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Thoughts on the SuperNanny Episode

Looking for The Lactivist? She's retired. But you CAN still find Jen blogging. These days, she's runs A Flexible Life. Join her for life, recipes, projects and the occasional rant.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Hopefully someone will upload video of all the breastfeeding related clips so that anyone who missed it can watch, but I will share my own reaction with you.

My quick summary: It was closer to what I wrote it might be than what many of the up-in-arms breastfeeding warriors thought it was going to be.

My extended summary:

Quite honestly, I really didn't think it was that bad. I know I have readers that will disagree with me on that, but I really did not think it ended up being the super huge deal that people thought it was going to be.

Here's the situation as I saw it...

Mom has a 12 year old a 6 year old and a 14 month old. She has no control of any of her children and has no idea how to discipline them. The only tool she has is "whoppins" which she explains means that she spanks them. The six year old refuses to sleep in her own bed though mom and dad want her to. None of the children have bedtimes and mom and dad are so beat at the end of the night that they put up half-hearted efforts to get the six year old into her own bed. They lose.

The primary issues are that mom needs to learn some ways to discipline, mom wants the six year old out of her bed, mom says that she has wanted to wean the 14 month old for a few months but A) will miss the bonding/emotional benefits and B) has no idea how to do it. Instead, she still nurses the 14 month old almost constantly and when she's not nursing, she's carrying the child around. This leaves her unable to get anything else done.

Here's what Supernanny did:

First, she used her "get your kid to sleep in their own room" technique. I have zero issue with this. Basically, you put your kid in bed and tell them good night. The first time they get up, you say "It's bedtime darling" and you put them back in bed. The second time you simply say "bedtime" and put them back in bed. Any time after that, you simply pick them up, carry them back to bed and put them in it. Eventually, they stay. ;) It took 17 times and 45 minutes to get the six year old to sleep in her bed. There was no screaming, no tantrums, just mom putting her back in bed.

The second issue was the baby. Supernanny talked to the mom and, in my opinion, made it pretty clear that she would support the mom if she wanted to wean and she'd support her if she wanted to continue to nurse. The issue that she had was that the 14 month old was nursing ALL the time. She said that was fine for a very young baby, but for someone that was more than a year, nursing could (and perhaps should) have some limits to it. I also don't disagree with this. The mom said that she had wanted to wean for a while, but just didn't know how, so Supernanny said she'd help.

The only thing I saw wrong with this conversation was that it focused only on the emotional benefits to the mom and child. There was no mention of the fact that breast milk still has health benefits at this point (and beyond.) Ultimately though, we have to remember that this is a mainstream show and simply the fact that she said it was up to the mom whether or not to wean is a big step forward.

Now as to how they went toward weaning...well, we got a very clipped version, but it looked like her solution was to simply block access to the breast and to offer a bottle. The first time they did this, it took the baby about 10 minutes to settle down and accept the bottle. Then she went to sleep. That's all we saw of weaning, we were just told that "it worked" and never heard anything else about it.

So yeah, I'm not real keen on the way they weaned her. I would have much rather seen Supernanny explain the idea of distraction and delay as I think it's a much gentler way to wean. There's no reason that a child has to be weaned in a day and gentle weaning can be quite effective. They also weaned her to a bottle which makes ZERO sense to me. A fourteen month old should be weaned to a sippy cup, not a bottle. Is this alone reason to bombard the station with nasty letters? I don't really think so, but again, I'm sure some folks will feel differently.

They also worked to move the 14 month old out of the parents bed, but again, the mom said that SHE wanted to move the baby out. Supernanny encouraged it, but I didn't really see a lot of pressuring to do it. They set up a crib in the parents room and moved the baby to there. They did use a little bit of CIO when they first put the baby down for a nap, but the baby was asleep in less than five minutes. Again, I don't really have a huge problem with that. 5 minutes of being fussy does not count as emotional child abuse in my mind. (Now if it had been 30 minutes, an hour or whatever, yeah I'd have serious issues with it.)

Having just let Emmitt cry/fuss for 3 whole minutes while I waited for him to put himself to sleep, I'd be a hypocrite if I complained about CIO for five minutes. ;)

Could the episode have gone better? Sure! But we have to remember that this is a mainstream parenting show starring Supernanny, not a Mothering.com video staring Hawthor. I don't agree with all of Supernanny's techniques but they aren't the anti-breastfeeding horror show that some people were making it out to be before the show aired.

Write a letter if you want to, but quite honestly, I think there are better battles for us to fight.

Just my humble opinion.


  1. Blogger Jennifer | 8:46 PM |  

    It's pretty rare that I'm the first to comment on my own posts, but having headed off to read commentary on other sites and discussion forums, I feel like I need to address a few things that I think are already going to pop up here as well...

    1.) I'm reading posts on other boards about how mean old Jo forced the mom to wean. I guess this shows that different people can watch the exact same thing and see totally different things. I'll say that Supernanny ENCOURAGED the mom to quit (AFTER the mom said that she had wanted to wean for awhle) but without severe projection, I just can't see how someone could see this as the mom being "forced" to wean.

