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The Real Breastfeeding Reality Show

2012 July 12

Have you heard? Collins Avenue, creator of such fabulous television programming such as “Dance Moms”,  is producing a new Extreme Parenting /Breastfeeding Reality Show to bring to your… boob tube.  The show’s supposed controversial hook is that it will partly focus on mothers who dare to breastfeed toddlers. Remaining segments of the reality show will display other types of “extreme parenting”.

Sigh. Where do I start with this one? First of all when I think of “extreme parenting” that first thing that I visualize— as the editor of World Baby Report — are the horrific cases of child abuse that I sift through daily in researching topics.  Examples of parents, if you can call these despicable human beings that, who place live babies in microwave ovens and dryers or brutally bash their brains to blunt out their cries amongst other atrocities.  But, I guess that type of reality show wouldn’t get get good sponsorship.  Instead, there is a need to attack the natural parenting crowd, so-called holistic moms and dads or the attachment parenting folks for their efforts to humanely mother and father as they best see fit for their families. Why? Is it just because it is “fun” to pick on someone nice much like the school yard bully does? No. Unfortunately, the answer lives deeper within political undertones and corporate profits that are attempting to redirect how we raise our children.

These socially engineered efforts are designed to standardize parenting across the board.  In fact Collins Avenue president Jeff Collin’s, hints at this in a comment made to Yahoo Shine “I’m fascinated by the way other people raise their children. I grew up in a very conservative small town and everyone kind of raised their kids with the exact same values so it’s interesting to me to see so many people breaking the mold of tradition.”  Labeling America as a country of “extremes” he then proceeds to state ” “Breastfeeding beyond infancy is just one of the topics we plan to cover. We’ve discovered people are raising kids in all kinds of un-traditional ways these days and some people find their methods to be extreme.”

As more parents began to independently assess socially prescribed parental instructions —- an inconvenient rift is indeed forming. Parents who dare to research the health implications of formula feeding, escalating vaccine schedules and fight against intrusion into legal parenting rights are rejecting commonly held beliefs. This new breed of parenting is leading a revolt of sorts. A march against bad science campaigns and corporate lobbying efforts. Instead of poking fun at them for their “extreme parenting” we need to commit our attentions and outrage to the REALITY impacting the health and wellness of our babies and children.

Societal blueprints that highlight the architecture being built to erode parenting movements.

Breastfeeding

In April 2012, Elisabeth Banditer released a feminist rant titled The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women.  The publisher’s book description boasts the following proclamation ” Badinter argues that the taboos now surrounding epidurals, formula, disposable diapers, cribs—and anything that distracts a mother’s attention from her offspring—have turned child rearing into a singularly regressive force.” Banditer’s book received a healthy fanfare of publicity from mainstream media.

But Peggy O’Mara of Mothering Magazine smelled a skunk and called this scam of a book out for what it is. She wrote “Badinter is an old-school feminist who believes that breastfeeding is inherently oppressive despite it being the feminist issue of our time. She is also owner of Publicis, public relations company for Nestle’, the world’s largest formula manufacturer. According to Katy Allison Granju, Badinter’s company also represents the manufacturers of Enfamil and Similac. Her job is to increase formula sales!”

You see breastfeeding is just too inconvenient for modern society. Besides reducing the financial coffers of the infant formula industry, the “Breast is Best Campaign” is also negatively impacting other business segments.  Working breastfeeding mothers, in the United States, now have legal accommodations within the work place for both a time and a place to express their milk.  This is a fantastic advancement for working mothers committed to providing breast milk for their babies —but often a begrudged compliance factor for both big and small businesses. It stirs resentment in a tight economy. The discontent also stems from restaurants and other private establishments that face bad publicity if they dare banish a breastfeeding mother to the bathroom or off the entire premise. It’s an edgy mix of opposing views from ownership and patrons of various persuasions. The very laws protecting the act of breastfeeding in public places and government buildings are continually challenged. Woman are fighting for their already established legal rights to breastfeed in the courtroom, national museums and government buildings.  Dramatically stir in the deliberately controversial, Time Magazine cover of a mother provocatively posed breastfeeding her four year old, and the underlining true public sentiment bursts open.

It appears that the greater public is fine with a little breastfeeding. Most are in agreement that mothers should at least attempt to nourish their newborns with a bit of mother’s milk.  A promising 74% breastfeed their babies in the immediate postpartum period per the latest CDC compilation.   Unfortunately, the infant formula industry is so strongly footed in American hospitals— that you are  still apt to get an unfortunate pediatric nurses lamenting to a new mother that her baby will be fussy and not sleep as well as the formula fed infants. Not to mention conflicting advice from some pediatricians who will incorrectly assign formula to newly breastfed infants to treat supposed “tummy problems”.  Worn down and confused mothers then, who are left without access and the aid of a lactation consultation, often abandon breastfeeding. By three months, there is still strong opinion that breastfeeding is the right way to continue feeding an infant.  Yet, economic necessities return many a mother back to work.  Again, breastfeeding rates fall.  Only 35% of infants were exclusively breastfed at three months — despite the advancements in fancy breast pumps and other portable gear purporting to make expressing milk easy. Up until the 6 months mark only 14% of infants were exclusively breastfed.  By 12 months about 24% of babies are nursing (non-exclusively), usually in conjunction with a diet of solid foods.  Mothering Magazine, in a 2006 survey estimated that amongst their pro-breastfeeding readership only “about 41% breastfed for one to two years; 32% for two to three years; and 6% for more than four years.

