Today’s post is a guest piece written by someone who prefers to remain anonymous. These words are a powerful reminder of how we shape the way our children view themselves- not only as the children they are but as the adults they will become.
The case of the newborn baby found in a drain in Sydney’s Quaker’s Hill on Sunday and the subsequent charge against his mother, have left many people reeling. I shared an article from Kidspot on my Facebook page and it certainly provoked some strong and varied responses:
Yesterday, I read this article about the sadness experienced when weaning and it got me thinking.
My first child was weaned at a few days old. I did feel sad that I wasn’t able to breastfeed her- but the predominant emotion was guilt. I knew it was considered bad to formula feed by the midwives because they kept referring to me as an “artificial feeder” and shaking their heads- they pretty much stopped coming near me once I switched to formula. I had a severly tongue tied baby. I knew I might as my mother in law had warned me that they ran in the family and told me what to look for. My daughter could not latch at all, couldn’t lift her tongue at all. Breastfeeding was excruciating and fruitless- she lost weight, turned yellow- you name it. At 21, I didn’t know what else to do so I bottle fed and it was fine for us in the end. Not one of my health care providers mentioned tongue tie revision, expressing, nipple shields- in fact, as a first time mum, not one of the midwives I saw listened to me about the tongue tie. I think it was day 4 before a trainee lactation consultant, rolling her eyes and shaking her head, deigned to have a look then agreed it was actually a pretty extensive tie. That was all the “action” that she took though, so we went straight to formula. There was such a short, painful and fruitless breastfeeding relationship to mourn that I don’t think I really did. I thought about it from time to time, told my friends about the awful breastfeeding-pressure from the midwives (that came with no help, unfortunately) and moved on.
My eldest ‘baby’.
Ten years later, with my second baby, we are still breastfeeding at 22 months. It has not been a trouble free exercise but I am better educated and better supported than I was 10 years ago so the experience has been vastly different.
We aren’t considering weaning-we aren’t even close to that point. Little Miss has had an ear infection and has spent the last few days eating very little- it’s times like this I’m super thankful to still be feeding her because otherwise, she wouldn’t have had anything much at all of any nutritional value. At this point, weaning will probably be her choice.
This isn’t because I want to cling to the breastfeeding relationship or keep her a baby; she is more and more a little girl every day and less my little baby. There is definitely nutritional benefit to breastfeeding her through toddlerhood and there is also the emotional comfort it brings her and it is these reasons that keep me breastfeeding- it’s good for her, it makes her happy and calms her, it comforts her when she feels sad or sick or is in pain- and all this costs me nothing.
The thought of no longer breastfeeding though… It does make me sad, because, like the author of the article I read yesterday, she is most likely my last baby. Even here I find it difficult to say she definitely will be. I’m holding out hope in case we win the lottery, I guess. It’s not a choice I’m making because I feel like I’m done having babies, it’s a choice we are making because we simply cannot afford to have another baby. I am blessed with an older daughter from a past relationship, I have two step children from my husbands first marriage. The three are close in age and get along really well. Then we have Bennie, our one baby that is “ours”.
The three ‘big’ kids
Once breastfeeding stops, I’m officially out of that phase of my life- the door to babies will be closed and yes, that makes me sad. When the time comes, I can see there will be benefits- I will wear normal bras, take whatever cold and flu tablets I want, buy clothes without considering how I will get my boobs out of them in a hurry- I might be so over it that weaning will be a happy milestone for us! But for now, weaning is still very tied in with a phase of my life, my “child-bearing years” I guess, and I’m glad it’s not over just yet.
All 4 of our kids
Linking up with Essentially Jess for #IBOT
I have started, stopped, rewritten, deleted, restarted and pondered over writing something slightly more substantial on this topic. I’m going around in circles. You see, I don’t think the majority of parents who choose not vaccinate are bad parents. Not at all. I think they are no different to any other parent who wants to do the best they can for their kids. I don’t think anyone is crazy for doing research before deciding to vaccinate or not. But I am in favour of vaccination after lots of reading and discussion and I make no apologies for that. For every bit of “evidence” I have seen (and, as this is a topic I’m really interested in, I’ve seen quite a lot) that claims to show vaccines as dangerous/poisonous/deadly/autism-inducing/etc I have been able to easily find multiple scientific studies that refute these claims. These studies and their results are generally widely available online, so parents that aren’t vaccinating have access to the exact same information that I do- how is it that we are coming to such different conclusions?
