Wednesday

angelina jolie and (not) breastfeeding

Any time someone speaks out publicly and often on a particular problem or issue, it’s fair to then ask of that person what she herself is doing to address the issue in question.

Angelina Jolie is a UN GOODWILL AMBASSADOR. She travels the world, speaking out on the plight of THIRD WORLD CHILDREN and the lack of EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES and health care for the world’s women and girls. She clearly does great, important work, and seems comfortable as the most visible spokesperson on the entire planet for these critical issues.

That’s why I am really disappointed to realize that Jolie’s own infant daughter likely isn’t breastfed. I know I heard Jolie briefly mention breastfeeding the baby in the first month or two after she was born, but since then, I’ve heard her mention in interviews that Brad Pitt gives the baby bottles. And this week, Jolie is traveling in Darfur, while the baby is being BOTTLE-FED back in New Orleans by grandmother and Dad.

Maybe it’s pumped breastmilk in that bottle, but I sort of doubt it, and in any event, by having the baby take a bottle in public, instead of feeding her at the breast, Jolie is missing an opportunity to educate millions of women all over the world about the reasons why breastfeeding saves lives, and how bottle-feeding – particularly in developing countries – puts babies at risk.

The United Nations estimates that more than one million children die every year BECAUSE THEY ARE NOT BREASTFED. Imagine the boost in breastfeeding rates if Angelina Jolie spoke out publicly here and abroad about the WAYS THAT FORMULA FEEDING MAKES BABIES SICK and how infant formula companies ABUSE WOMEN AND CHILDREN in the developing world.

It’s a missed opportunity, but not too late for her to speak out. I would really like to see Angelina Jolie become as passionate about this CRITICAL INFANT-MATERNAL HEALTH ISSUE as she is about other important matters affecting the world’s children.

40 comments:

Anonymous said...

Excellent points.

Anonymous said...

On the other hand, I am not sure it is any of your business. She doesn't have to reveal to the world if she has problems breastfeeding for instance...

Anonymous said...

and yet there are millions who are formula fed who survive and grow up strong healthy, intelligent and no more sickly than anyone elses child.. Sorry you are absolutely wrong here, it's none of your business & you don't know the personal stuff behind her decision.

Anonymous said...

Ah, but when someone (Jolie) goes all over the world telling governments and families what they should do - must do - to raise healthier children, her own public choices become fair fodder for discussion.

Katie makes good points.

And anyone who says "millions grow up strong and healthy on formula" hasn't read the research. Lots of people smoke and live to be 90 too but that doesn't make promotion of smoking a good public health policy.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree with the previous anon. poster. A Jolie, because she puts herself in that position, does have a say on breastfeeding and her own practice of it.
Then again, and maybe that's because in Europe people tend to be more cynical about the influence and real importance of popstars, I can't genuinely say I'm surprised Jolie hasn't breastfed in public or addressed the issue. It's not glamouroues and, if you're Jolie, even an inch of your exposed breast must demand loads of $$$$.

Marta from Lisbon.

Jenny said...

I think Katie made clear she just thought it was a missed opportunity, which it is. Esp given AJ's apparently strong desire to help those in underdeveloped nations. I suspect Angelina's primary problem breastfeeding would be that she doesn't take in enough calories for herself and a baby.

Debra said...

No one knows for sure what AJ is doing re: breastfeeding.

Anonymous said...

This may sound very selfish,but I would never choose to take my baby to a disease-ridden ,war-torn third world country just so I could breastfeed.An opportunity may be missed,but at what personal cost?She does more than her fair share of humanitarianism.How much can one person do?Missed opportunity?Yes.Would I lose sleep over it?No.Is it fair to expect so much?I don't think so.

katie allison granju said...

UNICEF says:

"Malnutrition is called an “invisible” emergency because, much like an iceberg, its deadly menace lies mostly hidden from view. Each year malnutrition is implicated in about 40% of the 11 million deaths of children under five in developing countries, and lack of immediate and exclusive breastfeeding in infancy causes an additional 1.5 million of these deaths. However, contrary to popular belief, only a fraction of these children die from starvation in catastrophic circumstances such as famine or war. In the majority of cases, the lethal hand of malnutrition and poor breastfeeding practices is far more subtle: they cripple children’s growth, render them susceptible to disease, dull their intellects, diminish their motivation, and sap their productivity."

Anonymous said...

While I can see your point concerning the health of third world children, I disagree that she must make the same choice for her own children. These people in the third-world conditions she visits have no clue whether or not she breastfeeds, so the point is moot.

