Posts Tagged ‘breastfeeding’

Gladys and Elizabeth

October 25, 2010

[Image Description: The image depicts a portrait of a black woman nursing her child, who has a light brown afro and appears to be about 2 years old. The woman is wearing a black tank and skirt, and the child she is cradling on her lap is naked. The heads of both mother and child are each framed by a gold halo.]

I am now the proud owner of this breathtakingly gorgeous piece of art.

The artist’s name is Kate Hansen, and this piece, “Gladys and Elizabeth,” is part of her Madonna and Child project. While there are several portraits in the series, this piece seems to be the only one that she is selling prints of (which I am thankful for, since this is the one that I like best by far, although the others are also beautiful).

There are several things about this portrait that speak to me, as a black mother and as a lactivist. First, as I’ve mentioned before, I’m generally a little frustrated with the very limited selection of non-white breastfeeding art that is out there. It also makes me feel warm and fuzzy to see a black mother-child dyad depicted so lovingly; I sometimes feel bombarded by the onslaught of images and stories in the media that frame black motherhood as being naturally dysfunctional, and therefore detrimental to not only the involved family members, but to society at large.

It’s also wonderful to see a child other than a newborn or infant nursing. Even among pro-breastfeeding literature and resources, there seems to be a shortage of images normalizing the act of nourishing or comforting a toddler at the breast. Take note the next time you see an ad or public service announcement that is geared toward encouraging parents to breastfeed – when is the last time you saw one of those PSAs featuring a contented toddler snuggling, nomming, or sleeping at the breast?

I also love that Elizabeth, the child, is sporting a natural ‘do; and while you wouldn’t expect to see a child her age with a perm anyway, it still seems somehow more refreshing and organic to see a black child with her hair completely unrestrained, untied, and allowed to fully blossom, without even a bow to distract from the power and beauty of her kinks. To me, Elizabeth’s nakedness reinforces the reality of her dependence and the necessity of her trust in her mother. It’s also nice to see a reminder that I’m not the only parent who nurses my child while either of us is in various states of undress.

The halos are a wonderful touch, especially to a woman like myself who has, in every other single piece of similar art, only ever seen halos framing the heads of very white women and their very white babies. Black motherhood, as I’ve mentioned before, is so frequently dismissed as dangerous – or, at best, inadequate – and to see it depicted here as not merely loving and desirable, but also holy…well, it gives me chills, even as person who identifies very strongly as an atheist.

Some day, when I have my own private practice, I intend for this portrait to be one of the first things that my clients see when they walk through the door. I can only hope that they will appreciate and take as much comfort from it as I do.

Edited to add: Thankfully, I was wrong about “Gladys and Elizabeth” being the only print available for sale. Here is Kate’s clarification:

I do offer prints of some of the other portraits, but I only offer a high quality giclee of this one. I just don’t have the money to make a file for the rest. The other prints are from digital photographs, so they can onl…y be printed up in a small size or they lose resolution.

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Beyond the First Year

September 12, 2010

As I type this, my lovely child is cuddling with me on the couch, with her head resting on my left arm and one of her legs slung over my right arm. She’s blinking sleepily as she nurses, idly stroking my belly with one small hand.

I love these moments. Now that she’s a curious, active, loud, and joyful toddler, these kinds of nursing sessions are becoming much less frequent. In the beginning, when she was a newborn, all of them were like this. It was just me and her; my milk would make her sleepy and content, and the surge of hormones I got when letting down did the same to me. We dozed together, held hands, played with each others fingers and gazed into each other’s eyes.

Now the usual nursing break is full of acrobatics. When she’s feeling particularly silly, she likes to nurse upside-down with her bum pointed towards my face. She pulls on my shirt, slaps my chest, yanks on my free nipple, sticks her fingers in my mouth. She blows raspberries into my breast, bites my nipple (thankfully rare), slurps instead of sucks, hums loudly.

I used to be able to nurse in public very discretely, with the hem of my shirt hiding my breast. She doesn’t allow that anymore, presumably because she doesn’t like having my shirt in her face, so she pulls it upward, exposing my boob to…well, everyone. We still nurse in public – it’s our legally protected right! But “discrete” is frequently left out of the equation and I’m pretty okay with that.

