• Sweden's news in English

'A new law is not the right formula'

Christine Demsteader · 7 Nov 2012, 12:56

Published: 07 Nov 2012 12:56 GMT+01:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

For nine months, I was prodded and poked. As my belly grew bigger my blood pressure got higher. The midwife regularly quizzed me on my eating, sleeping and toilet habits. She compassionately handled my raging hormones and shared tips on relieving my swollen ankles.

As giving birth became ever more imminent, we discussed the finer points of pain relief alongside the joys of parenthood. Physically and emotionally, I was prepared - and I have nothing but praise for the medical professionals in Sweden who helped me bear my firstborn during a pretty hassle-free labour.

Over the course of those nine hours I was once again prodded and poked. Soon after my son’s primal scream into Sweden he was - immediately and without consultation - plonked on my breast to feed. It worked and there he stayed put for the best part of the three-day stay on the labour ward.

But he was a big lad - over four kilos and a born feeder. My balloon-sized breasts couldn’t keep up with his demands. And that kept us awake all night. Exhausted and exasperated, I asked for help and was given a breast pumping gadget and some random instructions.

But then it happened. In the early hours, with a crying baby in my arms I found a stash of formula and a microwave, seemingly hidden from view and certainly not talked about.

At no point during my pregnancy was I asked how I wanted to feed my baby. The pros and cons of breast versus formula were not up for discussion. I was advised to attend a breastfeeding demo at the health centre where a stern Swedish nurse informed me that nipple cream was of no use.

Like most other mothers-to-be, I had of course read up on the subject and referred to my largely loaned library of baby bibles. My decision was just to go with the flow, provided there was any, and feed as I saw fit.

If you can breast-feed, Sweden offers a haven of privacy, even in public. No one bats an eye when a mother whips out a boob to feed their baby, be it on a park bench, a bus or, my personal favourite, down the frozen vegetable aisle in the supermarket.

Yet Sweden makes a failure of mothers that can’t. Formula is as poo-poo’ed as a freshly filled nappy. Midwives will encourage the try-again method until mums shed more tears than their child and the only thing the doctor can prescribe to cure mastitis is a dose of antidepressants.

Sweden is, however, a beacon for the World Health Organisation’s recommendation on breastfeeding. The percentage of babies that are breast-fed for the first six months hits the high nineties here.

But providing those bodily-brewed nutrients comes at an unhealthy cost to the many mothers in Sweden who simply can’t produce.

Regardless, they often succumb to the pressure of the medical profession’s one-way philosophy that breast is best. Choice is rarely even a factor.

Story continues below…

Sweden hasn’t found the right formula when it comes to finding a middle ground on breastfeeding.

What doesn’t add up is news of a prospective law to ensure milk of the powdered variety is used in the “right way.”

Instead of adding a legislative proposal as such it would perhaps be better to start taking away the guilt felt by mothers in Sweden that fail to breast-feed.

Christine Demsteader (christine.demsteader@thelocal.com)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

17:51 November 7, 2012 by skogsbo
Well the breast seems to have worked for the ladt how many tens of 1000s of years!
19:48 November 7, 2012 by caitnor
Thank you for writing this. I totally agree. Formula is already stigmatized so much. A fear of restricting it further is that mom's will turn to the widely accepted: välling too early. As to the comment that the breast seems to have worked for the last 1000s of years, yes as a species that is true, but that is little consolation to moms and dads who lost babies due to milk not coming in and other complications of breastfeeding. Formula has saved many lives and is a fantastic alternative to breastfeeding in that it is the only other thing that babies consistently thrive on (as opposed to cow's milk, goat's milk, etc..). If you can't or don't want to breastfeed exclusively formula should be readily available. The one thing that is nice about this proposed law is to make the instructions more clear about proper handling. This might save babies from getting sick when it is not used properly. Hopefully it will not lead to moms making themselves sick or starving their children because they feel that formula is bad.
21:10 November 8, 2012 by dizzymoe33

There are many women who are not able to breastfeed so they have no choice but to use formula instead.

