Tuesday, March 15, 2011

I don't want to be a lactivist

My recent post on breastfeeding prompted a few readers to ask why I don't actively promote breastfeeding. They urged me to further the cause because mommies don't breastfeed enough. One pointed out how Daphne Osena Paez is a UN Ambassador for promoting breastfeeding and that I should follow suit.

Well, Daphne and I had a little chat about that. I laud her efforts truly but I confessed to her that while I am super pro-breastfeeding, I don't want to be seen as super gung-ho about it that I offend mommies who fed/feed their kids formula. Daphne says there's a word for that: lactivist. Well there. I don't want to be a lactivist.

To be honest, I was ambivalent to this whole breastfeeding business. You see, I wasn't breastfed. Neither was Vince. We turned out more than all right! I know some people who were breastfed and, well, they aren't so cool. Oops, I'm joking. Sorta.

Then when I was preggy, I started reading all the literature about how breast milk is best for baby. And I decided, "Okay, I'll give it a try. But the minute I feel it's such a hassle, I'm giving up." Well, it was a huge pain, I tell ya, but I didn't give up, which surprised me.

First, I had no milk. At all. It didn't help that Ate Marita told me, "Maliit kasi dede mo kaya wala kang gatas." ("You have small breasts that's why you have no milk.") Great, that made me feel oh so much better. To her credit, Ate M, who is a manghihilot, massaged my back and made me cauldron upon cauldron of malunggay soup. I was leaking milk in no time!

Second, breastfeeding hurt at the start. It was so painful, I saw stars every time he latched. I thought more than a few times that I'd rather give birth again than breastfeed.

Third, and for me this was the worst, breastfeeding suffocated me. There were days I felt like screaming because Vito had to feed every 2 hours. And in the first three months, the bottle is discouraged so there won't be nipple confusion. So even if I had a Medela pump, I couldn't go anywhere anyway because I was tethered to the baby by his need for my milk.

But I soldiered on because, as they say, breast milk is best for baby. I also liked the closeness I felt whenever we cuddled and he suckled and I felt my milk nourishing him.

Then I found this list: Advantages of Breastfeeding. It totally blew my mind away! I was so excited, I exclaimed to Vince: "Imagine that! If every mommy breastfed her baby, we'd have people who are stronger, faster, smarter, healthier. Breastfeeding mommies would be instrumental in creating a super race of humans! Breastfeeding should be mandatory!"

And Vince snapped, "You sound like a Nazi."

And that, my friends, is why I haven't been promoting breastfeeding. I had become a lactivist.

I certainly do not want to think I am superior or my child is better. But without realizing it, I had become someone that I didn't want to be. I was horrified at myself. I'm sure you know women out there who put down formula, tut-tut at formula-fed babies, and sneer at formula-feeding moms. I didn't reach that point, thank goodness (actually, it's thank Vince!). But until I was sure that I won't be judgmental, I just didn't want to talk about breastfeeding.

Now... I think I'm ready. I still believe breastfeeding is a wonderful thing. It's super healthy for both mother and child. It's amazing to see how our bodies can be our child's source of nourishment. And it saves us money and time.

But I also know that each of us have different situations that prevent us from breastfeeding--some women have health or physical conditions that prevent successful breastfeeding, some women have to work full time.

I also know that we mommies do have one thing in common: We love our kids. So we will do our very best to nourish them--whether it's breastfeeding or infant formula. And love is something I can totally understand and respect.

I want to encourage mommies to breastfeed and now I think I can do it with love and grace. I really don't want to come across as some Mrs. Know-It-All because, really, I don't know it all. But I can share what I do know about breastfeeding and I hope to be able to help those mommies who feel discouraged about breastfeeding. So there! Wish me luck!


  1. Yes breastfeeding hurt like hell for the first week. But I worked hard at making it work and it did. I have a few friends that didn't even bother trying or didn't try hard enough. While I couldn't imagine not wanting to make the effort for your child this was before I had kids so I didn't exactly know how to convince them otherwise. Also I still wanted to respect their choices.

  2. F, I could have not said it any better :)

    In the end, what matters is that we love our children. :)

    I always tell people that breastfeeding is ideal but it's not for everyone. What I do is encourage them to have an informed choice. Read about both breast and formula feeding, see the resources available to the family, weigh the pros and cons, and decide on something realistic.

