Thursday, November 8, 2012

The Laziness Conundrum

Defensive Formula Feeders (DFFs) often remark that they are seen as lazy because they chose to formula feed. One of the most common retorts to their laziness label is to argue the following:

“How can formula feeding be lazy? We have to wash and sterilise bottles, boil kettles, measure formula, carry it around, and so on; whilst all a breastfeeding mother has to do is lift her top”.

At first glance, this may seem like a worthwhile argument. After all - these things are true; formula feeding has a lot more ‘chores’ involved with it than nature’s way.

Nonetheless, I maintain that for most formula feeding mothers, laziness underlines their feeding ethos.

Here's the most common scenario:

Mother strugglers with breastfeeding, and thinks to herself, "this is too much effort, I'm switching to formula" (Grass is Greener mentality). Perhaps there is also a health professional on the scene pushing formula ‘top ups’, and formula advertising showing chubby, thriving babies.

So, rather than doing some research or seeking a second opinion (which requires effort) she switches to formula.

At first she feels liberated – she has ‘her body back’ and perhaps even a few more hours sleep as she gets someone else to exert the effort of night feeds. This help with feeding is irregular however, and within a few weeks she discovers, to her great disappointment, that formula feeding is more inconvenient that she had anticipated. Sadly by now her milk has dried up.

The sensible thing to do at this point would be to relactate, however this takes even more effort than her current situation, so she stays locked into formula feeding. Trapped in an endless cycle of washing and sterilising, feeling guilty, and defensively spouting her breastfeeding woes to whoever will listen.

What underlies the choices in this timeline of events? - laziness.

What about women who chose to formula feed from the start - they head straight to the daily sterilisation and kettle boiling rituals, so how can they be lazy for choosing the most inconvenient feeding method? A common reason you will hear from mothers who chose to formula feed from the get go (perhaps THE most common reason) is that they wanted their partner to be able to bond with the baby.

Mothers who say this don't actually believe it of course. It's a ploy to make them appear thoughtful and selfless. In reality, no sane person believes that holding a plastic teat in a baby's mouth is the only way to bond. Yet these mothers use the paternal bonding argument time and time again, as a 'get out of jail free' card. The actual motive of these mothers is that they want other people to feed their baby and they don't see why they should have to do it all themselves - laziness.

Until there is a dramatic cultural shift from prioritising parental convenient to prioritising infant need, laziness will continue to be the driving force behind most mothers’ feeding choices; and what’s more, formula companies will continue to capitalise from it.

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