Penicillin vs Erythromycin

Consider the following statement:

‘Penicillin has been scientifically proven to be better than Erythromycin in most cases. Approximately 3% of the population is unable to take Penicillin, although many people believe that they cannot. There are many risks associated with taking Erythromycin. People who choose Erythromycin over Penicillin need to be fully aware of the risks.’*

[insert colourful info graphic that breaks down the information given above]**

Here are some of the reactions I get from this statement:

OK.
Interesting.’
Thanks for the information.’
I’ll talk that over with my doctor.
I think you could be wrong, I’ve been told otherwise.’
‘This may be true for most, but I’m part of that 3%. I can’t take Penicillin.’

Here are the reactions I don’t get:

You are shaming those of us who chose Penicillin.’
You are a hypocrite for saying this, because you yourself take Penicillin.’
My doctor told me to take Penicillin and now I know the truth and I’m pissed off by this post.’
The purpose of this post is to make people everywhere who take Penicillin feel bad. You should be ashamed.’
I tried taking Penicillin the first time I was sick and failed. I was determined so I tried again the second time I was sick and failed. Your post is a reminder of my failure and breaks my heart.
You *say* you aren’t judging anyone for taking Penicillin, but we all know you are.’

Now let’s change a few words …

‘Breastfeeding has been scientifically proven to be better than feeding infant formula in most cases. Approximately 3% of mothers are unable to take breastfeed, although many women believe that they cannot. There are many risks associated with infant formula. People who choose infant formula over breastmilk need to be fully aware of the risks.’

[insert colourful info graphic that breaks down the information given above]

Here are some of the reactions I don’t get from this statement:

OK.’
‘Interesting.’
‘Thanks for the information.
‘I’ll talk that over with my doctor.’
‘I think you could be wrong, I’ve been told otherwise.’
‘This may be true for most, but I’m part of that 3%. I can’t Breastfeed.’

Here are the reactions I do get:

You are shaming those of us who chose formula.’
‘You are a hypocrite for saying this, because you yourself feed your baby formula.
‘My doctor told me formula was fine and now I know the truth and I’m pissed off by this post.’
‘The purpose of this post is to make people who everywhere who formula feed feel bad. You should be ashamed.
‘I tried breastfeeding with my first baby and failed. I was determined so I tried again with my second baby and failed. Your post is a reminder of my failure and breaks my heart.
‘You *say* you aren’t judging parents who formula feed, but we all know you are.’
(this one is my favorite so far)
‘Saying there are risks associated with formula feeding is like saying vaccines cause Autism’.

It’s kind of bizarr-o land.

And here’s the conclusion I’ve come to: a lot of parents who read statements about breastmilk vs. formula are reading in a bunch of un-stated things. The believe that when I say, ‘Breastmilk has been proven to be better than formula’ or ‘there are risks associated with formula’ that I really am silently adding ‘and so you are a bad parent for using it.

I’m not.

Most of the breastfeeding advocacy community is not. With the exception of some fringe members who really, we probably all wish would shut up.

There is no more shame implied in saying breastmilk is better than formula than there is implied in saying Penicillin is better than Erythromycin.

The breastfeeding advocacy that you feel surrounded by right now is in place for a reason. It is push back against generations of programming manipulated by for profit formula companies that have created a culture that no longer understand breastfeeding. It is important work, because even now there is a large percentage of women who are given bad advice and stop breastfeeding when they don’t want to and actually cannot afford to.

There are women in your community who are not eating so they can buy formula. Women who were 100% able to breastfeed, but their hospital nurse insisted baby use formula for some reason and baby would not go back to the breast. Or their mother insisted there was ‘something wrong with the baby’ because the baby wanted milk so often, and the new mother felt she had ‘no choice’ but to switch to formula.

There are women in your community who are heartbroken because they ‘could not breastfeed’ and live with that sadness the rest of their lives when in fact, with the right information and support, they could.

(Before you tell me your story, yes I know there are women who really could not breastfeed, I was one of them with my first baby. I’m not pulling the ‘every woman can breastfeed’ card. I’m simply pointing out that there are more women who believe they couldn’t than there are women who actually couldn’t.)

I want to break down some of these responses – and they are by far and away not all the responses I’ve seen on breastfeeding advocate posts but they are a good sampling of them.

You are shaming those of us who chose formula.’

If you chose to breastfeed from the start, I’d like to assume you did so with all the facts. We all make risk-benefit assessments on a day to day basis and we don’t all choose the same thing. I won’t ever ride a motorcycle because I believe the risks are too high. Saying so does not shame those who ride motorcycles. You aren’t the target of breastfeeding advocate posts, you’ve already made your choice. You need to get behind your own decision and stop feeling defensive about it. Accept that there are scientifically proven benefits to breastmilk and that you chose not to use it and that’s still a good choice. As my dad always said to me – nobody can make you feel anything, you choose your own feelings. So choose to be proud of your choice because you are a good parent feeding your baby.

You are a hypocrite for saying this, because you yourself feed your baby formula.’

I made my own risk-benefit assessment of formula with each of my three babies and each of them have formula at different stages in their lives. I don’t see how laying out the facts and the risks makes me a hypocrite. I am not adding an unwritten ‘you are a bad mom for using formula’ so I don’t see how I am a hypocrite. If you look at the actual words and not what you think they imply, there is no grounds to call me a hypocrite. I have no shame, guilt, or remorse about my babies having formula. You don’t need to either.

My doctor told me formula was fine and now I know the truth and I’m pissed off by this post.’

You are definitely one of the target groups for breastfeeding advocacy. Not to make you feel bad (most moms don’t actually want to make other moms feel bad, to be honest) but in case you want to have more children, or you want to support a friend who is breastfeeding, or you want to work in the healthcare field and support breastfeeding. You were given misinformation and breastfeeding advocacy aims to stop that. And I’m pissed off for you too. And for my friends who were also given misinformation.

‘The purpose of this post is to make people who everywhere who formula feed feel bad. You should be ashamed.’

It’s always a good practice in life to listen to what people say or read what people type as opposed to looking for hidden messages. When we look for the hidden message our inner critic comes out and they are almost negative. There is no judgement in sharing breastmilk vs. formula facts, and since there is no judgement, there is no shaming. But interesting that you in turn specifically try to shame people sharing facts.
I tried breastfeeding with my first baby and failed. I was determined so I tried again with my second baby and failed. Your post is a reminder of my failure and breaks my heart.

Mama, I hear you. I couldn’t breastfeed my first and it felt like all my best laid plans, hopes and dreams were torn apart. I know it hurts. Don’t read breastfeeding advocacy posts. They will hurt you and you deserve better. But please understand that breastfeeding advocacy is very important and we have to keep doing it.

‘You *say* you aren’t judging parents who formula feed, but we all know you are’.

Read the post again. Facts are not feelings and feelings are not facts.

Saying there are risks associated with formula feeding is exactly like saying vaccines cause Autism.’

This one I actually agree with … if by ‘exactly like’ you mean ‘the complete opposite.’ One has been scientifically proven true, and one has been scientifically proven false. This kind of comment is simply written to throw fuel on a fire.

So why is breastfeeding advocacy so important?

  • because hospital nurses are still saying ‘give him formula until our milk comes in’ even though they know that the baby does not need it and that there is a serious risk of baby never going back to the breast. Misinformation.
  • because women are still telling stories of how they broke down gave formula because ‘my baby was starving at 3 days old’ when in fact babies are not starving at 3 days old because they are biologically programmed to only need colostrum. babies nurse a lot in those early days not because they are starving but because they are telling mama’s body it’s time to start making milk. Often these women were told by a doctor, nurse, or a few family members that their baby was starving. Misinformation.
  • because women are still surprised when they use formula and their baby cannot digest it. Then they have to move to extremely expensive sensitive tummy formula or goats milk formula or prescription formula (that can run over $50 for a can that lasts just a few days) and it’s far too late for them to get their breastmilk back. Many of these women were told by their health team that formula would be just fine for their baby. Misinformation.
  • because women who have IV and other interventions at birth often give birth to babies with inflated birth weight due to the IV fluids. These babies very often lose more than the recommended 10% of their birth weight because of the IV fluids and do not need supplementation. Nurses know this, and they recommend formula anyway. Misinformation.
  • because too many women that want to breastfeed don’t, too many women are hurting, too many women are starving so they can buy formula, and it’s all so that big formula companies can pull a profit.

There will be more breastfeeding advocacy around you. Try to see it for what it is, and who the target is. The goal is not to shame mothers who use formula, the goal is to fight for future mothers who want to breastfeed and to fight against the propaganda spread by formula companies. Until the stories stop, until the misinformation stops, the advocacy cannot stop. You could even come along and help, in the spirit of respecting all women’s decisions.

*please note I don’t actually have any information on Penicillin vs. Erythromycin. I’m  making an analogy. If you’ve read the entire post and feel you need to argue with me about the antibiotics, you’ve missed the point.
**colourful graphic does not really exist

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *