pm #

          Ok. So here is a question for anybody here who has trouble with eye contact. Is this topic ok for me to address explicitly with patients? That is what I do now, and it seems to work, but it has occurred to me that what I am doing might be “too familiar” or something. Basically if I have a patient who carries a ASD diagnosis, I ask them if as part of that they have any trouble with eye contact and/or interpreting indirect speech. If they say yes, then I tell them that it won’t bother me if they don’t make eye contact and that I will always speak very directly and will mean what I say. Does this seem ok or could it come across as paternalistic or something? If so, is there a better way to address it or should I just leave the topic alone?

          • Cobalt
            July 9, 2015 at 6:21 pm #

            I don’t have an ASD diagnosis, but I would be relieved to hear that. Freedom from the bizarre social word dance, so I could just trust your words-as is, from the start, would be set me at ease.

          • Who?
            July 9, 2015 at 7:03 pm #

            Me too.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 9, 2015 at 6:39 pm #

            I like peope to mean what they say because I can’t pick up on lying as well as I’d like so just talking to them saying what you mean would work with me.

            There’s a large spectrum, just like ASD itself, on which people pick up on metaphoric language or not. If you use a metaphors or simile and they give you the “Wtf” eyes, I wouldn’t use them.

            Even just saying “you don’t have to look at my eyes or face if it’s uncomfortable for you” if you notice them looking everywhere but at you may be all the relief they need. Personally I get around that quirk by looking at noses. You’re still looking the general socially acceptable area without that eye contact.

            Eye contact really is the worst when it’s forced or someone is staring you down. I had a bishop who would do that to me and it was like someone was slamming my fight or flight buttons over and over again. I wanted to get up and run screaming down the halls of kick him in the nuts and then go running down the halls.

            I hesitate to use animal comparisons but humans are basically the only animals that think eye contact is polite so it works. It’s like how you’re not supposed to stare a dog down. If you’re lucky the dog will just get submissive and try to get away. If you’re unlucky they’ll attack. Probably one reason dogs and autistic kids get along well. Neither of them like eye contact and don’t try to conceal the meaning of their body language.

            Because a lot of peoe on the ASD spectrum don’t read body language well, some will actually have very easy to read body language because they don’t self police it and try to hide the less socially acceptable ones like fidgiting when they’re nervous or the classic example of stimming. Stimming is more of a self comfort thing that makes dealing with a world that’s not very autistic friendly bearable. Over stimulate a sense until it basically dulls itself. I like to wrap up in blankets even in 100 degree weather just because I like the feeling of the cloth on that much of my body and it’s comforting.

            Basically they’re kids that want to be treated like kids and not treated like their label is all they are but also not shunning them for when they don’t read a situation correctly. So I’d just observe and if they look uncomfortable like they’re trying to make eye contact but their actual gaze keeps sliding away, don’t even bring up that it’s an autistic thing and say they don’t have to make eye contact with you if they don’t want to.

          • Gatita
            July 9, 2015 at 8:03 pm #

            It’s also cultural. There are plenty of places where direct eye contact is considered extremely rude. The U.S. and I guess Western Europe (?) are the outliers in that regard.

          • DelphiniumFalcon
            July 9, 2015 at 8:15 pm #

            Yeah that’s the thing I don’t get. How did this eye contact thing become the cultural norm in the predominantly white nations where in the rest of the world it’s considered extremely rude?

            Might be something I’ll have to ask my anthropology friends to see if they have any idea.

          • LibrarianSarah
            July 9, 2015 at 7:08 pm #

            I think most would appreciate you asking them and being willing to accommodate them. I don’t think it is “too familiar” we have to have these kind of discussions frequently with our bosses, family, friends, teachers, etc.

          • Roadstergal
            July 9, 2015 at 7:25 pm #

            I don’t carry an ASD diagnosis, so I can’t speak to that, I grew up in the time when the nerdy introverted people who didn’t fit in just sat in the corner and read. I’ve really appreciated it when docs have asked me how I like my information, so I can tell them that I find numbers/statistics and citations comforting, and that I am SO much happier when they are honest about ambiguity because it exists in everything and if they don’t tell me I feel like they’re hiding things. :p I don’t think I’d mind at all a doc who tells me she means what she says; my ortho is the most blunt person I know and I feel like I would attach to her like a leech out of relief at being treated like that if she’d let me.

