How Electricity Deregulation is Like Weaning a Breastfeeding Baby


How Breastfeeding is Like Electricity DeregulationSo, all moms who breastfeed (and dads who aspire to as much) understand the dynamics associated with nursing a baby and then weaning said baby. It’s surprisingly complicated stuff, despite being all mother nature-y and whatnot. Heck, the act of nursing is much more difficult than you could ever imagine, with the whole latching process, how to hold the baby (football-style or cross-cradle?? Pre-baby, I thought you just stuck ‘em on there and they would go to town. Yeah… no), maintaining your “supply,” eating the right foods, etc. It’s super complicated, let me tell ya. So complicated, in fact, that it totally reminds me of…  deregulation!

Yep, that’s what I said: Deregulation. How does deregulation have anything to do with weaning a baby, you’re probably asking? Well, it actually has next to nothing to do with deregulation, but as a recovering English major, I am highly adept at drawing parallels between things that have seemingly little or no relation to one another. That is, my first language is in fact metaphorical. (Also, I thought throwing the word “breast” in the title of my post would bring some additional traffic to our site.) But let’s not focus too much on that. I make a pretty good argument, so just quit asking questions, read on, and maybe you’ll learn a little something.

Ok, so when you’re weaning a baby who’s exclusively nursing, you have to consider that prior to weaning, mom is the only source of food and as such, the only one who feeds it to the baby. (We’ll get into pumping later, settle down.) Upon weaning, the baby is given a different source of food. Before deregulation, the utility was the only supplier of electricity and was also the entity responsible for distributing it to those consuming it. In a deregulated market, consumers also have the option of receiving their supply from somewhere other than the utility. See the parallel?? (I know, it’s kind of weak, but it’s all in the name of educating you deregulation-challenged folks.)

Weaning sounds like a simple enough concept, but when you try to take away a baby’s main source of food and replace it with something else, baby might pitch a fit. Baby might cry, scream, refuse to take a bottle, throw up on you — or he might go on a hunger strike and simply refuse to wean, so the mom relents and keeps breastfeeding. Naturally, baby is more comfortable with the mom because he’s known her longer, they’re used to each other, they both know what to expect, etc. Alternatively, the baby might wean easily, and take to a bottle without so much as cooing a “goo-gaa.” (I tend to think the latter is a freak of nature, but I suppose it does happen occasionally.) Ultimately, the baby will be fed one way or another, just by different sources. The more cooperative babies will eventually transition, while the stubborn babies fight it, often at their own expense.

See, isn’t that exactly like deregulation! Upon weaning, the mom is still feeding the baby, but is substituting with an alternative source of food. (Don’t get all huffy now, dads, we know you help, too — it just derails my analogy to bring you into the mix.) Similarly, deregulation allows for the introduction of another electricity supplier into the equation, but the distributor of electricity (the utility) remains the same. Electricity = formula (or pumped breast milk, if you go that route. I’m anti-cow’s milk, but that’s for a later diatribe). So, by extension, Mom = the utility company. The public perception about switching to an alternative electricity supplier is very much like a weaning baby’s response to drinking formula – a feeling of distrust, hesitation, uncertainty about trying something new, etc. The consumer knows the utility better, they are comfortable with them because they’ve always been the supplier, and changing their mindset takes a bit of time –especially when it comes to messing with their supply of electricity. When weaning a baby, you can’t just cram a bottle in his mouth and expect him to suck it down on cue without some kind of fight. You have to introduce it slowly, let him smell it, give him a little taste, and then see what he thinks. Maybe he has to reflect on it for a bit and simply get used to the idea. Change is hard for some babies. You have to reassure him that his mom will still be there to feed him, even though she’s not supplying the milk anymore. When he is ready, he’ll drink. And he’ll be happy.

Similarly, you can’t expect a consumer to respond well when out of the blue you pound on their front door (during dinnertime, no less), snap your fingers, and expect them to switch to a new supplier on the spot (like certain suppliers do, who shall remain unnamed). You have to reassure them that their utility won’t abandon them – it will continue to deliver their electricity, no matter who is supplying it. And you must reiterate that their electricity won’t be shut off in order to make the switch. Like the baby, consumers should be fed the information slowly, allowed to digest it all, and then absorb everything at their own pace; then, and only then, will they be open to the idea, give it the thought and time it deserves, and understand fully why it’s a pretty good idea. The baby still gets fed and the electricity keeps flowing — where it comes from is all that changes. It’s starting to come together now, right?

Ok, so here is where my analogy begins to crumble. When you wean a baby, you have to start giving him food of some sort. Breastfeeding is free. Food, on the other hand, costs money. Alternatively, in a deregulated energy market, more often than not you save money on your electricity. Alternative suppliers are able to purchase electricity more efficiently and more often than utilities, which results in savings that are passed on to consumers who have switched. Just like some stubborn babies (the anti-weaners), however, some consumers simply won’t entertain the idea of switching because they fear change too much. The babes are at least getting the milk for free (good thing, since baby labor’s illegal), whereas change-resistant consumers have not only bought the cow, but they’re paying more for the milk. Now THAT, my friends, just doesn’t add up.

Divergent analogies be damned. I’ll just leave you with this advice:

Be smart.

Embrace change.

Consider switching suppliers.

And then do it.

Don’t fight the wean.


Stay tuned for next month’s post, ”Crying It Out: How Sleep-Training a Baby is Just Like ComEd’s Customer Service.”


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