TIME Mothers

Why the U.S. Needs World Breastfeeding Week

breastfeeding
Getty Images

Sabrina Joy Stevens is a writer in Washington, D.C.

It’s not about affluent parents’ feelings—it’s about public health, and discrimination

Which is worse: feeling a pang of regret when a friend posts a “#brelfie,” or feeling pangs of fear that you might lose your home after being wrongfully fired for requesting pumping breaks?

Feeling like somebody might have given you a dirty look while you bought a can of formula, or worrying about the man leering at you while you feed your baby?

To hear some Mommy Warriors tell it, all of these situations are equal, thus there’s no value in campaigns to normalize breastfeeding, such as last week’s World Breastfeeding Week.

But what people on both sides of the fence seem to forget is that many moms don’t live in a wealthy bubble where our feelings are the only things at risk as we make choices for our children and families. Complaints about rampant shaming or “bressure” among affluent women ignore the structural obstacles that working class women and women of color—like myself—face if we decide we want to nurse our babies.

While affluent women have the freedom to walk away from jobs that don’t allow them to nurse or pump, as well as the power to demand individual accommodations like paid family leave and comfortable lactation rooms, working class women and women of color disproportionately work in low-paid service sector jobs where they aren’t given the same flexibility. This means that many struggling mothers are stuck either spending thousands of dollars on formula, or losing their jobs altogether.

We need breastfeeding advocacy campaigns in order to create the public understanding and political will to expand such accommodations, and to make mothers aware of the rights we already have.

In several online communities for black breastfeeding moms that I belong to, women frequently share stories of being mistreated by employers for requesting pumping breaks or clean, safe places to express and store their milk. Many have no idea that such mistreatment is illegal. Others are seeking support after partners and family members accuse them of being lewd or inappropriate for nursing their children. Lacking support at work or at home or both, many moms forfeit their breastfeeding goals despite wholeheartedly wishing to start or continue nursing.

Regrettably, mothers of all kinds face undue scrutiny and judgment no matter what we do for our kids. But the Department of Labor has found at least 71 serious instances of lactation discrimination since the Affordable Care Act took effect. Trying to turn campaigns like World Breastfeeding Week into #AllFeedingMatters completely ignores the difference between hurt feelings and discrimination.

No one should be shamed for how they feed their children, as long as those children are well fed and cared for. But letting privileged parents who already have a choice undermine attempts to offer less advantaged parents the information and advocacy they need to claim that freedom for themselves is shortsighted and unfair. Transforming earnest attempts to destigmatize and demystify women’s bodies into a conversation about privileged women’s feelings obscures the fact that breastfeeding awareness campaigns are—or should be—about promoting public health and ending widespread discrimination.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

‘Free Range Parenting’ Too Often Leads to Child Neglect Investigations, Report Finds

Danielle and Alexander Meitiv Are Being Investigated For Letting Their Children Walk Home Alone From A Playground
The Washington Post—The Washington Post/Getty Images Danielle and Alexander Meitiv are being investigated by Child Protective Services for letting their children walk home alone from a playground. (Sammy Dallal--For The Washington Post via Getty Images)

"Parents are swept into the system and labeled at fault when they have made reasonable parenting decisions"

Charging responsible parents with child neglect when they encourage their kids to be independent diverts valuable resources away from true cases of child abuse and negligence, according to a new report.

The Family Defense Center, a Chicago nonprofit that advocates for justice in the child welfare system, said allegations of “inadequate supervision” often arise when children are left unattended for a short period of time, even when the kids are not really at risk and the parents have made a calculated parenting decision to allow them to be on their own. The report, which covered high-profile battles over “free range parenting” as well as lesser-known reports of child neglect, found that allegations of “inadequate supervision” can push responsible parents into the child welfare system, endangering their custody of their children and wasting valuable state resources.

“Parents are swept into the system and labeled at fault when they have made reasonable parenting decisions,” the report says. “Child welfare system resources are currently being devoted to the investigations of neglect allegations, such as inadequate supervision, where children are not at risk. This means fewer resources to investigate and indicate the serious cases of neglect or abuse.”

The report looked at instances where parents were “charged with neglect for common, everyday parental decisions, such as allowing their children to independently walk to parks, play outside, or remain inside a car while the parent runs an errand.”

