Thursday, April 30, 2009

Breast-Feeding Nazis, Don't Read This!

A wonderful article, courtesy of my dad:

The Case Against Breast-Feeding

Breast-feeding and feminism collide once again, and it's totally ass-backward from the last time. Before, it was the formula keeping us from being Real Women and now it's the breastmilk. Will our breasts and wombs ever stop keeping us down?

I do love the dynamic tension between feminism and women's bodies, how no one can quite decide which part's a beautiful gift and which part's a limitation, and when, and in which context. And I appreciate the writer's honesty about being a nurser, which is also a gift and a limitation. Nursing is nice and also it really pisses me off sometimes. Nursing always sucks and it often bites. Hee! That was a little nipple joke. As I've said before, it's mainly due to my intense laziness that LE still nurses, and I probably won't try another way until this way stops working.

My dad told me about this article over the phone, and I told him I think LE is so darned healthy because he still nurses. He rightly pointed out that this is anecdotal. However, assuming it's really true that the benefits of breastmilk are exaggerated, this pleases me even more because that means LE is damned healthy all by his little tough-assed self. Good boy!

And fuck you to the Dr. Sears Empire with all your half-baked, spuriously-researched baby- rearing methods. I'd wager the Dr. Sears Empire has done more to make a lot of mothers feel really, horribly guilty for wanting to detach the screaming, poopy little succubus from time to time than it has improved anyone's "attachment" to their kid.

But man, my nipples hurt sometimes. And I think BE is pretty pissed off that they're off-limits most of the time because they're sore.


siobhan said...

Interesting article. It's refreshing to hear some honesty about breastfeeding. So often you only hear about how wonderful it is or how yucky and embarassing it is

Gilbert said...

I think one's approach to breast feeding, as with most of human physiology, needs to be from a practical stand point. If it works for you and the baby, great, do it. If it doesn't, look at the alternatives. There shouldn't be any sort of value judgement applied.

One important point in the article you quoted bears repetition:
Immunoglobulin A in mother's milk only gives short-term protection against whatever pathogens may be in the baby's digestive system. As immunoglobulins are proteins themselves, they will be digested by the baby, so give no long-term systemic protection.

Two advantages to bottle feeding which I think got missed are (a) that mother and father can share feeding duty, thus (b) also developing the bond between father and baby.
Admittedly in this country this may be pie-in-the sky as I found out with my second son, Leonard.
He spent the first month of his life in intensive care so my wife couldn't nurse him. However, she could, and did, use a breast pump to great effect; we had a small freezer stocked with her milk for the little chap. After the first month he was bottle-fed using this supply, and I helped in this duty. Good way to shut the Teyzes up; ask them round to tea while the damat (son-in-law) is bottle-feeding the baby. Amazed as they were, their ingrained attitude to parenting means they forgot. Now, 5 years later, they look at Leonard and say (to my wife, even though I am standing right next to her): "Maasallah, cok iyi buyuttun". Translation: "God be praised, you (singular) have raised him very well". Like I never fed him, or cooked for him, or took him to the doctor etc. etc. No, they seemed to assume that most of the time I had done nothing for the baby, not "man work". It pisses me off. Oh well.

Stranger said...

Gilbert, I totally agree with you, and I totally get why you're pissed off people don't acknowledge your role as a knee-jerk reaction/assumption. I can think of a lot of men who could stand to learn something from you and even (gasp!) enjoy their babies more from the experience.

Though I admit I do also feel some sympathy for the Teyzes who made that assumption, probably based on their experience of doing EVERYTHING for their kids without an ounce of help or gratitude from their husbands because it was simply expected of them. I know what that's like.

Not that it excuses ignoring something they'd seen with their own eyes but failed to process it because it's NOT DONE.

Before LE came along, I'd considered some part-time bottle-feeding for exactly the reasons you mention-- giving Baba a chance to bond with the baby by participating in something as sweet and nurturing as feeding. When I proposed this to BE, his reaction was like I was just being lazy and trying to get out of doing my work, and there was no way in hell he was going to get up in the night to feed the baby because he had work the next day.

While I sat around and ate bon-bons and watched the shopping channel all day, right?

After 8 months of no more than 4 broken hours of sleep a night for me, we were entering into split-up territory, for that and other things but the lack of sleep and flat-out refusal to help made it all a lot worse.

Naturally, no one expected BE to do any different. In the early days when MIL was here, BE would get up when LE cried and his mom would say, 'Yok, oğlum benim, yatağa git uyu, haydi.' By the 4th wake-up on the first night, BE pretty much figured he was entitled to sleep because his mommy had insisted on it.

For us, bottle-feeding would have been more impractical because not only would the feeding have fallen on me, but all the preparation, washing, and sanitizing of bottles would have been my job too.

Old wounds. Anyway, the amount of judgment and politics that comes with parenting choices is astounding. Once certain mommies are done glowering at someone over their BFing choices, it starts over their food choices (organic or not? Sugar or not?). A friend of mine was once in the baby food aisle of the grocery story (she didn't even have a baby at that time) and a woman was there buying non-organic baby food. The woman saw she'd been 'caught' choosing conventional and launched into a very long guilt-ridden justification to my friend about why she was making this choice. Like my friend even noticed or gave a rat's ass.

And yeah, I admit I get pissed off at Turks who give gum to two year olds, or who use candy for discipline. But that's just because I don't like cleaning gum out of things or trying to manage a sugar-cranked out kid.