Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Becoming "the framework of support that we want to see"

I have just added a page of No-BS Breastfeeding Resources to the site, which I'll be updating from time to time. It's based on my previous post, but I added the following paragraph, which I'll just post again here:

A  while back, the Fearless Formula Feeder wrote a blog post in which she expressed disappointment in the way a certain breastfeeding website had behaved--all the more so because this was a website which the FFF had previously considered to be one of the better breastfeeding resources. The site in question had previously been seen making efforts to bridge the divide between breastfeeders and formula feeders and to express respect and support for all mothers, so it had come as something of a surprise when the site (a) ran an interview with a breastfeeding celebrity which had come across to many readers as rather smug and provocative, and (b) deleted comments by some posters (including the FFF) which had expressed criticism of the interview.

When the FFF blogged about this, she drew the following comment from a follower of her blog:
"I cannot conclude anything other than that BFB has gone over to the dark side. It's unfortunate, but it seems that a lot of lactivists, in order to maintain their core readership, find themselves being pushed more and more to the extreme, leaving those in the middle (who are probably a very large majority) marginalized. Breastfeeding bullies–which BFB seems to be increasingly leaning toward–do not just harm bottle-feeding parents. They harm breastfeeding ones, and potential breastfeeding ones too."
while another commented,
"I have always liked Best for Babes as an organization that was “supportive” to all mothers... I just think that at the most basic level, moderate attitudes and being supportive of everyone just doesn't get readers and ad impressions. Showing your ass and leaning toward militancy does."
There's an important lesson here for us all. Sites like Best for Babes, Kellymom and all the others are the way they are because that's their core readership--that's who hangs around these sites and posts the most. As a result, more moderate voices tend to be drowned out, and will continue to be drowned out unless these more moderate people get more proactive about speaking up and expressing some alternative viewpoints... in a sensitive, respectful and non-trolling way, needless to say. Meanwhile, the small number of breastfeeding-related Facebook pages and sites which are committed to discussing breastfeeding in a sensitive and non-extremist way have tiny followings compared with the big lactivist resources. There's an Evidence Based Breastfeeding Facebook page, sure--but maybe people need to start being more proactive about posting on it and inviting people to it (and by "people" I'm including myself, by the way). We need to keep an eye out for good resources, comment on them, share them with others, link to them and bring them into discussions at our mother's groups and due-date-clubs. It's a case of "Use them or lose them."

If anyone reading this page feels, like me, that we need better breastfeeding resources... less antagonistic, more moderate, more representative of the full range of mothering styles, and well, just.... saner... then it's all very well complaining about this amongst ourselves, but the current situation is not going to change unless we all step up and "become the framework of support that we want to see." And that's something which we all need to get behind.


  1. OT because I can't find an email address for you. I would sure love to read a BFWOBS treatment of this masterpiece:

  2. Ha! I like how they use Midwifery Today as a "source." Now, Science of Mom had a thing on whether breastmilk can cure an eye infection
    but there's a lot of bizarre claims in the Mothering article. Maybe I'll have a crack at it once the busy season at work is over!

  3. Evidenced based breastfeeding has a couple of posts, that's it. Hardly a great resource. I thought this site would have more info too but it just seems to slag off people/sites you don't like and link to ones you do. And it's light on breastfeeding content but high on the judgement I think you despise others for. Sorry to be so negative but I don't think you've added much to the blogosphere but your intentions seem ok. I'm not going to bother following now I've read all your posts so far.

  4. Dear Anonymous: First, thanks for your comments and feedback. I think it’s important to understand that a blog can’t be everything to all people. This blog has, as you suggest, few articles on “how-to-breastfeed” type stuff; it’s not really that kind of a blog. I think I could put together an OK article on “nipple shields” or “latch” or “mastitis,” but there’s already plenty of that kind of material around the web.

    This blog’s primarily about providing some alternative viewpoints/critical commentary on breastfeeding myths and urban legends in modern culture. That inevitably means that yes, there are going to be comments about other sites—sometimes critical. I make no apologies about that. Now: I think I’m a pretty “do whatever works for you” type of mother in terms of parenting style. But if someone out there is saying things that are just plain untrue in scientific and factual terms, like “Breastmilk has more calories than any solid food” etc., then yes, sorry, I am going to call that out and say “No, it doesn’t, because blah blah blah.” I am really not interested in that whole post-modern thing about “Everyone’s beliefs are always equally valid” or that it’s judgmental/mean to criticize non-evidence-based statements.

    Yep, I was disappointed that Evidence-Based Breastfeeding did not turn out to be a lively resource like I’d hoped when it first came out, but these things happen sometimes (I should probably thank you for reminding me to delete it off the list, actually). Thing is, though, I don’t have a crystal ball. I also don’t have a magic wand which I can wave and single-handedly turn the internet into a place full of evidence-based breastfeeding discussion. I have to work with what I can find, and the current reality is that most online BF talk is on sites which have a lot of pseudoscience and which heavily push attachment parenting to the virtual exclusion of anything else.

    Now: as the cliché goes, “When you are complaining to someone, go to them with a solution, not a problem.” Criticizing an entry on the list is completely valid, but how about making a constructive criticism, by suggesting some evidence-based resources that you yourself have come up with? Or a link back to your own site, if you have good reason to believe that your site is the better one and that people should go there? Because just driving by with “You suck and so does your blog!” doesn’t really contribute much to the blogosphere either, does it? If you don’t have any suggestions of evidence-based breastfeeding sites to share with others, that may be because you are faced with the same issue that faces me; that currently there is not a lot of choice in this area.

    Turning to more practical points: if you are actually looking for actual how-to-breastfeed advice, the Standford University site linked to above has some great advice with videos. I would recommend you to Trolls with Wooden Spoons, but to be honest, if you are having difficulties with my blog because I sometimes say acidic things about pseudoscience, I suspect you will struggle with Trolls too; there is plenty of the same on there. In fact, commenting on other blogs is a standard feature of skeptical parenting websites, because let’s face it, there is a lot of material out there.

    I wish you the best of luck in finding a breastfeeding related blog whose tone and contents are better suited to your needs. BFWOBS.