thread: Mummy Guilt Culture - Protecting or Patronising

  1. #1
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jan 2006

    Mummy Guilt Culture - Protecting or Patronising

    There's something that's been bothering me for a while now. I read this article on Analytical Armadillo and realised that is what it is.

    I knew formula feeding increased the risk of SIDs - I didn't realise by how much, though. Here is a really important piece of information about keeping our children safe and it's not widely disseminated. Why? To protect our feelings. That peeves me. I breastfeed anyway, so maybe you'd think I'm feeling smug - I'm not. I don't like being patronised. And I don't see how we can make good decisions without good information (I can't see any mention of breastfeeding on the SIDs and kids site, for eg).

    Anyway, my gripe isn't with this, per se, but the idea that we need to sugar coat the truth or keep it quiet so as not to make mothers guilty. It's a crock.

    I've come across information since becoming a parent that has contradicted my previous thinking and made me question my decisions. Sometimes that makes me feel bad

    I think: What do they know? That's crap.
    Then: How dare they preach at me.
    Then: .... Damn, I really wish I'd known that sooner.

    But we did then what we knew best and now we know better, we do better.... Right? Or maybe the new information doesn't matter, because some other circumstance in your life trumps it. So you still made the best decision anyway.
    We're all big girls, aren't we? We can deal with this.

  2. #2
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Nov 2009
    Scottish expat living in Geelong

    I had an argument about this with a tutor at uni. When discussing the importance of early life for lifelong health breastfeeding wasn't mentioned (things like early exposure to alcohol, housing, education were talked about instead). When I questioned this I was told it was too controversial an issue. Considering this was a lecture aimed at healthcare workers I was appalled. The same thing happened later on when we talked about SIDS. Breastmilk wasn't mentioned and when I raised it there were rolled eyes because apparently this was my pet subject. Nothing to do with the fact that it is an important factor.

    Until healthcare workers are comfortable talking about the evidence of a "contentious" issue like this then I don't see that there is much hope for everyone else.

  3. #3
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jun 2007
    Dandenong Ranges, Melbourne.

    i think that mothers should be told that breastfeeding reduces the rates of SIDs. is that what you mean?
    i would like to know the truth so that i can make informed decisions.

  4. #4
    Registered User

    Oct 2009
    Bonbeach, Melbourne

    Oh amen. I agree. Like the whole, breastfeeding reduces x, y and z in babies. Uh, no, formula feeding increases the risk. That's not having a go, that's fact. How parents are supposed to make informed decisions when the information is being sugar coated to cater to those easily who are easily offended confuses me.

    I agree on that internal dialogue, too. I think most people's first reaction is defence. I'll give an example.

    I chose to delay solids a little for DD. I did a LOT of research about it and came to the conclusion that I agreed more with the delaying of solids than early introduction re allergies. Yesterday, DD had an allergic reaction to banana. Now, I am left questioning my decision, and maybe even entertaining the possibility that I chose wrong Sucks to even consider that but hey, I'm open to accepting facts over my own feelings of inadequacy or whatever.

  5. #5
    Add Rouge on Facebook

    Jun 2003

    Patronising. And breeding ignorance. Just because the information is out there doesn't mean people can't make a decision for themselves, but heck at least give people the option. Without that option people think they have only one decision. And in some cases it's not the right one.

    I can't tell you how awful I felt when I first found BB. When I found out the way I birthed my daughter wasn't the only way, and the outcome could have been prevented. That I could have had more say. And years later when I moved and found a new MCHN who cried when she read my history, my struggles with breastfeeding that all stemmed from a paed who had no idea. That also could have been prevented. The PND I had, that I didn't know I had at the time... the support I never had... all these things. Information healed me. Information helped me.

    And the thing that peeves me ultimately is that they don't sugar coat, they have an agenda. There is more information available (and sprouted) about the dangers of VBAC than there is the dangers of CS, the phsyical implications, the impact on a bonding, feeding, PND etc. Yet the first thing sprouted is, "What about the scar? Won't it rupture." Yes this does happen and it is a valid risk. But it should be up to the individual! I don't have a problem with what people choose to do with their bodies, or their babies... but let them CHOOSE. And the let the information be readily available.

  6. #6

    Dec 2006

    Yep. I would rather know the facts. Sometimes they suck and they hurt because i wish i had known sooner. Sometimes i kinda knew but chose to do it anyway. I might feel defensive and put my hackles up but I need to deal with it myself and not be pussy-footed around.

  7. #7

    Jun 2010
    District Twelve

    Honestly, it's not just parenting choices that people raise their hackles over.

    My experience is people often don't want to hear the truth if it is uncomfortable for them, or contradicts their pre-conceived ideas or emotional/physical needs/wants or life choices.

  8. #8
    Life Member. Every Australian needs a Farmer.