    I'd also note that this mother had already nursed longer than 90% of women and WAY longer than most other women of her race. She clearly has no issues going against the norm. I have to think that if she wanted to keep nursing, she would have done so.

    2.) I'm seeing comments about how horrible it was when baby was put down for her nap and how the baby was "screaming" for the breast.

    What I saw was a baby rooting and clearly wanting to nurse and fussing when she couldn't, but I saw no screaming and the whole thing lasted all of ten minutes before the little thing went to sleep. Now again, I don't agree with HOW they weaned but I also think that the severity of it is being blown completely out of proportion.

    3.) I'm seeing talk of how Jo kept putting down nursing past a year. I never once heard her say that and I watched the entire episode. Now she never talked about the health benefits of nursing, but she also never said it was BAD to still be nursing. She also told the mom that she would help her "set limits" if she wanted to keep nursing and she would help her "wean" if she wanted to go that route.

    4.) I'm reading comments about how Supernanny said that the mom was keeping the child from reaching developmental milestones due to the constant carrying and nursing and people claiming that by this she means the child won't speak, walk, talk, etc... That's now how I took it at all. What I took it to mean was that on some level, the child was being "smothered" in love and wasn't able to stretch her wings, to play on the floor, etc. In fact, we never really saw her toddling around until after the weaning began, mom was always carrying her. (Someone needed to get that woman a sling!)

    5.) I'm reading about the "horrific" crying it out that took place when baby moved to a crib. Again, I just don't see it. Now I'm not a fan of cry it out, I refuse to do it, but I apparently have a different idea of what cry it out is than some people. To me, cry it out means that if the kid is screaming, you go in there. If they are fussing/crying, you let them go for a minute or two in order to see if it's going to escalate or wind down. If it starts to wind down, you continue to listen. If it starts to escalate, you go to them. Emmitt and Nora have both occasionally fussed themselves to sleep. Not because I let them there to cry by themselves, but because I DO believe that it's good for kids to learn to comfort themselves once they're around 5 or 6 months old and because I don't think 2 to 5 minutes of "fussing" (again, not screaming) is going to damage them if I'm standing there going "shhhhh."

    This is what I saw happening with the baby. They said that it was "five minutes" from when they put her in the crib until she was asleep. If she cried, fussed and fell asleep in that amount of time? I don't really have a huge problem with it. It's not like they locked her in a room for an hour to scream her head off.

    Overall I really just think that some people are LOOKING for things to be mad about. Again, I agree that not everything was done ideally...but to get SO up in arms over it? Again, sorry...but I just can't see it.

    Not when there are moms being kicked out of places for nursing or children being turned away from day care centers because they are breastfed or women being forced into having repeat c-sections.

    I just think there are bigger fish to fry.

  2. Blogger dbassett | 9:19 PM |  

    I missed the very beginning (would be great if someone could post a video :)) so I only have a limited opinion on this. If the mother actually wanted to wean- that's her choice and SN helped her achieve that. Fantastic. I really didn't like a few of the comments she made about breastfeeding though. No, she didn't say anything like "breastfeeding is bad, we should rid the world of it! but she didn't make it sound as it were acceptable for a 14 month old to still be nursing.

    She should have had a neutral stance on it instead of making it sound like a forbidden thing to do. I'm sure plenty of potential moms and mothers who are currently breastfeeding younger babies will look at this and feel that nursing a child that age is wrong based on what SN said. Yes, it is up to a woman to decide how long to breastfeed but what right does a woman with no children have to influence her? Did that make sense? Again, she should have had a neutral stance and just helped her achieve her goal.

    The weaning itself- I just don't agree with the way it was done. Oh boy. So many things that I can say. A bottle? Why a bottle? Some people have said on another forum that the transition from breast to sippy cup might be too hard and that a bottle was probably easy. That kind of makes sense but my 6 month old won't take a bottle or a sippy but he's more interested in learning how to use the sippy.

    Why is the mother the one giving her the bottle? Everything that I've been told about introducing a bottle indicates that someone OTHER than the mother would have better luck with it!...To me, this is a sign of SN's incompetence. I really believe that she doesn't know what she's talking about on most accounts.

    The cosleeping- if the mother wanted to put an end to it then ok. I can relate as at one time I wanted to get my son out of my bed. I gave up though and what happened? One day, he decided he was a big boy and started sleeping in his own room. Yea they let her fuss a bit but in my opinion, the reason the girl fell asleep after 5 minutes was because she gave up on her mother. She needed comfort and cried for it. She never received said comfort, so she gave up and went to sleep.

    No baby should be carried around 24/7 at that age. I agree there but a child should still be held for a good portion of the time. Snuggling is good! :)

    Do I think letters need to be written? No. As you said, there are bigger, more important issues.

  3. Blogger Judy | 9:41 PM |  

    I agree with your post and your comment on your post, almost exactly which is rare. :)

    Jo said twice during the show that it was the mom's choice whether to keep nursing or not. The MOTHER chose to wean and Jo supported it. Jo also said that she would help her EITHER WAY.

