8 Reasons I Support Breastfeeding in Public Without Qualifications

Love this picture.

I’m not writing much these days, and I’d apologize, but I feel like I do better with the things I actually have to say than if I were just trying to crank something out once a day or once a week that my heart wasn’t into. This topic has come up several times in the last few days, and I’m so sick of the crap I hear about this from the naysayers. “It’s about respecting the people around you.” “Have some common courtesy for other people.” “I shouldn’t have to see THAT.” “Modesty is key.” And the rhetoric used to describe breastfeeding: “whip ‘em out,” “bare it all,” “flash everyone.”

I’ve tried. I cannot whip anything with my breasts. They just don’t do that.

I used to feel like breastfeeding was private. I used to think it needed to be done behind a closed door or under a blanket and that accidentally showing nipple was a social faux pas of epic proportions. I don’t feel that way anymore. Here is a list of the reasons why:

8. Breastfeeding can be hard. It isn’t always hard, but it really can be. It can be painful. It can be difficult. It can involve sleepless nights, hours of discussions with lactation consultants, doctors visits and even surgery to make it work. And even if it doesn’t involve all of those things, it can be hard. There is no reason to make it harder. If a mama has fought the battle and is making it work, you are not entitled to tell her she is doing it wrong. If you can’t seem to keep the criticism to yourself, go be somewhere else where she is not.

7. I’ve had children. I had one who was fine with a cover, who took bottles of pumped breastmilk and who slept through the night at 4 months. Then I had 3 more who wouldn’t. Not all children are the same. Just because I managed to birth one child who was willing to bend to other people’s expectations, doesn’t mean that all of mine will, nor does it mean that all of everyone’s will. Even if you had 20 kids who you managed to press into that mold, that’s still a very small sample. If you can make several thousand kids do it, then come talk to me about your secret. Even still though, several thousand other kids doesn’t make it the right choice for MY kid.

6. I can’t stay home or feed the baby before going out every time. To avoid offending your delicate eyes that have never seen human mammary tissue before? Sorry, no. I have a family to feed and children who have to get to activities. I’m responsible for the bills in my home. I don’t have all day to not go out. And even if I didn’t have all of those things to take care of, why should I have to stay home, just because I’m a lactating woman? Seriously? Is this some sort of lactation chhaupadi? And as far as feeding the baby before I go out, babies are notorious for wanting to be fed when they want to be fed, even if they were just fed, even if they shouldn’t be hungry again so soon, even if you went to your witch doctor to get an amulet that ensures your child is never hungry when you are out in public. Your amulet will fail. The baby’s gotta eat.

5. Not all babies can figure out how to take a bottle. You know how not all babies can figure out how to properly latch on? Same problem but on a different nipple. They might get angry, feel like they’re drowning or it might simply be not as comforting as suckling, so they may never take a bottle. They may get uncomfortable gas. They might just scream at you because they get so frustrated and hungry. I’ve had 3 such. If it were a necessity because I was no longer around, they might have eventually gotten it, but for me, a work-at-home mom, to pump just so I could bring bottles with me when I go out in public, so that other people could be comfortable? When all I have to do is lift up my shirt? How does that make any sense at all? My conclusion is that it doesn’t. Baby’s right to eat comfortably and mom’s right to convenience at home and in public trump anyone else’s right not to see a nipple flash from time to time, directly correlated with breastfeeding. Being a mom is hard enough. Please, for the love of all that is good and holy, don’t place ridiculous cultural conditions on it that make it even harder.

4. In the same vein and for all the same reasons as pumping and bringing a bottle, using a cover. No. There is no reason to tell moms they have to use a cover. If they are more comfortable using one, that’s fine, but not all moms are, not all babies will eat with a cover over them and no one should be pressing more or other ridiculous cultural expectations on a mom. Being a mom is hard enough.

3. The top 4 reasons why women stop breastfeeding all stem from a lack of support. This speaks specifically about the top four reasons moms stop breastfeeding. #3 is discomfort nursing in public. I’ve said twice now, in a comment and in an email, that while we can’t be everyone’s lactation consultant, pediatrician or employer, we can all be supportive of moms who nurse in public. Say something nice, or say nothing at all. If you can’t be kind, look or walk away. You have options about dealing with the situation. The nursing mom, really, does not. She’s just trying to deal with a hungry, tired or otherwise upset kid.