Anti-vaccine proponents seem to use a convincing mixture of emotive imagery (think giant syringes super-imposed over images of crying, isolated babies- see below), anecdotes and half-truths put together convincingly, often citing outdated or flawed studies or quoting doctors- but failing to mention certain salient facts- case in point is widely quoted anti-vaccination (among other things) proponent Dr Viera Screibner who is indeed a retired doctor- in the field of micro-paleontology , which, to my mind, should make her medical advice suspect at best-and I’m thankfully not alone in my thinking there.
Images taken from anti-vaccine websites
The half truths are horrifying and alarmist if taken at face value- “vaccines contain cells from aborted babies”, “vaccines contain toxic substances like mercury and aluminium” to name a couple of the more prevalent examples. Both these statements appear to be designed to instill fear and horror in the reader, but fail to elaborate with explanations of cell lines or the amount of certain chemicals used in vaccines versus the exposure we have to them in our daily life– it is, as I understand it, the dose that makes the poison, after all.
Science has shown us that the risk from vaccines is less than the risk posed by vaccine preventable illnesses. So why are people making claims that these illnesses are either not harmful or actually beneficial? These are more often than not people with no medical training and non-scientific backgrounds, who are making public unfounded and incorrect statements that often target new parents seeking information regarding their babies- it’s despicable.
What it seems to boil down to is in whom you place your trust. I have seen anti-vaccination discussions online where the general consensus seems to be that many studies are done by drug companies are untrustworthy because they are done by the company standing to profit from the sale of the vaccines. On the surface that might seem reasonable, however, logic says that for a drug company to falsify data to show that their product is safe and effective when it is not is counter-productive as once the vaccine is in use, we will know soon enough if it safe and effective. There is also the issue of peer review- is everyone lying? I’ve seen governmental websites dismissed as reliable sources of information because the government either is fooled by “Big Pharma” or is somehow using vaccines to control, kill or maim us- searching the phrase “government vaccines kill” yields over 3 million results! My issue with these scenarios are fairly obvious- it is not in the best interests of governments to kill or otherwise injure the population. In Australia, we have free public health care that is government funded. It makes no logical sense for any government to spend money to cause injury or illness which it must then foot the bill for treating. As for governments around the world being either fooled by or in the pocket of the mysterious “Big Pharma” – there are numerous independent studies on vaccines and most governments, I would imagine, want to see a LOT of evidence before making enormous, long term financial commitments to pharmaceutical companies- I doubt very much that any government official would simply sign on the dotted line and take the word of the pharma company without careful consideration to all available research. The mind control theory is an interesting one- why would they want to control the minds of millions and billions of people? Presumably, this would mean they could make us do whatever they want, so surely the first elected governments to bring this in would still be in power, right? Because, what with the mind control and all, they’d just tell us who to vote for! (Yes, I’m being silly and facetious- but they started it!)
People that vaccinate are often ridiculed in these online anti-vaccine discussions. The Australian Vaccination Network (aka the AVN- pending name change) refers to pro-vaccinators as “septics” (apparently as a play on the word “sceptics”). I have seen the (made-up) word “sheeple” used quite a lot. There are more extreme and offensive examples I won’t repeat here. That’s not to say it doesn’t get heated on the pro-vaccination side. Both groups do get extremely frustrated with one another, I’m not denying it. But the difference seems to be that the pro-vaccination advocates are a moderate bunch. All they want is for vaccine scaremongering to end, to make sure as many people as possible are vaccinated and protected from disease and for the herd immunity this creates to offer as much protection as possible to those who, for medical reasons, cannot get vaccinated as well as those with compromised immune systems and those to young to receive vaccinations. I’ve yet to encounter an “extreme vaccinator” either in real life or online- someone who, I imagine, immunises at all costs, is vaccinated with every possible vaccine and who has many wild theories on why everyone should vaccinate. Pro-vaccine proponents seem to just be people who recognise the protection vaccines offer and take full advantage of them while encouraging others to do the same. In the anti-vaccination camp, there is a bit more variety. There are those that are happy to just not vaccinate as they believe it might be unsafe. Further along the spectrum are those that believe vaccines actively cause disorders and disease. Only a hop, skip and a jump away, you have those that believe vaccines are loaded with diseases, chips and who knows what else. The conspiracies run from the biblical to the alien or reptilian and the generally absurd. Both sides of the issue are screaming at the other to do their research.