    The only part that made me uncomfortable was the weaning before naptime that was shown. I didn't have a problem with any of the rest of the episode.

    I didn't see any horrific cry it out travesties either. The fussing was subsiding the whole time when they moved the baby to a crib for naptime. And the crib was in the parents' bedroom for goodness sake. Hardly a radical move.

    Y'all must be supermoms if that was excessive crying. My 3 month old has calmed herself down at times simply because she woke me up and I was too tired to move. By the time I was ready to get up she was back asleep on her own.

    No big deal IMO. But I am just the friend of a lactivist and not a lactivist myself.

  4. Anonymous janisfan | 9:58 PM |  

    Ditto. To everything you said. I disagree with the quick weaning as well, but it seemed like it was what the mom wanted and it definitely seemed like the little girl was doing more of wha she should have been doing. I'm just gonna link to your blog rather than writing the same exact thing myself!

  5. Anonymous Anonymous | 10:28 PM |  

    I agree with you. I didn't think it was that bad either. And I think it's sad that people are going to get so huffy about it and pick it apart for whatever cause they want to fight for. Sure it was sad that the baby was weaned, but she was nursed probably three times longer than most babies in this country and for that, the mom deserves a medal. Overall it was not as much of a big deal as I thought it would be. *shrug*


  6. Blogger Jennifer | 6:52 AM |  

    Having read some more comments this morning where some moms are simply ready to hang Jo from the gallows, I'll two more points.

    I find it interesting that simply based on the preview where Jo said "that baby is attached to you like a koala" people got up in arms about how she was against baby wearing. They're STILL up in arms about it.

    Umm...the mom wasn't a baby wearer. There was not talk of baby wearing, I never saw a sling. Instead, the baby clung to the mom as she clutched it in one hand and tried to get stuff done.

    Seriously now, would YOU be able to get anything done if you had to carry your 14 month old around ALL day with no sling?

    Point Two...

    I am seeing tons of posts about how the show was so anti-AP. In fact, some of the posts are acting as if this mom was the poster child of the AP community and Jo came barging into her home to force her to give up all things AP related.

    Now, I don't count myself as part of the AP community, though I hold many of their philosophies myself. That said, having watched the show, I would be loathe to call what this mom did AP.

    Just because someone nurses past six months, cosleeps and holds her baby all day does not make her an AP parent. The mom's ONLY form of discipline was "whoopins." We're not just taking smack on the bottom spankings either, we're talking hitting her kid wherever she can reach them. You really want to claim her as part of the AP group?

    Let's remember that anyone that goes on this show has some SERIOUS problems raising their children. That's why they call Supernanny and that's why they get on the show.

    I saw it happen to me with the pork fiasco and now I'm seeing it happen again to the mother in this show. People paint up this mother in a light that qualifies her for sainthood and then act like the "big bads" come storming in to trounce all over the innocent little defenseless mom.

    I think a lot of people (understandbly) project themselves into these situations without really taking the time to analyze what's actually happen. I'd imagine it's because the women that do co-sleep, babywear and practice extended nursing often face so much criticism that it simply leaves them ripe for fighting. Like the mom that nurses in public while casting "I dare you to talk to me! I'll bite your head off" glares at anyone that passes by.

  7. Blogger Jennifer | 6:55 AM |  

    Re: the someone else introducing the bottle thing...

    I was always under the impression that that was if mom planned to continue nursing, you know, to help baby separate the bottle form of feeding from "the usual" which would be mom and the breast.

    If you're actually going to wean (and again, weaning to bottle? that's insane...starting the weaning at nap time? also kind of crazy...it's called delay and distract people...) then it would make sense that mom is going to give the bottle. After all, she's the primary care giver and is the one that will need to continue to give most of the feedings.

  8. Blogger earthymommy | 7:06 AM |  

    Jen I have to agree with you. Jo supported her desire to change things. Honestly I felt awful for the representation of extended nursing and cosleeping that was shown....IMO it wasn't a loving environment where child led rearing was key, instead it was alot of yelling, smacking, and come on...WHO SPANKS A 12 or 14 yo (the nephew)
    DH even said that he was a bit bothered that while she claimed the little on wanted to nurse all the time, you never once saw her doing (as I think most of us would) wearing that little one as they nurse and we go on with our day. I was also still kinda surprised that while my DD was nursing at 14 mo she still used a sippy and it seemed to us that child on the show was not consuming liquid in any other way than through the mother's breast...That concerned me.

    I felt she gave extended nursers and co sleepers a bad face...but only in the eyes of those who do not know why we do what we do...

    Thanks for your blogs...I love to read them everyday!!!

  9. Blogger Jessie Hawkins, MH | 7:07 AM |  

    I totally agree; the whole situation was handled very well. I do think it gave the impression that most (or all?) AP or breastfeeding mamas do it out of laziness or for selfish reasons, but if it featured an AP family that cosleept, breastfed etc. and had it all together..hmmm, kind of defeats the purpose of the show, right? Sure, certain things could have been handled better, but like you said, It's SuperNanny.
    Also, with a hubby working in tv, I am sure sooo much went on that we did not see. It could have been far better or far worse in reality. However it went, the editing and stance the show took was pretty neutral, in my opinion.
    I read your blog pretty often, but this is my first comment.. love it :)


  10. Blogger Annie | 7:39 AM |  

    I agree that it wasn't as bad as the preview made it to look, so I guess they did their job and got all of us to tune in.