2. Infant nutrition is the single most important public health issue. Period. It directly affects nearly every other issue. The way babies are fed as infants directly impacts them as children and adults. Rates of asthma, allergies, ear infections, obesity and general health are all directly impacted by the way children are fed as infants, not to mention how it helps with cancer rates for mothers and children. Babies deserve a start at life that is, at the very least, the way nature intended. Formula is sub-par, a last resort, and usually what mothers switch to because they don’t have the support they need to keep breastfeeding to their own goals, or the goals that public health agencies have set. The AAP says 6 months at the least, but much better a year. The WHO says 2 years. The CDC says some 77% of infants are breastfed at birth, but the rate decreases to less than 50% at 6 months and only slightly better than 25% at a year. Every drop of breastmilk is precious. If we’re serious about addressing public health in this country, we need to be serious about addressing public health. That means supporting moms who are nursing. They are the ones who are ensuring the next generation has lower instances of chronic and short-term illness. They are also the ones who will be less likely to need help with health care bills addressing women’s cancers and osteoporosis in the next 30+ years. Show some respect. They are decreasing your health care tax burden coming and going.

1. I don’t care anymore. Baby’s gotta eat. I shouldn’t hide that. Our culture shames women who don’t behave “appropriately.” If it’s not slut shaming, it’s mother shaming. Eva and Ave. We don’t mind breasts that are provocatively tucked into bras or bikini tops, or extensive cleavage in a shirt, but we mind breasts that are feeding an infant? Why the double standard? Viewing breasts as exclusively sexual is a cultural phenomenon, and it’s one that we can easily take charge of and change. If you see a nursing mother being harassed, stand up for her. Thank nursing mothers for nursing in public and helping normalize it. They are engaged in a cultural revolution, simply while sticking a nipple in a kid’s mouth. Above all, if you can’t say something positive, keep your mouth shut and walk away. Even on the internet. It’s not ok to reduce a woman to her breasts for any reason, even if she’s lactating. The baby’s gotta eat and being a parent is hard enough without being shamed. With it, it is well nigh impossible. Is it any wonder the rates of post partum depression we experience in our culture? 1 in 7 mothers.

We can and we must do better for this generation of nursing moms and for the next.

If It’s Not About Choice, It’s Not Feminist

0051 Family Photos 12-2-13

Another post related to feminism and motherhood! *Gasp*

I obviously believe that our culture’s treatment of women in general and mothers particularly are integrally linked.

I read a piece designed to infuriate me. It was judgmental and sanctimonious to the core. I realize I was being manipulated. It was designed to upset me and use that emotional response to bump hit numbers to be able to command more advertising dollars. I won’t dignify the piece with a link to it though. If you really want to read it so you know why I am so bothered, do a search for “I Look Down on Young Women With Husbands and Kids and I’m Not Sorry” by Amy Glass. Even though this piece inspired my thoughts here, my thoughts here can stand on their own, so you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to lend your implicit support to the people making money off of others’ emotional responses. You will still understand what I am saying here.

Any statement indicating something that women should or should not do is inherently not feminist. Feminism is about providing choice and options so that women can make the right choices for them. And the right choice for one woman might be different than the right choice for every other woman on the planet, but she should still be free to make that choice. Laws or social expectations that curtail women’s choice on an unequal ground with men’s choices are the ones feminism seeks to change. Should a woman be free to steal? No, because men aren’t free to steal. We want women to have the same legal freedoms as men.

A woman should be free to seek a career, even after having a family or while raising her children, even if she doesn’t need the money. She should be free to stay home with her kids if she wants without social pressure to work, especially if she has no financial need to work. Her husband should likewise have those same options and both should be able to make those choices without being told they are in some way inferior to people who made different choices. Women should be free to make their own medical decisions, even through pregnancy and childbirth. Obstetrics is the last refuge of misogynist doctors who want to tell women to lie down and shut up and that needs to change. Any argument that seeks to box all women into any choice, even if it’s the most popular one, is not feminist.

If a woman is making choices that make her happy, celebrate with her, even if those choices wouldn’t be right for you. The point is her happiness, right? There is no one-size fits all solution for all women. We all have different personalities, different wants, dreams, emotional needs and we all have different methods for trying to achieve them.

Any method that attempts to achieve the same ends but with force is inherently misogynist. No one, not even another woman, can know what is best for a specific woman better than herself. To tell a woman that you know what she needs or wants better than she does is the essence of misogyny. Rather than attempt to force one very limited view onto an entire gender, we should seek to free women to make the choices they feel are best for themselves, without fear of social repercussions. Denigrating women for choices we might not make ourselves is just rude.