One high-profile instance they point to is the Meitiv case, in which Maryland parents were charged with child neglect for allowing their two children, aged 10 and 6, to walk home from a local park during the day. The Meitivs were ultimately cleared in June, but their case has become a touchstone in the debate over what counts as a reasonable parenting decision and what is child neglect. Danielle Meitiv lauded the Family Defense Center’s report, praising them for focusing on “cases that didn’t get attention with families who suffered more than ours.”

“The report highlights the terrible irony that the very people who are charged with protecting children end up traumatizing them and their families far too often,” she told the Washington Post.

TIME Parenting

What I Learned on My (Swedish) Paternity Leave

Hampus Jakobsson- Brisk CEO
Alfred Beckman

Hampus Jakobsson is the CEO of Brisk, which provides sales tools, and the co-founder of The Astonishing Tribe, which provided interactive user interfaces for screens and devices. He lives in Sweden.

I didn't just take care of my family—I came back with ideas for how to make my business better

There’s never a good time to go on parental leave, especially if you’re one of the founders of the company. But taking nine months off to spend time with my newborn son was one of the best things I did—for our relationship, and for my business.

Going on paternity leave was never a question. In Sweden men used about 24% of the total amount of parental leave available in 2012, and both companies that I co-founded have encouraged paternal leave. The system is built so that typically one parent goes on leave when the child is born, then their spouse does, and then when the child is about 18-months-old, they go to kindergarten. My son Arvid was born in May 2008, and I began my leave that January.

Before I went on leave, I was working 60 to 80 hours a week. I had trouble letting go of control, and I was manic about projects. But when I left to be with my son, I felt that there was nothing that could have pulled me away from him. If someone had come and said there was a crisis at the company, I would have had a hard time.

Paternity leave gave me the opportunity to meet people I would never have met otherwise. I would talk with other parents at the playground, and we would ask each other questions like, “What do you do at 3 a.m. to cope with night screams?” It felt like the men tended to focus on solutions and tools: They always had tips to share. The women had grit: They knew you just had to cope with it.

It also let me learn new things. I taught myself how to bake sourdough bread, and I challenged myself to invite people over and cook lunches a few days a week. My son, now 7, will eat anything, and I feel that we have a stronger connection now because I was able to spend so much time with him at a young age.

I look back at my time on parental leave as not only as building an amazing relationship with my son, but also actually learning things that have helped me in my business. Focusing on a fragile being who makes you laugh and cry and whom you love intrinsically makes you think, “So what am I really doing at work?” People often come back and want to do something different, something with meaning, something that is part of something bigger.

I learned that I should have empowered employees more, not just told them what I thought. When I came back to work, I arrived with fresh eyes. I sat down with people and worked with them to help improve their jobs and make everyone more efficient.

One of the things companies should realize is that parental leave benefits both the employee and employer. Parents on leave will grown and learn and come back with the potential to make the business better. It’s the employee’s responsibility to make sure they hand over all key responsibilities so that they aren’t needed during their leave. And it’s the employer’s responsibility to make sure that employees can take the time and still feel included in the company.

Companies should also let go of ingrained ideas that leave is predominately for mothers. As a society, we’re talking a lot about feminism now, especially in tech. I think it’s great that we’re working to make the workplace a gender-equal place. But it can’t just be a discussion of salary—we must also address roles and responsibilities. Netflix’s recent move to give maternity and paternity leave for up to a year after a child is born or adopted is a step in this direction.

I’m shocked by that there aren’t better parental leave policies in the U.S. and around the world. More companies need to accept that maternity and paternity leave policies are important part of building a strong business.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Parenting

Parents Really Need Time Off When Their Kids Become Teens

It is when our children hate us the most that they also need us the most

I almost missed it when my 14-year-old daughter was teetering on the edge of depression and an eating disorder. She may have fallen into the pit if I hadn’t been working from home and able to bear witness to her inelegant and exasperating wobble from childhood to womanhood.

Even working from home, it would have been easy to miss what was going on. Teenagers excel at two art-forms: being self-indulgent and lying to their parents. I’m lucky she’s a terrible liar. “No, I’ve never tried smoking. I’m pretty sure the dog picked up a few cigarette butts and put them under my window.”

We don’t have a dog.

Making the leap from white-collar employee to self-employed freelancer was a frightening one. It almost broke our little family of two, especially when the global economic crisis reduced my respectable freelance income by about 99%. Household hunger goes a long way to hiding borderline anorexia. And it doesn’t help depressive thoughts much either.

