Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Sorry to the dudes who read this...

When I get an opportunity to talk about breastfeeding, well, I have to take it and run. My bff posted today, a wonderful document to the personalities of her children, that helped determined how long they were on the breast, as opposed to the bottle. And that is entirely true.

My story with The Kid is simple. I made up my mind, I was home for a year with him, and he nursed for 18 months. It was awesome. We suffered through some thrush, I had mastitis that sent me to the emergency room only to learn that ER docs don't know the first thing about breasts, I had a traumatic labor and it took a LOT of effort to get my milk in, and this was done with all of the effort I could muster, I was so devoted to breastfeeding, and once we were in, we were way in. The vast majority of our time nursing was wonderful. It was a bonding experience, it was sweet and loving, it cured boo boos, it helped us sleep, I lost my baby weight quickly. Also, The Kid loved my milk.

My philosophy on nursing is very laissez faire, but I'm not totally cool with 'anything you want to do, that's fine..." I have a major caveat.

I have a friend who had her first baby in August. She wanted to nurse, and she did. Her baby was a total champion nurser, and my friend was a natural (whether she wants to believe it or not). She had family*, though, that bugged her about how gross it was, how annoying it was, how she didn't know if the baby was getting enough--even though her diapers were full--and how generations of kids in this world were just fine getting bottles, why go through all this exhaustion and work just to breastfeed.

This is my beef, and I want to state clearly that this isn't the stance of a militant breastfeeding advocate (against other moms, angry at bottle feeders and Carnation and Nestle), but the stance of a woman who wants a different society. Our culture is sick. I know a lot of moms who would love to have breastfed their kids longer, but because of their jobs, their jobs allowing them time to pump, or access to their babies during the day, they dried up before they were ready to stop. Our culture has sexualized the breast and alienated our normal bodily functions so severely that moms who are demurely breastfeeding in a corner of a restaurant, public library or mall are asked to leave or go into a bath room. We have raised generations of women so disassociated with their own bodies and the purposes of our bodies that we think nursing is 'gross.'

My friends who have had to go back to work, my friends who could not handle a vegan diet to keep their babies from projectile vomiting, my friends (who are also saints) who got pregnant again only a few months after having a baby, I have no qualms.

For women who are so out of touch with their bodies as to be uncomfortable with or grossed out by nursing, I take issue. Think hard about how we got here. Think hard about how long we've had formula. Your boobs, ladies, are designed to lactate. It's only gross if you think your boobs are only for people to oogle.

We are lucky to have formula. It fed The Kid for his first week of life, when I had no colostrom nor milk to give, through a Lact-aid, a kind of "IV drip" tube that you stick on to your nipple, and then allow the baby to latch on. Using that, my milk came in eventually, and we had a long healthy run.

I don't propose to say that The Kid is smarter because we nursed, that also bugs me. I didn't manage to prevent any his disabilities. I do think it should be a preferred practice here, though. And I think our employers, our public establishments, our families and our culture should support women to succeed with breastfeeding.

EDITED TO SAY: Dear Friend of baby born in August: I hope you don't mind me using your family as an example. You know I love love love love your family, but their attitudes were things we discussed, and were an impediment, and caused you stress. It's only an example.


Mr Lady said...

I love you so bad it hurts. You are totally dead on.

caty said...

"Hooray for boobies" said Apu and i concur wholeheartedly.
My big beef is really with employers who don't value working, nursing moms. I was very fortunate but i know of people, not living here in Oregon where it's uber-OK to nurse, who did not have bosses who understood that before she could go into that meeting, she would need to pump so big wet patches of milk would not reveal themselves in her clothing.

I had a friend who also had a preemie and the nurses at the NICU, same hospital where we were--same NICU even, were not encouraging of her while she strugged to try and nurse a little guy who was 6 weeks early. I had the most awesomest nurses who just cheered us along as Charlie learned to nurse over the course of three weeks. Weird though. Same hosp. Same NICU. Different focus and emphasis.
Nursing is great, free, portable, handy. All you need is a willing baby and some sweet warm milk and sometimes a good book.

lyndsey said...

YES.YES.YES. I nursed Lauralei for 15 months. The ONE time I did it in public you'd have thought I was streaking through the store. My SIL had very similar experiences-- once being told that she was disgusting and needed to continue nursing on a toilet in the restroom. I had to coordinate my day around Lauralei's nursing schedule so that I didn't have to deal with people's crap. Thankfully it wasn't that hard and worked out well, but I totally agree with EVERYTHING you said. Brava!

Andy said...

Our two oldest kids were nursed for a good 18 months each, and I suspect #3 will have a good run too (although with all the food allergies demanding Mom have a bland diet, it might grow old more quickly).

Formula is fine, I suppose, but if you can get the benefit of the milk and the bonding involved, why not do so?

I really don't get the oversexualization of the breast. A time for everything, as it were. In a sexually-charged atmosphere, yes, I love me some boobies, mmmm, boobies! But when they are being used to nurse my children, I see them as more essential and wondrous for my children than designed to give me an erection.

It's rather like comparing a hand job to a female doctor telling me to look over my shoulder and cough. One is hot. The other... not so much.

VDog said...

Great, great, GREAT post. Sigh.

Attitudes need some serious adjustment in this country. Sigh.

Still nursing at almost 15 months and will feed anytime, anywhere necessary -- despite my knowing that I might get dirty looks, esp. now that my baby' legs wrap around my body, lol.

Great post. Did I say that already? ;)