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Thread: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

  1. #1
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    Default Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ces-inequality

    I wonder if this article might rattle a few cages, I, however, think it raises some very important issues. In the UK at least, 'class' and social inequality are primary predictors of life chances - health, education, employment opportunities, social wealth (that may not be the correct term but by it I mean the quantity of beneficial relationships, personal, professional or whatever that increase people's quality of life).

    Not that long ago I had a discussion with someone who is planning on having children but has decided not to breastfeed. She is pretty middle class and I expect that her decision, buffered by various socioeconomic advantages, will mean any potential children are most likely to thrive regardless.

    On an individual level I think breastfeeding is very important. If I didn't think that it seems less likely I would be nursing my 16 month old. But on a structural level, I think it needs to be ranked after class inequality (which increases the likelihood of a plethora of disadvantageous health statuses) in terms of importance.

    The same person I mentioned above is intelligent, kind, educated and would describe herself as a feminist. I think she would say choosing to breastfeed or not is a personal choice that should be respected. I think her choice is pretty 'free', however, for people who have little exposure to breastfeeding and no role models of a successful breastfeeding relationship, people who have less education and less information about the benefits of breastfeeding, people who are entrenched in a culture which sees breasts as just for men, people who see purposefully ambiguous toddler formula adverts telling them with scientific half truths of their benefits, how free is their choice? I think, not very.

    I don't have the time to fully express (pardon the pun) coherently all I think about these issues but mostly I think this: the vast majority of parents, nursing or not, are doing their best for their children. We should treat them with respect. I think there is some pretty unpleasant rhetoric in some breastfeeding circles about people who formula feed and I'm not ok with that.

    I think LLL is pretty great if you need some help with a breastfeeding issue or question but I feel there is a bit of a culture of breastfeed at all costs which I think would not be endorsed by their official mandates.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    Your post brings up so many ideas, not to mention everything in the article, I cannot possibly tackle them all. So I am going to just address this one.
    I think LLL is pretty great if you need some help with a breastfeeding issue or question but I feel there is a bit of a culture of breastfeed at all costs which I think would not be endorsed by their official mandates
    LLL is a private organization, neither commercial nor governmental, so it is not mandated by anyone or any body to do anything.

    Here is some info about LLL and its purpose and philosophy. http://www.llli.org/lad/talll/faq.html#purpose

    "Leaders represent La Leche League, so it is important to know what the organization believes and does." Please note, agreement with these ideas are absolutely NOT a requirement for getting help through LLL , joining LLL, etc. -italics mine)

    "The general purpose of LLL is to help the mother learn to breastfeed her baby, to encourage good mothering through breastfeeding, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding and related subjects.

    LLL is an international, educational, non-sectarian, non-discriminatory service organization with a strict policy of not mixing causes. We have that policy in order to offer breastfeeding help to mothers with a variety of personal beliefs.

    Leaders know the importance of one mother helping another to recognize and understand the needs of her child and to find the best means of fulfilling those needs. Leaders provide information and support so that each mother can make the decisions which are best for her family."

    So that is the purpose. Leaders (and only Leaders) also are required to be informed about, and be in general agreement with, the stated philosophy or 'concepts" of LLL. This is because LLL Leaders are representatives of LLL.
    The overall philosophy of LLL is openly stated in the 10 concept statements I have posted below. (* The exact wording on a couple of these were changed very recently, but I cannot find the changes on the website. I do not think the changes are material to what you are saying.) Again it is very important to understand that these are not 'ideals" that LLL thinks every breastfeeding mother must agree with or live by! They are a statement in regard to what LLL Leaders as a whole generally believe, and thus informs how and why they do what they do. Of course they are also mostly open to some interpretation, which is by design.

    "La Leche League Philosophy


    The basic philosophy of La Leche League is summarized in the following statements:

    •Mothering through breastfeeding is the most natural and effective way of understanding and satisfying the needs of the baby.


    •Mother and baby need to be together early and often to establish a satisfying relationship and an adequate milk supply.


    •In the early years the baby has an intense need to be with his mother which is as basic as his need for food.


    •Breast milk is the superior infant food.