It Is OK

I have a secret that I want to share with all of you new moms. It’s for moms who have had kids for awhile too. And for dads. It’s for everyone who takes care of kids. Are you ready? Seriously, are you ready for it?

No mom has it all together.

Incredible right? No, none of them do. Not one. It might seem like some of them do, but you are not seeing what they are letting slide.

This image appeared in my Facebook newsfeed recently and it seems particularly appropriate.

561568_10151173048594531_2023978114_n

It is absolutely true, because you cannot have all three. And I would like to add to that: Please be gentle with yourself. If you are a parent, your job first and foremost is to raise your children. Everything else is a way to accomplish that or a distraction from that. That means that:

  • Sometimes people will ask you to do things and you will have to say no. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes the house will not be clean. It’s OK; you have kids.
  • Sometimes dinner will be takeout. Or from the freezer section. Or from the canned section. Don’t beat yourself up.
  • Sometimes the laundry won’t be done.
  • Sometimes you won’t get a shower.
  • Sometimes you will be late.
  • Sometimes it will feel like you have it all together, but
  • Sometimes it will feel like it is all going to pot. Probably more of the latter than the former.

It is OK, it is OK, it is OK because you have kids.

  • Sometimes you will need a break from everything because you have kids. Sometimes, you will even need a break from your kids.

Cut yourself some slack. No mom has it all together. You just aren’t seeing what they are letting slide.

So the next time it feels like everything is spiraling out of your control, take a deep breath and remind yourself that this is the nature of having kids.

And that it is OK.

Slut Shaming and Mother Shaming: Be Who I Want or Else

Two feminist posts in rapid succession? Well, I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole and into a land of madness!

Enh. It’s my blog. You get to hear about whatever is rattling around in my head and recognizing and rebelling against the patriarchy has been rattling around for awhile now.

Especially regarding parenting choices.

Just a few of the nonsense things the patriarchy says about being a good mom:

-You should breastfeed but only following my personal comfort levels.
-If you formula feed, you should only do it under the circumstances that I dictate.
-Research vaccinations
-but don’t choose not to vaccinate after your research.
-Always respond when your baby cries,
-but don’t let him manipulate you.
-Make sure your kids don’t eat junk food
-but don’t deprive them.
-If your kids have chronic health issues or allergies, it’s your fault.
-If your kids as exceptionally healthy or strong, you got lucky.
-Never spank unless your kids are doing something in the category of things I say.
-Homeschooling is only a good choice if I say so,
-but the quality of public schools is such that no kid belongs there.
-C-sections are only appropriate under the circumstances I say.
-If you want a natural birth, you are crazy.
-Think for yourself and follow your instincts,
-but only if they lead you to follow the herd and not go astray.

Be different, but not too different. Follow your instincts, but only if they go the way I believe they should. You know your child better than anyone, except this list of professionals who think you are being too soft. Be yourself, go against the grain and stand out, but not too much.

The mommy wars are another face of the patriarchy gone amok. Women participate in it too. They gain a certain amount of power by putting down other women’s choices and so perpetuates this idea that there is one ideal way of parenting and only the cream of the crop can manage it well. Here is the essence of the mommy wars. Daddies sometimes get sucked in too, usually for making choices that are perceived to be feminine.

Basically, what it boils down to is this is another way to slut shame, only instead of it being about how a woman is dressed or her perceived approach to her sexuality, it’s about how she parents. And the only time men are subject to the same degree of scrutiny and subsequent shaming is if they parent (or dress) in a way that our culture deems feminine, rather than masculine.

The other day, a friend commented that one of the worst insults you can throw at a man is to call him in some way feminine. That’s not only true of men either. Even for women, being feminine is considered being subpar, even subhuman. It gets equated with weakness, while masculinity is equated with strength. “If you like pink and purple, that makes you girly. If you paint your nails, that makes you girly. You throw like a girl. You parent like a girl.” Yeah, I do. I parent like a girl. That would be because I am a girl. It doesn’t make me weaker and it doesn’t make my choices any less valid. It doesn’t make me less the disciplinarian and it doesn’t mean I’m a pushover or that my kids walk all over me. There is no shame in “parenting like a girl.” There is nothing degrading about being a woman.

I’m also not inherently stupider or less able to appropriately gauge choices and consequences because I’m a woman. I also don’t have to care about the comfort of the people around me regarding my choices. My kids’ father is the only other person entitled to an opinion.