It should be the mothers choice and no one else's business whether she breast feeds or uses formula. Yes the baby receives the anti-bodies from the mother's milk but a woman shouldn't be ridiculed or prosecuted because she is not breast feeding.

This whole thing is so stupid there are more important things to worry about than breastfeeding or not!!
13:11 November 9, 2012 by terriergirl
Formula has its place. Breastfeeding should not be used as a stick to beat new mothers with but it often is. In the UK, hospitals try to boost breastfeeding rates in order to win the UNICEF Baby Friendly award. Often this is at the mothers' expense as little attention is paid when babies fail to breastfeed in, my experience.

I was vilified when my son failed to latch on and didn't breastfeed. The hospital then the National Childbirth Trust provided bullying rather than help (also a lot of ill-informed nonsense about my son becoming asthmatic if he was given a bottle - seriously!). I was made to feel a bad mother. However, my son thrives.

However, a year later I successfully breastfed twins. Not such a bad mother! Twins also thrive.

I think it worked better that time mainly because I was determined to do things my own way.

Mothers should make their own informed choices. Breastfeeding is not the be all and end all of parenting.
19:15 November 9, 2012 by Kitwisdom
The vast majority of women (around 98% I've read in studies) can breastfeed. There are very specific reasons why a mother can't. Check out what kellymom has to say: http://kellymom.com/bf/got-milk/supply-worries/insufficient-glandular-tissue/

That said, when I first became a mom, I wish someone had told me how HARD breastfeeding is. I am glad that I had someone to tell me that it gets better. And it did. But at first, constant eating, constant crying, painful nipples, even clogged ducts are normal. Sleep was few and far between and I remember feeling desperate, but am so glad now I kept with it.

That said, I think this law is pretty silly. What is more important is education and support. In the United States, women frequently go to lactation consultants to help in the early days. The most help I had was a midwife who literally grabbed my boob and shoved it in my baby's face. I do know that La Leche League is starting meetings here soon, which I think will be a godsend to a lot of new mothers out there.
02:18 November 10, 2012 by BackpackerKev
While breastfeeding is good for the baby, my problem is that Sweden is under the impression that laws are there to enforce opinions onto people and secondary for the safety or greater good of the country and its citizens.

What little freedom we have is slowly being taken away by limiting our choice of options and conforming to regulations that say we must do it a certain way.
16:56 November 10, 2012 by oledeluca
Without getting strident on the breast-feeding issue, it's important to realize that often times infants need to be fed when disaster strikes. At those time formula and food are not readily available. These can be due to storms, political action, tectonic activity, etc..

At those times, it is helpful to realize that mothers can feed them in times of need and reduce their stress often long enough so that they can survive. Adults and children can usually go up to 30 days or slightly more with only water. Infants about 4 days. At those times, the mothers do not need to be helpless as their infant slowly starves.
21:29 November 10, 2012 by skogsbo
isn't parenting about doing the very best for the child, not the line of least resistance.

Besides you can feed anywhere, any time, plus no cleaning, shopping or sterilising required, less clutter to carry around too.
17:13 November 11, 2012 by Grokh
breast is best only if the mother isnt a smoker, drinker etc how can they say its best when they dont know what the mother puts in their body that directly goes to the baby?
22:37 November 11, 2012 by smbd
Breastmilk Stem Cells: It's not just food. By Hilary Butler

Posted: 15 Oct 2012 06:59 AM PDT

Interestingly, in my 30 years of working with parents of children who have been damaged after vaccines, by far the worst damage I've ever seen, was in formula-fed children. It's [...]
04:06 November 13, 2012 by Ted Greiner
While I don't condone any unkindness to individual women, I strongly applaud the Swedish commitment to breastfeeding. The UK to a larger extent lacks this, and this is likely the main basis for Demsteader's discomfort.

The best sign of a breastfeeding friendly culture, clearly seen to anyone who has spent time in Africa, is that breastfeeding is ignored. Breastfeeding is normal and requires intervention/assistance only when something goes wrong--just like for all other normal bodily functions.