How different would our lives have been if I had had the option of taking some parental leave and knowing that my cosy white-collar job was waiting for me when she was that age? Or how different would our lives have been if there had been paid parental leave I could have accessed when my daughter was 5 or 11? What might I have achieved then to avoid the horrifying almost-misstep that came later?

European countries are often held up as being the gold standard in paid parental leave. And yes, mostly they’re excellent. But all parental leave policies ignore the fact that parenting doesn’t end when a child starts school. At that age, the hard part is just beginning.

Companies like Netflix are bravely and publicly opening up discussions on the nuances of paid parental leave. Kudos to them. But they are still blind to the fact that as our workforce ages, our growing children will need us more. The right to paid parental leave is a huge gap in U.S. government policy. But so are the rights to extended leave for parents of older children.

It’s wonderful to be there for the first smile, the first steps, the first word. These are the irreplaceable memories of parenthood, the ones that keep you going when you could cheerfully strangle the cold, obnoxious, and slightly smelly person now living in your house.

But the hard reality is that it is when our children hate us the most that they also need us the most. We are needed when a child becomes a fledgling adult just as much as we are needed when our sweet newborn becomes a fledgling child.

We live in a time when 16% of young people in the U.S. have seriously considered suicide. Granted, it’s impossible to know if increased parental presence at home would do anything to change these numbers. The point is that families deserve a chance to find out.

Imogen Moore is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Europe.

TIME Parenting

The ‘Waze’ and Means of Parenting

Kristin van Ogtrop was named Managing Editor of Real Simple magazine in 2003.

How a new crowd-sourced traffic app changed my summer

I’m not sure which has been a more life-changing discovery this summer: missing my teenager, or realizing that I may have an unhealthy dependence on Waze.

How did these discoveries come about? I miss my teenager because he is working at a sleepaway camp for six weeks, and absence makes the heart forget how aggravating teens can be. And Waze, the crowdsourced traffic app that helps you find weird shortcuts and avoid the police, has made summer driving so easy that I’m now convinced I need its equivalent in every area of my life. Imagine the possibilities: cooking (you’re out of scallions!); laundry (red sock hidden in the load of whites!); getting dressed in the morning (don’t even think about trying to fit into those pants!). My devotion to Waze is so complete that I have even anthropomorphized the faux-female voice into a petite, tough-but-kind grannyish woman–think Dr. Ruth, but a smidge younger and without the accent–who exists solely to make my life better.

My imagination hits a giant roadblock, however, when I apply the app to raising children in general, and teens in particular. Is this a failure of my imagination, or of technology? It doesn’t matter: August is upon us, and the clock is ticking. You see, some women use summer to improve their fitness so they’ll look better on the beach. I use summer to improve my parenting skills so my kids will love me more and choose a nicer inscription to put on my headstone. But can Waze navigate the tricky, unpredictable, dark and winding terrain that’s inside the skull of a teenage boy? I don’t think there’s an app for that.

So I must rely on those things they call books to improve my life, my parenting and my chances of getting a headstone inscription that will reduce even strangers to tears.

I have three sons: one who has made it through his teen years, one who is in the thick of them and one who is still in the single digits. As a test-drive, as it were, I thought I’d focus on my eldest, because I reckon most of my opportunities to screw up a 20-year-old have already happened. I picked up How to Raise an Adult by Julie Lythcott-Haims, the former dean of freshman and undergraduate advising at Stanford University. From Lythcott-Haims I learned that I should strive to be an authoritative parent (“demanding and responsive”) who helps my child experience the state of “flow,” where the rest of the world falls away and he loses all track of time. Oh, and by age 20 my son should definitely be able to schedule his own (irony alert) pediatrician appointments. See, sweetie, I’m not the only one who thinks you need to make that happen.

Then I turned to my teen. This is a boy who has no interest in a gap year and is not the sort who will park it back home after college. Meaning I’ve got about one year at home with him in which to correct all the mistakes I’ve made in the past 17. Such an effort requires significant study, and to the rescue comes The Teenage Brain by Frances E. Jensen, who is the head of the neurology department at the University of Pennsylvania medical school and has two sons of her own who apparently survived into adulthood. From her I learned that the brain matures from the back to the front, that my 17-year-old has a legitimate biological reason for not being able to return a phone call and that I must not be shocked when he does something stupid but can’t tell me why. Hopefully does something stupid does not mean marrying a sociopath or getting a giant face tattoo before his prefrontal cortex is fully developed in his mid-20s. Just eight short nail-biting years to go.