I am a happy & healthy product of 1970's formula as is my husband. I research EVERYTHING concerning my child and I chose formula for my son who was born in 2000. That being said, I do understand how this would help millions of children in poor areas, and it should be promoted accordingly.

However, I and many of my mommy friends have experienced MUCH disdain from sanctimonious breastfeeding advocates that goes way over the line. I'm certainly not lumping you into that group, but just know that we who have chosen formula are a little sensitive after being beat up so often. I believe it is a mother & father's right to choose the best for their children.

Anonymous said...

May I respectfully ask how you could "research everything" and CHOOSE formula over breastfeeding for your son born in 2000? Why would you choose something known to endanger health over something known to enhance and promote health?

Anonymous said...

Considering all of the Taco Bell you said you've eaten during your pregnancy, I'd be concerned that your baby is going to be born with heartburn and an LDL cholesterol score of 300.

Anonymous said...

Why is it difficult for people to come to terms with the fact that not everyone is cut out to be a breastfeeding mama?Thank goodness we all have choices.

Anonymous said...

Is it true that American women are only legally entitled to three months unpaid maternity leave from work? Perhaps American women would be more inclined to initiate and maintain breastfeeding if they knew their jobs would be secure for at least the minimum time recommended for breastfeeding - 6 months? Maybe Americans should start lobbying their politicians for better parental leave rights and get more in line with the rest of the developed world?
In New Zealand we get 14 weeks paid leave and are eligible for a total of 52 weeks leave from work. Some countries in Europe provide more.
Amanda

Anonymous said...

Thank you, thank you, thank you for continuing to write about breastfeeding issues. I delivered my (first) baby by c-section and a few days later my milk was still not in and some of the nurses were starting to talk about my possibly needing to "supplement. My friend who is a lactation consultant in another state suggested I go ahead and start pumping my colostrum (which pumping itself would encourage my milk to come in) so in case I started getting pressure from hospital staff to supplement. I asked the nurses about this and they told me the hospital (which professes to encourage breastfeeding as the number one choice) had no pumps that would be available to me (only to NICU moms) and the only way I could do this was to have my husband go run out and buy a pump at Walmart! Luckily, my milk was in the next morning. The thing I find ironic is that I casually mentioned to a night nurse that my new baby seemed "stuffed up" and the next morning I was promptly given a humidifier (prescribed by pediatrician) which I could bring home! Plus, even though in all the classes I took at the hospital and throughout my delivery I spoke of wanting to solely breastfeed I still went home from the hospital (and classes, including a breastfeeding one) with 9 (NINE!) 12 oz. containers of formula. This IS a major political issue both in the US and abroad.

Anonymous said...

In response to the follow up comment:

"May I respectfully ask how you could "research everything" and CHOOSE formula over breastfeeding for your son born in 2000? Why would you choose something known to endanger health over something known to enhance and promote health?"

Yes, you may. My husband and I came to our own conclusion that it is not, in fact, "known to endanger health". While breastmilk passes along antibodies from the mother, today's commercial formulas are not "harmful".

What's important is that my son is healthy, intelligent and thriving. That's enough for me. I'm not anti-breastfeeding, I just think that it's a little over-reaching for breastfeeding advocates to make others feel guilty for the decisions they've made, providing the child is thriving.

Anonymous said...

Yep,sometimes people can be sanctimonious without even realizing it.

clara said...

I can see why a mother wouldn't choose breastfeeding, but I don't think there's a single baby who wouldn't choose it. It always tastes different, its not a product of a for-profit industry--so its not made with the cheapest possible ingredients, its NEVER been recalled, there's no wait for it & it comes out of a great container complete with arms.

You can absolutely formula feed with love and you can be healthy & formula fed. People who formula feed should also never be made to feel bad or looked down on, there are many reasons to bottle feed. But I think the baby wants breastmilk.

Anonymous said...

really??? formula is a lot easier to get out of the bottle and if the babies were always "choosing" breastmilk you would think they would pass up the easier to eat from bottle to wait for the breastmilk even if they have to suck harder. Babies aren't THAT dumb!!!! Besides everyone knows little kids eat stuff that adults find absolutely repulsive. So don't project onto your baby when you don't really know.

Anonymous said...

"So don't project onto your baby when you don't really know."

Its not projecting, its common sense. Less gas, close to mom, perfect amounts, no overfeeding. Have you ever tasted formula? Its not too tasty.

MomnPop said...

