Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Boob Tales

The topic of breastfeeding has become quite politicized over the years.  There's the camp of folks who view breastfeeding in public as a lewd act, and then there are the lactivists who fight for a woman's right to feed/pump in public as well as in the work place.  In the 2010 health reform bill, section 4207 requires employers to allow break time for an employee to express milk for up to one year after the birth of a child--it's my understanding that this was a big deal.

As recently as this past February the news was buzzing over a store in London that started selling breast milk ice cream. There are also breast milk banks for women to donate their excess milk to with the milk serving various malnourished infants or infants with mothers who are unable to breastfeed. 

I've always been interested in breastfeeding.  I remember sitting in my Global Feminism class and listening to my professor talk about how in the 70's Nestle went into Harlem and other poor urban areas mostly occupied by African Americans and convinced them that breastfeeding was bad and that they should use their food stamps for the Nestle infant formula.  Apparently Nestle has done the same in parts of Africa. Now, there are efforts to get black women and other minority women to embrace breastfeeding, trying to pose a counter to the uber-aggressive marketing by the billion dollar infant formula industry, which apparently has also convinced hospitals to hand out its samples for free. It always comes down to money doesn't it?  "Screw what is best for mom and baby! We've got to increase our profits!"

Looking back, it seems as though we have come a long way.  Breastfeeding is more common and less demonized or shunned by society, and there are laws in place that allow women to breastfeed in public and laws that require employers to be flexible.  But something is still missing.  All of a sudden (and maybe this coincides with the big organic and local foods movement?) women are demonized for choosing NOT to breastfeed or for being unable to breastfeed after a gallant.

And I will be the first to admit that for a while I resented my mom for choosing not to breastfeed my brother and I.  But as I grow as a person and have read more and had friends with babies, I've come to realize that it's not always possible for women to breast feed. 

Recently, there was a great article on Jezebel about the realities many breastfeeding women face. It's a good article. you should check it out.

Any thoughts to share on the subject?  I plan to try to breastfeed and I know I will be very disappointed if for some reason I can't.  I wonder what the judgy lactivist people will think....


  1. I know they probably exist, but I've never met a 'lactivist' who judged a woman who actually couldn't breastfeed. The problem, of course, is that while there are only a really tiny percentage of women who physically cannot breastfeed, there are a lot of women who say they couldn't breastfeed or couldn't produce enough milk, and that's almost always because they didn't have enough support or got bad advice from a healthcare provider. Luckily, there are great lactation counselors out there and tons of supportive breastfeeding communities on the internet, which makes it so much easier to get through some of the rough patches that come up.

  2. yea i am going to go to some La Leche League meetings before the baby arrives and my midwife will be a great support too!