More than anything, the message of Jensen’s book seems to be acceptance. And boy do I wish there were an app for that. After two decades of this child-rearing journey I know I can offer all the directions I want, but my sons are driving. And it’s up to them to figure out where they’re going. I remain a passenger (well, backseat driver) who longs for a clear road map. I’ve stopped hoping Waze is the answer. Still, what I wouldn’t give to hear that calm, supportive voice warn me whenever there is a rough parenting road ahead.

Van Ogtrop is the managing editor of Real Simple


This appears in the August 17, 2015 issue of TIME.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME fathers

What Netflix’s Parental Leave Means for All Parents

Big business is a great start, but it’s time for the government to help create paid family leave

The ground that big business has long rested on is experiencing an earthquake. And the shakeup could have huge repercussions for moms, dads, and the fight for gender equality.

In recent months, a slew of corporations have made sweeping changes to support parents. Johnson & Johnson dramatically increased paid leave for moms and dads. Virgin will allow some employees up to a year off. Goldman Sachs doubled paternity leave. This week, Netflix announced unlimited leave for workers during the first year of a child’s life, and Microsoft announced it’s expanding its offerings as well.

Corporate giants are suddenly trying to outdo each other in providing what the U.S. has long lacked.

As I explain in my new book All In, laws, policies and stigmas have left the workplace in a time warp, preventing the gender equality most Americans profess to believe in. Women are pushed to stay home for caregiving throughout children’s early years, far beyond the time for physical recovery from birth and even breastfeeding. Men are pushed to stay at work, rewarded for sitting at their desks for more hours rather than actual accomplishments. The book includes stories of men who were punished, demoted and even fired for daring to take time off for caregiving, because they broke from the old, macho ideal at work.

Offering paid leave to moms and dads helps break this sexist cycle. It allows families to choose who will stay home and when. And this boosts businesses’ bottom lines by helping them attract and retain high-quality ployees regardless of gender.

When I launched a fight for fair parental leave at my company, one legal publication called it a “shot across the bow” for employers. I can’t know how much that battle helped, as the article said, put “employers on notice.” But clearly, the ground is shifting. Big businesses are starting to recognize that these policies are necessary to compete for talent.

Still, it’s critical to keep two things in mind: First, this parental leave boom belies the overall trend. Only 14% of companies offer any paid paternity leave at all, and the amount being offered has been going down in recent years. Numerous CEOs still oppose even the idea of paternity leave. A Harvard study found that most business leaders still believe work-family conflicts are a “women’s problem,” despite the reality that dads are suffering from these conflicts as much, as if not more than, women.

And second, very generous policies, in which employers pay salaries during leave, are not the answer for most businesses. Instead, we need to take what’s currently working in three U.S. states and make it national. In California and New Jersey, small payroll taxes create a pool of funds, which workers can draw on for family leave. This applies not just to new parents, but to those caring for elderly parents or ill spouses, or recovering from illness themselves. It’s been proven good for business, with employers and employees alike reporting positive results. Rhode Island now has a program as well.

But nationally, a state-by-state solution is unlikely to take root for numerous reasons. For starters, most states don’t have mechanisms for collecting and distributing family leave funds. Washington state passed paid family leave years ago but still doesn’t have it because there’s no such mechanism.

The FAMILY Act would help solve this. It would take small, limited payroll contributions from workers and businesses nationwide to create a pool of funds that would pay workers during leave. It would be a giant step forward. On Capitol Hill, I’ve met with Democrats and Republicans to discuss the issue. Democrats have been supportive. Republicans have not presented any arguments against it, but haven’t embraced it either. The folks at Change.org and I have launched a petition calling on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce to support paid family leave. And I’m working with the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation to make it a central issue in the nation’s first primary.

For All In, I interviewed some conservatives including Jim Daly, head of Focus on the Family, who say that they originally opposed the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows many U.S. workers unpaid leave. They now regret the opposition. I believe that, just as FMLA passed after a tough struggle, paid family leave will as well. This will be especially good for small businesses, helping them compete for talent against big companies that offer their own paid leave programs.

In the meantime, it’s incumbent on these big companies to take another, equally important step: encourage men to actually take the leave. Now, most workers who get paternity leave don’t take all that’s offered. “It felt like a PR benefit, not a real benefit” — just there to make the company look good, not for guys to actually use, one dad explained.