So, then the modern societal norm is that most mothers do not breastfeed beyond infanthood.  Any residual guilt about this by mothers is countered and massaged by public opinions which overwhelmingly express disgust at breastfeeding beyond the 12th month mark.  The Time Magazine article was a direct baton strike, conveniently scheduled for Mother’s Day, at any woman who might dare or was already committed to extended breastfeeding. The message wasn’t truly “Are you Mom enough?” but rather “Are you Mad enough?”—-as in crazy enough to ride the tide of public criticism if you elect to delay weaning. It’s a form of crowd control.  And, any mother on the edge of the deciding whether to continue breastfeeding a one, two or three year old was most likely snapped back into the other side.

The other piece of this puzzle is the dairy lobby.  It is bad enough for dairy that less mothers are using infant formula.  But, to extend that profit model out to toddlerhood is not something that they can allow financially.  The increasingly aggressive efforts by the dairy industry can be seen in the efforts to thwart the growing raw milk movement. People are realizing that conventional cow’s milk is not a health food, and their attempts to secure and sustain a substituted supply of unadulterated raw milk is being criminalized.

The propaganda machine that continues to label extended breastfeeding — as “crazy” “unnatural” or”disgusting”  is the very one that engineers latent public policies. What is next? Will extended breastfeeding sessions become fodder for visits from child protective services? Will mothers be subject to criminal indictments for pseudo psychological claims that label breastfeeding beyond infancy as detrimental to child development?

Vaccines

Many parents now distrust vaccines. They are no longer universally perceived by parents as a sure fix to childhood illness. Most parents do vaccinate —but even within that group there is a significant portion of parents who wonder if they have elected the right course of action. Those parents that entirely opt out of vaccinating their children, face a wrath of discrimination about their choice. Campaigns now abound, incorrectly, advocating that un-vaccinated children put vaccinated children at risk.  Efforts have been made to exempt parental consent —  a direct assault of parental rights. Forced vaccination legislation is taking root in states such as, California. Again there is the possibility of criminality charges looming here for parents who dare to parent differently. And that is shame, because it thwarts the public reaction. And, there should be reaction from the public —in the form of research, discussion or dissension concerning vaccines when corruption is revealed.

Glaxo Kine Smith was just recently fined 3 billion dollars to settle the single largest case of, acknowledged, pharmaceutical fraud. Per the NY Daily News “Prosecutors said Glaxo illegally promoted Paxil for treating depression in children from 1998 to 2003, even though it wasn’t approved for anyone under age 18. ”  This is the same company that was fined earlier this year nearly a million dollars for the vaccine related deaths of 14 babies in Argentina.  In the US, earlier this year it was discovered that some childhood vaccines were being improperly stored at the wrong temperatures or otherwise had exceeded their expiration date. A serious error that threatened the health of children.

These are just a handful of recent examples regarding vaccines that render concern. Parents who question vaccine safety are simply trying to restore ethics and the ethos of caring for the health and welfare of children—back into the foundations of vaccine protocol. The trust has been broken.

Co-Sleeping

Public health officials, from all parts across the globe, are now universally labeling co-sleeping as dangerous and deadly. Earlier this year Milwaukee public health officials caused a a rightful outrage when they released a PSA showing a baby in a bed sleeping next to a butcher knife. The misdirected aim of the campaign was meant to equate co-sleeping with murder. Again, note the alignment of criminality here in relation to parenting efforts.

Unfortunately, there is a dire lack of understanding amongst public health officials about the true nature of infant sleep patterns. This is furthered by the a juvenile products industry that aims to sell crib products and baby monitors and other “outsourcing” of parental duties via superfluous baby equipment. The truth is that mothers and baby’s are biologically designed to sleep in unison with one another. Such co-sleep is beneficial and life-saving.  This isn’t touchy- feely-granola-parenting, but rather it is established and substantiated in sound understanding of human neuroscience.  Read more in our article Natural Baby Sleep Patterns. Public health campaigns would be best administered if they did their homework on the true science of mother-baby-sleep.  This understanding, combined with educating the public about circumstances when sleeping with an infant is reckless — states of intoxication, extreme fatigue, soft pillows, heavy blankets, etc — would go a lot further to actually saving babies.

The Real Reality Show

Instead of gaping at a televised reality show, the public could freely attend any local La Leche League meeting and observe mothers caring for their children.  There might be a handful of mothers who are breastfeeding a 2 year old.  They would be happy to share with anyone interested, the plentiful health reasons that they continue to feed their children human milk. My guess is that public would not find the act disturbing, sexualized or disgusting.  Instead their fears or other upsetting notions about what extended breastfeeding looks like, would be replaced by an images of normal everyday women comforting and feeding their normal everyday babies or toddlers. Not a freak show. It’s when we start observing and interacting in real life that facades fall.

Instead of ostracizing parents who dare to thing differently, yet parent lovingly, as extreme we should applaud them. Thinking differently is exactly what we value in honest scientific invention and artistic expression.  It is what inspired the founding of our nation. This doesn’t mean that you personally need to bend your beliefs. Your family is your business. Instead, it means that as an expectant new parent or already existing parent that you must stay on the alert — above and beyond any professional or entity when it comes to the health and welfare of your babies and children. Blindly abdicating such responsibilities puts you in target range for procedures and policies that may be detrimental to your sons and daughters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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