Being a jerk doesn’t help

These ladies look pleasant and really, really well dressed. (Image courtesy dailycloudt via Flickr Creative Commons.)

Last week Facebook exploded (by which I mean “the breastfeeding pages I follow posted things that got more comments than usual”) when a particularly rude-yet-popular blogger (The Alpha Parent… and I’m linking only because I am very diligent when it comes to providing sources) posted a really dumb “motivational” image with the words, “Breastfeeding is like marriage. You can’t cheat on it and expect it to work.” Let’s count the ways this is dumb:

  1. Unless we’re at Breastfeeding Boot Camp and you’re going to yell at moms that they’re pathetic worms who don’t deserve to be parents, that is a far cry from “motivational.” Although I did feel motivated to leave a bunch of comments about how annoyed I was by this image and am writing a blog post right now.
  2. What are you defining as “cheating” on breastfeeding? To some people, giving any bottles (even of expressed milk, even if mom is away at work) is “cheating.” To some people, any mother-led weaning is “cheating.” But is that practical, and does that honor individual mothers’ goals? Looking at the big picture, you will get more breastmilk into more babies if you try to help moms reach their own goals instead of trying to convince them to reach yours, and, sometimes, these goals might involve what you might call “cheating.”
  3. Infidelity within marriage is such a complex issue you can’t possibly distill it in that manner and make a decent point.
  4. Being a jerk doesn’t help. Period. In fact, it hurts the overall cause of breastfeeding advocacy.

Something similar happened last month, and this was a diatribe directed toward parents who asked for the help of a well-known Australian lactation consultant and baby sleep “expert” but who didn’t seem to be parents who agreed with her philosophy. (You can read the original blog post here.) At the very least, this sort of public, expletive-laden rant is unprofessional. At worst, it is geniunely hurting parents who you’re supposed to be helping. I understand the frustration, but airing it in this manner doesn’t help anyone, except maybe those people who feel encouraged and energized by ganging up on others.

I cannot count the times I have heard that breastfeeding advocates (who sometimes call themselves lactivists, or may be called lactivists as if it’s a dirty word) are “boob nazis” or that we all think that “formula is poison,” and I’ve heard this from otherwise reasonable, intelligent people. Breastfeeding advocates have an uphill battle to fight when it comes to getting people to take us seriously and see us as friends and people who are here to help. Let’s consider for a minute whether self-professed “snobby” parents like the creator of the meme help. Oh, you don’t even need a minute, do you: The answer is a resounding NO.

Granted, I am not perfect. I have learned a lot along the way about what language doesn’t help and have learned even more about just how unique each family and situation can be. We all slip up. But when it’s a pattern, that’s a problem.

Some people don’t quite care as much about parents and babies as they do about their own agendas (whether that’s to be right, popular, the recipient of attention, or whatever). I can’t stop those people from saying what they do, but my hope is that minds can stay open to the idea that not all lactivists are the same. Some are jerks. Some are really well dressed (see photo). Some, like me, are neither, and we sure hope we’ll let us help you without worrying that we’re judging you.