I don’t mind the acrobatics. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, but mostly she just makes me laugh. But I do miss the stillness of these moments, which only comes every few days rather than several times every day.

Now that Eve is over a year old, I’ve been getting more questions. People have told me, “She needs full fat cow’s milk.” They go silent when I tell them that breastmilk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk. My coworkers have noticed that I’m still pumping twice a day at work, still taking home my little bags of liquid gold to freeze. My mother complains about the fact that Eve isn’t getting more of her nutrients from “real” food; she talks about my milk as if it were merely a refreshment rather than a critical source of nourishment.

People keep telling me, “It’s time to stop,” and every time I have replied, “No. It is not.”

I don’t know how long that Eve and I will be doing this. It might be another year and a half. It might be another three years. Every child is different. Every nursing dyad is different. The thought of nursing a preschooler doesn’t bother me; it’s the inevitable social discipline and shaming that makes me nervous. The modern American ideal of a proper nursing relationship is just so ridiculously and drastically skewed from what we as large mammals are biologically geared for; and any deviations from that ideal are ridiculed and demonized – which is ironic (and sad)  considering the fact that just as recently as a century ago, the vast majority of American children were nursed until three or four years of age.

I have no intention living the modern ideal, and I’m more than okay with that.

I’m loving it, in fact. I’m just living in the now, enjoying this warm little body snoring softly against mine.

A Review of Milk, Money, & Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding

September 9, 2010

[Image Description: The cover of Milk, Money, and Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding, shown in orange and white block text over an abstract green and purple background.]

The Summary

MM&M is the very first book about breastfeeding culture that I ever picked up. I had a handful to pick from, but what persuaded me to read this one first was the amount of pictures, charts, and illustrations that I saw when flipping through the book. I’m a visual person, so actually seeing the material culture around breastfeeding (ranging from old-time Nestle advertisements to startling images of emaciated babies, to photos of women nursing animals alongside their own children, to figurines of women nursing the elderly back to health) really left an impact on me and drove home the importance that breastfeeding has had on humanity throughout our existence as a species.

There is a wealth of knowledge in this book, as well as tons of references (I love references!) provided in an appendix to give the reader some leads on further reading. The book itself is a bit dated, having been published a decade and a half ago, but much of the information is still relevant, accurate, and crucial knowledge for any lactivist.

Random passages of the book did seem kind of judge-y, and I could see that being kinda off-putting to formula-feeding parents.

The Breakdown

Section I: Breastfeeding Beliefs and Practices

This section is divided into two subsections, one about breastfeeding norms and customs from around the world, and the other about wet nursing. The section exploring different cultural practices and norms was refreshingly even-handed; the tone was not “Look how weird [and inferior] the norms of non-American cultures are!” – which is sadly common – but more like, “Oh hey, there are a ton of different ways that people approach this, and the Western way is not necessarily the right way. In fact, you can’t really call any way ‘the right way,’ so yeah.”

There was at least one section that made me cringe, although to be honest I didn’t take notes as I read because I didn’t have any plans for a review, so upon a second reading it might not be so bad. While talking about the intercourse taboo during the breastfeeding period that is prevalent in some cultures, the authors mention something about how barriers to breastfeeding to women of the developing world contributes to overpopulation. While I am in full support of women everywhere making their own decisions about spacing between children (and, of course, whether they choose to have children at all), I have heard too many complaints about “those people” reproducing and the privilege and bigotry behind such complaints is usually pretty evident; the wording in this text (I’m gonna update this when I find the right page!) was iffy enough that I couldn’t tell if the authors were genuinely concerned about the former (women’s reproductive agency) or the latter (poor brown folks using up “our” – privileged Westerners’ – resources).

The subsection on wet nursing focused mostly, but by no  means exclusively, on European women. Other cultures, including black American slaves, are also discussed. The topic was not limited to the Western ideation of nursing only being something that a human mother does with a child, but explores interspecies nursing and the suckling of humans of various ages, including the elderly. Again, the authors treat the subject respectfully, without treating the exploration of non-Western cultures as an episode of Ripley’s Believe It or Not.