    However, I did have a negative reaction to a few things. I thought that the expression on Jo's face and some of the comments she made definitely showed a negative view of extended nursing. It's fine if a mother wants to wean as it appears that this one did, but I thought it was pretty clear that Jo was not quite comfortable with nursing a child of 14m no matter what the mother's choice was. Also, she basically said that the only reason to be nursing at that age was an emotional one and told the mother that she was making her baby into a pacifier for herself. Maybe that was indeed true for that particular mother, but I can't help but feel that Jo does not see any benefit to nursing past 1 year and doesn't quite approve of it.

    Also, of course the magic of editing shows that prior to the rescue by Supernanny, the 14m was always being held or nursing and never played with toys so the mother was obviously smothering her. I'm sure the 14m did nurse constantly and was held a lot, but there was one clip of her walking prior to weaning and I can't believe that any 14m does not play with toys on occassion. They made it look as if she weaned and suddenly turned into a little social butterfly who could walk and interact.

    I'm also sure that there was a lot more fussing/crying involved in the whole weaning process and it's unfortunate that they made it look so easy to wean cold turkey. I just picture other parents out there saying, wow, didn't think it would be so easy and look how much better they are doing now! And then they try weaning cold turkey :(

  11. Anonymous Anonymous | 8:21 AM |  

    I pretty much agree with everything you said about this show. I thought the previews in and of themselves were much more damaging to the public view of toddler breastfeeding. I was really saddened to hear such negative comments from supernanny. Things like (and I'm quoting, but probably not the exact wording) the baby was "hanging off her hip, or how do I put this delicately, hanging off her BREAST!" and that she was really glad mom chose to wean because it showed she was ready for personal growth. Also comments about it being hard for a mom to let go of the "feeding bond" bothered me because it supports the popular (and uneducated) view that moms that breastfeed into toddlerhood have some kind of emotional problem or want to keep their child dependent on them. Of course, it was this mom's decision whether or not to continue nursing, but I would have liked to see some sort of positive balance explaining the health benefits of extended nursing to mom and baby (I know I live in a dream world!). The weaning also bothered me as there was no discussion of the benefits of gradual weaning. I really hope that mom didn't get plugged ducts! I probably won't be writing a letter, but I was sad to see another perpetuation of breastfeeding negativity in our culture. And I sure if any of my relatives saw it, they are feeling quite smug about the grief they've given me over the years about breastfeeding my children to age 3!

  12. Blogger clone mommy | 8:54 AM |  

    i strongly disagree with your take on this supernanny episode. i felt it portrayed "extended" breastfeeding in an extremely negative light. just because supernanny is a mainstream show doesn't make it ok for her to go against the recommendations of the AAP and WHO, which states that a child be nursed for 2 yrs and beyond. supernanny's comments were rude and condescending, in my opinion. she suggested that the "feeding bond" was emotionally/psychologically unhealthy and hindering the child from reaching developmental milestones. you could clearly see that the mom had been crying and had a very torn position towards weaning, yet supernanny never commended her for having already breastfed for so long and never told her about the continued benefits of breastmilk. i also completely disagree with the weaning advice itself: weaning to a bottle at naptime etc... i am actually really surprised that you don't have a more critical view on this.

  13. Blogger Jennifer | 9:19 AM |  

    That's ok clone mommy, I'm actually surprised that it took 12 full posts before someone really disagreed with me.

    So let me try to address your points one by one...while first saying that I didn't agree with the show, I just don't think it was the "shock and horror" travesty that many are making it out to be.

    i felt it portrayed "extended" breastfeeding in an extremely negative light.

    I understand that many people think that, especially those that haven't seen the show before. While I have no doubts that Jo is not a fan of breastfeeding past a year, I also think that people are taking a specific case and turning it into a generality. I never heard Jo say that BREASTFEEDING was bad for family or child, simply that breastfeeding FOR THIS MOM AND CHILD was part of the problems in the family. I guess I don't see why that's so hard to understand.

    I saw an episode once where the mom was a work at home mom. Jo really lambasted her for ignoring her children, for putting work above them and for a variety of other things. I'm a work at home mom and yet I didn't take this personally. I viewed the episode as saying that THAT mom needed to have perspective and change the way she was doing things, not that Jo was criticizing the act of being a work at home mom.

    Just because supernanny is a mainstream show doesn't make it ok for her to go against the recommendations of the AAP and WHO, which states that a child be nursed for 2 yrs and beyond.

    Actually, I've got to call you on that one. The AAP guidelines actually state:

    "It is recommended that breastfeeding continue for at least 12 months, and thereafter for as long as mutually desired."

