June 25, 2011

Boobs Don`t Equal Love

Last week a friend of mine posted a comment on her facebook page about the BabyNes - a new gadget from Nestle that provides single-serve formula to prepare a bottle to the right amount and temperature with the push of a button in under a minute. My friend's comment said "A small number of women are unable to breastfeed and for them formula is a necessary choice. But this machine just seems so very wrong. It disturbs me on many levels and I am still processing what bugs me. Here's one POV from a Newfoundland mom. I just wish that we could have lactation consultants promoted as slickly as these machines."

Of course, being a new mom for whom formula was a necessary choice, I was immediately pulled into the comment and linked through to this blog post on BabyFriendlyNL. I wanted to see what this machine was and, given I have great respect for the friend who's link I followed, I was fully expecting to find something terrible in the information I read. That turned out not to be the case. In fact, I found myself seething a little about the blog post. Initially, I tried to ignore it and move on, but over the last few days I've found myself still thinking about it and I decided I needed to offer up another perspective.

First, let me reiterate that I fully support breastfeeding. I entered into motherhood planning to breastfeed, attempted it for weeks and was devastated that I had to switch. For me and Hudson, formula was indeed a necessary choice. If I were to have another child, I would attempt breastfeeding again in a heartbeat. I would risk going through the hurt and frustration all over again just to try to give my child breastmilk. No question.

I also fully agree with my friend's comment about lactation consultants. For the rising number of women becoming mothers in this province (thank you Danny`s Dollars) there are far too few lactation consultants available in Newfoundland and Labrador. You generally only see one at the hospital after the baby is born if you're having difficulty. There are breastfeeding clinics all over the city of St. John's and, while staffed by wonderful public health nurses, to my knowledge only one clinic has lactation consultants available. And I'm not sure what the numbers are for outside the capital city. I've no doubt that if more lactation consultants were readily available to new moms and promoted in a better manner, the practice of breastfeeding would increase in our province.

Now back to the BabyNes and this blog post.

BabyNes image from Nestle

I agree with her thought that this machine, should it ever become available in Newfoundland and Labrador (right now it`s only available in Switzerland), could negatively impact breastfeeding. Sadly, we are already among the provinces with the lowest rates of breastfeeding in Canada, possibly the lowest, and a gadget that makes formula more convenient does risk that worsening. I think it is up to our health care system, government and society to invest in efforts to counteract those risks and we would certainly benefit from advocating for more funding and efforts to ensure adequate and appropriate promotion of breastfeeding

What I don't agree with is what she writes after that. She states that this machine is just a "milk maker" that "provides no cuddles, no comfort, no love. There’s no way it can come close to replacing breastfeeding." Well, of course not, it doesn`t claim to. What follows is an implication that only those who breastfeed offer their child comfort, safety and love. And that's the biggest pile of you-know-what. I assure you that my bottle-fed son receives ample love and cuddles even though he's not breastfed. Just as she does, when he cries in the middle of the night, I go across the hall and pick him up, hold him close and soothe him. I ensure he has plenty of skin-to-skin contact, snuggling him against my chest and tummy. Whenever that sweet little boy needs his mama, I am there. I am making sure he knows his mama, his family and his home is a safe place to be even though - gasp! - I'm not breastfeeding.

Snuggling with my boy, holding him close, showing him love...
even though my boobs are tucked away
Love, safety and comfort are not exclusive to breastfeeding. While a possible risk to the numbers of moms who choose to breastfeed, the BabyNes machine is not evil. It does not act as a baby-feeding robot. You don't leave the baby under the drip unattended. You simply fill a bottle with it. From there, you still have to hold your child close, feed him, burp him, cuddle him and soothe him.

Ironically, this woman also states in her post that "sometimes I think the milk doesn’t even matter." Well, if the milk doesn't matter, why so bothered by the machine. If it's really about the comfort, the hugs, the cuddles and the love, parents can offer that regardless of how they feed. Let`s not forget that love doesn`t come from the boob. It comes from the heart.


Unknown said...

Thanks for writing your response, Colleen. It's so very important to hear from moms who were not able to breastfeed and to know your thoughts on these touchy issues. I've since subscribed to your blog via email. :)

There is one point I have to make, though. You write:

"She states that this machine is just a 'milk maker' that 'provides no cuddles, no comfort, no love. There’s no way it can come close to replacing breastfeeding.' Well, of course not, it doesn`t claim to."

The problem is that it does claim to do just that. Nestle launched the BabyNes as "the first comprehensive nutrition system for babies" (http://www.nestle.com/Media/NewsAndFeatures/Pages/Nestle-launches-BabyNes-first-comprehensive-nutrition-system-for-babies-Switzerland.aspx). That tagline is a direct challenge to breastfeeding.

Check out Nurtured Child's breakdown of Nestle's deplorable marketing techniqueshttp://blog.nurturedchild.ca/index.php/2011/06/07/why-formula-companies-love-breast-is-best/


Colleen Ryan said...

Thanks for your comment, I appreciate that you took the time to read my views and share additional information.