I was not breastfeed, and the one time I tried to ask my mom about it, we got into an argument (mothers & daughters...what's new?) I don't have kids, so have never tried doing it on the giving end. Her reason for not breastfeeding me was that I refused to do it. She says she tried and tried, and I just refused. (When she said it was my fault, that's when the argument started).

But my question for all of you is, is that really a valid excuse? Are there just some babies who won't do it, and have to be fed formula?

Ilaria said...

I agree with you on all points. She is totally missing an opportunity to educate the world, especially the developing world, about breastfeeding.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing that since she HAD to formula feed her first two children, she probably wasn't very motivated to treat Shiloh any differently. I doubt she views breastfeeding as a humanitarian issue, but it would have been amazing to see her out there as a model for working moms who commit to prolonged breastfeeding.

As far as formula's safety goes, there are MAJOR problems in developing nations with contaminated water supplies, etc. making formula feeding truly deadly for many infants. And in the U.S., I think women need to stop fixating on what other moms are doing and start pointing the finger at the giant corporations who are aggressively manufacturing a "need" for their expensive formula as well as a false sense that formula is as good as breastmilk (which it simply isn't, from protection against allergies, obesity, SIDS and much more), with the eager help of medical staff that set women up to fail. I told my midwives I was going to breastfeed, had very successfully started breastfeeding in the hospital, and was STILL sent home with two huge "gift" bags of formula. Despite all of my preparation and commitment to breastfeeding, I held on to that formula for 6 months "just in case". Happily, I never used a drop of it, and am still nursing at 17 months and will continue until one of us decides it's time, very possibly past 24 months. I LOVE breastfeeding, it's been a complete joy and a source of pride, and I hope that one day breastfeeding for a year or more will be the choice of the overwhelming majority of moms.

Anonymous said...

Well consider this. My guess is that she has breast implants. She may not be capable of breast feeding. I guess she could hire a wet nurse, but I don't think she owes the world an explanation.

Anonymous said...

as for the taste: if babies REALLY prefered breastmilk don't you think they would turn up their nose at bottles full of formula? I have heard of a few who have done just that and also a few who would only drink formula out of the bottle and not breastmilk. Maybe its nasty to us because we put adult tastes on it but maybe not to a baby. They probably prefer what they are used to.
As for the babies that refuse to breastfeed: yup, they are out there. Maybe not a lot but they exist. And these are some of the most painful stories you can hear of people persecuted by breastfeeding zealots. Because the zealots insist that NO baby would refuse to breastfeed and if you just keep at it long enough they will. There is a gap between what is theoretically possible and what is actually possible. As in anything. In times past the parents would probably have had no choice but to watch the baby wither away or feed it some makeshift formula that is contaminated. There are also babies allergic to their mothers milk (or more precisely a protein found in ANY milk) who have to be fed hypoallergenic formula. Its one of those "freakish" medical situations (sort of like women who turn out to be allergic to their husbands sperm or something) but it DOES happen.

Leslie said...

To momnpop: There are babies who have difficulty latching on to the breast for one reason or another, but they can be helped to learn to nurse by a lactation consultant. What usually happens, though, is that a desperate mother gives a many bottles instead, baby learns that this is easier than the frustrating experience at the breast, and baby and mother give up on the breast.

MomnPop said...

Thanks for the answers! It must be a very frustrating experience to not be able to breastfeed. I've heard about mothers having problems and taking up to a week to get it down. I'm sure there's a lot of stress involved about whether the baby will starve.

Anonymous said...

and what of the people who have consulted not one but perhaps SEVERAL lactation consultants all to no avail? It DOES happen. Then they get to spend the next year or so with lactivists telling them that they should have tried this or that and didn't try hard enough and "if they'd REALLY wanted to and REALLY cared about their baby enough"...blah blah blah. Its the people who HAVE left no stone unturned that still for some inexplicable reason their babies just don't get it and then have to deal with months(years?) of people second guessing their judgement that really fries me.

clara said...

This is still a formula feeding culture, 60% will leave the hospital nursing, but a bunch of those women are supplementing. By 6 months only a small percentage are exclusively breastfeeding. Because of this, there just isn't the support when problems pop up and we don't have generations of women around us, helping us after birth--like women do in breastfeeding cultures. Our pediatricians give us mixed messages, many hospital nurses are beyond clueless and many LC's just recommend pumping no matter what the problem.

Its no wonder we run into problems breastfeeding, but still, nobody should be made to feel like crap b/c they weren't able to breastfeed. I can't give birth without surgery, the last thing I would do is pick on a mom who doesn't nurse. The facts remain though, vag birth is best and safest and so is breastmilk.