    That is not the same as the WHO guidelines which read:

    A recent review of evidence has shown that, on a population basis, exclusive breastfeeding for 6 months is the optimal way of feeding infants. Thereafter infants should receive complementary foods with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years of age or beyond

    So yes, the WHO makes it clear that two years is the "goal" while the AAP makes "12 months" the goal. While it would be great if more moms nursed longer, you won't find me issuing ANY fault with a parent that makes it to twelve months and then decided that they need to gently wean the child for whatever reason. (and let's note that I EPed for 14 months for my first and am aiming to EBF my 5 month old until he's AT LEAST 18 months and then I'll reexamine and see how things are going.)

    supernanny's comments were rude and condescending, in my opinion. she suggested that the "feeding bond" was emotionally/psychologically unhealthy and hindering the child from reaching developmental milestones.

    Once again, this comment was directed to this mother and child, not to ALL nursing mothers and children. Again, that's a key problem that I have with much of the commentary...that people are acting as if she is talking about ALL mothers and children.

    Keep in mind that we saw a very edited version of reality. They film for more than a week to create 45 minutes of footage only about 15 of which was releated to breastfeeding. Who's to say that this mom was NOT using the child as an emotional crutch to keep from dealing with the other three kids in the house? Would you advocate nursing a 14 month old at the complete expense of caring for three other kids?

    Yes, it would have been better to have seen Jo explain that the mom could set limits on nursing so that she would have more time to be a parent to her other children, but that still doesn't mean that her comments about THIS mother and child might not have been correct.

    you could clearly see that the mom had been crying and had a very torn position towards weaning, yet supernanny never commended her for having already breastfed for so long and never told her about the continued benefits of breastmilk.

    Again, we didn't see every bit of conversation that these two had. What's to say that Jo didn't commend her and the editors cut it out. After all, controversy does much more for ratings than praise does. Also, while the mother may have been emotional about the idea of weaning, that doesn't mean that it was an evil thing to do or that Jo was forcing anything on her. The mom said herself that she had wanted to wean "for months" but that she just didn't know how to go about it. Jo said that she would help her "set limits" if the mom wanted to continue nursing and that she would help her wean if she wanted to go that route.

    i also completely disagree with the weaning advice itself: weaning to a bottle at naptime etc...

    No arguments here. The weaning advice was crap.

  14. Anonymous Alena | 10:33 AM |  

    The only thing that I had a problem with was that they only showed one weaning attempt and it was implied how easy it was. As if that's all it took. I would be extremely surprised if it was really that easy. I've been attempting to wean my 2.5 year old for a few months now, and it's extremely difficult. Seeing how the baby was attached to her mother and to breastfeeding, I would have expected the process to be a much longer multi-step process than what they showed.

    I watched the show hoping to get some real weaning tips, and I got nothing.

  15. Anonymous Anonymous | 11:15 AM |  

    You missed the point of the controversy. The fact that it was mainstream is a big part of what made it so bad. Also, while you apparently accepted the "disclaimer," of supporting Jo's choice, you missed the clear anti-bf (my wife and I didn't even see the preview). And your "her race" comment demonstrates your own bias and is itself worthy of some controversy.

  16. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 11:30 AM |  

    my .02 on the episode...
    i think it is great if the show got the mom to stop "whoopin'" the kids. but aside from that, i wasn't very pleased with how the rest of it went down. i feel there are gentler methods of weaning and getting a baby to sleep on her own. i felt very sorry for the baby who was weaned cold turkey and then put in a crib alone to CIO after she'd had such a strong attachment to mom for the past 14 months. it didn't seem like anyone was taking her feelings into consideration.
    i also disagreed with the disdain i saw jo show towards breastfeeding a 14-month-old. i think it's negative attitudes like (that when millions are watching) that perpetuate the sentiment that there is something wrong with breastfeeding.
    and someone could've suggested a sling or baby carrier to the woman, rather than just detach yourself abruptly.
    end of my rant. ;)

  17. Blogger Jennifer | 11:32 AM |  

    Anonymous #15, I can only guess you are new here since you seem to not be familiar enough with me that you've misinterptreted several of my comments. Welcome to The Lactivist, I hope you stick around. :)

    The fact that it was mainstream is a big part of what made it so bad.

    Could you elaborate on that as I'm not sure I understand what you mean? Do you simply mean that it's "bad" because so many people watch it and therefore saw what you deem to be a mother weaning at too early of an age?

    I've already stated that I think the weaning advice was terrible, so I don't feel the need to address that, though I will add that I think it's awful that many moms will now think that weaning cold turkey is a good way to go as I really would be surprised if that went as easily as they portrayed it.

    Also, while you apparently accepted the "disclaimer," of supporting Jo's choice, you missed the clear anti-bf (my wife and I didn't even see the preview).

    I don't really know what you mean by disclaimer...you may have to elaborate.

    I also, if you read my post and my follow-up comments, stated that it's not only clear that Jo is not a fan of extended breastfeeding but that her past work and her book make it clear that she's also very uneducated about breastfeeding. So again, I'm not sure what your point is here.