            I think my docs generally guess that I don’t like eye contact – something about the way I stare with great interest at the poster showing the stages of gestation on the wall while asking about ablation, eg.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks
            July 9, 2015 at 9:35 pm #

            I haven’t been formally diagnosed, but wouldn’t be shocked if I were on some part of the autism spectrum. (Thanks, mom and dad, who homeschooled me lest Teh Evil Teachers suggest some sort of intervention.) I find *giving* direct eye contact to be extremely uncomfortable, but am also uncomfortable when someone doesn’t look me in the eye during an important conversation. It’s weird.
            As a teenager, I learned to look someone in the face while allowing my eyes to go very, very slightly out of focus. That way, I don’t really have the intensity of the eye-to-eye contact, but the other person doesn’t think I’m being rude or “weird.”
            I am *horrible* at interpreting indirect speech. I mean, AWFUL. When I make a friend, I often end up telling them after a few months something to the effect of, “Please tell me exactly what you’re thinking when you ask me to do or not do something. I will never be offended if you say, ‘I don’t need/want help with X, so don’t bother coming over.’ I will be *extremely* stressed if I’m supposed to garner from that that you actually want me to help with something but are being ‘polite’ by not insisting on it, and then get annoyed when I say ‘Okay, then,’ and don’t come.” Having someone, as you suggest, ask “Do you want the facts, or a more general overview?” would be fantastic because, yes, I like my facts, and then having someone tell me what they mean, and no sugar-coating.

        • KarenJJ
          July 10, 2015 at 8:29 am #

          If you rely on lipreading to help understand a conversation it becomes a delicate dance of how much you concentrate on someone’s lips vs how much eye contact you give and also leaning in to try and hear someone. Meeting new people has this really awkward phase…

          • Poogles
            July 10, 2015 at 3:26 pm #

            OMG, yes. I have issues distinguishing words from each other when listening to people (especially if there is ANY other noise/conversations around), so I have learned to rely on watching people’s mouths to help (and captions on TV/internet, and avoiding the phone like the plague). My husband likes to try and introduce me to his friends or coworkers by having us all go out to a bar, usually with live music…I spend the entire time quietly sipping my drink while smiling and nodding like I actually have the faintest idea of what they’re all talking about, and fervently hoping no one asks me a direct question.

            I’ve built up a bit of a tolerance to direct eye contact, but I still avoid it when I can, because it is still very intense and draining.

      • LibrarianSarah
        July 9, 2015 at 5:23 pm #

        When I was in middle school I did something to piss one of my teachers off and she got in my face and said “Look at my face! How do you think I am feeling right now!” and I responded “Lady, do I look like Miss. Cleo to you?” 3 months later this interaction happened.

        Ms. T: How do you think I am feeling right now.
        Me: Angry or upset.
        Ms. T: Correct. And what about your behavior made me upset?
        Me: No idea
        Ms. T: Then how do you know I am upset?!
        Me: Well you never ask the this when you are happy.

        I got written up both times. Durring the second time, my Dad was like “well at least she is learning something.”

    • Roadstergal
      July 9, 2015 at 3:36 pm #

      This post is really making me think, especially in the context of the one just a few down. It really puts it all in perspective – I mean, most of us are fine to be ‘best’ at a very few things, and ‘adequate to good’ at the rest of life. That’s the failure of Breast is Best as propaganda – although it can make many feel horrible, it doesn’t deal with the folk who feel, “Okay, maybe Breast Is Best, but I’m putting my energies to X, Y, Z as a mom, and I can deal with being okay and not Best in this instance.” But casting it as ‘normal’ means if you don’t do it, you’re _weird_, you’re _strange_, you’re _not a normal mom_. Can’t you see that it’s totally Normal for all the other moms? What’s wrong with you? That’s so much massively more judgmental.

