Sunday, August 26, 2012

the final straw

i find i am literally shaking with fury and indignation after reading this article about an educator from the australian breastfeeding association (aba) telling expectant parents at an information seminar that giving your baby formula is comparable to giving them AIDS. read the article. you'll be astonished at the complete failure of logic that this cretin applies in her clumsy, dangerous, and entirely erroneous metaphor.

i joined the aba on the advice of friends who had found the organisation supportive and useful in the past. s-j and i attended one of their information sessions before arty was born, and at the time we felt uneasy about some of the information given and withheld by the educators. formula wasn't mentioned, but the educators took a very hard line stance on breastmilk taken direct from the breast being the only legitimate way to feed a baby.

the more encounters i had with this group, the deeper my uneasiness became. the smug and exclusive privileging of this way of nourishing babies over all others didn't sit well with me, and it was all-pervasive in their literature and online presence.

when i finally had arthur, and was having trouble with breastfeeding, i didn't call their helpline because i feared judgement. i felt that because i had had a ceasarian, and had resorted to bottle-feeding him expressed breasmilk in the early days of his life, i would be blamed for the difficulties we were having, and i wasn't able to deal with that possibility. and more than anything, i didn't trust that i would be given unbiased and honest advice that took all the complexities of my personal situation into account.

the aba are a group characterized by what can only be described as a kind of fanaticism. a dogmatic adherence to "breast is best", and a refusal to acknowledge that breast isn't always best for everyone. and what this 'educator' visited on the people that trusted her for advice was nothing short of emotional terrorism.

parents go to the aba looking for support and advice at a time in their lives when they are likely be feeling extremely vulnerable, unsure of themselves, and emotional due to the perfect storm of hormones, sleep deprivation, and complete life upheaval that is new parenthood. to be given this kind of manipulative, and frankly false advice is an appalling abuse of power.

new parents question every single decision we make, and we agonise over doing what's really and truly right for our babies. we experience crises of confidence all the time, and we do a perfectly good job of making ourselves feel guilty about things we may or may not have done wrong without faux-experts lying to us about poisoning and killing our babies.

i want parents to understand that the aba is an interest group with an agenda, and a retail arm that profits from the sale of breastfeeding products. they are not doctors or health practitioners, and the advice that they give should not be taken as if they were.

while breastmilk is great for babies, and people who want to and can breastfeed should absolutely be given all the support they require, forcing it when it is not working is far more dangerous than resorting to formula, and demonizing parents who do not breastfeed is helpful to nobody.

this has been the final straw for me with the aba. i will be returning my membership pack as an act of protest.


  1. Well said. I was so angry when I read that article. I'm glad I didn't join the ABA. Women need support for all decisions they make when nourishing their child and I'm sick of seeing the endless guilt put on women who cannot continue to feed for whatever reason.

    1. i'm sure there are some great people working for the aba, but our experience with them has been patchy at best, and then when this kind of stuff happens i just want to get as far away from them as i can. what utter, utter bullshit.

  2. So angry, so very angry. I've had issues with the ABA for quite a while now, but had given then the benefit of the doubt as they can be very helpful for women and families in which breastfeeding is working well for both mum and bub(s) but who need more info. Their complete lack of contact with reality for mothers and babies who have needs outside of the 'perfect world' scenario is now past the point of ridiculous.

    1. there is just so much potential for groups like his to do real damage. i think there needs to be more regulation and accountability.

  3. Very well said! I'm sure this kind of breastfeeding fanaticism feeds into post-natal depression for many women - I know I drove myself utterly nuts over not being able to breastfeed. I found this article interesting, if only to put the craziness into a historical perspective: