Tuesday, August 3, 2010

A Parent Is Born: Online Reality Show Series

About a month ago I learned about a new online reality series called, "A Parent Is Born." Sponsored by Pampers, Similac and Beechnut, the show follows three young families on their journey to parenthood. In the first episode we are introduced to everyone in the Favela, Smolinski, and Barston families. It's quite obvious that the Favela's are the "crunchy" family. Mom Bella went drug-free during labor and is shown reaching down to help catch the baby during the birth. She is also briefly shown breastfeeding in the introduction.

There are 14 episodes total in the series that cover topics ranging from discipline to sleep, potty training and babyproofing.  This week's episode is entitled, "Feeding Baby" and is billed as a breastfeeding video. Naturally I didn't have high expectations going in, and Similac didn't disappoint.

If you can't see the 5 minute video, it begins with us seeing Bella nursing her daughter first thing in the morning. She talks about how nice it is to have that time with her baby, when it's still slightly dark outside and the house is quiet and it's just the two of them, bonding. She's a very beautiful and glamorous woman and the footage of the two them together is very sweet.

But then  we see the three sets of families, sitting together outside, discussing breastfeeding and formula feeding.

Here is the transcript from the conversation. It's long but definitely worth reading if you can't see the video. Bolded parts are emphasis mine.

SUZIE: It's so nice to hear about a good breast feeding experience, because you know, in my life, I had, sort of the opposite. You know, for us, we wanted to so badly. He never latched. We went through seven different very expensive lactation consultants, um, and it wasn't until the last one we saw, who was really a God-send, who let us know that he had a restricted frenulum, which is that thing in your mouth. So we got it cut, it's a minor surgery, he still couldn't latch, so we ended up pumping exclusively. It was really heartbreaking, I mean, when Steve had to go back to work, a couple weeks into it, I mean, I would be sitting there in tears, because Leo would be screaming, you know?
STEVE: Oh, it was crazy-
SUZIE: And I would be sitting there, like, I can't attend to you, because I need to pump your food. Our doctor told us to give him twenty-four hours on just formula, and he was way calmer. Ultimately, we found out about six weeks in that he was allergic to all milk protein, including my own. And once we switched him to the special hypo-allergenic formula, he was a completely different baby, and I finally started enjoying being a mom.
LAUREN: We had, you know, a similar experience where I was breast-feeding, when he was, just, every night, from five to eleven, he was just crying uncontrollably. So I called the doctor, and I explained to him what's going on, that, you know, we were going to get a divorce because the kid just doesn't stop crying, and it's so stressful on our marriage. This isn't the joy that we envisioned. So then the doctor was, like, "Well, how set are you on breast feeding?" I said, "I want to breast feed, but I want what's best for my family and my child." He's like, this formula, it was the same thing, it was, like, a hypoallergenic formula, and he says, "If there's going to be a difference, it's going to be within forty-eight hours." Forty-eight hours, my child took the biggest poop, all over his nursery, and cleared out his system, and he was a new child.
SUZIE: Yeah, yeah.
LAUREN: Like, completely different child.
SUZIE: I just think, like, honestly, what it comes down to, because you hear an experience like yours, and it, I've seen it, so many of my friends had great experiences, it's a beautiful thing, and it's such, to me, you know, doing something that's natural, and not having to be slave to something that, you know, costs you money, or you have to run out to the store and get, gosh, more power to you.
STEVE: Absolutely.
SUZIE: But all the bonding benefits in the world aren't going to help if, if the feeding experience is something painful or negative.

Subtle. This is what we want new mothers or moms-to-be to know about breastfeeding? That 2 out of 3 moms won't be able to breastfeed because not only might your baby never be able to breastfeed, but he'll probably be allergic to your milk and be miserable anyway. Isn't it something that both of these moms had babies who needed to be on the twice-as-expensive hypoallergenic formula? And how about Lauren who, when she calls her pediatrician for breastfeeding advice, is told to switch to formula. Did anyone explain to her that evening fussiness is totally normal, as is clusterfeeding. Was she trying to schedule the baby's feeds? Did she meet with a lactation consultant? Talk about getting "booby trapped" by a health care professional!

If you think that these messages aren't damaging, think again. Bella, the mom who is enjoying the beautiful breastfeeding relationship with her 5-month-old daughter, sat looking somber during this discussion but didn't say anything. You may be thinking that as a breastfeeding mom she was probably wise to stay quiet because anything she would've said would have been misconstrued as being judgmental. But look at how quickly she internalized the message from these two women. The next time we hear from Bella she says:

BELLA: One of the things that I learned from Suzie and Lauren is that there are many choices to be made. Regardless of which choice you decide is best for you, it's OK, because ultimately, that's what's in the best interests of you and your child. At the end of the day, it may work for me now, but who knows? Down the road, it may change. I may not be able to breast feed, and I will always look back to these experiences that these women had, with their children, and learn from that. And know that, no matter what happens, it's OK, because that's just how Mother Nature works.

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