      • fiftyfifty1
        July 9, 2015 at 6:01 pm #

        Actually the switch from “Breast is Best” to “Breast is Normal” was a deliberate switch. This idea was first floated (or I first noticed it anyway) in lactivist circles about 5 years ago. They very explicitly argued just what you have, that calling breast “best” made breastfeeding seem like a bonus-points activity, when in reality what they wanted to convey was that it should be considered the minimal acceptable option (i.e. the only option).

        • D/
          July 9, 2015 at 10:47 pm #

          There has been a definite resurgence in promoting the “Breast is normal” and the “Risks of formula feeding” rather than “Benefits of breastfeeding” language for mainstream consumption in the last 5- 6 years. The first time I remember hearing it within the lactivist community though was in Diane Wiessinger’s “Watch Your Language” essay in the mid-90s.

          • Angharad
            July 10, 2015 at 9:44 am #

            This article makes me feel literally ill. I’m in shock over the deliberate decision to try to make women at their most vulnerable feel inadequate. This is truly vile.

          • Gatita
            July 10, 2015 at 10:47 am #

            Wow, that is seriously fucked up. The manipulation is unbelievable.

          • Zoey
            July 10, 2015 at 11:55 am #

            So, this article actually says not to worry about making women feel guilty about formula feeding their baby because women feel guilty about everything anyway. What paternalistic bulls*t.

          • fiftyfifty1
            July 10, 2015 at 6:31 pm #

            Wow. Thanks for that link. Outrageous. This has obviously been going on much longer than I realized.

          • D/
            July 10, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

            You’re most welcome 🙂

        • Sarah
          July 10, 2015 at 4:00 am #

          That’s also why some of them have come up with the ‘breast is the biological norm’ catchphrase. Because there are a number of societies, such as the UK, where the majority of feeding is formula not breastmilk, so claiming that breast is the norm is a bit farcical.

        • D/
          July 10, 2015 at 10:38 pm #

          So here’s a fun “next best option” quiz for you.

          In a situation where a healthy, term infant cannot, or should not, be breastfed or fed his mother’s own milk , the most ideal alternative is:

          A. expressed milk from a human-milk bank

          B. expressed breast milk from another healthy mother

          C. commercial infant formula

          The answer is B.

          (This is an actual study question for this year’s IBCLC exam, BTW.)

          Statements such as this have been increasingly publicized recently (Here’s one: Human Milk-Sharing Networks Reflect a Growing Movement | Food Safety News ) and was provided as the rationale for the “correct” answer above.

          “According to a World Health Organization/UNICEF publication, ‘Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding,’ for those few health situations in which infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, these are the best choices in order of health benefits to the baby:

          Expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother;
          Breast milk from a healthy wet nurse or a human-milk bank;
          A breast-milk substitute (formula).”

          Now here’s the actual statement in the quoted “Global Strategy” document:
          “for those few health situations where infants cannot, or should not, be breastfed, the choice of the best alternative – expressed breast milk from an infant’s own mother, breast milk from a healthy wet-nurse or a human-milk bank, or a breastmilk substitute…depends on individual circumstance.”

          You might be interested in this comparative risk perspective of milk sharing and formula feeding that is frequently cited too. Milk sharing is becoming the runner-up in the race for choosing what’s best.

          One of my favorite lines?
          “HIV is held out to be a deal breaker for practices like milk sharing, because it appears to represent the worst-case scenario that everyone fears. Yet in many instances of milk sharing, the risks of HIV transmission are probably lower than many routine risks that we accept every day, like driving in a car.”

          • fiftyfifty1
            July 11, 2015 at 9:00 am #

            holy shit!

          • Liz Leyden
            July 11, 2015 at 10:16 am #

            I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately. At my new job I deal with a lot of women who are opioid- or heroin- dependent. Some are pregnant, and they’re encouraged to breast feed and pump, even if they’re on methadone (which can enter breast milk, unlike subutex).