Section II: The Miracle Food and Medicine

The two subsections here cover the properties of breastmilk (especially as compared to other infant foods) and the consequences of artificial feeding. While the section on breastmilk does delve somewhat into the immunobiological components of human milk, it was explained simply, which I – a woman who has not seen the inside of a science classroom for over a decade – was able to appreciate. There was plenty of information comparing the composition of breastmilk to other milks – mostly cow’s – and the physiological effects of breastfeeding on both infant and nursing parent.

The latter subsection details the practices and consequences – not only for the involved nursing (or non-nursing) dyad, but for the entire planet – of artificial feeding throughout history and the present day, in both developing and industrialized countries. It provided a historical context that called into question all of my assumptions about artificial feeding that I’ve been socialized to accept as “normal.”

This section was my favorite, and is the reason I was inspired to add Immunobiology of Human Milk (which, unfortunately, is WAY over my head and I will have to revisit after I do some private study on human immunobiology) to my library. The common perception of formula as being “almost like” breastmilk is roundly debunked here; in fact, the myriad ways that formula falls short (and the ways in which these shortcomings are minimized, ignored, or denied by the industry) is nothing short of breathtaking.

Section III: Breastmilk Economics – Shaping Corporate and Government Policies

These subsections explain the development of the WHO code, why it became necessary in the first place, and the conundrum of the working breastfeeding woman. The unethical practices of the formula industry (especially Nestle) and the decades-old efforts of mothers and advocates to combat them are laid out in explicit (and sometimes graphic) detail. This subsection also explains the various strategies employed by the industry in order to gain more consumers even at the expense of the children, parents, and communities who need breastmilk most.

The final subsection of the book looks into the barriers that working parents face when they want to pursue a healthy nursing relationship with their children, maternity benefits in various countries, as well as possible solutions to help parents bridge the gap between “gainfully employed” and “successfully breastfeeding,” as the two need not be mutually exclusive.

This last section was not as compelling as the first two, mostly because the book pulls away from an examination of cultural norms (which I love to read about) and focuses more on politics, legislation, and business practices (which are important, but I can’t say that I love reading about).

Appendices (in order):

  • Organizations Working to Promote Breastfeeding
  • Recommended Reading and Resource List
  • US Infant Formula Recalls, 1982-1994
  • Boycott Information
  • US Infant Formulas: Product Ownership
  • Physician’s Pledge to Protect, Promote, and Support Breastfeeding
  • Summary of Enacted Breastfeeding Legislation as of March, 1996

The Info

Title: Milk, Money & Madness: The Culture and Politics of Breastfeeding

Authors: Naomi Baumslag, M.D. and Dia L. Michels

Published: November 30, 1995

ISBN: 0897894073 or 978-0897894074

Cost: The list price is $36.95 but I snagged a used copy from the Amazon marketplace for just $5.50.

Dear Mama

August 27, 2010

[Image description: A screenshot of a tweet from user @Matervan that says, “Totally inappropriate some lady #Breastfeeding her kid at #Starkbucks. I called her out and embarrassed her. This needs to stop!”]

I don’t know who you are. 

I don’t know if you’re black, or gay, or trans, or have a disability, or are poor. I don’t know if you breastfeed your child because you would feel guilty* if you didn’t, or because you like to do it, or because you can’t afford not to do it (or all three!). I don’t know if the nursing relationship that you share with your child came easily or if you had to struggle to achieve it. I don’t know if your friends and family have given you the support that you need in order to maintain that relationship.

I don’t know if your decision to nurse in public was made with trepidation. I don’t know if you only did it because your baby was hungry and you felt you had no other choice. I don’t know if you do it all the time because you already know that there’s nothing shameful in it.

And I don’t know what this asshole said to you to embarrass you. But whatever it was, I wish I could tell you in person that he is wrong. Breastfeeding your child in a Starbucks is not inappropriate. Breastfeeding your child in public does not need to stop. Your relationship with your child is sacred and should be respected as such. You do not need to hide your breasts, your milk, or your nursing relationship for anyone.

