March 18, 2009

How much is that elephant in the window?

Until now, I have resisted talking about the Boobie Beatdown going on between Her Bad Mother and The Daily Blonde. I was certainly hesitant to even get close to that furor, but also, I was a little afraid. 'Tis a slippery slope to have opinions that folks may take out of context or heaven forbid, disagree with. Don't mess with the community, yo.

However, over the past week, I have received numerous, numerous emails about the whole Boobie Beatdown. As a former breastfeeder (I nursed from October 05 to January 09 with a 6 month break between bouts) and as a former breastfeeding blogger, a few folks have asked what I thought of the madness. At first, I was not interested in touching this with a ten-foot pole and merely sent private emails in response. After all, as a result of the Beatdown, there has been much mudslinging and vitriol passed between the camps of the two bloggers in question.

Furthermore, I even questioned how to write such a post - if I mention and link directly to the bloggers in question, then I could be slapped with the dreaded charge of Traffic Mongering. If I failed to mention the two bloggers in question and instead, weaseled out by getting all Oblique on you, then I could get trounced with ye olde accusation of Passive Aggression and dude, nobody likes that.

Nonetheless, a few things really, really bothered me about the whole ordeal and stuck in my craw and try as I might, the highest quality of toothpick could not pry them forth.

So, here's my post with the Two Things That Really Bothered Me About the Boobie Breakdown.........

The Two Things That Really Bothered Me
About the Boobie Breakdown
A little over a month ago, Salma Hayak cross-nursed a baby in Sierra Leone. The trip was humanitarian in nature, one that concerned educating folks about rampant malnutrition and the lack of vaccines in a country where babies are dying from these things. While there is a necessity for cross-nursing and wet-nursing on a continent rife with disease and malnutrition, as a general rule, the La Leche League has this to say about wet-nursing and cross-nursing:
"La Leche League does not encourage or suggest wet nursing or cross nursing of infants. Indeed, the practice is discouraged for a number of physical and psychological reasons."
I have said it once, I will say it again - babies die, DIE, from inadequate water supplies and tainted formula in underdeveloped countries. And, please tell me that most of us reading here know about the little "problem" of AIDS in Africa. Folks, this is not a joke, or an over-used example in the breastfeeding advocacy. Both UNICEF and WHO push breastfeeding not because they are vicious, lactating harpies or old, white-haired men with an anti-feminist agenda, but rather, UNICEF and WHO have a very real concern with developing countries who have very real issues with tainted formula and unsafe water supplies. Literally, breastfeeding can be a lifesaver.

Thing #1
While I am
not personally squicked over cross-nursing, I would not allow my child to cross-nurse without the recommended screenings. What really disturbs me is how this topic of cross-nursing has turned into a freakshow side act for the casual, uniformed observer. In reality, there is an unquestionable need for cross-nursing in countries that are dealing with serious issues - such as war, famine, tainted formula and unsafe water. We bloggers have the luxury of sitting in our cozy houses tapping away on our laptops playing "She Said, She Said" and in the meantime, there are babies dying.

So, yes. As a breastfeeding advocate, that is pretty distressing to me, this gross misunderstanding of the serious need for cross-nursing coupled with the inscrutable fact that it must not be conducted in a casual manner. But what truly troubled me about this latest blogging showdown was the sheer nastiness of the noxious fumes emanating from the comments sections of both blogs involved and throughout Tweetersville. Whoa. I thought we were adults here. And as a BlogHer blogger, a community of which I am proud to be a member, I thought we had a code of conduct (I Googled this and could not find it on BlogHer's site - either it does not exist or I am an idiot, the latter of which is most likely in this case.) Let it be known that I am not immune to the temptation of acting nasty towards someone online and using that person's public missteps as my own personal blog fodder snark. Dear Lord, no. I have done it myself. (After I wrote that post, I was so embarrassed for myself and as such, wrote a public mea culpa. It is a lesson that still shames me. Yet another reason I hesitated in writing this post today.)

Thing #2
I am genuinedly alarmed and disheartened with the fact that I was so very reticent in writing this post in the first place. Because breastfeeding has been "my thing" for awhile now, my first reaction was to write about it. My hesitance at not writing about it makes me question the extent to which I am censoring myself on other topics.
I was certainly intimidated by the extent of harsh contempt that has been displayed by both sides on this topic. Let's face the facts: If you piss off the wrong blogging crowd, you might want to think about training for that marathon that is on your Bucket List.

I am not sure how to conclude this. I suppose all I really wanted folks to know is that not all cross-nursing sessions are conducted "on the fly"with no screenings, no planning and no foresight. Oh, and this:not all mommybloggers go at each other with verbal switchblades.



Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Great post about the necessity of cross-breastfeeding in areas with limited supplies of fresh, clean water. As I've told you, and you know, my parents lost their first child as a result of an extended series of illnesses that originated with their baby being fed tainted formula on the pretext that it was the more modern and healthier thing to do when my mother had trouble breastfeeding after the birth. Which would have been fine in a clean Western hospital but ended up being deadly in the less-than-sanitary hospital in small town India where they had her birth (they insisted on a British educated doctor at a private clinic for my and my sister's births). It is a blessing we don't have to worry about this issue here.

I'd also like to add that the lovely Ms. Hayek specifically nursed that baby in order to make a statement about how it is acceptable and beautiful to breastfeed. I believe that in the country in which she was travelling, there is a specific cultural more with breastfeeding women being seen as "undesirable" to men, which results in them being hesitant about it.

Melanie said...

well written as a mom who chose not to breastfeed (for reasons that are nobody's darn business), I very often feel judged, but I have no desire to start judging others... we are all afterall concerned with raising healthy happy kids.

Cagey (Kelli Oliver George) said...

I always think of your sister when I write the posts about tainted formula. Always. And yes, you are correct - in Sierra Leone, these is a cultural norm about men not having sex with their wives when they are are breastfeeding, hence the desire to cut it off earlier. I should have clarified that.

You summed it up perfectly - really, we are just trying to raise our kids the best we can.

Anonymous said...

I was nursing Max when Katrina hit. And I knew that if I were in that situation, I would have nursed any baby that was handed to me.

I would hope that the same would be done for my children in that scenario.

Whether I would have done the same in THIS situation, I just don't know. But I do know that it was really only between the two women involved.

MLE said...

I find it really interesting how much we've changed as a culture in 100 years. Because a century ago, wet nursing was perfectly normal and pretty much the only option if you wanted a baby to live whose mother had died (or wasn't producing milk, etc.). I do wonder whether, issues of 3rd world countries, tainted formula and bad water aside, the stigma against breastfeeding someone else's kid has to do with our cultural inclination to see boobs as sexual objects rather than baby feeding things. Knowing what we know now, of course if there's going to be cross nursing (or wet nursing) there should be screenings and tests and such, but I honestly don't see what the big deal is. It seems to me that in that situation, everything worked out well for those involved.

Anjali said...

Oh, Monkey, that's so heartbreaking for your family!

It's a shame -- the bickering over this. It's no one's business, really, how one feeds a child. Too bad society doesn't care nearly as much about kids who are neglected or abused...

Anonymous said...

wow this was an eye opener on so many levels...Thank you.