Passing along research and information is good. We like research and information. We don’t like being shamed back toward the herd when it is perceived that we have strayed too far. Mothers don’t need to justify child-rearing choices any more than fathers do. If a woman finds herself in a family court, just as a man would, she will need to justify her choices, but short of that, she’s doing just fine.

We need to drop the shame tactics. We need to drop the emotional appeals. We need to stop acting as though a woman is less qualified than a man to determine how she should parent. Unless we would tell a man who is not related to us the same thing, we really shouldn’t say it to a woman.

Freedom of choice is not an indulgence. It is a right to which women are well-qualified. More often than not, they know what is best for their kids. Short of them asking for advice, let’s trust them to know what they are doing.

Becoming a Birth Junkie Made Me a Feminist

The experience I had birthing my oldest child was very empowering, and it made me into a birth junkie. Women need to be empowered. I felt like a superhero and I wanted all of my soon-to-be-mom friends to feel the same. Some of them did, and some less so.

Once I became a birth junkie, I could not get enough birth stories. I read them wherever I could find them. Natural birth stories were my favorites, but I read anything I could get onto my screen. I discovered that there is a massive problem with women being disrespected while they birth their babies. Ignored, marginalized, disrespected, threatened and even raped. What. The. Hell. We’re into the 21st century. Rape is a crime. Birth rape is a thing. Not only is it a thing, but an extremely prevalent thing. And it’s protected. How is it possible that our culture understands that no means no, unless a woman is trying to push a bowling ball through her pelvis? A few months ago, a friend of mine screamed for the medical personnel to take their hands off of her while she birthed her baby and she was ignored. She was assaulted and because the people involved were wearing scrubs, very few people take her story seriously.

I started reading My OB Said What. Not only are women treated badly in childbirth, but it’s common enough to be seen as routine. A lot of women will tell you that “that’s just what birth is like.” No, no it’s not. And it shouldn’t be. They want validation that everyone experiences trauma during the births of children and that all women are treated badly in the labor room. They don’t want to know that what they endured was probably unnecessary trauma and they were likely abused. Sometimes emergencies arise in childbirth, but never is it acceptable for a laboring mom to walk away from her baby’s birth with PTSD. But it happens all the time and our culture condones it.

Our culture condones abusing women when they are in the most vulnerable position they will ever be in. Childbirth is the last place where women are told to lie back and take whatever comes to them. Women are routinely punished during the birth of their children for having sex, for getting pregnant and they are treated as though they deserve whatever they have coming to them. The menu often includes getting bullied, harassed, digitally raped, given medication without consent and getting cut without consent. It doesn’t always happen, but it happens enough to be noteworthy. The medical patriarchy is shocking and horrifying.

I was raised that women and men were equal in the eyes of the God and under the law. I owe second wave and first wave feminists for that. After all of that, before my son was born, I asked if feminism was still necessary. I can see that it is.

Women deserve not to be undermined. They deserve to choose where and with whom they birth their babies. They deserve to be treated with respect and compassion while they are laboring, whether they want a natural birth, a medicated one or a cesarean section. No one needs to bully a laboring mom if an emergency arises. You can deal effectively and efficiently with an emergency while treating the mother with compassion. There is no excuse for anything less than that.

I am a feminist because women should not be robbed of confidence in their bodies or in their abilities as mothers. We have come far in achieving respect and autonomy for women, but we still have far to go.

Comparing Homeschooling and Standard Schooling

This turned up in my Facebook newsfeed today. I really like it and so I’m sharing it. It’s pretty excellent.

 

 

Homeschooled: How American Homeschoolers Measure Up
Source: TopMastersInEducation.com

For Your Consideration

I was pondering this morning on how everything follows the rules to which it was constructed. All animals act on instinct and never deviate from it. All inanimate objects behave in the way they are constructed, always. The only animals that don’t behave that way are humans. We can choose to act as we are designed or we can choose to act differently. We are built on a genetic template and we are further refined by the actions our parents choose, but we also have the option to break those molds and move forward in a way that we choose, independent of either of those things.

When I was pregnant with my first child, I decided on an unmedicated birth, mostly because my mom had had me that way. I felt like I would breastfeed for about a year because that was how long she nursed me. After a lot of research, I have actively chosen to birth my babies without medication and to nurse them as long as we are both comfortable, rather than putting a glass ceiling on at a year, but that was long after my son was born. I parented him based on my instincts, which came straight out of how I was raised. Our child-rearing choices can have far-reaching consequences for many generations because so many people do as their parents did without question. Makes me think much more carefully about the kind of parent I want to be.