    I read the blog that Jenny shared in your previous breastfeeding post (http://fearlessformulafeeder.blogspot.com/) and I think any mom considering breastfeeding should also read that. It helps to know both sides of the coin.

    Do you know that there are other battles out there besides formula feeders vs. breast feeders? There are the pumpers vs. direct feeders! GRABE. Where's the love, right?

    Aristotle said nga naman: MODERATION IS THE KEY! :)

  3. Well said, F. I love this entry. I'm not breastfed, my siblings also but we all turned out fine. My husband is breastfed until he's 3 or 4. And I saw how it benefits him! He's the one who encouraged me.

    My sister just gave birth, she's breastfeeding too pero she's getting discouraged na. Ang dami nyang reasons, but I can't force her. I can only give her advise, support, and encourage her more. She's living in the province kasi and other people may have a different opinion there and it may have influenced her. I'm her only support person. I just hope she continues to breastfeed.

  4. Rone, true. I also know moms who didn't even try. Diba, parang, try naman please! Actually, I would've been one of them but I persevered because Ate M drowned me with her malunggay soup haha!

    P, ya, that was a breastfeeding horror story. Actually, ako, I mix feed kasi kulang (more on that later). And then you rescued me with your Mommy Treats! Thanks =D

    Apples & Dumplings, oh no! I hope she breastfeeds pa! =(

  5. I get you, sistah! And bravo to you for persevering. I know of some women who gear up NOT to breastfeed, which is quite sad. Ako, I had milk even before giving birth to Vito, and so I kinda psyched myself up to bf. Even through mastitis, I nursed in pain, which I will always be proud of since I my tolerance for pain on a scale of 1 to 10 is a 2!

    I don't know enough to launch a crusade about the glories of breastfeeding. Regardless, I think we just need to be there for each other as women, as mothers. We've got to encourage each other whether we're "lactivists" or formula feeders, or whatever milk gospel it is we preach.

    I'm just grateful I still have milk! Also thought of mixing with formula, but Vito's kind pedia encouraged me to stick it out, so here I am nursing him at 16 months old. So I'll keep on giving Vito what I can while my body is still capable of doing so.

  6. I had a lazy baby who doesn't want to latch. :) But I still made an effort to continue pumping before and after work, it lasted about 3 months.

  7. hi, i am now 7 weeks preggy and have been reading your blog for ideas and encouragements... i just wish that the baby will really be okay since i am already 38 and this is my first baby but one thing for sure, i will really go for breast feeding when the time comes and would surely need your advises on this and many other things

  8. Good job, Martine and MichDom =)

    Cheer, congratulations! Don't worry (yes, it's hard not to worry!). And you're about to know true love! Isn't it exciting?

  9. Great post as usual, Frances! I only breastfed for three months although I tried like hell to at least reach six months but I guess, it wasn't meant to be. I applaud you for supporting those of us who chose to formula-feed. After being on both sides of the coin, I can say that what's important is to give our babies love and to support each other. Thanks!

  10. hmm.. i am a lactivist and proud to be one. being a lactivist is not just about promoting breastfeeding. it is giving information to moms who want to know about it. i guess which is why i called my blog as such so moms who don't want to hear about breastfeeding can stay clear of the blog and of my ideas. :D i do agree with you that being a breastfeeding mom doesn't mean you are superior to others. it's all about choices and I celebrate that each mom has a choice. and this is why i will happily talk on and on about the benefits, joys, etc of breastfeeding but will not actually tell every pregnant mom i see, "hey mommy, breastfeed". i got the same thing when i was pregnant and was not happy to hear those comments. and in my early days, it certainly didn't help to hear that all my friends successfully breastfed while i was having trouble. what helped more was information i could read ABOUT my problems and how i could overcome them plus texts/emails from moms similarly situated who were able to overcome their troubles.
    oh, by the way, using the term "nazi" in relation to breastfeeding has gotten me in trouble - check this out - http://www.phdinparenting.com/2009/05/07/breastfeeding-nazis/


This is all pretty new to me so please feel free to share your mommy wisdom!