Fathers today are unlike the stereotypes. The vast majority of us are committed to our families and excellent at parenting. We work just as hard as women do on behalf of our families when you combine paid work, childcare, and household responsibilities. The pressures to put work first are real, and corporate leaders can change the culture. But it’s also incumbent on us to stand up to the stigmas by taking leave and fighting back if we’re punished for it.

But the most important action we all need — moms, dads, businesses — must come from Washington. The U.S. is the only developed nation that does not guarantee paid time off for moms after a birth. Many nations guarantee this for dads as well.

Congress: Please take a cue from the companies jumping on this bandwagon. Build a stronger economy and stronger nation. Stand for the family values you profess to believe in. It’s time to be all in for paid family leave.

 

Josh Levs is an investigative journalist, expert on modern fatherhood and author of the new book All in: How Our Work-First Culture Fails Dads, Families, and Businesses – And How We Can Fix It Together. He has three children.

MONEY Parenting

Netflix’s Unlimited Parental Leave Only Works if the Company Does This

Here's a piece of advice from a dad.

Netflix recently announced that mothers and fathers will receive unlimited paid parental leave for up to a year following the birth or adoption of a child. Callooh callay!

New moms and dads will also have flexibility fashioning their schedules once they return to the office. “Parents can return part-time, full-time, or return and then go back out as needed,” chief talent officer Tawni Cranz wrote on the company’s blog. “We’ll just keep paying them normally, eliminating the headache of switching to state or disability pay.”

This new policy dramatically outpaces the rather limited scope of the Family and Medical Leave Act, which grants employees in companies with more than 50 workers 12 weeks of unpaid time off to care for a newborn. The United States remains one of the few countries in the world without federally guaranteed paid maternity and paternity leave.

Read next: The 3 Things All Millennial Parents Should Be Saving For

Netflix’s move comes as more and more employers, technology and otherwise, strengthen their paid family leave policies to entice and retain workers. “Experience shows people perform better at work when they’re not worrying about home,” says Cranz. “This new policy, combined with our unlimited time off, allows employees to be supported during the changes in their lives and return to work more focused and dedicated.”

But is this as good for workers as it appears to be? Maybe. “It is an interesting policy that applied properly may enhance parental leave but could also have unintended side effects,” says Kenneth Matos, senior director of research at Families and Work Institute. Here’s what you need to know.

Pros

The policy itself is generous. And it seems to send a signal that employees needn’t feel that the only appropriate way to use parental leave is to completely divorce themselves from work for an extended period, one of the reasons dads don’t take as much leave as they can or should. “This could allow more men to take leave because they might do a part-time arrangement at full salary and not run into the problem of conflicting roles as full-time provider and caregiver,” says Matos.

This is obviously valuable for moms, too. Not only will maternal leave be separated from temporary disability insurance—a rather bizarre way to think about having a child anyway—but moms can now “stay in touch and ease the return to the workplace while maintaining the reputation needed to advance,” says Matos. Women’s lack of meaningful career advancement in countries with generous leave policies is a genuine issue.

Cons

But a policy only works if people actually use it. Americans, for instance, are especially terrible at using even the vacation time they have, and professionals often check in with the office when they finally make it to the beach. If employees are given an unlimited number of days to spend with their new baby, they may feel that they can’t or shouldn’t use all they need. By contrast, a short but defined leave may feel like something you simply are entitled to take.

“Employees become responsible for determining the level of leave they take and how their work gets done,” says Matos. “Some are better at negotiating those boundaries than others, and Netflix may find [workers] need to encouragement to take a reasonable amount of time instead of taking leaves that are too short.”

The company’s culture will need to support usage, otherwise “peer and manager pressure may suppress usage in ways that formal rules do not,” Matos says.

Takeaway

It’s important to remember that only 12% of workers currently enjoy access to paid leave, an abysmal record compared with other developed nations. There have been new paid family leave laws passed at the state and local level recently, but there’s no conversation at the federal level to strengthen the FMLA.

Personally, my wife and I would have loved a policy like the one offered at Netflix. Not only would we have enjoyed more time off following our son’s birth, but also the ability to create a flexible schedule once we returned to our jobs. And we’re two of the lucky few who received some paid leave. The basic biological fact is that people tend to have children and jobs at the same time and would like to enjoy both without going broke or insane. But most companies, and the law, are a long way from following Netflix’s lead.

Read next: These Are the Countries with the Best Maternity Leaves

TIME breastfeeding

Why I’m Not Celebrating World Breastfeeding Week

Baby's bottles
Getty Images (1); Illustration by Mia Tramz for TIME

Dr. Amy Tuteur is an obstetrician gynecologist and writes at The Skeptical OB.