It’s breastfeeding awareness month. Thank you for nursing in public. I’m sorry that it has cost you to do so.

*I really hope that guilt is not the reason. Making women feel guilty over the decisions they make with their bodies is such a popular method of controlling them, even in so-called progressive and women-friendly movements like lactivism.

Hat-tip to Elita of Blacktating for bringing this tweet to my attention.

Trans Women, Lactation, and Exclusion

August 19, 2010

While I have discussed the obstacles faced by cis women who wish to breastfeed many times, I have neglected to delve into the reality of trans women and their experiences with breastfeeding. This is unacceptable, and a reflection of the cis privilege that I enjoy. Contrary to popular belief, almost every person regardless of gender has the necessary equipment to nurse a child. If you have a healthy breast, you can probably breastfeed.

Now, when a cis woman wants to breastfeed, she is in for an uphill battle. She will get so much misinformation from health care professionals, well-meaning relatives, friends, and advertisements. Her decisions on when and how frequently to nurse are going to be policed by total strangers. If she nurses for “too long,” people will accuse her of being selfish (as if there were no health benefits to full-term nursing or child-led weaning); if she doesn’t nurse “long enough,” then people will accuse her of being vain or lazy (as if there were no legitimate reasons to choose not to nurse or to choose mother-led weaning), which not only is disrespectful to a woman’s bodily autonomy, but also feeds the “rabid baby-fetishing mommy-guilting breastfeeding zealout” meme and turns more women off to even considering breastfeeding in the first place. If she wants to take breaks at work to pump, she will have to deal with coworkers and superiors who may be less than understanding.

That’s just the tip of the iceberg for cis women. For a trans woman, take all of those issues and multiply them by a million.

Misinformation regarding, well, almost anything about trans women’s lives is regurgitated and unchallenged by the vast majority of the cis population (who, naturally, dominate the medical profession as well as every other discipline of our society). Trans women have to deal with discrimination from the medical community on a horrific level; things that cis women do without much thought, such as filling out medical forms, are not such a carefree task for trans folks. When I see a new doctor for the first time, I don’t have to wonder if she is going to be so bigoted against me that she will not even enter the room or touch me.

While I feel snug and protected by the laws in my state that guarantee my right to nurse publicly, trans women do not have the same luxury. They cannot take for granted that someone will not challenge them (or arrest them!) on the basis that they are “not really women.”

While many cis women can take for granted that their milk will come in without much effort on their part, there are many trans women who will not be able to afford the hormonal regimen that will allow them to simulate a pregnancy and induce lactation. Insurance companies already overwhelmingly fail to provide support and supplies for lactating cis women; trans women can expect to get exactly squat to even spur lactogenesis in the first place.

The books that I’ve been reading about breastfeeding are of course filled to the brim with cis-sexism. There is a complete black hole in regards to the needs and concerns of trans women who wish to nurse their children. This is something that needs to change. When the “pro woman” battle cry really means “pro cis woman” (and let’s be honest – it almost always certainly means just that), then we are failing. We are neglecting our duties as supporters of health care, as womanists, as decent damn people.

My silence about the needs of trans women in breastfeeding advocacy is a testament to my bigotry. I’ve been fucking up. And I need to do better.

Lactivism Is Not Work For Whites Only

August 18, 2010

As I’ve mentioned before, my super long-term goal is to start a nonprofit that provides marginalized parents with lactation guidance in a safe, diverse, and accommodating environment. While the populations I have in mind include trans and gender queer folks, non-hetero folks, and teens, I also intend to help racial minorities.

One of the things that has consistently disappointed me in my recent search for lactation books, materials, and swag is the overwhelming whiteness of it all. Searching Etsy for handmade breastfeeding art brings up jewelry and artwork that is full of white women; browsing CafePress and Zazzle for ridiculously overpriced breastfeeding t-shirts likewise does the same. Even the textbooks and study guides that I will eventually need for my lactation internship, such as The Breastfeeding Atlas, Clinical Lactation: A Visual Guide, Breastfeeding and Human Lactation, and Counseling: The Nursing Mother all have covers featuring white babies, pink nipples, or women without even a touch of kink in their hair. [The cover of The Core Curriculum for Lactation Consultant Practice is one of the rare exceptions, although I will note that unlike the more modern style of the other books, this cover features a pre-industrial illustration of a non-white nursing dyad, which is slightly dodgy considering the all-too-common tendency to depict POCs as if we’re all stuck in a time warp.]

