Thursday, October 01, 2009

My Confession

I did not nurse Kenai or Ziva for very long. I had reasons for giving up, pretty good reasons I think, but I still feel guilty. I wear the shame and regret that has become the mother's uniform. I'm not proud of it, I'm actually more ashamed of the way I feel than I am about the original "sin". But I always come back to this feeling that I cheated my children. Usually, it's after talking to breast feeding advocates.

I'm not against breast feeding (Elliet was nursed exclusively for a year). I'm not against advocating breast feeding. What I am against is people making claims that formula kills. I'm against comparing the marketing of formula to women in the US to serious human rights violations. I refuse to believe the assertion that women are so easily swayed by a pretty can of formula that we shouldn't even offer it to them or they will turn away from the almighty breast. Formula doesn't kill. Lack of clean water kills. Lack of education kills. Starvation and dehydration kill.

They say instead of guilt, I should feel anger. That I should blame the industry for making me think it was okay to give formula, for being tricksy enough to fool me into thinking formula would nourish my baby. That still tells me that formula is bad and my children will be inferior because of it. It assumes I wouldn't haven't chosen to formula feed if it weren't so readily available. It assumes I don't want to take responsibility for my own choices. But I do take responsibility. I had all the information then that I do now but I still chose to stop breast feeding when it became too difficult.

The #nestlefamily ordeal on Twitter was I *think* supposed to be about Nestle's unethical corporate practices. This includes using cacao harvested by slaves and children and heavy-handed marketing of baby formula to women in developing countries who have then mixed it wrong or mixed it with dirty water, both of which can lead to serious illness and death. I'm not sure what else it includes. There were people who were also upset about things like free cans of formula being given to new moms (in the US). That's when I got into the conversation. I was surprised that in the midst of a discussion on serious human rights violations, people still wanted to make it about how formula is bad and shouldn't be marketed to anyone. It makes me very uncomfortable when people make an argument that sounds very much like, "If women had fewer options, they'd make the 'right' choice." I don't like it.

I'm not going to boycott Nestle. I don't really think boycotting is all that effective and you have to be REALLY dedicated to boycott a company that big (seriously, they make EVERYTHING). Instead of boycotting I usually try and support companies I like. I buy fair trade coffee, preferably from companies that only sell fair trade products, but I'm not boycotting Folgers. I buy Seventh Generation cleaners but I'm not boycotting Clorox. I can get behind fair trade chocolate but I don't really buy much chocolate. I have tweeted to @NestleFamily to ask them what they can do to eliminate slave labor in cacao farming.

What do you think of Nestle? Will you boycott? Do you think boycotts are effective?

Edited: I just saw that I had written "free trade coffee" instead of "fair trade coffee" Not really the same thing! Fixed.


  1. I boycott WalMart and McDonalds. Nestle is indeed ubiquitou! While I agree that marketing formula to developing nations that do not have access to safe, clean water is icky, I can't speak to the rest of their shenanigans.

    My son was formula fed because he almost died and my milk dried up waiting for the day that he might, miraculously, be able to nurse. Didn't happen and formula (a special, medical one) sufficed. It didn't kill him, we don't have less of a bond, etc.

    When the discussions escalate to the breast feeding mommy wars all is lost.

    I'm sorry you feel bad about your decisions. Don't. Your girls are healthy, happy, adorable, and love you as much as you love them. End of story. Nothing else matters.


  2. I don't shop at WalMart but I don't consider it boycotting. Maybe it sounds weird but I'm not trying to make a statement to WalMart by not shopping there. I just choose not to, I consider it more like a fast. I needed to wean myself from the cheap plastic stuff.
    I don't like some of their practices but I address that in other ways. Am I splitting hairs? :)
    I didn't know about McD, why do you boycott them?

  3. You know me, I'm not a big debater. It all seems whack to me. I appreciate your post. I am so grateful to live in the time period we live in, with all of the choices we have. Moms don't need another thing to feel guilty about. I think formula is a great resource. I've done both, but have friends and family who have used formula exclusively. I am grateful that they had the choice. Parenting is hard enough, anything that helps is a good thing. And no, I won't be boycotting. I like your take. Doing more to support companies that are striving to make better choices.

  4. I nursed Ammon for 15 months exclusively, but Sariah wasn't "one to be held down" She wanted to "SEE" the world while she ate...LOL. She chose to stop nursing at 5 months and do I feel like I missed out with her...maybe a little, but I think Formula is a good thing. I think of the mom's who have such a hard time nursing (I was not one, but have several friends who are). I don't think, if at all possible and comfortable that formula should be used in place of nursing, but it's a personal choice and we're lucky to have that choice! I won't be boycotting Nestle or anyone else. I choose not to buy certain things and to support certain companies, but that's my personal choice as well I have no issues with the choices of others to shop at or support the places I do not.

  5. Boycotting is a joke. Yes you can make a personal statement but, you will never make a large impact. Companies like Walmart grow new customers everday. Especially in an economy that we are in today. Do I agree with the practices of Walmart or Target or where ever? No but for my family to survive financially I need to buy grocery and cleaning products from there.
    So if you want to a make a personal statement in your own life and impact your family and those around you, than yes, boycott all you want.

