Sunday, August 26, 2012
The Breastfeeding Wars
In an earlier time I have been what some would consider a 'breastfeeding nazi'. I never thought of myself that way, but I can see how the assumption was made. I have been very open about our breastfeeding history and I know full well that the choices we have made are not ones that many people are comfortable with, and that is okay.
This morning an article popped up in my Facebook feed that I found very upsetting. The short version is that a representative of the Australian Breastfeeding Association had made some very inflammatory and upsetting statements within the setting of a breastfeeding class for expectant parents.
Let's assume first up that the article has been written for maximum impact, by which I mean not that the statements were innaccurate but that the article has been written to receive exactly the kind of emotive reaction that I had.
I have long supported the ABA. I do not believe for one moment that these comments are indicative of the stance of the organisation, and in fact the counsellors I have known have been vocally and actively supportive of helping mothers transition to formula feeding where it is needed. It is so upsetting that the comments of this one person can tarnish the reputation of an organisation that exists to support mothers.
I have long ago realised though that even the least emotive language can cause extremely strong reactions when it comes to issues around mothering. The presentation of facts can be misconstrued where a person's individual circumstances do not allow them to take them as just that, facts rather than judgement. And I'm not sure who is to blame for this. Not the women themselves, I suspect the societal and cultural biases within this country.
If I were to feed my nearly 2 year old in public chances are I would garner some filthy looks. I've had it happen with my other children. I hear that for some women feeding their baby with a bottle receives the same kind of reception. We absolutely cannot win until as a society we learn to respect choice, even when that choice does not mirror our own preferences.
I believe all women deserve to be supported and aided in the quest to breastfeed. Not by midwives smacking a new baby against their breast (yep I've had that happen too, and I know I am not alone there either) but by experienced, qualified and sympathetic professionals who genuinely desire to help.
For some women, breastfeeding will not work out. Others may choose not to for personal reasons.
I've reached an impasse. I once believed that those who choose not to breastfeed should try harder, or should address their own issues around it. But how can I advocate for the right to bodily autonomy... the right to choose to birth at home or in the hospital or however else... how can I argue for the right for a woman to own her body without also respecting the right to choose not to breastfeed? I still believe a media that embraces lace covered artificially enhanced breasts rather than those being used to feed a baby has a lot to answer for, but at the end of the day who I am to judge any woman's choice for her own body?
I am horrified by the fear mongering approach this particular woman has taken. I am saddened deeply by what it does to the breastfeeding advocacy cause, because I am absolutely an advocate for breastfeeding support myself.
But most of all I am sad that yet again women are being pitted against each other. Being made to choose sides where no sides should be taken. Not being shown the respect and understanding that ALL mothers deserve, regardless of their individual choices.
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