    •For the healthy, full-term baby, breast milk is the only food necessary until the baby shows signs of needing solids, about the middle of the first year after birth.


    •Ideally the breastfeeding relationship will continue until the baby outgrows the need.


    •Alert and active participation by the mother in childbirth is a help in getting breastfeeding off to a good start.


    •Breastfeeding is enhanced and the nursing couple sustained by the loving support, help, and companionship of the baby's father. A father's unique relationship with his baby is an important element in the child's development from early infancy.


    •Good nutrition means eating a well-balanced and varied diet of foods in as close to their natural state as possible.


    •From infancy on, children need loving guidance which reflects acceptance of their capabilities and sensitivity to their feelings.


    The ideals and principles of mothering which are the foundation of LLLI beliefs are further developed in THE WOMANLY ART OF BREASTFEEDING, the most comprehensive handbook on breastfeeding and parenting ever published. It has provided needed answers to three generations of nursing mothers on every aspect of breastfeeding."

    So, this is what LLL
    s purpose and philosophy is, these ideas are clearly stated in every LLL publication (book) and on the website.

    Can you give an example of something LLL or someone representing LLL has done or said that is in violation of these concepts? (please remember, this is an open forum and most people who post here are NOT representatives of LLL. Only a LLL Leader is a representative of LLL.)

    And can you give an example of where anyone associated with LLL has promoted a culture of "breastfeed at all costs?" What is the 'cost' of breastfeeding to which you refer? Has someone suggested breastfeeding when it would be potentially dangerous? I am not sure what you mean.
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; November 28th, 2014 at 03:39 PM.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    The article totally overlooks the health benefits to the mother of breastfeeding.

    And sidesteps the "why" that makes it so hard for the lower class mothers to continue breastfeeding after they go back to work compared to the "managerial class" which is probably primarily having the time and facilities to pump at work.

    As to "breastfeeding at all costs" ? Well this is a breastfeeding support forum so I wouldn't expect to see moms here to be telling other moms to just give up and formula feed. That said, I've not seen anyone being condemning of using formula when it is needed during my short time reading/posting here. There is plenty of applause for those moms who go to great lengths to make breastfeeding work but still plenty of understanding for the situations when that isn't possible.

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    [quote]I don't have the time to fully express (pardon the pun) coherently all I think about these issues but mostly I think this: the vast majority of parents, nursing or not, are doing their best for their children. We should treat them with respect. I think there is some pretty unpleasant rhetoric in some breastfeeding circles about people who formula feed and I'm not ok with that.[quote]

    Thank you for sharing this article! I've never heard negative rhetoric in person in re formula feeding (the only example I think I've encountered via media was one couple featured in Breastmilk, the recent documentary), but believe it exists, as I know that negative comments are directed at breastfeeding moms too. I think all of this hubbub about mommy warring is for the most part a media creation though, and for the most part, women are not tearing each other down but are just going about our lives.

    I wonder-- would you agree with the statement that breastfeeding rates are somewhat a canary in a coal mine, for health of a society? An indicator of sorts? Certainly not the only indicator, or necessarily the most important above all else, but an important indicator of family policy, structural health, etc? I'm just thinking out loud, (typing), and not sure if I think this or no... Because I suppose there are many countries with high breastfeeding rates, but that would still be places I would very much not like to live. So I wonder if I would call it a canary, but only if there were a few other companion canaries, like 'rates of violence against women', 'income stratification/inequality'.... Etc etc etc

  5. #5
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    Quote Originally Posted by @llli*jam-on-toast View Post
    http://www.theguardian.com/commentis...ces-inequality


