When I found out I was pregnant (now almost a year ago to the day!) I had already made the decision to breastfeed exclusively. And it was funny how often that question came up, “are you going to breastfeed?” almost as often as “do you know what you’re having?” And I would reply, yes, I hope. Because I knew it was hard and I knew a lot of people that didn’t. The only thing I didn’t know was really how hard it would be at first.
I read a lot before the baby came about how to breastfeed, how to get the best latch. Remember, the books said, the baby is learning to latch and you’re learning to breastfeed but its a lot of instinct – she knows what she needs to do.
I am an overachiever. In my education, in my career, in my milk supply. I’m almost ashamed to say it, when so many mamas have such problems making enough milk or keeping their supply up. But I make milk and I make a lot of it. Even now, when she is starting to wean herself and only sporadically nursing there is plenty in there. My husband is sure that there’s nothing left. Ah but there is, see? And this abundant supply led me to rebel against the two biggest don’ts of lactating women: underwires and plastic nursing pads. dun dun dun…..
When I first started breastfeeding I was so anxious and stressed that I wouldn’t be able to do it, that we would have latch issues, that she wouldn’t gain enough weight – the normal things a new mama worries about. So the first week or so, I attributed the dreadful, anxious butterfly feeling in the pit of my stomach with a normal response to being new to nursing. Plus, I was so sore I would brace myself for her initial latch – holding my breath and curling my toes.
I thought the pain might have something to do with the fact that I felt so awful right before my milk let down and as she started to nurse.
But as weeks went by and we adjusted to life nursing, and nursing was no longer physically painful I still felt the pit of my stomach stressed feeling you get when you realize you’ve just written the bitchiest email about your boss and how stupid they are and then sent it to the entire company (your
boss included). Yea that kind of awful feeling. Or when you’re so worried about an exam you can’t sleep. I would also feel irritable – angry almost. And I felt like maybe I hated breastfeeding. Because I definitely hated that first few minutes. I was worried that something was wrong, I shouldn’t feel this way when I was so lovingly caring for, feeding and bonding with my baby. I knew it wasn’t PPD because I felt fine at all other times....
I first saw this article posted on Facebook and I was immediately outraged. I wanted to comment: ” I am and work with PhD educated women and WE ALL breastfeed, we all pump and we all went to graduate school for Genetics, Immunology, chemistry, etc. We are far from incompetent!”
But I didn’t. Instead I went and found the original research article and read it. I was actually amused (although still outraged) about what the conclusions actually were. I was not, however, surprised by it. Basically, the authors found that breast are seen as sexual and women who are considered “sexualized” (i.e. slutty?) are deemed less competent. So for many college-age men and women (who were interviewed for the study) having your boobs out whether you are feeding your baby or stripping equal out to the same stereotype. Freaking ridiculous! It completely validates my opinion that breastfeeding is not only a mothering issue – it is a feminist issue. How much more can we do to say, “We are women, we are not sexual toys. We are mothers and daughters and sisters and we deserve to be respected as much.”
It brings me back to a recent trip I took with three other highly educated women (two of whom are pediatricians). One of the pediatricians actually said ,”I will not breastfeed. I just can’t. That’s not what breasts are for.” And it was all I could do to not scream at her. Really?! What are breasts for?! That is EXACTLY what they are for. Only now, especially in the western culture, have we made breasts into something else entirely. How is it that other cultures are clearly able to separate the sex from the nurturing and we are not? And how is it that a medical professional cannot separate her breasts from being biologically necessary for her baby and sexually necessary for her husband?
And to get back to the study, the fact that breastfeeding women are seen as less competent is surprising, considering that studies have shown that, particularly in America, it is the highly educated, higher earning women who exclusively breastfeed. As I said, I work with numerous women who have at least a master’s degree and we all breastfeed and pump well past 6 months....
During my first year of college I took an Anthropology 101 class that simply caused me to fall in love with the subject.
Typically though, even though a solitary birth was the ideal, a woman was assisted by experienced women for the birth of her first child. But Nisa, the woman in the book had her first child (around the age of 16) alone. She went out to the bush, squatted next to a tree and caught her first born. It was something she was proud of....