More About Breastfeeding in Public

Can you tell I’m a breastfeeding mother with all the things I’ve been writing about that?  I came across a quote that struck me:
   
  Women’s breasts have become little more than sexual objects in our society. We are bombarded everyday with images of the female breast, and they are all of a sexual nature. In her article about “The Cultural Context of Breastfeeding,” Katherine Dettwyler compares the American preoccupation with the breast to the ancient Chinese practice of foot binding. For women in ancient China, the idea that tiny feet symbolized sensuality compromised their ability to fulfil the foot’s biological use – walking. Just as Chinese women were forced to hobble around because of a cultural belief about sensuality, modern American mothers are hobbled because the biological utilization of their breasts has been compromised by their sensual image.

It’s an interesting comparison, and I can see why the link was made.  So often the arguments made against breastfeeding in public (or at all) are because people see it as sexual and either don’t want to see it or don’t want to breastfeed because they can’t see their breasts as anything but sexual.  Or the implication that they would somehow have to give up their sexuality by breastfeeding.  None of this is true, though. Really, the last line of that paragraph just says it all.

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3 Years Ago Today

My wonderful son was born.  I honestly don’t know what I’d do without him.  3 years ago today, at exactly 40 weeks pregnant, I was in labour.  I’d awakened at 2.00 to my waters breaking, and so we went to the hospital.  After a NST and all that, we went back home, since I wasn’t in labour yet.  Contractions were starting just as we left, but I figured it would be awhile yet.  I tried to go back to sleep, but by 6.00 I couldn’t lay down comfortably, so I got up.  I laboured under the shower for a while, which felt great.  I couldn’t manage to eat, and had to breathe through the contractions.  We went back to the hospital around noon, and my labour stalled.  It picked back up again after a couple of hours, though.  Unfortunately, since I’d decided to lie on my back, K had turned back-to-back and started pressing on my sciatic nerve.  The contractions weren’t too bad, despite there being no break between them, but the sciatic pain was a killer.  I’d wanted to labour in water, but the birthing pool was taken.  By the time it was available, I was in transition, though I didn’t realise that.  Of  course, that also meant that I no longer wanted the water, and I gave in to the pethidine/phenergan (or similar drug) injection.  30 minutes later I was pushing, and 15 minutes after that, K was born (with the help of the ventouse).  He was perfect, and still is.

He’s still very definite about things, and insists on order.  Perhaps I should’ve expected that when he came exactly on his due date.  This morning when he awoke, we got out his presents.  He opened the first one, and would’ve happily just talked about it and not opened the others for some time had C not tried to get them.  Then he decided to go ahead and open more presents.  After presents we had pancakes for breakfast, and then got ready for Mass.  I’d promised him we could light a votive candle at Mass for his birthday.  All the priests greeted him, and we got the candle and then sat down for Mass.  He was very attentive to the prayers.  After Mass, Fr David mentioned that it was K’s birthday, and everyone clapped – K responded by screaming.  He really isn’t fond of lots of clapping since it’s out of the ordinary.  He did go and talk to Fr David afterwards, though, so all was well.

So now we’re back home, and he’s watching Star Trek: Voyager.  Later we’ll eat French onion soup, Brie, and homemade baguettes, at his request.  We’ll also make fairy cakes together.  Sounds like a good birthday to me.  Happy birthday, my sweet, funny, clever boy.

When Sesame Street Was Cool. . .

I’m obviously on a roll posting about breastfeeding lately.  I’m sure I’ll post about something different soon, but this one is also about breastfeeding in public.  I came across these clips from Sesame Street.

I think it’s wonderful that this was shown on Sesame Street.  Too bad it isn’t always seen as normal and natural now.  In fact, a hospital recently came under fire for having a poster of a toddler pretending to breastfeed her doll.  Such a thing is absolutely normal – a child will mimic what the mother does, be that pretending to bottle feed a toy or pretending to breastfeed a toy.  K pretends to breastfeed his toys and puts bumGenius on them because that’s what he sees at home.  We also watch the old school Sesame Street videos. 😉

Breastfeeding at Work

I’ve long thought that working mums should be able to bring their babies to work in order to better facilitate breastfeeding.  When I had K, I was still working on my PhD and working part-time at the university doing clerical work.  I was lucky because they allowed me to bring K with me to classes, supervisor meetings, and work, even though they didn’t have to accommodate me in that way.  But now I see that there’s a proposed legislation that will make it easier to breastfeed at work.