          • D/
            July 11, 2015 at 3:45 pm #

            Yeah this is a huge public health issue that makes for very complicated and costly management for many of these babies. More than 2/3 of those with prenatal exposure to opioid maintenance treatment will have symptoms of neonatal abstinence syndrome and many will require treatment. The continued exposure through breast milk (when mothers are in supervised treatment programs) is less than dosages used for treatment of NAS and (with methadone in particular) lowers the incidence and severity of NAS and shortens the necessary treatment and hospital/ NICU stay.

    • Who?
      July 9, 2015 at 7:01 pm #

      Thanks for this-I was about to go into ‘why the word normal helps no one, is judgy and needs a good long rest in the dictionary rather than out in the world’, but you did it so much better.

  11. Gatita
    July 9, 2015 at 1:27 pm #

    This is brilliant. I hope your twitter critics read this with an open mind, especially Tara Halle. She was getting really overwrought yesterday and completely missing the point you were trying to make. I’m sorry she was shamed by someone who couldn’t handle public breastfeeding but the way she’s dealing with it is counterproductive, inviting even more intrusions into mothers’ lives and womens’ bodies.

    • Cobalt
      July 9, 2015 at 4:27 pm #

      I lost a lot of respect for her yesterday. To say you know words have power, then try to redefine a shaming word to keep using it, even when you know it’s hurting others by its very definition, then call yourself supportive? No. That’s deliberately hurtful.

      • Gatita
        July 9, 2015 at 5:40 pm #

        It’s clear that the issue is very painful and personal for her and she couldn’t get any distance on it. She felt attacked by Amy and I thought Amy was being pretty respectful.

        • Cobalt
          July 9, 2015 at 6:18 pm #

          That doesn’t make it ok to have your “feel betters” come from putting others down. And she knows that’s what she’s doing, but doesn’t care.

          • Amazed
            July 9, 2015 at 6:41 pm #

            She’s being rude and aggressive. The card even says “normalizing nursing”, FFS. Not “normalizing nursing in public”.

            Dr Amy was perfectly respectful. Tara Haelle was not. One must have the IQ of a fly not to reckon that “normalizing” in this way means putting others down. Instead, she’s arguing linguistics.

          • Gatita
            July 9, 2015 at 7:55 pm #

            She’s not stupid at all and usually not a flack for natural bullshit. This is obviously hitting a big nerve for her. She was joking about this being the one occasion where Jay Gordon agrees with her and honey, isn’t that a big indication you need to take a big step back and reconsider your position?

          • Cobalt
            July 9, 2015 at 9:31 pm #

            Linguistics doesn’t support her assertions.



        • Amy Tuteur, MD
          July 9, 2015 at 8:37 pm #

          I can’t understand why she reacted the way she did.

    • LibrarianSarah
      July 9, 2015 at 10:24 pm #

      What happened? What did I miss? Post a link please. Dish gurrl dish.

      • Gatita
        July 10, 2015 at 12:24 am #

        Just read Amy’s twitter and Tara’s replies. Basically, Amy tweeted her blog post on the BF card and Tara (among many other people) lost her shit. I have a lot of sympathy for her, it would such to have a total stranger call you indecent just for feeding your kid, but the solution isn’t to invite total strangers to hand out creepy cards to women who are also just feeding their kids.

        • Who?
          July 10, 2015 at 12:56 am #

          But where I get lost is who cares what total strangers think? How can anyone do anything with any integrity if they need, at the same time, reinforcement from the whole world? I don’t know if Tara herself is judgy on other matters-though I’m guessing she is if handing out breastfeeding cards is something she does or advocates doing-but if they are how dare they get upset with others who are just as passionate as they are, but about different things.

          Time to pull on the big girl pants and learn to not be quite so sensitive to the perceived disapproval of others.

          • Gatita
            July 10, 2015 at 11:02 am #

            Eh, you know, it would be great if everyone could shrug off unkind comments but we’re human and mean shit hurts.

  12. Zoey
    July 9, 2015 at 1:10 pm #

    I’ve been seeing a lot of memes going around lately imploring lactivists to stop telling women that “breast feeding is best,” but that rather that “breast feeding is the biological norm.”

