Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Breastfeeding in the U.S. -- a soapbox rant

Before I climb aboard my soapbox, let me make one thing crystal clear: my beef is with the formula companies, not the women who use formula. Are there any questions so far?

Now, my treatise. In this country, breastfeeding rates are alarmingly low, both at birth and as time goes on. In countries where formula is used FOR ITS INTENDED PURPOSE, for babies that could not, for whatever reason, have breastmilk, breastfeeding is the NORM.

Why is it not here in the U.S.? Because Americans are driven by the almighty dollar. And no one makes a stinking dime if I breastfeed my children.

Breasts are sexualized here to such a point that many women are actually afraid to use their breasts to feed a child. I've had people ask me if I'm afraid I'll make my 2 and a half year old daughter a lesbian because she still nurses. (If she's a lesbian to begin with, that's fine with me, but to imply that extended nursing MADE her that way?)

I'm all for freedom of choice. I'll bitch and moan here on this blog and with my like-minded friends about how sad and frustrated I am that breastfeeding is still considered a "fringe behavior," but I'll never tell a mother she made a bad choice. I have no right to do that -- I don't walk in her shoes. And, along those lines, I'd certainly never accuse someone of being a "bad mother" for not breastfeeding any sooner than I'd applaud someone for being a "good mother" simply because she breastfeeds!

My friend at work (yes, I did say FRIEND, in fact, one of the most loyal buds I've ever known) was so anxiety-ridden about going back to work and pumping, she had panic attacks. Is she a bad mother for weaning at 6 weeks to go back to work? No way. She does, however, tell me that if I had done it first and she had seen how I manage our job and breastfeeding a baby (well, two babies now), she might have stuck it out a little bit longer.

My own mother never gave me so much as a drop of colostrum, yet I strive, daily, to be the kind of mother she is. Breastfeeding alone does not make a good mother. It is but one piece of a very large puzzle.

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