The moralization of infant feeding is not good for mothers or babies

It’s World Breastfeeding Week, but I’m not celebrating.

It’s not because I don’t understand the benefits of breastfeeding; I’m an obstetrician.

And it’s not sour grapes; I breastfed four children and I enjoyed it.

I’m not celebrating because my email inbox is filled with tales of anguish from women who feel guilty because they tried to breastfeed and were not successful. These women are tormented even when their babies are thriving on formula. Why? Because it has been drilled into them that “breast is best,” and, therefore, they are harming their beloved babies by formula feeding.

In industrialized countries in 2015 the “bressure” to breastfeed is extraordinary, despite the fact that the benefits are trivial, a few less colds and diarrheal illnesses across the population in the first year of life. Research on other potential benefits of breastfeeding is weak, conflicted and plagued by confounding variables.

Why are we celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in the U.S? It’s not to educate women since everyone knows that breastfeeding has benefits. It can’t be to improve public health since wide swings in breastfeeding rates in the 20th Century (from initiation rates over 70% down to 20% and back up above 75%) have had no impact on infant mortality rates, life expectancy or IQ.

It appears that we are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week in the US to extol mothers who breastfeed and to shame those who don’t.

How did we get to this point?

The vision of the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Advocacy (WABA), the sponsor of World Breastfeeding Week is “a world where breastfeeding is the cultural norm.”

In other words, WABA hopes for a world where breastfeeding is not the personal choice of the woman who owns the breasts in question but a moral imperative.

That is a disturbingly familiar formulation. It echoes “a world where marriage of a man and woman is the cultural norm” and “promoting a culture of life,” statements that reflect the desire of a portion of the population to substitute their personal beliefs for the beliefs of the individuals who are affected.

Wait! Isn’t breastfeeding natural?

Sure, but while it is natural for women to bear children; the idea that all women should have children is a cultural norm, a norm that is harmful for women who don’t want children.

Similarly, it is natural for women to breastfeed; but the idea that all women should breastfeed whether they want to or not and whether their babies are thriving or not is a cultural norm, a norm that is harmful for many women and babies.

Wait! Isn’t breast milk the perfect food?

Not exactly.

There are three characteristics that a perfect infant food must have:

  1. It should contain all the nutrients and other factors that an infant needs.
  1. It must be available in sufficient quantity to promote vigorous growth of the infant.
  1. The infant must be able to access it easily.

Any food that does not meet all three criteria cannot, under any circumstances, be a perfect food for that child. Breast milk may be the perfect food for some infants, but it is highly imperfect for many others.

Up to 5% of mothers cannot produce enough breast milk to fully meet a baby’s needs. No biological process is guaranteed to work perfectly. If established pregnancies have a 20% miscarriage rate, it is hardly surprising that breastfeeding has a failure rate of only a fraction of that amount. When mothers do not produce enough milk to meet a baby’s needs, the baby may stop growing or even lose weight.

Many babies are not capable of efficiently extracting milk from the breast. Some babies just can’t do it for anatomical reasons, or because of weak muscle tone, or because they simply never get the hang of it. It is a serious problem that can, in severe cases, lead to dehydration and death.

The truth is that breastfeeding is only one of two excellent ways to nourish a baby. Formula is as safe as houses and just as much of a lifesaver. Indeed, many women who choose to formula feed are doing the best for their babies.

I’d happily celebrate World Infant Feeding Week. For some babies that would mean breastfeeding, for others formula feeding. But I can’t celebrate anything that lauds some mothers while shaming others.

We should not be celebrating the moralization of infant feeding. It’s not good for mothers and it’s certainly not good for babies.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME

More Men Need to Talk About Miscarriage

Facebook mark Zuckerberg Priscilla Chan
Rick Wilking—Reuters Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg walks with his wife Priscilla Chan at the annual Allen and Co. conference at the Sun Valley, Idaho Resort on July 11, 2013.

Aaron Gouveia writes for his site The Daddy Files.

Thank you, Mark Zuckerberg, for helping all fathers

Mark Zuckerberg just told the world about his emotions following his wife’s multiple miscarriages. The world. Nobody asked him to. And that’s a great thing.

Miscarriage is not a pleasant topic. Despite the fact that almost half of all pregnancies end with a miscarriage, it’s still very taboo and uncomfortable for many people to discuss openly. And that’s just among women. Men and miscarriage? That conversation hasn’t taken place in hushed tones—it’s been largely nonexistent.