    I think LLL is pretty great if you need some help with a breastfeeding issue or question but I feel there is a bit of a culture of breastfeed at all costs which I think would not be endorsed by their official mandates.
    Did you really post all that other stuff so you could lecture about tone here? The one safe place in almost the entire world where breastfeeding and it's importance are not easily dismissed? The one place where women are not shamed for feeding their older kids? If you aren't here for breastfeeding support there are about a million places in the world and on the web you can go to get patted on the back for giving up. Because "formula is just as good." Or have the idea of it dismissed as "not that important." LLL meets women wherever they are in their breastfeeding journey and encourages you take what works for you and leave the rest. Sometime being surrounded by women who have persevered makes all the difference in terms of inspiring someone to stick with it. And sometime being able to listen to other strong smart women discuss feeding their older babies makes you think that maybe you can do it too. I have seen this place and IRL meetings work that way for scores of women. I have also seen women here successfully combo feed. Breastfeeding doesn't have to be an all or nothing thing. But if you are going to supplement, you deserve to know the risk involved when making that decision. And most women aren't getting the actual facts about that from their doctors. In fact often doctors are giving hugely detrimental advice.
    And also? You maybe aren't familiar with formula companies and their predatory practices. When you hear people in breastfeeding circles talking negatively about formula, it's about the companies themselves, not the mothers that use it. Formula has it's place. And in the right place it's a life saving tool. But the predatory and insidious way that it has come to be viewed as normal or anywhere close to on par with breastmilk is disgusting. And I won't apologize for speaking negatively about companies whose entire existence basically works against healthy dyads every day.
    So yeah there is a lot to be said about the way breastfeeding if done right really levels the paying field in terms of health and immunity in communities where nothing else CAN level the playing field like breastfeeding does. But I feel like trying to shame the Mothers who are supporting it in a place whose sole purpose is to do just that? Isn't cool. Take what works and makes you successful. Leave the butthurt.

    Way too lazy for formula

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    Hello again,

    I don't want to upset people. I hope I haven't. I attempted (and perhaps failed) to write my initial post in a tone that would be encourage discussion but not criticise individuals. I do think there is a discussion to be had about the politicisation of infant feeding in all its forms. And if there are things LLL could do better then I would think the most appropriate people to provide constructive criticism are people who are for breastfeeding. I was not trying to shame any mothers, that is an issue, shame. I do not want to do that to anyone. To feel ashamed about feeding your baby, however that is, is devastating. I am truly sorry if anyone felt that way.

    I think when I used the word 'mandate' in my original post, that wasn't quite the right word, perhaps policy would have been more appropriate to what I was trying to say. I am aware LLL is not under another body, governmental, commercial etc... Hopefully I'll write it better this time - I believe LLL's policies and philosophies are good - pro-breastfeeding, respectful, well reasoned. However, when someone comes on to a forum or attends a meeting their experience of LLL may occasionally be incongruent with the 'official line'. This is, perhaps, inevitable... Maybe an example would make my point clearer.

    I think one important question is, how do we promote breastfeeding without making people feel shamed? I agree that much of the 'mummy wars' are media hype but I have heard pretty sharp words said in real life too. In a LLL meeting I went to one person referenced a conversation they'd had describing formula as poison. Now, if a person who, against the odds of various societal pressures and norms (e.g. lack of breastfeeding role models, a notion of breasts as primarily sexual) had begun breastfeeding and attended that meeting, say, with an aim of breastfeeding for 3 months, she might have found that difficult or upsetting to hear. Now that one person using the loaded word 'poison' is not representative of LLL's policy and philosophy, but if they are part of the meeting and discussion, then they are contributing to the LLL culture and experience, as it were. I suppose that's where LLL leaders come in, facilitating discussion that is beneficial and encouraging, not discouraging, to all... however, it did go unchallenged at that meeting.

    I do understand this forum is to support people in breastfeeding, and hooray for that! I suppose my post was to open a discussion about the wider context of breastfeeding for health and how people's health is affected by their socioeconomic position. I thought that it would be ok to do that here too. If people like us explore the various dynamics of feeding and wider contexts as well as the person specific issues (e.g. I have mastitis, what do I do? Or people are criticising me for longer term nursing etc) then maybe ideas can be formed about the most appropriate and effective health promotion of breastfeeding in society at large.