Anonymous said...

well you know keeping your kid encased in a bubble and attached to you on a leash is ALSO a lot safer. However we do live in a real world, a fallen world I would so boldly say (theologically speaking). That means that sometimes things are not perfect. But they are OK. I sort of detect an attitude that making a few mothers here and there feel like shit is worth it if it leads to increased breastfeeding numbers all around. All well and good unless you are one of those mothers. Sort of sacrifice a few folks for the greater good sort of thing, ya know?

Anonymous said...

Nobody can make you feel like shit unless you let them. We all have things we wish went differently. Its not about us, its about the children.

Anonymous said...

Yes,anon,I agree with not letting people make you feel like crap.However,that doesn't stop the initial sting of judgemental words.I seriously can't stand an attitude of martyrdom that some of the well -meaning "over the edge" mothers have.

Anonymous said...

thank you previous anon. A lot of very mentally abusive people who are psychologically savvy will follow up their emotional cruelty with "well it only bothers you because you let it". That's bullshit. Because of what I have endured in life I have a very very thick skin and what hasn't killed me has only made me stronger. BUT that doesn't make all this manipulation bullshit OK. In part because of what I have gone thru in life I can smell BS a mile away. Its not just breastfeeders but a whole lot of people out there feel that the end justifies the means and if whatever they do helps bring about their cause that they are passionate about, then so what about what is left strewn in the path.

Anonymous said...

But... if not breastfeeding makes you feel bad, then why not put that energy into helping making breastfeeding easier for other mothers and babies. And if you don't think there's any difference at all in breast & bottle, then why feel any guilt at all? If you tried, it didn't work, then why stress?

Anonymous said...

What I don't get is how you can feel guilty or whatever when actually bottlefeeding is the norm for women in America. Everyone my husband works with (and he works in a big g'uvment office) thinks I'm crazy for breastfeeding. I also have been amazed at the animosity of the posts towards women who are writing to promote breastfeeding. It is like being mad at someone for buying a Prius or something. Weird.

Anonymous said...

angelina has passed up a very important oppurtunity to promote breastfeeding. Babies have a human right to be breastfed. Not only from a nutritional perspective, but also because they have a right to experience the type of intuitive relationship that only breastfeeding offers.we need to look at traditional cultures for an example on this.breastfeeding helps a new person learn to intuitively connect with others:it is how we learn to be human. mothers have a right to this relationship to, whether they know or believe it or not.May nature rule. Midwife and breastfeeding mum.

Anonymous said...

simply stated I once saw a quote that read something like this
"although breastfeeding may not be the right choice for every parent, it is the right choice for every baby"

As a Birth Doula and lactation counselor I always reccomend breast to bottle. During my pregnancy everyone put in their two cents about my feeding choice and kept telling me not to be dissapointed if the breastfeeding didn't work out etc. To me there was no other option, formula was and will never be an option. I would use donor milk before I would let formula come near the lips of the most beautiful form of life created. As a new mother I myself have been exclusively breastfeeding for 6 months and plan on continuing for at least 18 months, that said it is hard and is a commitment. One that I think a lot of American women are quite frankly to selfish to make. everying is about them, my sleep,my time, my life my freedom, my looks etc. oh and the one that kills me is happy mom happy baby. I've seen many "happy moms go days without seeing their infants while I there former nannies held their so called "happy" screaming babies who just wanted there mommies. Wake up woman we have so much power on our chests. Use it!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

I totally agree. When I read that Ms. Jolie had travelled abroad to adopt another child, I thought how sad it was that she was leaving her infant daughter behind (and that she was clearly not nursing). It's tragic, actually, that a woman with a huge voice and global stage chooses not to nurse. It's ironic that she advocates for women and children's health. Perhaps she is uninformed that breastfeeding is a huge global health issue. How powerful would it have been to see photos of her boarding a plane, or travelling back from her most recent adoption, with a sweet nursling in tow?

Anonymous said...

amen sista for writing this. I agree and I also think when I read from the parent who said they have right to do whatever they want and give formula: Babies are the ones who have the right to be breastfed. Babies trump narcissistic parents.

Anonymous said...

Yep, that's a good word for it (narcissistic). I really don't want to bash formula users, esp. women who work fulltime, etc.. But women with resources? Damn! Some say, "I tried to b.f and I couldn't.." and when probed, you sometimes find out that 1) it hurt(!) and 2) that no one else could feed the baby (right?). I am sad and wish I could devote more time to being a lactivist.