I think this is wonderful!  If these women also wear their babies, it won’t impede them in their work much at all.  I know I was able to work while breastfeeding with little problem.  Obviously some professions may make such an arrangement impractical, but women in such professions should also be aided by this proposed legislation since it would also allow for more breaks and facilities for storing breastmilk.  I wish this could be done without passing a law, though, as it was at the university.

Breastfeeding in Public

Recently I’ve been in a discussion on Mom Vs the World about breastfeeding in public.  I am very much in favour of breastfeeding in public and think women should be supported and encouraged in this.  I’ll go through the reasons below.

1) Babies need to be fed on demand and shouldn’t be made to wait.  Because we should follow the baby’s cues when it comes to feeding, and because women shouldn’t be sequestered in the house for months and years on end until the child is weaned, it is likely that the baby will be hungry at some point when the mother is out.  It may not be every time, or even the majority of the time, but it’s almost inevitable to happen at some point.

2) There is nothing obscene or sexual about breastfeeding.  While breasts can be sexual (in the sense of attraction/arousal), they are not when breastfeeding.  Breastfeeding is simply about feeding and comforting a baby, nothing more.  Most women breastfeed in public in such a way that nothing is shown, anyway.  If some people see breasts as inherently, exclusively sexual and thus are uncomfortable with breastfeeding because of that, it may be that this is actually caused in part by the fact that women aren’t breastfeeding in public as much.  Perhaps if more were, more would come to view breastfeeding as a normal event and wouldn’t view breasts as sexual in that context.

Related to this is the fact that, historically, women have been shown to breastfeed and it’s just been accepted as a part of daily life.   It wasn’t seen as sexual, obscene, or taboo, but was accepted as the natural part of life that it is.  This was reflected in the artwork, too, as in the painting of the Blessed Virgin Mary breastfeeding the infant Jesus.

3)  Why should artificial feeding systems be used?  There’s nipple confusion, or outright refusal of a bottle, there’s the hassle of carrying the bottles, the question of where to heat up the milk, the problem of the woman’s breasts feeling full anyway (it’s rather uncomfortable, I might add), the question of whether the woman is able to pump much or at all, or if she even has the means to get proper bottles and sterilisers and whatnot.  There’s also the matter of the breastmilk composition changing throughout the day, so if she’s out at a certain time, the bottle should ideally be of breastmilk expressed at the same time a previous day.  And if she is giving a bottle when out, she should ideally be expressing at that time so that her body doesn’t take that as a cue that less milk should be made.  Our bodies work on supply and demand, and if the baby is put to the breast less often, less milk is made.  It’s also more convenient to breastfeed instead of bottle-feed since the woman would also have to find a convenient place to sit down to feed the child, where that wouldn’t be absolutely necessary with breastfeeding if she also wears her baby.

4) The convenience-factor is multiplied when you consider travel.  Two summers ago we flew overseas to see family.  From the time we left our house to the time we arrived at our destination 24 hours had elapsed, due in part to a delay on one of the flights.  I did not routinely express milk, and so it’s unlikely I would’ve been able to get more than a couple of ounces – definitely not enough for 24 hours of travel.  It also would’ve been a hassle to get it through security (it’s possible, but just another strain) and also difficult to warm it as needed.  Our travel time included a train and two planes, places where moving to a different area would not be possible.  The airports didn’t have feeding areas, as far as I was aware.  In such a situation, breastfeeding in public becomes a necessity.

Another time when breastfeeding in public was unavoidable was when I attended my in-depth Billings Ovulation Method training this past summer.  I took C with me, of course, since she was only 3 months old.  In order to attend the training sessions, it was absolutely necessary to breastfeed her there.  Far from tying me down, breastfeeding allowed me to attend without the hassle or distraction of trying to deal with a bottle or cup.

Obviously this list isn’t exhaustive, but I hope it gives a bit of an idea about why I’m so adamant that mothers be encouraged and supported in breastfeeding whenever and wherever they are.

