A few months ago when Children’s Tylenol, Motrin and Claritin were recalled, I ended up tossing almost everything in my medicine cabinet. It pissed me off to throw money away like that, but what bothered me more was knowing that I’d just finished up an entire bottle of Motrin and an entire bottle of Zyrtec that had been part of the recall. What had I given my allergy-ridden little dude who was just getting over a virus with a high fever?
What the hell had I given my child?
You might wonder why a four-year-old needs to take Zyrtec every day, or why we used Motrin instead of something homeopathic. Or you might nod knowing you’ve had to do the exact same thing. Everything is ripe for controversy when it comes to parenting.
But chances are, you wouldn’t joke about the recall, right? You wouldn’t joke about it because children across the nation were exposed to unknown quality issues in common medications. You wouldn’t joke about it because that would be shitty.
So what I’m wondering today, as the Similac recalls echo across Twitter and Facebook and the news and the radio, is why people think this is an appropriate time to snicker about how breastmilk doesn’t get recalled.
I’m all for promoting the benefits of breastfeeding. My boys never had formula. I breastfed them both and worked my ass off to do so. I pumped in closets, I pumped in my car, I suffered from clogged ducts and sleepless nights. I don’t think breastfeeding is easy, particularly in the beginning, and that’s why I feel passionate about giving mothers every resource they need to make an informed decision and make it work for them if that’s what they choose.
We know. Breastmilk doesn’t get recalled. But if you’re like me, you might end up on a supremely annoying elimination diet for four months because your breastmilk gives your child a severe allergic rash. Or you might be like my good friend who had to stay off dairy for the entire duration of breastfeeding her daughter. It just isn’t that simple.
Even though I know that “breast is best,” I sometimes cringe when I hear that because I know how much that seemingly-harmless and obvious phrase might hurt someone. I know that tensions run high as soon as breastfeeding is mentioned.
(And yet, somehow, Katy Perry can spew whipped cream from her breasts while miming invisible double-fisted blowjobs on television and we shrug because she’s perky and edgy and goddamn, that song is catchy.)
We know, scientifically, that breastmilk is the best food for babies. That’s just the way it goes, biologically. We also know that formula works when it has to. Just like Motrin works when your child is spiking a 103.5 degree fever. Just like Zyrtec works when your child can’t breathe through his nose every morning because he’s allergic to the shade trees in his back yard.
Life happens. Formula happens. You know who formula happens to, in particular? Women who can’t breastfeed. Fathers caring for babies on their own. Adoptive parents caring for babies.
You know what those parents don’t want to read? Shitty, spiteful comments about how “well if you were breastfeeding, you wouldn’t have to worry about feeding your kid beetle parts.”
I don’t think this is the time or place to discuss the benefits of breastfeeding. (I believe that breastfeeding activism should be gentle and compassionate.) I don’t agree with using this issue as a “see, I told you so!” Smug comments and jokes are rude and absolutely disrespectful to the people who are scrambling to find out if they purchased the tainted Similac and if they’ve already fed a bunch of it to their child. These parents are worried and frustrated.
Should anyone feel superior because they weren’t faced with that worry?
Quality control is and will continue to be an issue that affects all of us. It affects us whether we’re parents or not. It’s Similac now, but tomorrow it might be tomatoes again, or spinach that makes your intestines explode, or who knows what.
A bunch of baby formula had bug parts in it.
And I don’t think that’s funny.