While I do understand that authors do not have total (and sometimes any) control over the art that goes on their books (for example, check out the feathers that were understandably ruffled over the cover of Liar, a young adult novel told from the point of view of a black girl that features a white girl on the US version of the cover – because according to the publisher, books with black faces on them “don’t sell”), I still can’t help but feel slighted by the racial homogeneity of these books that will be some of my most important resources in the next year (and for my entire career beyond that).

I do not ever, as a general rule, buy or wear swag (such as buttons, t-shirts, etc) that depicts only white skin, and I do not buy those things for Eve either. Because of this, I have to really look to find images of non-white breastfeeding advocacy swag, and have to stick to text-only or non-racial iconic artwork if I can’t find anything else. It’s not that I don’t find such images and art beautiful because they are white – to the contrary, some of the artwork I’ve found almost hurts me with their beauty.

But I will not support artists who do not support brown lactivists, brown mothers, or brown children. And if it has never crossed an artist’s or mother’s or lactivist’s mind that not everyone will identify with a pinkly-nipped white woman, then they are obviously so deeply steeped in their ignorance and privilege that I cannot support them with my hard-earned dollars – and I am especially not going to wear images that erase my very existence on my own person. I refuse to accept whiteness as default, as the norm, or as the ideal image of the nursing dyad.

Fortunately, there are other women of color out there who are fighting the good fight. Elita from Blacktating asked recently, “Where are the images of black mothers?” and the answer was quite disappointing:

Take a look at Nestle’s Baby Milk website. The first thing you see are two images of women of color, a mom who appears to be black and another who is Asian. When you get to the main content page all you see is black women and babies…

Compare that with La Leche League’s magazine, New Beginnings, where I was unable to find any pictures of black women breastfeeding in the recent issues. The seminal breastfeeding organization in the world, the go-to folks for breastfeeding information, and no images of black women.”

Elita is also one of the presenters for this year’s National Seminar sponsored by the Black Mother’s Breastfeeding Association. I wish I could go, but alas, I am in another state – and the seminar is being held on a damn Monday, to boot.

Also holding it down for nursing black moms (who have the lowest nursing rates among all races) is the blog Black Women Do Breastfeed, which features an adorable close-up of a black baby happily nomming on a black breast at the top of the page.

Finally, allow me to share white anti-oppression blogger Arwyn’s letter to white lactivists who kinda suck at race.

Breastfeeding: A Historical and Cultural Reading List

August 16, 2010

[Description: The image shows a stack of four books, with only their spines visible. The titles are listed after the paragraph below.]

Shortly before leaving for vacation, I ordered a several books and had them shipped to a friend’s house while we were out of town. I’ve thumbed through them all and I’m so anxious to read them all that I can’t decide which one to start with! Here’s the list:

Not shown in the picture above is Breastfeeding Rights in the United States (Reproductive Rights and Policy), which arrived right before we left. I am a lot less excited about this book, as the authors don’t have any credentials in law that I can find and the one Amazon review the book has isn’t exactly glowing. However I still decided to read it because it may prove itself to be a good source of primary resources, even if the authors’ translations of the legalese are unreliable.

Amazon just shipped the following books that I am also super excited about:

My long-term plan (get my RN and earn my IBCLC through Pathway 1) has changed since I’ve found a place to mentor that is more or less local. I’ll be earning my credentials through Pathway 3 and taking the exam in 2012, then earning my RN degree afterward. So instead of continuing with my classes in the fall, I’m going to take a medical terminology course, take a 90-hour lactation course, and then wait for my mentorship to start (which will likely be soon after May 2011). Between now and the start of my mentorship, I’m going to study lactation and breastfeeding independently: right now I’m mostly focusing on the historical and cultural aspect, and saving the stuff that is more relevant to clinical practice for after I finish my 90-hour class.

