Monday, May 24, 2010

Misguided Parenting Magazines: Part 1

I'm a devoted subscriber to Mothering magazine. The Madison Birth Center provided me with free copies throughout my pregnancy, and I fell in love with the information about homebirth, babywearing, cloth diapering, inspiring breastfeeding stories, and other thoughtful articles about vaccinations, the environment, and gentle discipline.

Waiting in the lobby of my MD's office last month, I picked-up a copy of Pregnancy magazine (April 2010 issue. $5.99 newsstand), wondering what the doctor's office handed out to their patients and how it compared to Mothering.  The cover of this issue had a photo of Joey Lawrence and his wife. Even so, I thought maybe it'd be an okay magazine.

But no.

The front cover also boasted tips for handling "breastfeeding bullies," written by Nanny Stella. Mothering is so breastfeeding friendly that it hadn't occurred to me that other parenting magazines may not be as positive (even if you're writing for a pool of subscribers who use formula or bottles, why would you say something against breastfeeding when you're a parenting magazine? Or why would you, as a doctor's office, put such a magazine in your lobby?). I turned to the article and was very disappointed by its take on breastfeeding.


A mom's job is to meet the needs of her baby, not the wants of breastfeeding fanatics... I write this not to get into the breastfeeding vs. formula debate. We all know breast is best... And I should say for the record that I am an advocate for breastfeeding...

Okay. Meet your baby's needs. That's good. For newborns that would mean feeding on demand, skin to skin contact, and warmth.

Breast is best. It may be true (and the recent catch phrase) but I'm not such a fan of that wording (see HERE for a post explaining the importance of word choice and re-normalizing breastfeeding in our culture). Saying that breastfeeding is normal may be the more suitable statement.

An advocate for breastfeeding. Bravo! Except that she's not. I'm sorry, but you don't say you're an advocate for something like breastfeeding and then put the whammy on it unless you're a poser. You want to know who is a real breastfeeding advocate? PhD in Parenting, that's who. I love that blogger. She's an advocate, Nanny Stella is not.

These breastfeeding fanatics of whom she speaks... Who are they, exactly?

...I am not a fan of certain breastfeeding bullies, otherwise known as 'lactivists.' You know, the ones who want your baby hanging off your boob 24/7 until she's ready for elementary school.
Ah. Yes. The lactivists. The women who breastfeed their babies (perhaps in public!) without apologizing for doing so. The ones who attend Le Leche League meetings. Who recommend lactation consultants to other mother's struggling with breastfeeding difficulties. Who rally around and volunteer for nurse-ins in the name of other women who have been discriminated against or made to feel humiliated for breastfeeding. Who believe that feeding your child in a normal way is, well, normal. Who don't judge a woman or her child for enjoying the nursing relationship past 6 months. Or, as Nanny Stella calls them:  bullies.

An evil, smelly bully. Yup, that's me! I consider myself a lactivist and yet I neither have a child constantly hanging off my boob (what a demeaning description she chose to describe such a comforting, gentle relationship) neither does it look like I'll nurse my daughter until she enters school (certainly, there are mother/child pairs who do choose to continue that long. But I've never NEVER once heard those mothers ever tell any other mother that they must also do so).

To peg lactivists as women who interfere in another mother's life is an attempt to drive a wedge between mothering communities that I don't believe is at all warrented. The pro-breastfeeding women (and men) I've known wish to be respected for their informed choices and want other mothers to be respected in the same way, whether they're nursing, pumping and bottle feeding, or formula feeding. They're about knowledge and empowerment, not denouncement and ridicule. Nanny Stella is villainizing a group that should be her partners (if she, Nanny Stella, were in fact truly an advocate of breastfeeding. but she's not) and I'm quite sad that she's chosen to write (and that the magazine chose to publish) this article aimed at expecting mothers that is so intent on building up barriers.
Anyway, there's more from that article and the magazine. Maybe I'll write about it (hence the Part 1 above), maybe I won't. I just wanted to share my disappointment with the magazine. I don't believe it has a place in a doctor's lobby. And I'll be writing both my doctor's office and Pregnancy a letter to tell them how I feel.


the grumbles May 24, 2010 at 1:15 PM  

I just found out about Mothering magazine recently and it's the first one I've come across that didn't offend me. I got a few parenting magazine samples in the hospital (along with my formula samples) but they were so stuffed full of ads and parenting techniques I didn't agree with that I just tossed them. Blech.

Momma June 2, 2010 at 4:17 PM  

I love the term "lactivist," wish I had known it when I was breastfeeding! Still, I continue to be one. Although I am no longer "lactating." ;)

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