    Secondly, formula isn't evil. Isaiah stopped nursing on his own when he was 5 months and I know my milk supply was drying up. Elijah I only made it to 6 months before I lost my sanity. Do I think Elijah's health would have been different if I nursed him excusively? Hell no! Genetics have played a huge roll in his life.

    Thirdly, Nestle is trying to do a good thing. Trying. Not succeeding. Women in Cincinnati do not use formula properly. Children end up sick in our developed country because moms are trying to make the formula last or they just aren't reading the directions.

    Fourthly, we want to take away jobs from people who need them to feed their families. Do I think they are being treated fairly? No. Does that mean I agree with what they are doing? No. But if we take away jobs of seat factory works or whatever it may be, we've done a justice. We've taken away their only money and left them without a job to starve because we feel as a developing country they should have the work environment we have. They would rather these people starve than see them work in such conditions!

    So good luck with boycotting Nestle and their evil empire. :)

  6. Thanks for comments, glad to know I'm not alone.

  7. Awww Sarah. Thanks for being honest. I have witnessed this guilt in a lot my Christian friends. (birth, breast feeding, tummy time..) Doesn't God control most of this kind of stuff anyway? I'm not a mother, so I feel I don't have much to contribute, but I really hope I don't go through this. I mean -- I won't smoke while I'm pregnant isn't that enough?! Standards these days... :)

    PS You're a FABULOUS Mother! Go to the blog I sent you... remember. It could be so much worse! lol

  8. I tend to limit my "lactivism" to insisting that moms have the right to feed their nurslings where/when necessary.

    I don't want ANY mom to feel bad about feeding her baby with any safe food she chooses. That absolutely includes formula.

    I don't mind so much the free samples in the hospital...though I do wish that some institutions, including schools and hospitals would be a little more independent.

    I do think that in the West, we have enough information let moms do their research and make their choice and then let them be.

    I do get a little upset at some of the terrible advice I hear (first hand, and also via other moms) from doctors. I do think most moms are still inclined to trust the doc.

    For example, I chose my pediatrician because the practice (with two doctors, now three) was the one my daughter's cardiologist recommended to me. And a doc who her cardiologist can work with is my priority.

    The doctor asks about nutrition at each appointment, of course, and at a recent one, when I mentioned my son biting and doing a nursing strike at 10 months' (fairly typical age for this), he said that if he was biting that he maybe wants to wean. Which is terrible advice. From a good doctor in the US, no less. I can see how bad advice from a trusted doctor could derail nursing and that worries me.

    But ultimately, whether you choose to nurse or formula feed...that's your decision. And really, yeah, "breast is best" in a vacuum...but individual circumstances may make formula the best choice for you and yours.

    And please know I'd never judge about that. I mean, it isn't like I'm busy harvesting my all-organic backyard veggie patch so I can make my own food and then feed the homeless with the surplus. We choose our priorities and then do our best.

    I am sorry that you're feeling the guilt sometimes...I think you are right that this is the mama's lot.

  9. Excellent post. I completely agree with you and shop exactly the same way.
    I just found you via twitter. I too have 3 little girls who I nursed, but not long enough to relieve the mama guilt about switching to formula. Seriously, I am not sure what is up with that?!? Why do I feel guilty for something that led to 3 healthy children who are very rarely sick and are super smart? Shame on the people who tell us things that make us feel that way. Ugh.
    Anyway, I am happy to have found your blog and I just wanted to say Hi.

  10. Jenny, you are so funny!
    Welcome new twitter friends! I don't post often, most of what I have to say fits in 140 characters. Not sure what that says about me!
    Lactivists fulfill a great need. When you are new at it all and trying to figure out nursing, a good LC is priceless! Candace, you've shown yourself to be the kind we need, not the kind who shames women who choose formula!

  11. This post blows my mind with the onslaught of awesomeness.

    1. comparing the marketing of formula to women in the US to serious human rights violations

    2. Formula doesn't kill

    3. surprised that in the midst of a discussion on serious human rights violations, people still wanted to make it about how formula is bad

    4. "If women had fewer options, they'd make the right choice."

    5. I buy Seventh Generation cleaners but I'm not boycotting Clorox.

    Each of those are places where I whoa'd.

  12. Thank you for writing this. When I lived in DC it seemed like all the mommies were major breast-feeding advocates. No, actually they were anti-formula advocates. Breast-feed, don't breast-feed; it strikes me as a personal decision. As the mom of a child I adopted as an older infant it always struck me as some fresh hell every time some person would tell me that breast milk ensured her kid would be smarter and healthier than mine. F you, sister. Why all these divisions? Why all the effort to create conflict? There is no one way to feed, raise or care for a child. So how about those ladies do what feels right and good for them and how about we do the same and just support each other? Do not feel bad about anything!

  13. You are so right about people who are not so much pro-breastfeeding as anti-formula.