Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Oh for the love of PETE

Found this linked from Strollerderby--I picked it up on Lactations.org. Some people are, for reasons passing understanding, attempting to set a record for "synchronized breastfeeding" around the world. Here's my edited version:


10:00 AM LOCAL STANDARD TIME around the world, August 8, 2007

Authorized by Guinness World Record under Claim Number 191535 of Children for Breastfeeding, Inc. with Membership ID 139335, we decided that our Synchronized Breastfeeding Worldwide be attempted in one single day, August 8, 2007, at the end of the World Breastfeeding Week.

Therefore, the Synchronized Breastfeeding must start at 10 AM (1200 GMT) local time August 8, 2007 at the International Date Line, at Time Zone Number One, comprising New Zealand , Marshall Islands , Wake Island and Fiji . Then an hour later the event will be continued in Time Zone Number Two, at 10 AM (1300 GMT) (more of the same, snipped) Thus, New Zealand gets its wish – to be the first and starting point of the event. Please see attached Time Zones for your respective schedules.

The purposes of this Exercise are

(1) To break the Guinness World Record for Simultaneous Breastfeeding in multiple sites (17,000 nursing mothers, soon to be credited by Guinness) established by the Philippines on May 2, 2007. We mean to do this not by pitting one nation against another, but to establish the record by international cooperation among those countries that belong to the same Time Zone.

(2) To make a permanent and on-going roster of the national records of each nation on simultaneous breastfeeding in a single site and in multiple sites, urging each nation to surpass its own record every succeeding year.

(3) To compare the efforts and achievements of each nation by standards based on population. Each nation will be judged by the number of simultaneously breastfeeding mothers “per million population” (pmp), thus negating the obvious advantages of countries with huge populations like China and India .

(4) To provide a measure of how the Breastfeeding Movement around the world is progressing every year, and to achieve the numbers worldwide that will make all nations cooperate in reviving the breastfeeding culture.

(5) To establish simultaneous breastfeeding as a form of universal prayer for peace and thanksgiving for the gift of motherhood and breastfeeding.

People. WTF is the POINT?? This is so ridiculous, but I wasn't going to blog it until I read that last little gem there.

Now, let me note that I breastfed Maggie, and am extremely glad I did so. This isn't the "bitter ravings of an incomplete woman" or whatever the lactivists would call someone who couldn't or wouldn't breastfeed. And let me admit that yes, I have a serious scorn going on for La Leche and their ilk. Here's why. To my knowledge, they have never apologized for inviting what is essentially a practioner of hate speech against adoptive parents, infertile couples and gay famiies to speak at their national convention. At best, they were guilty of breathtaking ignorance in not checking this woman out (like, GOOGLING her, for example) and at worst, they are guilty of holding the same repugnant views.

I do think breastfeeding is best, or I wouldn't have fought to make it work through weeks of blinding pain and frustration at being pinned to the couch every two hours or less. I don't know why anyone wouldn't at least give it a real try. I look forward to nursing the baby I am carrying now. I also think mothers should feel comfortable nursing anywhere they would feel comfortable giving a bottle -- which does NOT include a skanky bathroom. I never got comfortable with it myself (big boobs, short waist, and a squirmy and very distractible baby add up to more potential embarassment than I care to face) but I fully support anyone's right to latch that baby on anywhere they please.

However, can we all just get some fucking SENSE already and acknowledge that breastfeeding is a way to feed a baby, and that is ALL it is? It is not a badge of superior mothering, it is not some feminist statement, it is not the foundation on which all that is good and right in society is built. It is also not an exhibistionist act or tatamount to pissing in public. It is a way, a damn good way, to accomplish one of the most fundamental tasks in parenting, which is to feed and nurture your child.

