Dear Gisele, Have a Sandwich and Shut Up

Posted by: , August 29, 2010 in 10:35 am


gisele Dear Gisele, Have a Sandwich and Shut UpOkay, maybe I need to clarify.  Gisele Bundchen, the world’s highest-paid supermodel, recently said on the record that there should be a world-wide law forcing all women to breastfeed for the first six months of Baby’s life.  “Some people here (in the U.S.),” said the Brazilian supermodel, “think they don’t have to breastfeed, and I think, ‘Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?'”
”I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.”

Gisele, who is also known as Mrs. Tom Brady Football Star Wife, also noted, “I think breastfeeding really helped (me keep my figure).”

Which is particularly awesome, since Gisele was back to modelling swimwear only six weeks after her natural home birth.  Neat.

I’m not sure which law school Gisele went to (Barbizon School of Law?), and I’m not sure who exactly she thinks would enforce such a law.  Perhaps some special branch of the World Health Organization could be created.  Or maybe each country would have its own Men In Black-esque agency, armed with cotton breast pads and Lansinoh.

mib Dear Gisele, Have a Sandwich and Shut Up

Here’s the thing: I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that if you’re the world’s highest-paid supermodel, your employers are going to be pretty flexible about giving you time to pump.  Also, you can probably bring a nanny with you to hold the baby while you work, making pumping completely unnecessary, since you can just nurse the baby on the job.  Added bonus: You’re already half-undressed at work, making access even simpler.

This is will not come as a shock to my readers, but I think it will be breaking news to Gisele: the rest of us don’t live in that world.   Pumping at work has been a practical option only to my professional friends.  If you’re a lawyer with our own office door that shuts and locks, it’s a little easier to pump than if you’re a small-company secretary who has to pump in a bathroom stall.
Even for stay-at-home moms, breastfeeding can present many, many challenges.  My twins were born by emergency c-section at 35 weeks.  Because I was on an IV, I was not even allowed to enter the NICU and see my babies for the first 24 hours. I was brought Polaroid photos of them to look at while I tried to pump, weeping uncontrollably, two floors above them.  At 23 hours and 59 minutes, I was waiting at the NICU door, my catheter bag tucked into my wheelchair.
The girls were tiny and had very weak sucks.  The NICU had its very own corps of Nipple Nazis Lactation Consultants, who constantly pressured me frequently reminded me to pump to get my milk supply up.  I was spending all day in the NICU, and the Absent-Minded Professor came after work.  One evening, we were sitting there, snuggling our daughters, surrounded by wires and beeping monitors and nurses and fragile babies.  It was as private a moment as we could have.  And then the LC came up and suggested I pump.
“I just pumped 45 minutes ago,” I said.  Probably I whined it, actually.
“If you pump again, it’ll help your milk supply,” she said.
I know she meant well and wanted to help me.  I wanted to breastfeed, and breastfeeding preemie twins is a challenge.  But I needed her to back off my little family moment.
“Can I please just have this moment alone with my family?” I pleaded.  She slunk off.  The last thing a NICU mom needs is to be made to feel guilty.

gisele1 Dear Gisele, Have a Sandwich and Shut UpOnce the babies came home, I continued to try to nurse.  I would nurse them each for 40 minutes, after which they would still need a bottle because nursing was so much work for them.  Then I would pump.  Then I would repeat.  Every. Two. Hours.  For two babies.

I made it to their due date, and I’m pretty proud of that.  After that, I just couldn’t do it any more.  I had one of those super industrial-strength hospital pumps that made me feel like some sort of mad scientist’s lab cow experiment.  I had grown to hate the pump with an intensity not usually appropriate for inanimate objects.  I was exhausted.  We switched to all-formula, and muddled on.

With the Peanut Butter Kid, I had an entirely different experience.  She was born full-term, VBAC, and was a solid 9 lbs., 7 oz.  Upon being born, she lifted her head up, looked around, and latched on like she had been starving for the last nine months.  She continued to nurse with no problems until she was 18 months old.  I weaned her upon realizing that I was almost into my second trimester of another pregnancy.  There’s just only so much life I can sustain at a time.

Little Dude was another emergency c-section, and he was three weeks early, but he was still a hefty 8 lbs., 9 oz.  In the recovery room, my husband held the baby to me so I could nurse.  He was a happy nurser to 10 months, when I had to stop breastfeeding because he had so many allergies.  He was test-positive allergic to literally everything we tested for.  Our pediatric allergist gently told me that I really needed to stop breastfeeding and put Little Dude on an elemental formula.  I wept, but I did it, because that’s what was best for him.

I did not bond any less with my twins than I did with my other two. They are all healthy, non-obese, and score well on standardized tests.  My personal stance is this: You’re feeding your child?  Great job!  Keep up the good work!

If you’re a believer in breastfeeding, good for you.  In many, but not all cases, breastfeeding is great for mom and baby.  It’s certainly cheaper than formula, and generally I found it to be way more convenient than bottle-feeding.  But please don’t presume to tell other women what to do with their babies or their breasts.  Gisele’s statement was so batty, La Leche Leauge came out against her statement.

LLL Dear Gisele, Have a Sandwich and Shut Up

If you want to encourage breastfeeding, especially if you’re an international star married to one of the nation’s top quarterbacks, you need to ask yourself how you can support women in all their choices, not just your choice.  Gisele would better serve her cause by lobbying for more employers to provide pumping facilities.  Or maybe by using some of that swimsuit modelling money to donate high-quality breast pumps to low-income women.  (WIC provides formula to low-income mothers, but often the only pumps available are those suction hand-pumps.)  If you’re working a minimum-wage job, barely making ends meet to cover childcare, pumping with a hand-pump doesn’t seem like so much of a practical choice.

Believe in your choice?  Awesome.  Work to make it a legitimate choice

for all.


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2 Feedbacks to Dear Gisele, Have a Sandwich and Shut Up

  1. ourgazebo on August 18th, 2011 2:13 pm

    This. Is. The. Best. Article. On. Breastfeeding. Ever.

  2. bywordofmouth on August 16th, 2010 12:12 pm

    Just as I was thinking why does one Mom have to be right … there was your quote! Great article from an awesome blog! I had to quit breastfeeding myself when we were doing our citizenship paperwork. The Dr gave me a load of so called needed shots, looked down at my two month old in her car carrier and asked, ‘Are you feeding her?’ and on my reply of ‘Yes’ … said, ‘Oh you can’t do that anymore’ and walked out – NICE!

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