As I sat down in front my my computer tonight, Naomi in bed, dishes washed and trash outside, I pondered my choices. I could play my Sims, who have been very neglected, and get them ready for the Expansion Pack that just came out. It’s a rare moment when I can play them, maybe once a month. I love my Sims, but they are a low priority.
Or, I thought, I could write that post about breastfeeding that’s been knocking around in my head. Guess which one I chose?
I usually avoid writing about breastfeeding. Since I’m new on the scene I want to err on the side of being PC. I’m human and I need to be loved, after all. It seems most mommy bloggers do not share my feelings baout breastfeeding, and I don't want to piss off anyone who was nice enough to put me on their blogroll.
In the past few days, a few things have pushed me over the edge. A good friend of mine took her 3 month old to a hospital breasfeeding support group today, where she overheard someone badmouthing our La Leche League meeting. This woman, lets call her Kitty, came to LLL in January while she was still pregnant. She seemed very anxious, even more so than most pregnant women we get.
I’m SICK TO DEATH of people bashing LLL.
As we usually do when there is a pregnant woman present, we made sure the meeting focused on getting her questions answered. We try to have the pregnant women who come to our meeting leave with the sense that breastfeeding is 1. worth putting time and effort into, and 2. something that they are capable of doing if they want to. The leaders in this group are very moderate by LLL standards, they don’t cloth diaper, they fully vaccinate, they shower and shave and look “normal”. They go out of their way to make sure everyone’s comfortable and everyone’s questions get answered.
So Kitty badmouthed us, said we’re boob nazis (a term which many Jewish people are highly offended by, by the way), all the usual things. All we did was answer her whacked out questions with compassion and factual information.
Kitty: “Will it hurt?”
“Probably, but it’s worth it [cue at least five horror stories about the first blindingly painful few months]”
Kitty: “When should I start supplemeting with formula?”
Leader: “Supplementing with formula can cause your supply to drop. If you are okay with that, try waiting four to six weeks for breasfeeding to be well established before you introduce a bottle to avoid possible nipple confusion”
Mother of nursing 2 year old: “My baby had bottles from day one because he was in the NICU and never had nipple confusion”
Mother of 4 month old: “My baby had a bottle at 1 week and it screwed up his latch for days. My nipples got blood blisters!”
Me: “You’re not going to know how your baby will react until you try, and if they react badly it’s could be too late to fix it. It wasn’t worth the risk to me. I waited until she was 6 weeks to introduce a bottle”
I dont’ understand why someone comes to LLL and expects them to be all blasé about formula. We assume, since you’re there, that you’re commited to breastfeeding, and you want to continue more than a few months. That’s what LLL is for, to support the minority population of women who believe in breasfeeding. The purpose of LLL isn’t to make everyone feel all warm and fuzzy about their choices.
It turns out that Kitty went along to have her baby and begin regular supplementation before he turned two weeks old. Now, he’s six weeks and she came a support group asking how to restore her supply and to bash the people who warned her that this might happen. Duh.
The other thing that pushed me over the edge was this post of Melissa’s. As much as I hate to pick on the woman who inspired me to power pee, I read this on my vacation and it wouldn’t get out of my head. In the interest of discussion, I decided to post my thoughts:
Some of my favorite parts:
“And as for the argument that it's getting back to our primitive roots to do these things ... Has anybody ever bothered to ask the 3rd world women, who wear their babies everywhere, if they had nice paved sidewalks and had access to tricked out strollers, if they wouldn't really prefer that over the baby-tied-to-you-back method?”
Uhh, actually, they did. The mothers were confused and horrified. Since the article is a year old, I’m c&p-ing the excerpt from the forum where I originally found the link. You can get the general idea:
“An Idea Still Looking for Traction in Kenya
East African Women Vote With Their Feet Against Baby Strollers
By Emily Wax
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, May 18, 2004; Page A08
NAIROBI, Kenya -- Irene Wambui can't imagine why anyone would buy a baby stroller. She says she sees it as a cold cage filled with useless rattles, cup holders and mirrored headlights. Imagine children being stuffed into such a contraption and pushed around town like some kind of pet.”