I plan to write up reviews of these books as I finish them. Just thumbing through Milk, Money & Madness (which is where I believe I shall start) has got me practically drooling with excitement!

The Worst Night

August 10, 2010

During my last month of pregnancy, my midwives estimated that the baby I carried was about 7 pounds. But when she was born, she was almost nine pounds – and that was a week before my due date! She was also born with the cord around her neck, and although I’d wanted to have skin-to-skin contact with her immediately after her birth, she was taken away in the next room to be looked over by the nurses. She screamed like a banshee, surprising even the nurses, and calmed only when she heard Marcus’ voice.

Eve was not given to me to nurse until she was at least fifteen minutes old, after I had been stitched up by my midwife. She latched on easily and nursed like a champ. I was instructed to nurse her every two hours for 30 minutes on each breast. She was very jaundiced, which was likely exacerbated by the fact that our blood types do not match, so we were told to supplement with formula as well, and that the formula would help her get rid of the bilirubin much more quickly than my own colostrum would. We were concerned with nipple confusion, so rather than giving her a bottle, we fed her the formula with a syringe.

The day that we thought we were going to be discharged from the hospital, we were told that they weren’t satisfied with Eve’s bilirubin levels and that she would have to be admitted to pediatrics. They said phototherapy would help get it out of her system and that we would possibly get to go home the next day. We were also told that only one parent could stay with her overnight in pediatrics – not both of us.

I started to cry when they told us that we couldn’t go home, and when they wheeled in the cart with the UV lights and made us put her in it, alone and screaming and naked except for her diaper, my heart was broken. They put a mask over her eyes to protect them from the lights, and to my dismay it kept slipping over her mouth and nose. I did not know how to console her; I could barely even touch her. She had only ever known closeness and in that box she was all alone. Even though we had never intended to give her a pacifier – again, due to concerns about nipple confusion – we relented because it was the only thing that seemed to calm her.

[Description: Eve as a newborn, wearing nothing but a diaper, lying beneath ultraviolet lights with a small foam mask covering her eyes.]

What followed was the most hellish night that I have ever had as a parent. Eve was admitted to pediatrics and Marcus went home. I spent the next twelve hours nursing her on one breast for half an hour, nursing her on the other breast for half an hour, topping her off with formula, pumping for twenty minutes to relieve my engorgement, changing her diaper. Then I’d try to sleep for a few minutes. And all the while I kept fixing that damned mask that I was sure would suffocate her. And that was every two hours starting from the beginning of the first nursing session.

This was how that night went:

10:00pm to 10:30pm: Nurse the baby on the right breast.

10:30pm to 11:00pm: Nurse the baby on the left breast.

11:00pm: Give formula.

11:10pm: Pump.

11:30pm: Clean pumping equipment, bottle and label milk for storage.

11:45pm – 12:00am: Get some sleep.

12:00am – 12:30am: Nurse baby on right breast.

12:30am – 1:00am: Nurse baby on left breast.

And so on, for twelve hours. This is not even counting the times that I had to fix her mask which was literally about every five minutes. This was at only 3 days postpartum. By the time Marcus returned the next morning I was dehydrated and ravenous (both detrimental to my milk supply!). The only thing that got me through the night and kept me moving was fear: fear of Eve suffocating beneath that horrible mask, fear of not reducing her bilirubin levels enough, fear of not going home and having to do it all over again.

It was one of the single most horrible nights of my life, a living nightmare, and certainly the worst since she was born. This is the first time that I’ve even been able to look at that picture of her since last August, and it still makes my stomach turn just to think about how powerless and alone I felt and how vulnerable that she was.

Vulnerable

August 8, 2010

So I had no intention of taking a break from blogging while we were on vacation, but the place we’re staying charges $5 per day per machine for internet access. Since I’m not made of money, we’ll have very limited access. I may have the chance to put up a post tomorrow morning before my services expires, but if not, I’ll likely disappear for the rest of the week. I may pay for one more day sometime in the middle of the week, but possibly not. The sheer expense is mindblowing!

Since I’ve had Eve, one of the things I always do when traveling is to look up the state laws pertaining to breastfeeding. I’m lucky to live in a state that explicitly defends a woman’s right to nurse in public, and until now we’ve always stayed in states with similar laws.