Zuckerberg wrote that he and his wife Cilla have been trying to start a family for several years and went through three miscarriages before their current pregnancy. Then, in candid fashion, he describes his feelings through those tough times.

“You feel so hopeful when you learn you’re going to have a child. You start imagining who they’ll become and dreaming of hopes for their future. You start making plans, and then they’re gone. It’s a lonely experience. Most people don’t discuss miscarriages because you worry your problems will distance you or reflect upon you – as if you’re defective or did something to cause this. So you struggle on your own.”

I know exactly how Zuckerberg feels from personal experience.

My wife has been pregnant eight times in seven years, but we have endured five losses during that span—four miscarriages and a medically necessary termination. We were both crushed, but only one of us was expected to show it.

I thought it was my job to stay strong. After all, it’s her body and she’s dealing with the physical repercussions. And the fact that almost no one asked how I was doing further drove home the point that this was her problem, and my job was a supporting role.

The problem with that? I wasn’t strong, and I had no idea how to deal with what I was feeling.

Should I mourn this baby? Should I even consider it a baby? Is it whining if I bring this up to my wife who is going through the physical pain of loss as well as mental? Am I, as a man, even allowed to be this upset over what happened? I didn’t know the answers and no one I knew was volunteering any, so I pushed everything deep down and ignored it.

As you can imagine, that was a mistake. A mistake that ultimately strained our marriage and was only fixed when I finally agreed to talk things out with a counselor, and began sharing my thoughts about pregnancy loss online.

Only then did I find my people. Only then did the floodgates open and I heard from men everywhere who were going through the same struggle. I realized far more couples had experienced miscarriages than I ever imagined, and finally I realized I wasn’t alone. Shedding that feeling of isolation was an anvil off my chest. It was a rescue boat coming to get me off a desert island.

“In today’s open and connected world, discussing these issues doesn’t distance us; it brings us together. It creates understanding and tolerance, and it gives us hope,” Zuckerberg wrote. “We hope that sharing our experience will give more people the same hope we felt and will help more people feel comfortable sharing their stories as well.”

Everyone deals with grief in hisor her own way. But I greatly respect and appreciate Zuckerberg’s willingness to detail his personal struggles with miscarriage in order to potentially help others going through the same thing. The sooner we include more men in the miscarriage conversation, the better.

From one dad to another, thank you, Mark.

Aaron Gouveia writes for his site, The Daddy Files.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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A Mom Called the Police on My 3-Year-Old Son After a Playground Accident

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xoJane.com is where women go to be their unabashed selves, and where their unabashed selves are applauded

"She wanted to press charges," the police officer told me. I'm not sure if he meant against me or my pre-schooler

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I wasn’t sure whether or not to write about this. I generally prefer not to write about my son, out of respect for his privacy, and I don’t want to put myself in a legally questionable situation by writing about what happened. But it’s been several days since the incident and I’ve still got a crazy cocktail of rage, panic, and sadness churning inside my chest and I don’t know how else to get it out.

Here’s the short version: A mother called the police after my son and her daughter collided in a playground accident. That really happened. He’s 3.

The longer version is this: I was sitting on a bench, in a spot where I could see the entire circular track the kids scoot and ride their bikes around. When my son didn’t complete his lap in a timely manner, I stood up to look for him and saw him standing with a family including several children. He’s extremely social and often stops to talk and make friends, so I assumed he was just chatting with them.

A minute or so later I heard him yelling “Mommy, Mommy.” I ran over to find two children sobbing hysterically, a little girl and my son.

A woman sitting nearby volunteered, “I saw the whole thing! They ran into each other. They’re both just scared.” I gathered my son into my arms and comforted him, telling him it was OK, that it was an accident.

“I didn’t mean to knock her over,” he sobbed. He then repeatedly tried to apologize to the little girl and her mother, who ignored him. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” he sputtered over and over.

“Is she OK?” I asked the little girl’s mother. She told me her tooth was wiggly and bleeding. My son was still hysterical, so I picked him up and started to move to another corner to continue calming him down.

The other mother motioned to me not to leave.

“What do you want from me?” I asked her. “It was an accident.”

I didn’t mean it in a sarcastic way at all — I wasn’t sure if she wanted money, or my contact info, or in what way she expected me to help. I was (probably stupidly) prepared to do what she asked for. The last thing I expected was what she said next.

“I called the police.”