    And your "her race" comment demonstrates your own bias and is itself worthy of some controversy.

    How is that worthy of controversy? Unless of course you GROSSLY twisted the intent of my message to think that I'm somehow putting down this mother for being black. (which again implies to me that you are not a regular reader of this blog.)

    Let me state that point more clearly so that you understand the context of the comment.

    The point that I was making was that less than 13% of mothers make it to one year when it comes to breastfeeding. This mom went two months past a year which probably puts her in the top 5-10% of moms when it comes to "going the distance."

    Not only that, but this mother was black. Unfortunately, African-Americans have one of the lowest breastfeeding rates in the United States. According to the CDC, just 59% of African-Americans EVER breastfeeding. (That's countered againt an 81% rate for Asian-Americans, 79% for Hispanic/Latina women, 75% for Caucasians and 67% for Native Americans.) That means that she's also gone against the grain in terms of nursing when it comes to her race.

    The point I was making was that this showed that this mother had bucked the trend when it came to breastfeeding not once, but twice. To me, that says that she clearly believed in what she was doing and was able to stand up to outside pressures. Thus, I would have been very surprised if Jo really did "force" her to wean as opposed to supporting her because she (the mother) chose to wean.

    Sorry, I can't for the life of me see how that could possibly be controversial unless you simply have a problem with the fact that I called her black, African-American or part of a specific "race."

  18. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 11:35 AM |  

    oops. one more thing.
    the way jo applauded the mom for being "detached" while she listened to her baby CIO behind a closed door made me feel sick to my stomach. :(

  19. Blogger Jennifer | 11:42 AM |  

    Ahh yes, Amy...I agree with you on the "detached" comment. That really did bug me as well, but I failed to mention it in my original post.

    I *get* what Jo was trying to say there, but I think she missed the mark and I don't just mean that semantically.

    For instance, with the plan to get the six year old back in her bed, the mom had to keep from getting "engaged" in conversation. Just pick up the child and put her back to bed. In some ways, I could see how someone might use the word "detached" to describe that though I think it would be a very poor choice of words.

    For the baby though...it was just wrong. Now when the baby went down for the nap and wouldn't take the bottle, mom rocked her to sleep. Big difference from plopping her in the crib and leaving.

    Now again, it took less than five minutes and to me, since the kid was fussing/crying, not screaming, I really don't think that's the end of the world. HOWEVER, I do think the move to a crib should happen more in the way that gradual weaning would.

    Easy enough to rock the child to sleep or otherwise sooth her to sleep and to place a SLEEPING baby into the crib for awhile until she's used to it, then work toward putting drowsy baby, then tired baby and so on, KWIM?

    The cold turkey on both weaning and getting baby out of the bed just struck me as very ignorant in regards to respecting the child's needs.

  20. Blogger clone mommy | 11:56 AM |  

    jennifer-- i have to disagree with you again. i believe, some of the comments above demonstrate, and the show supernanny iteself intends for people to watch the show for advice. not for a portrayal of one specific family's unique situation. the advice given is meant to be general and applicable to more than just the 1 singular family in the show. THIS is why i felt so strongly about the way breastfeeding (and co-sleeping) were portrayed.
    also, and no offense intended, but i think your view that people "fill in" what's been edited out is a bit problematic. so yes, maybe supernanny commended this mom for BFing for 14 mo, but editing is what makes the message, not some hypothetical "filled in" viewers speculation. the message in the show was not "well done mom, you have really served your child well by BFing her for 14 mo. here are some ways to continue with this amazing bond, but also raising ALL of your children gently and lovingly." sure, this mom had little control over her other kids, but the advice to wean and to have the 14 mo baby be "independent" and "detached" was not good advice. what this family needed was MORE attachment, not less.

    i could go on, but i actually just came back to your site to let you know that the supernanny community is being censored and silenced. last night, both my boyfriend and i registered for the "supernanny" community forum and voiced our opinions about her anti-breastfeeding "advice." we referenced the AAP and WHO guidelines and voiced concern over her detachment parenting style. i also posted about how most doctors advise against bottlefeeding in bed once a baby is over 12 mo because of the risk of cavities, ear infections, and even a correlation to asthma. there were lots of other upset parents posting about the benefits of extended breastfeeding and co-sleeping. this morning, however, when i went to check if anyone (supernanny herself maybe?? or some of the so-called "child experts" that supposedly monitor the forum) had replied, ALL the critical posts were GONE (that's right, just GONE!!), and i can no longer login either.

    i think this kind of silencing and censoring is frightening, especially when so many of the "critical" posts were really sweet stories about breastfeeding and co-sleeping and also educational, referring to dr. sears and other highly respected doctors.

    in response to this censoring, i have set up this site http://www.supernannysucks.com where people can speak FREELY!!!

    Edited by rebecca on Mar 13, 2007 at 11:33 AM

  21. Blogger Jennifer | 12:09 PM |  

    clone mommy/rebecca,

    I don't mind you disagreeing with me. That's the great thing about the world, a variety of people with a variety of voices. I think you make a lot of great points and of course I also think you make a few points that I disagree with.