    I assume the whole point is that “breast feeding is best” implies that there are other options for infant feeding that may also be very good, just not as good as breast milk. Instead, they want to frame any other infant feeding method as biologically abnormal, and usually they’ll throw in their made-up list of formula as only being a fourth-best feeding choice (after breast milk from the breast, pumped breastmilk and then donor breastmilk) just to add in that extra bit of obnoxious smugness.

    There’s no way that I believe they intend this language change to mean “common” or “expected.” It’s coercion and shame 100%.

    • Roadstergal
      July 9, 2015 at 2:58 pm #

      As problematic as “Breast is best” is, it allows the notion that the alternative, though not ‘best,’ might be nonetheless nominal/acceptable. I feel like they want to squash even that.

    • MegaMechaMeg
      July 10, 2015 at 9:33 am #

      It has seriously gotten to the point where I full on teenage eye roll every time donor milk is mentioned. It feels like somebody telling me to save fossil fuels by riding my unicorn to work.

      • Young CC Prof
        July 10, 2015 at 9:54 am #

        Exactly. The people writing this have to know that donor milk is not a viable long-term solution for the millions of mothers who struggle with breastfeeding. (It could be a viable solution for micropreemies who are consuming it by the milliliter, but that’s a totally different scale.)

    • Liz Leyden
      July 11, 2015 at 9:56 am #

      Death during childbirth is a biological norm. Vaccine-preventable disease is a biological norm.

  13. Mac Sherbert
    July 9, 2015 at 12:23 pm #

    It’s normal to feed your baby not let it cry in hunger. It’s normal to want a live and healthy baby. It’s normal to want the best possible care available. It’s normal to want to avoid pain.

  14. Ash
    July 9, 2015 at 11:57 am #

    May we add tyranny of the “B” word? Bonding?

    Here is how it’s often used. For women, if you don’t do X, Y, and Z exactly as prescribed your child may be less “bonded” to you. For men, men can or should have less interaction with their children because “bonding” occurs in a different way for mothers rather than fathers.

    • OttawaAlison
      July 9, 2015 at 1:24 pm #

      My primarily formula fed kid (well hasn’t had a drop in almost 8 years), who was a csection baby and I didn’t do skin to skin with immediately after birth, is very bonded with me and my husband. I guess she didn’t read that manual that she’s supposed to be less bonded now.

      • Megan
        July 9, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

        I am ways glad to hear these kind of accounts. The bonding thing was what scared me the most as a new mom failing to breastfeed. Even other medical professionals mentioned breastfeeding to bond with baby often enough that I began to believe it wasn’t possible to bond any other way. My logical brain wasnt really functioning in those postpartum post-PPH post-Csection days and I was terrified my daughter would hate me if I didn’t EBF her. I mentioned this to my (wonderful, sane, rational) doctor in tears one day and she said to me (jokingly), “Wait until she’s a teenager. She probably will hate you. And it will have nothing to do with breastfeeding!”

        • Angharad
          July 9, 2015 at 3:25 pm #

          Postpartum hormones are a real thing! I was sitting in the hospital feeding my daughter a bottle of formula and sobbing when my night nurse walked in and asked what was wrong. I said, “She’s going to hate me for giving her formula!” She told me my baby would love me for keeping her loved and fed. Thank goodness for care providers who aren’t hormonal!

        • Inmara
          July 9, 2015 at 3:30 pm #

          The same story is with skin-to-skin time – somehow it’s praised beyond belief, like a magical cure that will make mother and baby bond like crazies, and provides countless benefits for babies (either preemies or full term). I really liked Science of Mom analysis of where this belief comes from and why those studies should be taken with a grain of salt

          • Megan
            July 9, 2015 at 4:34 pm #

            Great article. Thanks!

          • Kelly
            July 9, 2015 at 8:23 pm #

            I guess my kids should not be bonded to me. I only did it once with each of my kids. I did not like taking my clothes off.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa
        July 9, 2015 at 2:33 pm #

        I’ve said it before: if you ever see me with my older son, you would have thought that I must have delivered him vaginally, had immediate skin-to-skin, and breastfed him for three years, given how “bonded” we are.

