Fit Pregnancy magazine is working with BestforBabes to promote breastfeeding and avoid "Booby Traps" (barriers to successful breastfeeding), and is hosting a giveaway of "breastfeeding essentials".1 Now I love giveaways as much as the next gal (I even run them on my own blog whenever I can find willing sponsors), but I challenge the assertion that any of the things they are giving away are essential to breastfeeding.
In fact, I think by calling them essentials, the companies are inadvertently perpetuating some of the Booby Traps they claim to be opposed to. Some of the products they are featuring as prizes include a Medela breastpump, some bottles, a nursing coverup shawl, and a nursing tank.
It does a disservice to women to tout this expensive gear as "essential" to breastfeeding, because it makes breastfeeding seem complicated, abnormal, and expensive.
Breastfeeding can certainly be complicated for nursing dyads who enounter difficulties getting started, but for the majority of families it should be fairly simple, at least in terms of gear needed. Sure there are a few things that are nice to have around, and even more things available that might be fun or cute. But you don't need them. God has already given you the essential equipment. If you have a baby with a mouth and a mama with a breast, you're good to go. It shouldn't be a big production that requires tons of extra equipment. The thought of needing lots of stuff to help breastfeed makes it seem more overwhelming, which is the last thing a new mom needs.
Booby Trap #2: Breastfeeding is Shameful
A lot of these products, such as the nursing shawl, are designed to "hide" breastfeeding. I would also include the breastpump and bottles in this category, because I feel that calling them essentials for all moms (not just moms who have to work outside the home) sets up an expectation that all nursing moms pump and bottlefeed in public. Claiming the shawl as an essential item also sends a clear message to new moms: you must cover-up. If this is the message from Fit Pregnancy, how can we possibly expect the rest of society to accept breastfeeding, including publicly, as a normal and beautiful part of raising a child?
Finally, saying these products are breastfeeding essentials places breastfeeding in the realm of elite parenting -poor moms need not apply. The products they're giving away are supposedly worth $600, but if they're all really essential, would require you to spend hundreds more dollars buying more bottles, bottle brushes, nursing covers, and expensive nursing clothes. For example, the nursing dress they're giving away is beautiful, but I think nursing clothes like that are a luxury and a convenience; they are not essential to breastfeeding. And pumps, when actually necessary, are often at least partially covered by insurance. As low-income women have significantly lower breastfeeding rates than wealthier women, I think it's especially important for breastfeeding advocates to avoid painting a picture of breastfeeding as requiring so much expensive equipment and accessories.
|Affordable cotton nursing pads|
If you can afford it, it's true that there are tons of great nursing products you could spend your money on. And winning all that gear from a giveaway would be fun. But let's not pretend they're essentials-we're only hurting moms and babies when we do.
The giveaway page is a sponsored "advertorial," and it is unclear who ultimately chose the wording "Breastfeeding Essentials." Our goal in publishing this piece is not to attack BestforBabes or Fit Pregnancy magazine, but to start a dialogue about the language we use to market products related to breastfeeding. We are excited to host a reply post from the BestforBabes founder this Wednesday. Please leave your thoughts on what the "breastfeeding essentials" are.
We are pleased to host a guest post today from Maman A Droit. "Maman A Droit" is a 24-year-old Midwest mama who is proudly breastfeeding her 12 month old son. When she's not writing posts for NursingFreedom.org, she shares her thoughts on breastfeeding, co-sleeping, babies, and life on her own blog.