    I haven't come across the 'canary in a coal mine' metaphor before, so excuse me if I misunderstand it - is it kind of like 'a drop in the ocean'? I wouldn't say, in terms of health, that breastfeeding contributes so little as that but I do think that for people who are financially well off, educated, loving parents who perhaps live in a nicer place and can afford healthier foods and to take their kids to clubs and on holidays, the benefits of breastfeeding will be less pronounced as the individual grows up. I believe there are studies comparing siblings one of which has been breast fed, one formula, and the difference in health long term is marginal. I will try and find where I have read this. What does affect their health long term is their socioeconomic position. I hope I am making sense, breastfeeding is one thing that can benefit someones health, but it is not the only thing. And of course looking at statistics is one thing, but when it's personal, for example, 'if I don't breastfeed, will my kid get ill?' it's quite another. And I understand, that is VERY personal.

    Ok, thinking as I type too, I think I've just got the canary in a coal mine metaphor lol - sorry, but I'll leave the above paragraph because I can't be bothered to rewrite it all! Yeah, I think I see what you're thinking about breastfeeding rates as an indicator. Perhaps they're mostly an indicator of how much freedom and exposure formula companies have had in any given country! I believe breastfeeding rates in the UK have risen in recent years in line with National Health Service promotion which is positive but there's still a long way to go. My own, little, experience is that there is help for breastfeeding and I have never been directly criticised for MY nursing, but I have never noticed any other mum nursing a 12+ month child in a public space here and have been exposed to somewhat critical conversations about longer term breastfeeding.

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    I appreciate the extra thoughts and clarifications. I can't respond now, but wanted to offer clarification of the canary in a coal mine metaphor: "An allusion to caged canaries (birds) that mining workers would carry down into the mine tunnels with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners, thus providing a warning to exit the tunnels immediately." (http://en.m.wiktionary.org/wiki/canary_in_a_coal_mine)

    So, my inquiry was meant to suggest-- is breastfeeding 'success' and accessibility and normalization, on a population level, an indicator of larger cultural health (both literal physical health, but also mean more holistically)? I too was thinking of the sibling atudy released relatively recently, and in particular a response on the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine blog:

    "But let’s assume, as a thought experiment, that it is the conditions that make breastfeeding possible, and not breastfeeding itself, that reduce child obesity, raise IQs and improve school performance. What does that mean for health policy? If the secret ingredient is “being born in a family where breastfeeding is possible,” then creating the conditions that enable families to breastfeed must be our highest priority. The take-away is that we need to fight for paid parental leave, high-quality childcare and a living wage for every family, regardless of how they decide to feed their infants."

    https://bfmed.wordpress.com/2014/03/...ly-overstated/

  8. #8
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    Default Re: Social class, breastfeeding and life chances

    I think one important question is, how do we promote breastfeeding without making people feel shamed? I agree that much of the 'mummy wars' are media hype but I have heard pretty sharp words said in real life too. In a LLL meeting I went to one person referenced a conversation they'd had describing formula as poison. Now, if a person who, against the odds of various societal pressures and norms (e.g. lack of breastfeeding role models, a notion of breasts as primarily sexual) had begun breastfeeding and attended that meeting, say, with an aim of breastfeeding for 3 months, she might have found that difficult or upsetting to hear. Now that one person using the loaded word 'poison' is not representative of LLL's policy and philosophy, but if they are part of the meeting and discussion, then they are contributing to the LLL culture and experience, as it were. I suppose that's where LLL leaders come in, facilitating discussion that is beneficial and encouraging, not discouraging, to all... however, it did go unchallenged at that meeting.
    OK, great example. And yes, I think in most circumstances a Leader would challenge formula being called poison. But I was not at that meeting and have no idea what else the Leader was dealing with at the moment, who said this, who else was present, what their circumstances were, etc. It may be the Leader felt that letting the word drop without further comment was more appropriate. Sometimes challenging a divisive comment is not the appropriate thing to do. LLL Leaders are trained in facilitation of discussions and group dynamics, and they usually have the most complete handle on what is going on with each individual who is attending the meeting, and have to make split second decisions based on what they know about who is there and what the issues are and in order to keep the meeting discussion flowing in a way that is supportive, friendly and informative. It is actually quite a difficult thing to do, and so yes, LLL Leaders, who are human too, miss things or make mistakes. Also, Leaders are very autonomous. No one from the 'main office' goes around and checks up on Leaders and what they say or do not say at meetings. If you feel a Leader is not doing what she should, in the US, you can find out who her District advisor or Area Leader Representative- or, simply, another Leader, and make a complaint.