    Dec 2005
    In Bankworld with Barbara

    I don't think it's helpful to tell someone the 'facts' when they are already having problems or after they have found a 'solution' to their problems because they are struggling enough as it is and being told the facts at that point is not in any way helpful at all. What I think SHOULD happen is making sure that they get told the facts long before problems happen, ie, while they are still pregnant. If they already KNOW the facts, then they have the opportunity to make more informed decisions and this is where the ball is being dropped time and time again. I see women on forums and IRL who obsess more over the colour of their bugaboo or the nursery during their pregnancies than they do about making a breastfeeding relationship work. It's something that is taken for granted as 'oh yeah, I'll try but if I have problems I'll just use formula' because the perception is still out that that it is OK and will not cause any adverse effects. And for the most part it doens't, but who wants to be in the percentage of people where it has been the worst thing they have ever done? But FFS! we even worry more about the type of cot bedding we use as a prevention of sids than we worry about feeding being a factor!

    ETA - and if you have to sugar coat something to 'protect' someones feelings, then you're already too bloody late! As it stands we only pay lip service to the issue. You never see on a Kids and Sids ad on TV about how important it is to breastfeed to reduce the rate of SIDS, nooooo, just the stand lines about smoking and bedding. So it's often a case of protecting those who are already going through it (meaning using formula) and patronising those who haven't (the still pregnant).
    Last edited by Trillian; February 12th, 2012 at 01:25 PM.

  9. #9
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jan 2006

    Yes, that's true Trill. If parents are already committed to formula feeding then this isn't 'helpful' information right now... but it might be for later, or when they're talking with other parents.

    And Trav - absolutely! Health carers should know all the facts. That is terrible. They need to know this and work harder to support mothers and infants.

    And it's not just breastfeeding & SIDs - that's just the example in this instance. It's a whole range of things - and there's this particular emphasis on not making mothers feel guilty as a rationale for not sharing information. Are we mothers so precious we need special protection from facts?

    With both my babies I was pushed toward an induction. First time I caved, 2nd I didn't. Both times (different OBs) I was told of the risks of waiting - STILLBIRTH - but never the risks of the induction. The very real risks to me and my baby. The still not fully understood long-term effects of these drugs on the unborn baby....

    The idea that there are agendas at work worries me too. Who is controlling the information and why? Is it really about protecting people... or protecting industries? Now I sound like a mad conspiracy theorist.

    I agree with Lenny - sometimes it hurts to hear I might be wrong. I don't like that feeling at all. But I need to hear it if that's the truth. I think it's pretty human to dislike feeling that our beliefs are being challenged, as N2L says.

    My current favourite quote:
    Most people would rather die than think: many do. Bertrand Russell

  10. #10
    BellyBelly Life Member - Love all your MCN friends
    Add Gigi on Facebook

    Jun 2004
    The Festival State

    information is power

    but despite the internet, increased education for women (i'm talking historically here), it is STILL very hard to find out accurate, current UNBIASED information. You ask ten sources, you get ten different answers. Everyone has their own bias.

    i keep thinking of the phrase "the personal is political".
    SO many decisions we make, including how to birth and parent, become controversial, if we are not doing what the majority of the population, seem to be doing.

    i assumed medical and child nurse people would know stacks about breastfeeding, and that was my initial point, when seeking help. Eventually i realised, that was the last place, i was going to get info re breastfeeding. Sad isn't it? I had medical people telling me i was doing the wrong thing for my child, by bf-ing a 19month old. That i should have weaned her at three months old! Why? because that's what their hospital (sleep school) protocols said. SO much misinformation out there.

  11. #11

    Oct 2004
    In my Zombie proof fortress.

    I have thought this for ages.

    A number of years ago it came up that there is a an increase in the rates of depression amongst those born via c-section. There was such a hoo haa about it, a lot of defensiveness and plenty of the "oh, but my child etc" examples. I was one of the few that thought "great, I need to know that info" Why? Even though I had no choice of the c-section, it is handy for me, as someone who suffers from depression, to know that my children will have an increased risk. I don't see it as something to beat myself up over, but something to arm myself for the future.

    We can choose how we take on that information. Even though we cannot change the past, it can help us with the future.

  12. #12
    BellyBelly Member
    Add fionas on Facebook

    Apr 2007
    Recently treechanged to Woodend, VIC

    Yes, of course, people need to know that and to not publicise that information IS patronising.

    I struggled to BF both my girls. DD1 was fed expressed breast milk for the first two months, for DD2 I relactated and she had a mixture of breast and formula from the age of nine weeks to five months.

    Personally, I also found the misinformation that if you give bottles you will never get them back to breast incredibly damaging. It guaranteed that I didn't even try to get DD1 back on to the breast after having no luck in the first two weeks. It also meant for DD2 I let my milk dry as I also couldn't attach her but tried again at about seven weeks and hey presto ... but I had to relactate.