The idea of compulsory vaccination makes me uncomfortable. Forcing people to make their children undergo a procedure doesn’t sit well with me, even when I firmly believe that procedure is the right thing to do. So how do we get around this problem? Policing the internet for false or misleading information is a herculean task, and one that would be open to abuse in the wrong hands. There is no easy solution. But I do support making sure anti-vaccine groups are held accountable for the misinformation they spread. While there are many such groups, there is one that springs immediately to mind- The aforementioned (misleadingly named, change pending) Australian Vaccination Network. This group claims to be presenting “the other side” of the debate. Taken from their website:
“The Australian Vaccination Network, Inc. (AVN) has been operating since 1994 with a mandate to provide scientifically-sourced information on this complex and difficult issue. We believe that everyone has the right to access all available data on vaccinations, immunisations, immunizations, inoculations – whatever you choose to call them. The government and the medical community provide you with one side of the story – the AVN gives you the other side. Taken together, this data will allow you to make the best possible decision for the health of your child.”
And yet… Their whole website is full of misinformation and unfounded claims. Former president of the AVN, Meryl Dorey, has made claims that range from the ignorant to the ridiculous to the downright offensive. Some examples:
“When a doctor injects a vaccine into a child that’s rape with full penetration” (AVN Facebook page)
This statement is alarmist, misleading and offensive- I don’t think any more needs to be said about it.
“It is a fact that we will only ever contract one disease at a time” (Informed Voice, Winter 2006, page 48)
It is actually NOT a fact- at all. Go and speak to a HIV patient suffering pneumonia, for one example. This statement clearly falls into the category of the ridiculous.
“Passing through a measles infection is sometimes required, for whatever reason, to strengthen some part of a person’s vital force” (Dorey, Meryl (Winter 2006). “Voodoo Children”. Informed Voice 4 (2): 48)
What?? Does this come under their “mandate to provide scientifically-sourced information”? I’d love to see their scientific source for this claim.
These are just three examples and there are many, many more. It should also be noted that Ms Dorey does not hold any medical qualifications. She has come under fire for suggesting people contact the family of a deceased child to ask their vaccination status, she has blamed vaccination for conditions such as the ebola virus and is a firm proponent of the (many times disproven) autism/vaccine “link”. I could go on with many more examples of things Ms Dorey has come out with. She is no longer president, but still active with the AVN. Her replacement, Greg Beattie, holds the same views, claiming vaccines are not effective, advising parents to go to “less mainstream” health workers and to read a book to become more educated than doctors on vaccines (perhaps one of his- he’s written two to espouse his beliefs).
Humourous combination of some of Ms Dorey’s actual statements
Meryl’s response to the above image.May or may not have said- which is it? Both sourced from meryldorey.org
In the case of this group, I believe full transparency should be enforced. All contributors to their websites and publications should list their names, their qualifications and their sources. If they reference a study, the full study should be made available, as well pertinent information about the study- such as- is it current or superseded? Their mission statement should be clear- their mission is not to present a balance of information- it is to convince you NOT to vaccinate. The gallery of what they call vaccine injured children on their website- frankly, I find this upsetting, but if they MUST have this on their sites, then I feel they MUST provide evidence- as it is, it is appealing to parents on an emotional, fear-based level. I’m not denying vaccine injuries are possible- but they are rare, and should not be exploited for the sake of the anti-vaccine agenda. They should show credible evidence and real data showing the incidence of these types of severe adverse events- in the interest of the balance they claim to represent. In response to the outrageous claims and actions of the AVN, since 2009, facebook based group Stop the AVN has campaigned to counter the claims made by the AVN as well as to hold the AVN to account for spreading dangerous misinformation.
The AVN endorse utilising homeopathy and chiropractic as well as other remedies in place of vaccines, and it should be noted that the governing body for chiropractors in Australia has ordered chiros to stop disseminating anti-vaccination advice and information and that even the British Homeopathic Association does not endorse homeopathic vaccine alternatives.
If you are reading this and wondering if you should vaccinate- don’t take my word for it. I’m not a doctor. But neither are those running the AVN and similar groups. My advice is to look long and hard at where you are getting your information from and what form it takes. Is there evidence to show efficacy and safety- or is it just anecdotes like “My neighbours cousin was vaccinated and he got autism”? Is it just correlation? Like “I ate a potato then started coughing and sneezing, therefore, the potato gave me a cold”. Is it backed by scientific study? Does it make logical sense? Is it coming from someone with relevant qualifications? Like a doctor or medical specialist or someone with a background in immunology, for example. Or is it coming from someone with no formal training who simply claims a brain is qualification enough?
Some links worth viewing:
Disclaimer: I do not work for “Big Pharma” or any pharmaceutical company (though I worked for a year in a pharmacy as a retail assistant 12 years ago). I do not work in a medical or scientific field, not do I claim to hold any such qualifications. I am just a mother who has read lots and lots of information on vaccination who is scared by the decrease in vaccination rates, especially having a baby too young to be fully vaccinated yet.
I’m writing, yet again, about discrimination and breastfeeding in public. You’re probably thinking ‘Oh god, will she ever shut up? I’m sick of reading about it!’ And honestly, I’m sick of writing about it. I figure, people need to stop doing it (discriminating, that is) and leave mothers to get on with feeding their kids in peace, so I, and people like me, can shut the hell up about it and not consider renaming our websites “Yes, I breast feed. So what, go away, mind your own business.” But it seems there are still businesses and people out there who don’t know the law or just don’t give a damn about the law, and feel that their tender sensibilities trump the needs of a hungry baby who has the right to be fed in comfort.
Bruce and Ling Sands recently went to their local Thai restaurant for a meal, taking along their 12 week old baby. During the course of their meal, Ling paused to breastfeed her baby. According to the Sands family, the wait staff were initially very friendly and helpful, but a different person brought out Bruce’s meal and this was the point at which things soured.
“She placed the food down and started to walk away but only took a step or two and turned to my wife and said “You need to cover up in public.” My wife responded “Why?” The lady said “Because it’s bothering customers.” My wife responded again with “Why?” The lady repeated “Because, it’s bothering customers” and walked away. Only 2 other people were sitting in our area and one had their back to us, so really only one person might have been able to see her.
This upset me so I walked back to the front desk and confirmed she was, in fact, the owner. I asked her if she knew that what she just did was illegal. She said “Not here.” I told her that in itself was illegal. We went back and forth with this, then, she finely said she didn’t care and said “Not here!” at this point I was getting really frustrated. I said to her “Do you really want me to prove to you it is illegal?” The owner and another gentleman with her answered “Yes.”
I said “Ok, but if this goes further you won’t like the outcome.” I went back to our table and pulled up the legislation, I spent a few minutes reviewing it. Then, I again went back to the desk and read it to them, she and the man listened then the lady shrugged her shoulders and repeated “Not here.” … I asked her to apologize to my wife and said we’d let this go. She said “No” I tried again, same answer. We paid and left.” -Bruce Sands
Bruce and Ling Sands at the Nurse-In outside KB Thai
The Sands family got in touch with Victoria Brookman, who started the Facebook page ‘Lactivists Australia’ after the Nurse-In outside Sunrise early this year organised by myself and fellow breast feeding mother, Ash Zuko. Lactivists Australia is a Facebook community page dedicated to ending the harassment of breastfeeding women. Through the Lactivists page, Victoria quickly put the word out about an upcoming Nurse-In outside KB Thai in Woy Woy, NSW.
“We will peacefully protest anywhere that discriminates against breastfeeding mothers until the message gets through – women can breastfeed anywhere they are legally allowed to be.” -Victoria Brookman.
Prior to the vent, KB Thai issued the following excuse:
The event went smoothly with the exception of the staff member who apparently decided it would be good PR to come outside and yell at the gathering of mothers and supporters. An article in the local Central Coast Advocate quotes the business owner who claims the offending staff member was simply offering Ling a towel.
(Source: http://newslocal.newspaperdirect.com/epaper/viewer.aspx Page 7)
So what was it, KB Thai? A language barrier or a friendly towel offer? Either way, I can honestly say I’ve never needed a towel to breastfeed! After the event, KB Thai posted the following denial:
I’ve put together a handy checklist or businesses who find themselves in the unhappy predicament of having tried to interfere, in any way, with a mother feeding a baby.
Supporters at the Nurse-In
Good on Woy Woy Leagues for showing their support.
The Facebook page run by the restaurant has been inundated with messages of support for breastfeeding mothers as well as the usual assortment of people voicing their belief that their comfort level is more important than a baby’s right to fed. Seriously guys, that might be your opinion, but it’s getting really old. the simple fact is opinion is not in keeping with the law. End of story.
Update- following a complaint to the HRC, KB Thai has issued an apology to the Sands family and added a note to their advertising welcoming nursing mothers. Fantastic outcome!