“Figure out what works for you. If that means bottles or playpens or nannies or pre-school... more power to you!”
But no power to you if you choose to cosleep, breastfeed or wear your baby. Shame on you for perpetuating the Mommy Wars with your competitive behaviour.
Initially, I decided to breastfeed because I thought it was best. I read until my eyes burned and decided that, given everything I’d learned, giving up on breasfeeding without a fight would be downright unethical.
The longer I breastfed my daughter the more I loved it. I know I complain a lot, because breastfeeding is like swimming upstream in a culture that’s always suspicious of a woman who gets too much pleasure out of mothering.
I never thought I’d be nursing a 2 ½ year old, but here I am. I thought I’d want my body back. I planned to wean at a year. A year came and went and I saw how much she needed it, and how much I loved being her lovey.
Breastfeeding is central to my relationship with Naomi. She meets so many needs at my breasts that it leaves me to wonder what happens to kids who never have this experience. They adapt of course, fixating on bottles or other objects of comfort as substitutes for nursing. I feel bad for mothers on planes, especially. Naomi has never been than baby no one wants to sit next to, and we’ve flown with her five times now. It’s not because of my superior mothering: it’s because of the trump card I keep in my baby/toddler-taming bag of tricks.
Most of all, I continue to breastfeed because it makes me feel good about the job I’m doing. I’m teaching Naomi about relationships, physical and emotional, as we do the give and take boundary dance that is gradual weaning. I’m learning a lot about relationships as a result. Now that I can see the end in the distance I understand why most kids in a natural environment don’t self-wean before 2 ½. It takes a certain maturity and a level of understanding to step away from nursing that doesn’t exist in a younger child.
Babywearing was a natural outgrowth of nursing for me. It’s another thing that didn’t feel natural or right at first, but I persisted with it anyway and found I couldn’t do without. For a year and a half, I never had to lug a stroller up subway steps, heave it into the trunk of the car, or look for an elevator. I never had to find a place to sit down to nurse her. I could nurse her standing in line at the bank, shopping at the Gap, getting my groceries, folding my laundry, fixing my dinner. I can nurse her while answering my email, while reading, while surfing the Net. Now that I use a stroller, I miss the simple days of marsupial motherhood. Strollerhood feels cumbersome and remote. I miss the face to face interaction we once had.
I generally trust nature. I trust that nature wouldn’t have designed a system that is so fundamentally flawed as to destroy the mothers who try to follow it. Women have the amazing power to create and nurture life, and there’s nothing wrong with finding your power in fufilling that biological destiny to it’s fullest. In fact, there can be tremendous joy in surrenduring to motherhood and childcare. Don’t knock it.
Okay, last one:
"…Dr. Sears as the enemy of Modern Motherhood, setting back the clock by a couple of decades."
I can understand hating Dr. Sears. He makes being AP sound too simple. He’s a pollyanna about sleep especially. But setting back the clock by advocating a nature-based approach to motherhood? Come on. So we measure our progress by how little childcare we can get away with doing?
The above statement equates progress with being unshackled from children, and the freedom to pursue a full time career. It devalues the unique gifts women are given to nurture and create life. I suppose the ultimate in progress by that yardstick would be to gestate children in jars so we wouldn’t even have to be pregnant?
I doubt that women will make much real progress by devaluing their own gifts in favor of the more “male” model of success. In Modern Motherhood, there should be room for both: a mother should be able to breastfeed, cosleep and babywear if she wants to, while pursuing whatever else makes her happy. Plenty of women have done just that by starting their own businesses or working in a child friendly environment. Women have been doing their work among children for centuries. We are born multitaskers. I enjoy embracing this in my life, even though I don’t do much that would qualify as “valuable” by most people.
So, there. Flame away.