Thursday, November 8, 2007

Bringing Home Baby . . . and Formula (Apparently)

Anyone who knows me well knows that I can be a little obsessive with my research. And by "research" I mean I'll spend twenty hours looking up which carseat is ranked the safest or which method of burping a baby is most productive or which model Dyson is the biggest bang for your buck. We're not talking rocket science here, but I prefer to be well informed before making decisions.

It should come as no surprise then that I become a walking encyclopedia of pregnancy and all things baby-related when I am pregnant. I scour the internet, I read the books, and I watch the Discovery Channel as if it's my job. The more I learn the less anxious I feel and I become increasingly more confident. It's a good thing.

Now that I'm done with the whole gestating thing and the whole get-these-babies-out-of-me part, I find myself particularly enamored with a certain show on TLC (an offshoot of the Discovery Channel) called "Bringing Home Baby." It shows you how new parents deal with taking care of their newborns during the first 36 hours of their birth and then shows you how they're doing a few months down the line. I love this show. I can relate to so much of what the parents go through. I've been there . . . hell, I'm there now! And a small part of me is amused by the mistakes newbie parents make or their realization that caring for a newborn is freaking tough. Another smaller (but more evil) part of me enjoys feeling like an old pro who is somehow superior to the mother who whines into the camera that she can't handle feeding her baby every two hours or the father who recoils at a meconium filled diaper.

Lately, though, I've made a disappointing discovery. It seems as if almost every episode treats breastfeeding as if it's this Herculean effort that detracts from the new parent experience and makes everyone lives miserable until the mother finally admits defeat and breaks open the formula. Every episode. How can this be? I know a lot of mothers who breastfeed - how is it that TLC ends up with all the mothers in North America who cannot/will not breastfeed? It's odd. It makes me wonder. The skeptic in me is suggesting all sorts of scenarios - most of which involve the formula companies donating large sums of money to the station and the station then forcing the mothers to tell a little lie on camera about how hard breastfeeding is and how they had to switch to formula. Otherwise, it doesn't make sense to me. I know that some women do not breastfeed (and I am not about to criticize anyone for it), but surely not the vast majority of women, right? Not 90% of women. And these aren't women whose babies were born teeny tiny and had to spend weeks in the NICU or women whose milk never came in. These women have no extenuating circumstances working against them. Their reasons for quitting are pretty lame - not getting enough sleep, babies are allergic to breastmilk (is that even possible?), babies have jaundice, babies seem hungry all the time, mother thinks breastfeeding twins is impossible, sore nipples, etc. Does Enfamil own the Discovery Channel? Something is a little fishy.

Why do I care? Because I'm sure other expectant or newly initiated moms gather their information from the same places that I do. And it seems to me that this show is doing a disservice to all mothers by constantly delivering the message that breastfeeding is hard/uncomfortable/not worth pursuing. Breastfeeding is not always easy and it requires dedication - TLC should be ashamed of itself for promoting one-sided, negative views on such a natural and beneficial method of providing sustenance.


Kathleen said...

Actually, I know a few women who chose not to breastfeed because "they didn't want the bother."

Honestly, breastfeeding isn't all that much of a bother. Sure, at first it hurts. At least it did for me. And some babies are better breastfeeders than others - Nick was great! Nate kind of sucked... or rather, he didn't, and that was the issue. But I was able to keep at it until he cut his first tooth and feeding him made me think I had stuck my nipple in a sewing machine with a sharp, tiny needle.

What I fail to understand is why people see breastfeeding as an all or nothing issue? I breastfeed my kids, but sometimes I gave them formula. And they lived, and I lived, and the world did not explode. My pediatricians basically told me nipple confusion was a lie, and I have to say, my kids weren't confused. They got it. Also, breastfeeding doesn't have to be all Mommy. Mommy can pump and sleep in and Daddy can feed the baby (or babies) breastmilk from a bottle.

I think you're right. I think TLC should show some positive breastfeeding examples. I'm wondering, though, if the numbers might actually be right? Which would be scary because not only is breastfeeding a lot more natural... have you SEEN how much formula costs these days?

End of strange comment.

Jules said...

Excellent points both of you. Another misconception by many is that formula is BETTER for the babies, which is so amazingly untrue. (maybe they think that because it IS so expensive, than it must be better.) Or they are concerned that the baby will not be getting enough nutrition, also false.
Plus breastfeeding has also been show to decrease chances of developing allergies later in life & decreasing chance of obesity. And breastfeeding is super critical immediately post birth as the infant's immune system is not fully functioning, and the baby need to receive antibodies from the mother.

Sadly, I would not be suprised if there was some sort of product placement agreement going on.

Anonymous said...

Agreed! I've stopped watching the show because I'm so sick of hearing the narrator dramatically ask... Will this couple ever be able to survive the struggles of trying to breastfeed?!!