        Needless to say, none of that happened. Shoot, even the bottles I gave him were blended EBM and formula.

    • moto_librarian
      July 9, 2015 at 1:38 pm #

      Do you know what allowed me to bond with my first-born? Formula.

    • MegaMechaMeg
      July 9, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

      Where did this crazy emphasis on bonding come from anyway? It was just like it came out of nowhere a couple years ago as the polite way to tell women that their baby won’t love them unless they toe the line.

      • DelphiniumFalcon
        July 9, 2015 at 2:04 pm #

        It’s eerie to me because it reminds me of the “Refrigerator Mother” theories of the past for explaining various mental illnesses. That’s an idea that needs to stay dead and buried.

        • MegaMechaMeg
          July 9, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

          I have legitimately never met a child who didn’t love their parents absolutely. My grandparents are severe alcoholics who profoundly neglected their four children and all of their children are almost disfunctionally devoted to them. Barring psychological problems in the child I am not sure what could be done to stop a child from bonding with their primary caregivers. It is pretty much a foregone conclusion and is not difficult or rare. I have personally managed to bond with at least three unambiguously terrible children that don’t even belong to me. Why are we, as a culture, pretending that unless every single perfect parent (read:mother) step is followed your kid will end up fundementally broken and incapable of love?

          • Cobalt
            July 9, 2015 at 4:29 pm #

            Ask any social worker. Bonding happens reliably even under profoundly horrific circumstances.

      • Kelly
        July 9, 2015 at 8:22 pm #

        I wish it would die too. My Mom claims that because she was not at my second daughter’s birth that it took her longer to bond to her. She wants to come live with us early in order to be there for the birth for the third one. I never feel “bonded” to my children right after birth. My Mom can bond by spending time with my kids. It does not take much at all.

        • Amy M
          July 9, 2015 at 8:27 pm #

          It took me two months to really feel bonded to my children. Up to that point, I felt compelled to care for them, and I was also pretty exhausted. When they started smiling, that’s when the deep loving feelings really hit.

          • Kelly
            July 9, 2015 at 10:20 pm #

            For me too. I just can’t feel any warm fuzzy feelings when they don’t have much of a personality. I have realized after two kids, I really like them at the 1 to 2 age as of right now. They are crazy and hard to control but so dang cute.

          • Cobalt
            July 10, 2015 at 10:38 am #

            I had different “bonding experiences” with each birth. My hormone and anxiety levels had more to do with it than anything else, I think.

      • July 10, 2015 at 1:24 am #

        Some time after I graduated nursing school — late 60s or thereabouts — I remember “bonding” being suddenly “discovered”. Be separated from your infant during the first half hour of its life, and the two of you were doomed. I thought it a silly notion then and I think it is a silly notion now.

        I’ve seen so many trends and gimmicks come and go I am now blase about it all. It is truly amazing how well children seem to be able to survive the parenting they receive

    • weyrwoman
      July 9, 2015 at 5:12 pm #

      I work with foster kids and we are in the process of fostering to adopt as well. These kids were abused, not loved or taken care of a day in their life from their birth mother and they still love their mother deeply. So deeply that even when they are placed in a home with a truly loving foster family, they still want to go home because they love their mom. They are still completely and 100% attached to the woman who gave birth to them who ignored and neglected them.

      So I call bull**** on these people about not having proper bonding or attachment without whatever their magic formula is. Because I’ve seen first hand that it is 100% nonsense.

    • Amy M
      July 9, 2015 at 8:07 pm #

      That “bonding is different for fathers” is crap. Humans form bonds with each other in a variety of ways, but generally spending time together, will lead to bonds. I guess a breastfeeding woman will spend a lot of time with her infant, in very close contact, but its not like formula fed infants are left lying on the ground, and fed via hamster sipper.

      • Young CC Prof
        July 9, 2015 at 8:39 pm #

        Really? Darn, that crib dribbler looked like a really good idea.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.