“YOU CALLED THE POLICE?” This is the point at which I have been mentally punching this woman for days now.

“Your son hit my daughter,” she said. “I called the police.”

At that moment, my internal Mama Bear rose up to her hind legs and bared her claws. “He’s 3 YEARS OLD. It was an accident,” I snarl/yelled. I have never in my life felt a sense of assertiveness so strong for my own self, but when it came to my kid, I felt an unprecedented sense of agency and strength. I knew I would stand up for my child in absolutely any way needed to protect him.

“She’s crazy,” shouted the witness. “I saw the whole thing. They ran into each other. It was a total accident.”

I asked the witness if she would stay until the police arrived, then scooped up my hysterical 3-year-old and marched to the other end of the playground, where I stewed as he asked questions like “Why did she call the police? Am I going to jail? Is the little girl OK? Is SHE going to jail?”

When the police car rolled up outside the gate of the playground area, I let the woman tell her side of the story before walking over to talk to them.

“It’s my son,” I volunteered. “He’s sitting right there, in the green helmet.”

“Look,” the police officer tried to explain to the other mother, “I can see him crying from here. It was an accident. It’s not like he did it on purpose.”

The mother, who had a shaky command of English, then leaned down to her daughter and asked her to translate to the police that “the mother” (me) hadn’t shown up for 10 or 20 minutes after the accident, which was a complete lie. I’d actually been running my stopwatch as my son went around the track so I know it hadn’t been more than 2-and-a-half minutes since he’d set out.

Again, the police explained that it was an accident and there was nothing they could do about it.

“It’s a park,” said the officer from before.”Kids are running around all over the place here.”

They offered to call an ambulance for the injured little girl, which the mother accepted. I stayed back while they loaded her in and finished their interactions.

From my vantage point I could see another family member or friend who had been with them telling her version of the story to a large crowd that had collected. From her broad “wooshing” hand gestures, I could see that she was intimating that my son was some sort of reckless danger to society on a 3-wheeler scooter. I somehow managed to not stomp over there and ask her to stop regaling the park with stories about my 3-year-old son at least until he had stopped sobbing.

When the family was on their way, I asked the police officers if they needed my information or anything. They said no. “She wanted to press charges,” he told me. I’m not sure if he meant against me or my pre-schooler.

“I can see the woman over there telling everyone the story…” I began.

“Yeah, he’s a maniac, right?” the police officer said winkingly, before he and his partner headed on their way.

It’s been a few days since this happened, and my son seems to be fine. He got a scare, but he’s back on his scooter and hasn’t mentioned the incident again. He’s always been very conscientious about watching out for pedestrians while on his scooter, but it can’t hurt for him to be even more so. We haven’t yet been back to the area of the park where the collision happened, but I think that’s more because of my fear than his.

Because while he’s fine, I’m not. I’m furious. And I’m scared. My black son just had his first police interaction at age 3.

I have tried to be understanding of the panic the other mother probably felt when her daughter was hurt. My son knocked his teeth back into his gums in a fight with a slide and had to be held down in the ER while he got stitches where he bit through his own tongue. I know how it feels to be scared for your injured child. I feel terrible, as did my son, for the little girl who was hurt.

It’s still hard for me to understand how a fellow mother could call the police on a sobbing 3-year-old. But I want to believe that she simply didn’t know what to do, and called the police out of fear and confusion. I even want to believe that she was trying to lay the groundwork to sue me, that she wanted money. I want to believe those things more than some things I could believe.

I’m glad the police were reasonable and straightened things out. Perhaps in this instance, it was best they were there to handle what was obviously a touchy situation. In this instance. This time.

But to be the mother of a black son is to be scared for them, constantly. Black mothers know this better than me, have known it for a long time. I am not the person to tell that story.

I don’t know if there was a racial component to what happened this time, but I can’t help but flash forward to someday when someone may wrongfully point their finger at my son again, someday when he’s not an adorable 3-year-old, someday when I’m not there to speak for him.

And I think that’s why my guts are still roiling days later, why I am still feeling emotional about an incident that everyone seems to agree was crazy, but over now. That I shouldn’t let it get to me. It got to me. I’m not over it. I wish I was.

But if nothing else, I am glad I felt that Mama Bear rise up inside me. I am glad that I knew, in that moment, without a shadow of a doubt, that I would and will always do anything, ANYTHING to protect my son. Because, unfortunately, he lives in a world where he needs a little extra protection.

Emily McCombs wrote this article for xoJane

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

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