    Overall though, I really guess that the whole hubub just seems a bit, well, silly to me. Yes, there's bad advice on there, yes, it does a disservice to parents that take their parenting advice from prime time television, but isn't the fact that they are taking their parenting advice from primetime television signal a bigger problem than the show in and of itself?

    Again, it's a mainstream show. It caters to a mainstream audience. It's designed to get ratings. If Jo taught tow-the-line AP parenting philosophies, she'd probably go off the air in a week. Not because there isn't good advice in that line of thinking but because most people would dub it "too much work" and would bail.

    I'd imagine that's why Dr. Sears doesn't have his own talk show. (Ohh, that would be kinda cool actually...)

    Again, I just think that getting up in arms over un-reality TV is wasting time and energy that could be better spent working on things that can actually make a difference.

    Doesn't mean you have to agree with me and by all means, if you feel strongly about it, go ahead and write a letter, spread the word, do what you wish. We all have to choose our battles, this one just isn't mine.

    Now, all of that said, I think it's utterly RIDICULOUS that they would delete your comments and I'm more than willing to get up in arms about that.

    If you can share a little more info with me (either here or by email) I'd be happy to help you spread the word on that one...that's just nutty!

  22. Blogger clone mommy | 12:29 PM |  

    like i mentioned before, last night as the show was airing, both my boyfriend and i registered for the supernanny community forum at http://www.supernanny.us.com/Community/Forum.aspx to express our disappointment with the way breastfeeding was being portrayed. we both posted responses to existing threads in the "eating" section, "sleeping" section, and "miscellenous" sections where other parents had written about how "extended breastfeeding is not a mistake," "AP parents ban supernanny," for example. i read through most of the responses and even though parents seemed very upset, most of the posts were informative (referencing the AAP and WHO guidelines), and some were very sweet, containing personal stories about breastfeeding toddlers and the family bed. i personally started my own thread about the dangers of bottlefeeding because of the risk of cavities, ear infections, and the correlation to asthma.

    this was last night, between 9 and 11 pm PST. this morning, all my posts and just about every post that was critical or disagreed in some way were gone. both my boyfriend and i can no longer login either-- our emails were removed from the system.

    now they are posting this message:
    Dear Supernanny Community,

    Unfortunately the forum experienced technical problems during our site updates last night.

    We have not lost the posts that were made, however, we are doing our best to ensure they will reappear on the Supernanny Forum within the next 24 hours.

    Please bear with us until then as all your contributions are valued.

    Thanks guys,

    The Supernanny Team

    however, it is not just my thread that is "missing," but like i said, my email is not recognized by the system.

    thanks for spreading the word!

  23. Blogger clone mommy | 1:53 PM |  

    P.S. i thought it'd be useful to visit the innocenti declaration and think a little bit about what it takes to "protect, promote and support breastfeeding."in particular, i want to cite 2 points at length:

    * Attainment of this goal [of exclusive breastfeeding to 4-6 months and continued breastfeeding for up to two years of age or beyond] requires, in many countries, the reinforcement of a "breastfeeding culture" and its vigorous defense against incursions of a "bottle-feeding culture". This requires commitment and advocacy for social mobilization, utilizing to the full the prestige and authority of acknowledged leaders of society in all walks of life.
    * Efforts should be made to increase women's confidence in their ability to breastfeed. Such empowerment involves the removal of constraints and influences that manipulate perceptions and behavior towards breastfeeding, often by subtle and indirect means. This requires sensitivity, continued vigilance, and a responsive and comprehensive communications strategy involving all media and addressed to all levels of society.

    i think these are 2 really great points that pretty much sum it all up. just because a show is "mainstream" doesn't mean its message should be ignored. on the contrary, i would argue that it is EXTRA important to respond to mainstream/prime time TV shows because they do tend to reach such a broad based audience. (and i wonder if this is what anonymous poster #15 was referring to?)

    also, and this hasn't been brought up yet, but i am wondering about the "race" factor... did anyone else think that supernanny (white british woman) calling a black baby attached at the hip or breast of her mom a "koala bear" and making it sound animalistic and primitive (hindering her reaching developmental milestones) is a tad on the racist side??

    that's all for now.

  24. Blogger analisa_roche | 1:57 PM |  

    I watched the show and I agree with everything you said. My favorite sentence was about a mainstream show starring Supernanny, not an MDC show starring Hathor. I appreciate a Lactivist with a sense of balance - thanks for everything you do, Jennifer!

  25. Blogger Cairo Mama | 2:12 PM |  

    Dr. Sears has been on Dr. Phil...

  26. Anonymous Nicki H. | 7:03 PM |  

    Lactvist... thanks for your well though out post. On my local AP board (pretty large, since it's greater LA), I posted the following right after watching and have received mostly agreement as well. I think it's mostly in line with what you wrote with a couple additional themes. That said, I think a lot of the comments women have posted have merit as to specific points. The "detached" comment rankled me too, although I didn't address that specifically. The "personal growth" thing did as well.

    Here's my "review" below if you feel like posting/adding it.

