Archive for October, 2008

Breast is best, but formula’s fine? Question mark?

So far, from the perspective of nearly eight months of parenting (does it count as sixteen if I have two babies?), it seems nothing divides us quite like the issue of breastmilk vs. formula feeding. Over and over again, on various parenting forums and e-mail lists to which I belong, the battle is waged, and over and over again I am bemused by the hostility. I think it’s sad that, as parents – and particularly as mothers – we feel so defensive about our choices and methods, especially when it comes to feeding our children. This is not to say I don’t understand why we’re so defensive – I certainly do, and as a breastfeeding, formula-supplementing mother of twins, I’m far from immune to those feelings.

Formula-feeding moms often feel bombarded by the “breast is best!” slogan, which is so ubiquitous that it even appears on cans of formula. They We feel judged and found wanting, and they we are not crazy for feeling that way. When I started carting Robin and Wren around in public, I was regularly asked by strangers, “so, are you nursing them?” I didn’t tell those people I was supplementing with formula; I simply said “yes,” and let it go, though this kind of interrogation felt aggressive and intrusive.

But why do people feel entitled to ask the question at all? It’s valuable to have some perspective on the history of feeding babies in this country.* Formula was created in the late 1800s, something close to what we have now was developed in the 1950s (at which time over 50% of babies were already being fed on evaporated milk formulas), and by the 1970s, over 75% of babies were fed on commercial formula, due to a variety of social pressures and successful marketing by formula companies. So the push for breastfeeding, not unlike the push for natural birth, is relatively recent, and is no doubt sometimes pushed hard because of the ingrained institutions and corporate interests it’s pushing against.

On the other side, there is a lack of real support for breastfeeding. Women regularly have to fight for their right to feed their babies in public, or for safe and sanitary lactation facilities at work. A woman at my office was surprised I was nursing at all, and made a horrified face when she found out I was planning to nurse for at least two years, saying “That’s too long!” A pediatrician condescendingly told me that he knew it was important to me to breastfeed, but . . . and left the implication hanging. Despite what seems to formula-feeding moms to be an overwhelming pro-breastfeeding message, as of 2003 only 36.2% of mothers were still nursing at all at six months.

It’s so incredibly hard to feel secure in our own choices as parents, because god knows it seems everybody and their dog on the street feels they could parent our children better than we can. There is extensive research that says breastmilk is best, but that doesn’t mean that formula is inherently damaging or that using it makes you a bad parent. In a perfect world, everyone would have the physiology and the support necessary to create a healthy breastfeeding relationship. In reality, the alternative shouldn’t be chronic guilt and defensiveness.

*I specify this country because the breastmilk/formula debate takes on whole other dimensions in less industrialized places.

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Babies + Barack Obama = Happy Me

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Extortionists want you to vote Yes on Prop 8

This letter was sent to business donors to the No on Prop 8 campaign. It states that “Equality California is advertising on its website that it has received a contribution of at least $10,000 from you,” and goes on to request demand a donation to the anti-gay-marriage campaign in order to “correct this error.” Where it gets really creepy:

Were you not to donate comparably, it would be a clear indication that you are in opposition to traditional marriage. You would leave us no other reasonable assumption. The names of any companies and organizations that choose not to donate in like manner to ProtectMarriage.com but have given to Equality California will be published.

Here’s the link to donate to No On Prop 8. Show those bigots what you think of intimidation, dammit.

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Things I like about California: Wine, equality.

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ALERT! Verify your voter registration status!

Because my voter registration was never updated to reflect my married name, despite two attempts on my part, I updated it again a few months ago. It occurred to me today – yes, on the voter registration deadline for California – that I should probably check to make sure it had gone through. So I went to https://lavote.net/SECURED/VOTER_REG/, entered my info, and waited. And sure enough, it had been updated. Unfortunately, some idiot schmuck McCain/Palin peon underpaid, overworked employee at the County Recorder managed to enter my address incorrectly, and now I’m supposed to show up to vote in a totally new and different location, where my registration could quite possibly be challenged because it doesn’t match my ID. And I would not have known this if I hadn’t checked. So please, please check your voter registration. This is the link for LA County online verification, and if you live somewhere else the League of Women Voters will tell you where to call or go online.

In case you hadn’t heard, the McCain campaign is stepping up efforts to intimidate voters and challenge voter registrations, under the guise of countering the miniscule and irrelevant ACORN registration fraud. Please minimize your chances of losing out to voter suppression.

Now I’m going to go spend the next few hours listening to the County Recorder’s hold music on its two-minute loop, trying to sort this out.

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Wait issues.

Like most women, I haven’t always been kind to myself. In fact, there have been times in my life when, were such things possible, I really ought to have packed my bags and left me, slamming the door and vowing not to come back until I got some help. Instead I had to ride out those awful years, and thank the gods I did, because now I have a pretty great life and some cute babies to boot. (Not that I boot my babies. That would be wrong.)

One of the ways in which I treated myself poorly had to do with weight. You name the eating disorder, I had it, or at least flirted with it. Or maybe just gave it my phone number when I was drunk, but I probably picked up the phone when it called. After college, I thought I was done with all that, but then graduate school came along. I needed money and a flexible schedule, so I started modeling, and, well, I’m sure you can guess how good that is for the ol’ body image.

I got out of the beauty business in 2003, taking a big pay cut for the sake of my sanity. I moved out to LA, home to every homecoming queen, and tried to get used to life beyond looks. And I was doing pretty well. Then I got pregnant with twins.

Let me just say, I loved my pregnant body. I had trouble gaining the recommended amount of weight, which I worried about loudly while being secretly, shamefully pleased. I sincerely did try, eating ice cream and avocados and olives and lots of meat. But each time I stepped on the scale and saw the needle hover only a millimeter above its previous reading, a nasty little voice in the back of my head congratulated me. Eventually I did gain about forty pounds, and I was proud of that.

Now, though, it won’t go away. I’ve lost about twenty-five pounds, while fifteen more cling to my butt and my stretched-out, wrinkly belly. My face is rounder than it used to be. And I am struggling to be all right with this. Because old habits, like cliches, die hard, and my instinct is to crash diet this squishiness away. But I am nursing and have a low milk supply; now is not the time for me to diet. (Oh, and that old saw about nursing being the best way to lose weight? Not so for everyone, as it turns out!)

I have made a promise to myself that I will not seriously try to lose this weight until I’ve stopped nursing. I could embark on a sensible, nursing-friendly weight-loss routine, but I’d be risking a precipitous tumble back into the waters of Crazy, and it’s not worth it. Still, accepting my body as it is is hard for me. Harder than even I would have anticipated.

Wren sleeping on Mama

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Out of the mouths of babes.

Strange woman, grabbing Robin’s feet as they dangle from the stroller: Awww, tell your mama you’re cold! ‘Mama, I’m cold!’ Tell her you’re cold!

Robin, sticking out his tongue: Phbbbbbthhththththhh.

Babies standing

Wren arm around Robin

(I am nearly over my cold, Husband is nearly over his, and the babies seem to have escaped with only a few sneezes each. Thanks for all the advice, guys!)

(Älso älso: good job, home state!)

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