Tuesday

The illusion of "choice"


photo by Jessie McClain
As women, we have been liberated from our biology. Infant feeding is declared a choice. Breast or bottle?? Spin the bottle and the bottle lands on breast. So mom "tries" breast. She survives THE BIRTH (and nowadays that is a miracle--another stomping ground of "choice") and has a try at this thing called breastfeeding. She has difficulties...sore nipples, engorgement, feelings of being overwhelmed but she thinks she has it all under control. Oops, she goes to the two week pediatric check and finds that her baby has not gained enough weight. Sorry, the medical staff say you must supplement with the "BOTTLE." So where did choice go? Mother chooses breast, the medical staff declare it ain't working. So choice defaults to BOTTLE. Breastfeeding mothers find that choice always defaults to bottle...no matter what. Does bottle ever default to breast? Sorry mother, bottlefeeding isn't working for you, you will have to breastfeed your baby? Your baby hasn't gained sufficient weight on the bottle, so you must go to breast. Your baby has gotten diarrhea for the second time on that formula, so you must go to breast. Any mother ever ever heard those words out of a medical professional. No because the medical rule is that "Breast always defaults to bottle never bottle to breast." Yet as a lactation consultant I know that women can and do relactate. (relactated myself and know it is possible)So it isn't something that is biologically impossible. It is just a mental leap that cannot be circumvented in the medical community. So exactly how is choice in infant feeding an equivalent choice? Isn't this a token choice to make women feel like they can be freed from their biology?
The offer of choice dissolves when a mother tests positive for hiv. Fascinating in that a number of infant formula companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical institutions, and the US Department of Health own patents on various human milk components to inactivate or treat hiv/aids. A hiv positive mother goes against medical protocol in the USA, if she breastfeeds. While our multi-national corporations, medical institutions, and the US government have "faith" as documented by their patenting in human milk components, a hiv-positive mother loses her faith in breastfeeding. Choice, what is that when you test positive for hiv? Doesn't exist....an illusion.
Breastfeeding is often terminated when a mother is ill or when the infant is ill. And often it is not the choice of the mother but the choice of the mother's health care provider. Why? What evidence do they use? How are pediatricians trained? What sales people visit their offices, take them on cruises, leave their gifts? Yes, we all know, the formula representative like the pharmaceutical rep spends alot of time at medical offices and institutions providing their "free" gifts. How was the pediatrician trained? Did he or she know that the professor that taught them infant nutrition moonlights at Nestle or Wyeth? Probably not, young students think the world of their professors, source of all knowledge, giver of A's and B's. While they are paying the institution to be "educated," often that institution is funded by the corporate world. Capitalism at its finest moment. Education becomes the corporate reality without the student ever being aware of where their "knowledge" comes from and at what cost to a society, to the world. The view of infant nutrition is the Nestle/Wyeth/Mead Johnson/Abbott/PBM-WalMart illusion. Let the babies eat almost organic, almost real baby milk...recombinant/cloned human milk components. Preserved in plastic, grown in plastic...fungi and algae from god-knows where??? Out of the depths of the vent holes from hell...the very best....the very best. Spin the bottle and it lands on disease and disaster and lots of money...the mother of all jack pots. Thank the multi-national corporations for giving us a choice and liberating us from our bodies, our health, and our money.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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