And now for something completely different:

For various reasons, I’m familiar with a lot of the stress and controversy and problems associated with breastfeeding vs. formula. Blogs and articles and ridiculous protests or complaints over and against breastfeeding imagery.

I thought I’d share the impression my own upbringing left me with, regarding breastfeeding, the ideas that all the science and data and reason must push against. ‘Cause I haven’t seen them mentioned by anybody else. Most protests are ‘gross!’ or ‘sexual objects in view of children!’ (I speak of the social reasons some people wouldn’t want to see other people doing it; the personal or occupational reasons one might not breastfeed cause no significant reaction).

On breastfeeding itself, I never got the impression that it was gross or offensive. Instead, I picked up the idea that it was something poor people did. Poor people, who couldn’t afford all the amenities of civilized life, fed their children the natural way. Formula and bottles were like tampons, eyeglasses and birth control. They were like nice clothes, and disposable diapers. They were like automobiles instead of bikes or horses. If you could use a bottle, you did. If you couldn’t, society was politely sympathetic and looked away when you found yourself temporarily embarassed. Society usually looks away when somebody experiences an unavoidable natural biological event.

This very well may have been a unique idea I cobbled together purely from observations and comparisons.

The other idea buried deep inside is that I should never ever let something I’m not comfortable with happen to my breasts. Except mammograms. With a grandmother who died of breast cancer because she was too shy to get treatment, my mother was very firm about that exception. But infants were never mentioned.

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I used to be at, but flakiness is one of my primary traits, and the domain expired. Apparently it was popular enough to be snatched up!

8 thoughts on “And now for something completely different:”

  1. You know what ticks me off about this? Breastfeeding, which should be accepted, is dismissed by such a large portion of the population that the pro-breastfeeding people get really, really militant about it, and work strongly to put out, not a message of “accept breastfeeding”, but of “if you don’t breastfeed you are EVIL AND WRONG”.

    This never seems tempered by the fact that there are some women who really can’t breastfeed – sometimes the milk really truly doesn’t come in, or the mother is taking medications that come through in the milk. (Why would anyone want to tell a woman suffering from post-partum depression that she shouldn’t be taking her psychiatric medication?)

    Now I will admit that some of the commercial interests selling infants formula in fact fully deserve the EVIL label, but I don’t see why it’s applied to mothers. That just seems counter-productive; it seems that the goal of more women breastfeeding would be more easily met by ensuring that there were adequate facilities for breastfeeding everywhere, and by eliminating the prejudice against seeing breastfeeding among others.

  2. You know, as I left that comment I was noticing this “Say It!” button. That’s one of Katherine’s current phrases for “read this aloud”: she’ll bring a book over, open it into your lap and point insistently at the words: “Say it, Daddy! Say It! Say it to me. Please.”. This is also what she uses if she wants you to read to her what it says on a sign: “Say the letters. Say Them!”

  3. Daniel, there are also some breast, ah, architecture problems with breastfeeding. Nipples that just don’t poke outward, intense pain, not enough milk coming out due to hole problems (can’t just take a needle to those!) and such stuff are a few of the problems I’ve heard.

    And Chrysoula, there was a perception in the past that BF was something poor people did. It seemed to be tied into the whole processed-food-is-cool craze. And now there’s a perception that formula is what poor people use.

    For both of these you can pick your reason, it’s either because they don’t know any better or they don’t care about their kids or they don’t have the money to afford whatever the privelege-du-jour is.

  4. This was interesting to read.

    Since my Mom breastfed both my sister and me, I guess I always assumed that I would be able to breastfeed my babies. That’s what I wanted. I cried the first time I had to feed Asher formula. Oh, well. Like the other commenters said, breastfeeding just doesn’t work out for everyone.

    Incidentally, breastfeeding is supposed to reduce your chances of getting breast cancer. Since my grandmother had breast cancer (actually it recently reappeared after 40 years or so of being in remission), that’s a benefit I was excited about.

  5. I didn’t know we had a grandmother die of breast cancer. But I do know that Merry wanted to breast feed her children but she had something wrong with her nipples.

  6. Which was probably the reason I went cholic. I am allergic to milk and was unable to be breastfeed. (Most of the time babies are not allergic to their mother’s milk.) I was given subsitute milk and cried my eyes and parent’s ears off.

  7. Breastfeeding is gross. I believe in it, but it is still gross. The flip side of making enough milk is that I leak all the time. This is not comfortable or convenient. And, I agree with the perception that it is something that poor people do. One of the reasons we chose to breastfeed was economics. Formula would break our bank.

  8. Anna, my darling sister, that’s not what I recall. Mom never tried to breastfeed either of us. She took medications to stop her from even producing milk– offering it was apparently standard for women in the military. We were both formula fed from day one. She did the same thing with Nathan. Her nipples were fine.

    Also, you didn’t have a grandmother who died of breast cancer; it was the original Chrysoula Tzavelas, my biological father’s mother. So you probably never got the same lectures I did.

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