18 August 2006

more adventures in the boob tube

My mom attributes my no-dental-work needed pearly whites to my early years spent nursing, and she is super-supportive of all of the new mothers she meets, always offering her aid in the case of breastfeeding troubles. I've heard her tell more than one woman that they can call her anytime, including in the middle of the night, if they need advice or a sympathetic ear. I'm pretty sure she'll go to their side if they need her. This type of communal empathy and advice is is one fabulous step to supporting mothers. My mom sent me the following in response to the first post, and the information she offers is a really valuable supplement to my critique:

"If given the right support and information, there are very, very few women who can't breastfeed. And unless there is a condition such as cleft palate, all babies have the sucking reflex when born and can therefore nurse. And a newborn who is on the bottle will also have to be fed 8-12 times a day - only not only will the mother have to take the time to sit or lie down to feed the baby, she'll also have to fix bottles. Exhaustion can probably be attributed more to the act of giving birth than to nursing. And if the mother gets her rest and pays attention to her nutrition she won't be any more tired than her bottlefeeding sister. Breasts may be tender for a few days but quickly toughen up and the mother experiences mostly pleasurable feelings. If the breasts continue to hurt it's most likely due to baby not being positioned correctly or not latched on correctly. And there is virtually no reason that a woman couldn't produce breastmilk. An excellent source of the latest and most reliable information on breastfeeding is the La Leche League website, www.lalecheleague.org. Breastfeeding is a natural art possessed by woman and strengthened as it is passed on from mother to daughter, from woman to woman. What caused it to get so complicated is the interference of men, primarily doctors who convinced women that birth was a medical issue and not a natural process, and moved it from the home and midwives to their control in the hospital. That's where the patriarchy comes in. LLL has done a great job of reclaiming the "womanly art of breastfeeding". Basically, given the right information and support, any woman can nurse her baby." Later, she pointed out, "It's important for women to know where to get the right info and support, and I don't think that right now, that is always the doctor. Women need to learn about breastfeeding long before the baby is born, and I believe that the best source of that information is LLL and other women who have nursed. "

I want to point out that while bottle-fed babies need to be fed just as often as nursing babies, those members of the society lacking milk ducts are capable of "manning" the bottle. Nevertheless, my mom's comments contain the type of information that ad campaigns should be offering, along with other campaigns to connect women to the support they need and to give them the space and time necessary to make breastfeeding work. We've got to acknowledge the difficulties and discuss the benefits of breastfeeding while finding new ways to help new mothers in both the process of parenting and going back to work. A scare campaign focused on risks is misdirected and serves only to hurt women who can't breastfeed - and they do exist. On the other hand, it seems that many women are getting poor information, and armed with the right education, breastfeeding may be a bit easier. I'd love to see more resources invested in making that the case and fewer thrown away on giving women yet another reason to feel guilty.