Lactivists drive me craazzzyyy because they get so smug and exercised over how greaaaaattt they are for breastfeeding. They brag about how and where they have nursed in public, how long they nursed each kid, etc. What they don't get is this: BBY being so self-satisfied and so militant about how "breast is best" (I have even had blog comment wars with people who think it's okay to walk up to a non-nursing mother and expound about the superiority of breastfeeding!!) they turn off moderate people like me who would otherwise be supportive of their cause. Similarly, people who oppose breastfeeding and make comments about how "gross" it is for a mother to nurse her baby in public play right into the hands of these tiresome people who want to make it seem like breastfeeding mothers are some persecuted minority.

And that's my other big beef with lactivists. Is there ANYONE out there who has parented an infant and hasn't heard ad infinitum that "breast is best?" Is it news to anyone that breastfeeding is the preferred baby-feeding method these days? Anyone who hasn't felt even a leetttle guilty taking that can of formula off the shelf? If anyone is a persecuted minority these days (and I am not implying anyone is) it's formula feeders, who get comments from random passersby about how they should really be breastfeeding and unhelpful advice from everyone about how to make it work.

Breast is best, and supporting mothers in their choice to breastfeed is important. But staging meaningless events and trying to give it this soft focus romantic wonderfulness draws attention away from very real battles mothers face every day --battles for safer neighborhoods, for decent childcare, for a little freakin' respect already. It doesn't escape me that the lactivist movement appears to be exclusively made up of middle-class women. There are a lot of real problems facing mothers --sufficient support for breastfeeding isn't one of them.


Mike Adamick said...

It's not very often I run across a thoughtful -- and funny -- breastfeeding post, but I'm really glad I just did.

Mike at Cry It Out!

portuguesa nova said...

amen amen amen amen amen amen amen amen amen amen

Theresa said...

You know I love you but I think you are way off base with that last sentence (and the general tone of this post).

"There are a lot of real problems facing mothers --sufficient support for breastfeeding isn't one of them."

I couldn't disagree more. Women ARE harassed for nursing in public, breastfeeding relationships ARE sabotaged by too short or non-existent maternity leave, women ARE given horrible inaccurate information by doctors and nurses and other people who should be helping them. LLL has been at the forefront of working to change all these things. If you had help from a lactation consultant in the hospital, you have lactivists to thank. Without them, formula would be pushed even more strongly than it is. They have also worked very hard to get laws passed to protect the right to nurse in public and to take pumping breaks at work.

As for the "Comic" Mom incident, LLL is guilty of not doing their homework. When they were made aware of the issues surrounding this woman they cancelled her appearance.

Are there obnoxious lactivists? Sure. But there are just as many people who say "breastfeeding? Ew." or harass women who are feeding their babies in public. Rudeness is rudeness regardless of the agenda of the person committing it.

Em said...

Amen, sister. I think that sometimes the issue is not the issue for people with a cause, and I definitely feel this way about lactivists. They seem so focused on what other women are doing (or not doing) that it makes me think that they are deeply insecure about their own parenting.

pnutsmama said...

i agree with 99% percent of this (tone and all!), the only point i waver on is close to what theresa mentions. i'm not sure i agree exactly with your last sentence, either, in the sense that i don't feel that the average mom feels actual *support* for breastfeeding in 2007. i certainly didn't, and most moms i know who bf'ed didn't either, by the majority of people they ran across, and mainstream society in general. just b/c bf'ing gets a lot of attention these days, doesn't to me equal support. even in a metro area like NYC it was hard to find a place to bf with some type of privacy. most people asked "are you *still* nursing?" instead of assuming that you are, regardless. i got tons of formula coupons in the mail, and i always had to remind my ped that pnut needed to be on the ebf %ile charts. i think you and i are in the percentage of contemporary moms who are very connected to the information currently available on the benefits of breastfeeding, but lots and lots of moms (and the rest of the world) are not.