    It's like LCs think that if they give you the green light to give a bottle you will stop trying breast altogether because you'll find it easier, it's like they don't trust your willpower and treat you like a little kid. Makes me so cross.

    So I'm all for giving people all the information and letting them decide for themselves.

  13. #13
    BellyBelly Member

    Jan 2010

    I wish I had have known this when I was breastfeeding. My husband had a massive accident when DD was just 9 weeks old and, with all the stress, I gradually started weaning at 4 months until, by 6 months she was completely formula fed. If I had have known this info I may have tried harder to keep up with the BF. It is easier to say in retrospect though. I would have at least liked the info so that I could have made more of an informed decision.

  14. #14
    BellyBelly Member

    Mar 2008
    the world

    I am very cynical but have you noticed the things that get sugarcoated or tip toed, around usually have a product or service that can be sold attached? Lobby groups anyone?? Breastfeeding - bottles and formula, Csections and inductions - drugs and anaesthetics, surgeon's fees etc. There is money to be made from neglecting to give full information to mothers.

  15. #15

    Feb 2012

    information is power

    but despite the internet, increased education for women (i'm talking historically here), it is STILL very hard to find out accurate, current UNBIASED information. You ask ten sources, you get ten different answers. Everyone has their own bias.
    Hope I'm OK to reply to this (thanks for the link to my blog by the way )
    You're definitely right about accurate unbiased information, and the different answers.
    I find it helps to try and logically find the biological norm ie we know human infants are built to receive human milk - therefore we need evidence that the alternative is safe and doesn't increase risks, rather than trying to prove breastmilk is "better". Imagine if someone invented artificial blood next year - would we want research showing real blood was better?

    The same goes for a lot of things baby related I find eg controlled crying - pretty sure cavewoman without a clock nor any pressure from social norms, who would have fed LOTS at night due to dangers during the day, wouldn't have practised sleep training. Therefore we need extensive, solid evidence this isn't going to cause longer term psychological damage.

    I'm just blogging at the moment about how science flips language, how the media mis report studies and how in turn this makes it very difficult to unpick the facts.


  16. #16
    Registered User

    Jun 2010
    Tiny Town

    I think I'm one that kind of 'sugar coats' when others bring up these topics about their own children. Eg at Mother's Group people speak about when to wean, or basically when to introduce formula. Most have introduced formula by 6 months. I'm happy to say I won't be weaning until DD chooses to and I give my reasons, but I don't feel comfortable saying something along the lines of "ideally mothers should exclusively breastfeed for six months, with the child naturally weaning, and I don't believe formula should be introduced as it is unnecessary and increases the risk of health problems now and down the track."

    I don't want to be seen to be judging other mothers, because I'm not. They can make their own choice, but I sometimes feel as though when I present facts that are opposing the choice they want to make, I'm seen as preachy. This happened in a discussion of turning baby seats - my DD is the only one still rear facing, and when I said it was because of the risk of internal decapitation and that I'd leave her rear facing as long as possible, the response I got was "well the law says 6 months, so if s/he wants to sit up then that's what I'll do. S/he's happier now s/he can see out the window." I just left it, but I certainly felt as though I my opinion was not at all wanted!

    P.s. I was super excited to see aa reply to this

    Sent from my GT-P7510

    Eta: Then again, I'm not a health professional. I certainly feel that health professionals should give all the facts so that we can make the best possible choices for our little ones.

  17. #17
    BellyBelly Life Subscriber

    Jan 2006

    Armadillo is in the house!

    I really hope that the more we talk about biological norms the closer we will come to 'flipping' things back again. The language we use is really important.

  18. #18
    BellyBelly Life Member - Love all your MCN friends
    Add Gigi on Facebook

    Jun 2004
    The Festival State

    Kaytee, IRL, i was usually in situations, where i was the ONLY mum breastfeeding, using MCN, delaying rearfacing carseats, not doing CIO etc etc. i really relate to what you said.

    i did not have the energy to be the educator of the mums around me, and i quickly learnt, no-one was interested in other ways of doing things, the amount of aggression i encountered if i mentioned anything else - quickly got me to keep quiet, and just plug away at doing what i was doing with my baby.

    it took all my energy to maintain my own beliefs WITH MY OWN CHILD, as i copped so much flack from health profs, strangers in shops, let alone people i actually knew (to wean from five months onwards, to use disposable nappies, to use CIO, etc etc) IRL. i had to find some kind of support for what i was doing, which i found online, to keep me sane.

    I never preached using MCN to anyone, but i noticed two mums who must have watched me at mum's group, later used MCN with their 2nd babies, so who knows, maybe i had an impact in a quiet way. My tack was "don't bring up subject yourself, but if anyone shows interest and sounds positive - then share info". I learnt "not to get into it" with aggressive people who just wanted to "take a shot".

    it was hardest when i had a baby with sleep issues at 19 months old, when i was getting "put her on formula and it'll all right itself" from all quarters (IRL).