Tuesday, October 7, 2008

What Would It Take To Make Breastfeeding the Norm?

I've posted before about breastfeeding, and how it's okay not to be all delirious with joy. I mentioned in that same post that La Leche League kinda bugs me. However, as part of my job today I was explaining that in order to win a fight, you must establish your position as the norm, and the opponent's position as substandard. It helps if your opponent's position really IS substandard.

Then I remembered I GOT that from LLL. It was an essay on making breastfeeding the norm.

I haven't changed my mind, by the way. I ended my last post on this topic by pointing out that formula isn't rat poison. If you really tried breastfeeding (REALLY tried, with support and helpful books and lactation consultants), sometimes you still gotta choose formula - and you have the right not to feel guilty about it.

But you have the right to feel angry about not being allowed resources to learn, and the time to do it. I was talking with another friend today about how our society fetishizes motherhood, but only if the mother in question asks nothing of society in return.

It took THIRTY DAYS for me, a brand new mother who had never seen regular breastfeeding, and only two friends in the universe who'd even tried, to establish a nursing relationship that didn't make me want to scream. It took longer to figure it all out, to learn the holds and the positions, to learn the baby's cues and my needs, to find our rhythm. As a consultant who works from home, I had to be back at work after three weeks, but I didn't have to disrupt the nursing process. I had the luxury of being able to offer milk every time he asked for it, and this developed my supply and our trust in each other.

He was four months old before I had to leave him for more than an hour.

You think I'd still be exclusively breastfeeding my eight month old without all those advantages? I don't.

And yet maternity leave is six weeks long if the mother is lucky. She can have three months if she's willing to go a month without pay. Any woman who suggests that a European model is healthier for the infant, for the mother, and for society is a scumwad pinko commie who wants higher taxes and to eat bonbons at the expense of the working man.

My breastfed infant will get sick less often. He and I will both have long term benefits that have accrued from nursing. If we only consider our lessened impact on health insurance premiums, we've given back to society the money it would have taken to pay me for a real maternity leave. If I'm spared the various cancers that breastfeeding wards off, society could have taken the money it would have spent on the treatments and given my husband another week to get to know his son.

Breast is not best - breast is the norm. And parenthood is not a fetish, it's a societal benefit.

1 comment:

Kate said...

You don't know me, but I fucking love you. Someone who knows you put a link to this post in a comment on my friend's Facebook status (ain't technology grand?). I just wanted to give you kudos for saying what needs to be said about breastfeeding without guilt and illuminating the motherhood fetish that's so prevalent in our culture.

You rock!

-Kate, a mommy activist/lobbyist in DC