Breastfeeding, SIDS and Women-Blaming Culture

This article published in The Australian is currently doing the rounds on Facebook. Basically, a research and advocacy group called sids and kids has added breastfeeding to the list of things which statistically decrease the chances of an infant dying of SIDS. This isn’t new research and the links between SIDS and breastfeeding have been reported here previously. Scientific research has demonstrated time and time again that breast milk is best for babies and the World Health Organisation recommends exclusively breastfeeding for the first 6 months and then up to 2 years. I posted a link on my FB wall. The first two comments suggested that the publication of the research was designed specifically to make women feel like shit.

I don’t think anyone can argue with the research but what comes up, time and time again, is the idea that somehow promoting this research is done only to “punish” women who formula feed. Now, I’m usually at the head of the queue at the woman-blaming culture protests and am a firm believer that the Patriarchy deliberately and maliciously sets women up to police other women’s behaviour to the detriment of all women. The Patriarchy punishes women in a million and one ways. I just don’t think the issue of breastfeeding and SIDS is about women-blaming culture or, at least, it shouldn’t be. It should be about what has the best outcomes for infants and mothers. Breastfeeding has health benefits for both the mother and the infant and very few women are physically incapable of breastfeeding. Statistically, the number of women who physically can’t breastfeed is insignificant in the face of the number of women who “can’t” for cultural reasons. The reason many women “can’t” breastfeed is because of structural inequalities in employment and home life, lack of support, and the constant misinformation spouted by so-called professionals like Dr. Christian Jessen and Gina Ford. Ford, at least, has the excuse of not being a medical doctor. Dr. Christian is just a misogynistic tool.

Breast-feeding is normal. This doesn’t mean that women who choose not to or who can’t breast feed are bad mothers. It simply means that breast milk fits the needs of babies in terms of their immune systems and long-term health as a result of millions of years of evolution. What we need to do is separate the emotion from the science. Breast feeding, like putting a baby on their back to sleep, statistically decreases the chance of an infant dying of SIDS. It doesn’t prevent SIDS nor does it mean a mother who loses a child to SIDS and who didn’t breastfeed is responsible for her child dying. That would be women-blaming [not to mention vile, disgusting, evil and utterly lacking in humanity]. It is totally reasonable to kick anyone who said such a despicable thing viciously in the shins.

We need to support women who want to breastfeed better and we need to tackle the misinformation about formula which actively puts babies at risk: like how to prepare formula properly. We also need to challenge the myths of breastfeeding like the fact that breastfeeding doesn’t change the shape of your breasts: pregnancy does that. And, really, who the fuck cares that your breasts have changed shape because of pregnancy? Bodies change. That doesn’t change who you are; nor does it make you less sexual if you do. Frankly, if your partner finds you less sexy because your body has changed shaped after birthing his child, then you need to kick his pathetic, judgemental, whiny-arse to the curb. Because real men don’t think like that.

We need to ensure that every woman has access to real information about breastfeeding and formula feeding in order for each woman to make the best choice for herself and her child. We need to respect the decision of each individual woman whilst exploring the structural inequalities which force women to make “choices” which are not appropriate for them. What we can not do is refuse to publish information that might make some women upset because they did not breastfeed. Preventing all women from accessing real information because a few women might get upset is precisely how the Patriarchy victimises women: by withholding information and pitting women against women.

2 thoughts on “Breastfeeding, SIDS and Women-Blaming Culture”

  1. I’ve been reading and loving your blog for ages but this post required me to move my lazy fingers and actually comment.

    YES! YES! EXACTLY!

    thank you. 🙂

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