This time, however, I have no such protection. While there is a law in place that will prevent me from being charged with a sex crime for nursing my daughter (the very fact that such a law has to exist makes me ragey), there is nothing in place that will prevent a private establishment from kicking me out if I need to feed my baby straight from the tap.

This has me feeling…uneasy, to say the least. For the past year I’ve been very, very lucky to have never been confronted aggressively or negatively for nursing Eve in public. For the next week, every time I unbutton my bra and cradle her close to my breast, I’m going to have to wonder whether we are going to be targeted, humiliated, harassed, shamed, or shown the door. I am afraid to feed my daughter. And I am realizing for the first time the extent to which I had taken the laws of my home state for granted; without them I feel naked, unprotected. The women who live here and nurse their children have to deal with this all the time. I found a website for the state in which parents have compiled a list of nursing-friendly businesses, a resource that is just not necessary in my home state (as well as 43 other states!) because all businesses are legally mandated to allow me to nurse.

It’s just a week. I know I can do it, and that even if we get kicked out of a pizza place or arcade, at least the law is on my side enough such that I won’t be put on a sex offender registry for having the indecency to feed my hungry baby while on vacation. I guess that’s a silver lining?

Why

August 5, 2010

Today my little family participated in a walk for World Breastfeeding Week. I was delighted to find out that it was the first, because that meant that 5, 15, 25 years from now, when I’m an IBCLC, I’ll be able to say, “I remember the very first year that we did this walk. It rained and the heat index was 105! But it was the start of something beautiful.”

It was awesome to be surrounded by so many people who are passionate about breastfeeding. I did get the impression that some of them were of the “Let’s convince women to breastfeed because it’s awesome!” camp, which I actually am not a part of at all, although I understand where the urge to evangelize comes from even if I don’t agree with it. My particular brand of lactivism doesn’t focus on telling women what to do; I prefer to put the pressure on politicians, on businesses, on hospitals and care providers, and on insurance companies to support the women who have chosen to nurse their children. More women will nurse once nursing becomes a more [socially] affordable and less stigmatized option.

Anyway, I’m on a natural high after spending a couple of hours surrounded by lactation consultants, peer counsellors, breastfeeding coalition members, and babies. It’s got me thinking about why I chose to nurse and have chosen to continue my nursing relationship with Eve.

I breastfeed because:

  • Human milk has evolved to be the absolute best source of nutrition for human babies. Cow’s milk evolved to be the best source of nutrition for cow babies; for me personally, it makes little sense to give cow’s milk in place of human milk.
  • It’s sustainable. Think about all of the cows, the processing, the plastics, and the oil spent in getting formula from a cow’s udder to a child’s bottle. Nursing is much friendlier to the planet, especially for those lucky parents who don’t need to pump and store their milk.
  • It’s much less expensive than formula.
  • The anti-capitalist part of me loves the fact that I am providing food for my child without paying for some rich dude’s Ferrari.
  • It feels good. I especially like the tinglyness I feel when letting down.
  • Eve is heartbreakingly adorable when she falls asleep at my breast (which happens at least once a day).
  • Squirting Marcus in the face with milk is hilarious.
  • Squirting Eve in the face with milk is likewise hilarious!
  • Watching Eve grab my breast and accidentally squirt herself in the face is the most hilarious!
  • It’s convenient to not have to prepare a bottle in the middle of the night.
  • It’s convenient to not have to carry bottles around when we leave the house.
  • Breastmilk makes a fine substitute for cooking with when we’ve run out of cow’s milk or almond milk.
  • The antibodies in my milk protected Eve from contracting the swine flu when I caught it.
  • It’s an excuse to stop, slow down, and snuggle.

Those are just a few off the top of my head. Nursing has been a vital and beloved component of the relationship that I share with my daughter, and I am so, so grateful to have had this experience. There are plenty of parents out there who have wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t, due to financial, medical, or social reasons, and I hope that they realize that this month and week honors them too. This is for everyone who supports breastfeeding, regardless of whether or not they did it themselves (by choice or circumstance):

Thank you.