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Breastmilk v. Formula [Article of the Week]

To kick this semester and, hopefully, to get this blog rolling, I would like to begin a series wherein WUsters bring up an article (or two) a week and summarize some opinions of WUsters while bringing up other discussion points.

Alia, one of wonderful co-facilitators, brought the following article: Breastfeeding Moms Boycott Old Navy

The article confronts the pro-breastfeeding mothers’ call to boycott Old Navy (and its sister stores) because of a onesie that proudly proclaims that the baby in question is “Formula Powered.” One mother, Cate Nelson, at Eco Child’s Play argued that this onesie was akin to propaganda on behalf of the formula industry and clothing a child in it only serves to empower that industry. In her article, she decries the industry and society for making it difficult for women to breastfeed, citing this article of clothing as a symptom of that problem.

However, the article we discussed brought upthen opposing view that, for some people, breastfeeding, as well as exclusively breastfeeding, is not an option for a variety of reasons. Furthermore, condemning this rather humorous onesie that allows mothers to proclaim a choice they have made is counterproductive.

On our side, the initial reaction by several WUsters was surprise, surprise at the sheer length of the history of the breastfeeding versus formula feeding debate elaborated in an accompanying article provided to us, but also at how very divisive the debate between the opposing sides was, such that some mothers would be urging others to boycott Old Navy over an article of clothing.

The other major reaction was a sense of unfamiliarity. As college students without children, we could not speak to the experience of these mothers. We did not feel like we knew exactly what it was like to go through the process of deciding whether to breastfeed or not and whether or not we would be able to follow through with our decisions.

From here, we discussed how difficult it was to know the circumstances that drive a mother’s choice and whether it is, as Nelson asserts, an inhospitable society and industry pressures or, as a few WUsters mentioned, other mitigating factors that prevent mothers from breastfeeding as much as they like. Even if society were completely accepting of breastfeeding (which it is not as both sides have pointed out), there would still be reasons not to breastfeed, or not to breastfeed exclusively. There are factors of time (breastfeeding is very time intensive), health (some babies, especially premature ones, have a hard time breastfeeding initially), and money (if a mother wishes to work and still use breastmilk, the breastpump itself is very expensive) among others.

A reoccurring sentiment was that it is not formula or breastmilk but the debate itself, as well as all the judgment that goes along with it, that is the greatest detriment to mothers everywhere. From society’s disapproval of mothers breastfeeding in public to the pro-breastfeeding establishment’s wholesale disapproval of formula, any choice a mother makes receives some sort of negative stigma. Instead of judging mothers, we, as a society, should be informing and encouraging mothers on an approach that works for them as individuals with the health of both the baby and the mother equally in mind. In this sense, the condemnation of the onesie seems to be more a part of the greater problem than an answer.

-Faye

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