    This comment concerned you, and I would agree with your concern. You were part of the meeting culture as well. Did you challenge this comment during the meeting? Did you discuss your concerns with the Leader later?
    Also, do you recall Did the Leader give the standard disclaimer at the start of the meeting- basically, that "one might hear many opinions at the meeting, some you will agree with and others you do not- please use what works for you and leave the rest?"

    I can tell you that in general, at LLL meetings, as on the forum, LLL does not ever exclude mothers who are not breastfeeding. I have sat in many LLL meetings with mothers who are bottle feeding and formula feeding their babies. They come for many reasons, but basically, just like the moms who ARE nursing, they have questions or concerns about nursing or pumping. Mothers who are bottle feeding and formula feeding come to this forum for information and support, also usually about breastfeeding or pumping, and they get it. Do these moms feel more awkward than other moms coming to meetings? I think they probably do. But I am not sure what can be done to improve that. I felt awkward coming to my first LLL meeting because I wa sure everyone there would be cloth diapering. I was convinced I would be shamed for using disposables. Where did I get that idea? I do not know. But you know what? Most of the moms at that particular meeting that day WERE cloth diapering. And while of course I was not shamed, nor was diapering in any way part of the discussion (and almost never is in all my years attending LLL meetings) I still felt as if I would be judged and took my baby to the bathroom to change him.

    My point is, no one at the meeting made me feel this way. My own pre-conceived and totally incorrect ideas about what LLL was and who would 'fit in' made me feel this way. LLL can make itself as inviting as it possibly can, with nary a politically incorrect word breathed or even thought, and it is still not going to be a place everyone feels comfortable in or supported by.

    I am all for improving things, but of course, if you want to improve LLL, probably the best way to do that would be to get involved in LLL as a volunteer and/or contact your local Groups or the Executive Office with your ideas or concerns. LLL is not perfect, no organization is, so ideas for improvement are tried all the time.

    As far as getting upset, I am not upset with you, but I AM upset by the giant anti breastfeeding push that is going on in the media and online lately. But I really cannot get into all my reasons about why I find this so incredibly destructive and upsetting. I spent a ton of time on that in the lactation activist forum and it was horribly frustrating.

    So, I picked the one thing to discuss, your comment about LLL. Because "LLL is mean" or "LLL's are fanatics' etc, is an old saw that has been used against LLL for decades, often entirely unfairly.

    Lots of health related organizations, governments, child health advocates of all stripes, and individuals of various kinds are trying to increase breastfeeding rates. Because, it is widely accepted as a vitally important universal health issue that so many humans are fed formula rather than human milk when human milk is an option. LLL may partner with other organizations here and there, but it is by no means the only game in town. Yet LLL specifically is often targeted by anti-breastfeeding folks, even for things LLL never said nor did, or because LLL does not manage to be all things to all people, simply because it is a visible and easy target and seen as much more powerful than it actually is.

    Many people have NO idea that LLLI is an entirely private charity, running on a minute budget, and organized almost entirely by volunteers who are not only not compensated financially, but who actually pay annual dues to LLLI for the privilege of being LLL Leaders. I have been around LLL for 10 years now, and while I have met LLL Leaders I personally disagree with on almost everything aside breastfeeding, and Leaders who I have clashed with personality wise, and Leaders who I think are not the best communicators, I have yet to meet a single LLL Leader whose intentions were anything other than to give of themselves to help mothers and babies. So yes, I do get a little upset when LLL is attacked.

    LLL has this as its stated purpose: The general purpose of LLL is to help the mother learn to breastfeed her baby, to encourage good mothering through breastfeeding, and to promote a better understanding of breastfeeding and related subjects. I do not see how LLL is not living up to the purpose, as breastfeeding would almost certainly be long dead in most of the world if it were not for LLL.
    Last edited by @llli*maddieb; November 29th, 2014 at 01:49 PM.

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