Demsteader also ignores the fact that Sweden provides the support women need to succeed in breastfeeding (for example a long period of paid maternity leave). Without this, pressure to breastfeed (which I believe in Sweden is more perceived than real) is of course nonconstructive and risks blaming the victim.

Demsteader is simply incorrect to say that many women cannot breastfeed. Indeed, more women deliver babies addicted to alcohol or other drugs than are "unable" to breast feed. To avoid making those women feel guilty, should public health officials avoid saying anything about their addictions?

Like having an addicted mother, the simple truth is that formula feeding puts babies at increased risk of disease and death. Two recent estimates for the USA in pediatric journals put it at 700-900 babies per year who die from something that would not have killed them if they'd been breastfeeding. Either figure makes formula feeding the 7th highest cause of infant mortality there. It's so frustrating that most modern societies base most relevant policies on a false assumption that formula feeding is "safe" or even more or less equivalent to breastfeeding.

Avoiding making women who don't breast feed feel guilty is simply not among the tasks of public health professionals or policy makers. All of us parents, each time we make choices that are bad for our children, have to cope with our own guilt. Do we really want governments that take on THAT role? Just for the sake of the
15:55 November 18, 2012 by wakeupdummy
love it, parenting is 'what's doing what is right for the child' when you are a woman, when you are a man, it is about being part of a unit called a family where everyone's rights and opinions are valued and taken into consideration. A woman's breasts are her business - she alone decides.
Today's headlines
Presented by Invest Stockholm
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm

You might think it’s hard to make friends in a new city. But if at first you don’t succeed – try something else!

Injured Swedish photographer protected by 'guardian angel'
Swedish photographer Paul Hansen on another occasion. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT

Photographer Paul Hansen thanked his lucky stars for surviving sniper fire while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

How Sweden is trying to smooth relations with Saudis
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven meeting Saudi Arabia's Trade Minister Majid bin Abdullah Al Qasabi. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has visited Saudi Arabia a year and a half after relations turned frosty in a major diplomatic row.

My Swedish Career
'Swedish people love it, but they find it quite odd'
Scottish entrepreneur William Macdonald. Photo: Michael Campanella

Meet the web developer and entrepreneur using traditional Scottish ceilidh dancing to break the ice with Swedes.

Swedish photographer shot near Mosul
Hansen was being operated on in the Iraqi city of Erbil on Sunday. Photo: Nora Lorek/ TT

Paul Hansen, a photographer working for Swedish daily Dagens Nyheter, has sustained light injuries after being hit by what appears to be a sniper while covering the battle for the Isis-held city of Mosul in Iraq.

Trollhättan remembers school attack victims
'It was an attack on all of Sweden,' Education Minister Gustav Fridolin said. Photo: Thomas Johansson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday turned out for a torchlight procession in the small town of Trollhättan in southwestern Sweden to honour the victims of last year’s deadly school attack there.

Sweden wants emission- free cars in EU by 2030
Photo: Jessica Gow/ TT

Sweden's environment minister on Saturday urged the European Union to ban petrol and diesel-powered vehicles from 2030.

Hundreds protest Swedish asylum laws
Around 1,000 people protested in Stockholm. Photo: Fredrik Persson/ TT

Hundreds of people on Saturday demonstrated in Stockholm and in many other parts of the country to protest Sweden’s tough new laws on asylum-seekers.

Swedish terror suspect ‘planned airport attack’
Swedish terror suspect Osama Krayem. Photo: Facebook

Swedish national Osama Krayem, linked to the deadly attacks in Paris on November 13 and in Brussels on March 22, is now suspected of having plotted to attack also the Schiphol airport in the Netherlands.

Dylan removes Nobel-mention from website
The American musician has more or less responded to the news with silence. Photo: Per Wahlberg

American singer-song writer Bob Dylan has removed any mention of him being named one of this year’s Nobel Prize laureates on his official website.

Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
Missing rune stone turns up in Sweden
Nobel Prize 2016: Chemistry
jobs available