Vaccines

This post is just me thinking aloud, more or less.  I’ve been slowly studying more about vaccines and trying to see exactly where I stand.  I was recently having a conversation with Guggie Daly about vaccines, and she pointed out how we as a society have become conditioned to absolutely fear those diseases for which there are vaccines, while we don’t seem to fear the ones for which we don’t have vaccines (she pointed out the cholera outbreak as an example).  I  can see what she means.  While I live in England, I’m from the US, so I often look at the vaccines there, too, since we may one day move back.  Honestly, the list of “necessary” vaccines in the US seems odd to me, having lived in England.  Why is Hep B necessary for all infants in the US, but not here?  They don’t seem to have a problem with Hep B here, and the vaccine is only offered to those who are at a high risk of contracting the disease.  Makes sense to me.  Or rotavirus – that’s another one that’s offered in the US but not in England.  When I talk to people in the US, some of them seem very scared of that disease, and yet I never hear anything about it here.  Another example is chicken pox.  Yes, some people in the US genuinely seem afraid of chicken pox because there are, very rarely, more serious complications from it.  My Health Visitor here, though, thinks it’s silly to vaccinate against it (I agree).  It just isn’t seen as serious here.  My son had a very mild case thanks to breastfeeding.

So how are various diseases viewed here?  Well, the ones that are vaccinated against are feared greatly, it seems.  Including the flu.  When the H1N1 scare happened last year, there was a palpalble panic.  I was diagnosed with it over the internet, having never been seen by a doctor.  When I developed a secondary bacterial infection, I still wasn’t seen by a doctor – they wouldn’t let me come to the surgery in case I infected anyone else.  I was never tested for the strain of flu, but was still told to get a H1N1 vaccine just in case.  Because of all the fear surrounding it, I eventually gave in, though I regret that.  Actually, that sums up how I feel about all vaccines, to be honest.  I bought into the fear of the MMR with K, fearing that he would get rubella and pass it on to a pregnant woman who would then be counseled to have an abortion.  With C, I’m thinking that isn’t a good enough reason, since the odds of her contracting it and giving it to pregnant woman who has no immunity to it in her first trimester is extremely rare.

This also pertains to the Vit K that is commonly given shortly after birth (most commonly by injection, but sometimes orally).  Sometimes when I’ve spoken about the fact that I see no reason for it under normal conditions, people have been horrified and tried to scare me into it.  The health professionals just made sure I knew why they gave it when I refused for C to have it.  Thankfully they didn’t give me horror stories or push it too much once I made it clear that I’d researched the matter and knew what to look out for.  I will admit to being rather paranoid about things at first, though I firmly believed that C didn’t need the Vit K with a non-traumatic birth, delayed cord clamping, immediate breastfeeding, and the fact that I eat things high in Vit K.

For some reason, I didn’t start thinking of all vaccines this way until recently, despite my conclusions about Vit K.  I suppose this is in large part because I didn’t research other jabs until more recently, and I’m still going through the research. So I’m not saying one should just throw caution to the wind, but that we should inform ourselves about the diseases and the true risks involved, and how to treat them.  So far, I’m not seeing a great chance of serious risks by not vaccinating, at least not enough to justify vaccinating everyone.  Being informed really goes both ways, here, as we also shouldn’t just have our children vaccinated without researching things more.  I always research medicines and treatments that doctors advise instead of just trusting them, so I’m not sure why I didn’t start researching this sooner.

Now, I’m not saying one should just throw all caution to the wind and ignore any of these diseases, but neither should one just accept the vaccines without question.  I think we should research the diseases and the vaccines, and be aware of any warning signs and treatments for the diseases so we know what to do.  How can we truly make an informed choice without looking at these things?  I wish I’d researched more before having K, but I can’t change the past.

Lazy

I often joke that my parenting choices are based in laziness.  Why do I breastfeed? I’m too lazy to bottle-feed or express regularly or prepare the milk or whatnot.  Why do I do baby-led weaning? I’m too lazy to puree foods or spoon-feed.  Why do I co-sleep?  I’m too lazy to get up to breastfeed.

Of course, it’s not true that I do these things out of laziness.  Breastfeeding isn’t always less work than bottle-feeding, I imagine, since I’m always the one doing the feeding (though I have no experience with not breastfeeding, so I could be wrong).  But even if these things are less work (and I maintain that BLW and co-sleeping are less work), that’s not why I chose them.  I chose them because they work best for us, and because I feel they are the right choices for us.  And of course Attachment Parenting in general isn’t necessarily easy, but then, I don’t expect parenting to be easy.  I do what I do because it works for us and I enjoy it (for the most part).  That’s not to say there aren’t days when I get frustrated, or when it isn’t hard, I do and it is.  The main point, though, is that it’s what works for us.