    I just watched it and it really wasn't as bad as I was expecting it to be. It never made me want to get up off the couch and yell. The stuff with the 6 yo was pretty reasonable depending on how you feel about extended cosleeping. I know that we only coslept regularly all night through about a year, then just mornings for a while, and then only once in a while, although our 4 yo still comes in occasionally for every reason from bad dreams or just because she's lonely that night. That's fine with us. But I think in this family, no one was getting enough sleep, and I liked that she told the parents it was their responsibility to get the daughter about 12 hours because what's kids that age physically need. The issue really seemed to be about the little girl not wanting to go to sleep at ALL more than wanting to be in their bed, at least that's how it seemed.

    The 14 month old stuff was harder to watch, only because it broke my heart to see her weaned and put in her crib all in a couple days. That's a lot of attachment to lose all at once. That said, she really did seem ready for it, and significantly, the mom WANTED to wean the breast and the bed -- I didn't get the sense that Jo pushed her into it, but made her confront what she wanted. The family was pretty disfunctional the way they were, and the mom was unable to be an effective parent the way she was handling things. I didn't really see any need to take the 14 month old out of bed, but the mom seemed to want to and the child handled it well, at least as much as they showed.

    The worst part was the 5 minutes of CIO when they put her in her crib... but even then, it was relatively gentle... she showed her to listen to the baby and you got the sense that she would have gone in if she needed it, but did put herself to sleep within that 5 min.

    Of course you never know what they cut and don't show. ..

    The nursing part she told the mother that it was really her choice, and that she'd help her continue to BF or help her to wean. My biggest concern is that for the watchers, they didn't get to see the other way... what if the baby HADN'T stopped crying and gone to sleep, what if the mother decided NOT to wean. Neither of these scenarios were shown, so it made it look like weaning and bedweaning were the right choice for *everyone.* Also, while she was good with the mother, the general disdain she showed for EBF and cosleeping in her asides were pretty annoying.

    The BEST part of the show was the blanket statements she made about hitting being an idiotic way to teach kids not to hit (maybe that will hit home with some viewers) and that overall spanking and hitting were inappropriate, unnecessary and ineffective methods of discipline. However, she certainly is big on authority and control and automatic respect -- I don't watch this show much so I suppose those who watch it's no surprise. She recommended lots of positive praise (which I suppose is at least a positive step from all the "whoopings", as the mom said), and required the kids to always listen as a blanket rule. In any case, while the cosleeping and BF ending were a little sad, the little girl did really seem (at least the way they cut the film), ready to venture out a bit more on her own and attracted to the breast mostly by force of habit -- hard to tell through the TV how nutritive it was, and the mom, while conflicted, wanted to be done. But if getting the baby off the breast and out of the bed gives her more time to be mindful of her discipline and better rested to handle it, it was probably an ok trade to see her stop whacking the kids.

    I definitely wouldn't call the mom AP.. her EBF (although good for her for BFing in the first place, I suppose) and babycarrying (not really wearning mostly) and cosleeping, didn't seem to be choices, or really even mindful, but just the situation that had developed for them. She liked to be attached to the little one, but not the way I think most of us think of it. She just seemed to lack the skills to evaluate if the situation was really a choice, if it was what the kids needed, and only knew that she didn't know what or how to change but that the family functioning well as is.

    Again, hard to know what wasn't shown, and certainly no FRIEND to the AP lifestyle, but quite possibly the best options for this family.


  27. Anonymous tanya CLC/ob nurse | 8:32 PM |  

    i have to be one of those ones who disagrees with you. the suppernanny clearly did not support a mom still breastfeeding. she showed this by stating "how can i put this nicely, the child is hanging off her breast" and when "giving the mom a choice" the first thing she did was hold her hand and ask her if the reason she was "still" nursing was a emotional reason like that was a bad thing. then backed her body away from her when she asked her to make the choice. it was all in her body langauge what she thought she should do and the mom is on national tv who called this lady to help her with her children's bad behavior and i am sure felt pressure that weaning was what she should do. when first asked about the breastfeeding she was smiling and felt good about the time they were spending together, just needed help setting limits for a now nursing toddler. instead was told to wean her baby with no warning, never to nurse again. this was truely sad. also at the end of the show the supernanny said the child needed this to "emotionally grow". i am sorry, but that was the sadest part. i am a lactation counsler and feel there is already so much misinformation and negativiy out there about nursing toddlers and so many parents watch the show to help solve problems in their own households and now some of those people will think they should do what the nanny did. the nanny is clearly not anywhere near qualified to give lactation advice and she just did to millions of people, that is why people need to flood the network with nasty letters to let them know that she overstepped and needs to let her viewers know what the correct way to wean a toddler is and also realize that even though she might not support it, it is the best thing. and she is working where the american association of pediatrics recommeds breastfeeding for two years or longer if wished.
    thanks, tanya CLC.

  28. Anonymous amygeekgrl | 3:22 PM |  

    i finally got a chance to write out all of my thoughts on the episode. here's the link if you feel inclined to take a gander. ;)
    thanks :)

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