but that's not even the important support. i believe that the important support for moms in general, but especially for moms who bf touches on the issues you bring up- better maternity leave policies, mandatory pumping rooms, continual support groups (not just filled up with the sanctimommies and crunchymamas) and laws that protect the right of nursing moms in general. we don't do a whole lot to support women once they leave the hospital- and especially those weeks and weeks afterwards when it gets really tough. i don't mean the whole "i'm a bfing martyr" thing, either, just some gd validation. and forget about if you are poor, single, come from a culture that doesn't support bf'ing, etc.

we in america are horrendous when we expect the average woman to return to work 6-8 weeks post partum. i remember 6-infinity weeks post partum, if anyone had asked my sleep-deprived ass to do anything besides wander helplessly back to the couch to feed that kid again i would have failed miserably. how could i have gone back to work? impossible. i have so much respect for moms who pump at work. i pumped a very measly 5 oz a day for out of the house time (which had to be consumed that day or else my lipase would turn it nasty! whee!)- that never would have kept a baby alive for 10+ hours a day. some days my husband would come home to me crying on the couch and thank me for keeping myself and our daughter alive one more day. think of all the moms who don't get that kind of support from even one person.

i can understand why women give up bfing so quickly- that's the support i mean, support for each other- being honest with each other (oh, you never get to sleep? especially at night? you feel like death is a reasonable option right about now? all.you.do.is.feed.the.baby?)about how goddamned hard it is, how lonely you feel, tips to get you through the days and nights that seem they will never end. wanting to give the one bottle of formula, that you know will just be the beginning of that slippery slope. just. to get. some sleep. yet you don't ever give the formula lest YOU FAIL. sigh.

(and not the tip "oh, have dad give a bottle of warmed breastmilk in the middle of the night" b/c really? i have to wake up my husband as the baby screams right next to him? then wait for him to heat up water, warm a bottle of refrigerated milk in said heated water as the baby screams? and wait? and wait? (as baby and now he is screaming?) and then watch worked up baby reject the bottle b/c oh, she's really pissed now and doesn't want that stupid thing when the fresh stuff is right over there trying get more than 2+ hours of sleep at a time? guess how many times we tried that again.)

that's the support i think moms are still in desperate need for, amy. yet i agree with you that i'm not sure doing a 24 hour nurseathon will solve any of that. or, the crazed lactivists making the rest of us feel like failures for not nursing our college-ready 18 year olds. when i shared that i had nursed pnut til about 20 months and all the difficulties i had with it with a lady at my CSA (oh, the red flags should have been waiving), she looked at me triumphantly and stated "WELL, i LOVED nursing my daughter until she was THREE!!" thanks, lady, you win. sigh.

you and i are the lucky ones, amy, we were determined to bf that damn baby at any cost, and we searched out groups online when the in-person groups scared the crap out of us. i'm grateful for those ladies, even some of the wacky ones, for doing their thing for the rest of us. but sometimes, i wish we could all just sit down and admit how effing hard it can be sometimes, and let that spirit of support guide our decision making as far as breastfeeding advocacy is concerned.

thanks for posting- i really missed your voice!!

msuspartan99 said...

I read your whole entry, and am still wondering who is Pete?

Em said...

Holy shit, dude. You rock. You just said it and I passed it on to all of my other 'sisters'. I am not a mom, but A-freaking-MEN! I have seen way to many women struggle, beat themselves up, all because of the La Leche-ists. It really makes me sad. I will give it a shot, but I will not defeat myself if it doesn't work for me. (my mother and sister cannot do it, some argue that that is bs, but whatever). Your writing is all to often a BIG breath of fresh air for me and this post is a perfect example of that. Thanks, Amy.

apt said...

Awww... It's like "Hands across America," only with boobs. And it's international.
Thanks for this post. Your thoughts and the comments of your readers are thought provoking.
I too would enjoy more support of breastfeeding (shut up mother in law) but I don't think this event is going to promote that support.
Ironically, I am hoping to be done weaning during International Breastfeeding month. I hope that this comment doesn't earn me a personal visit from a guerilla lactivist in camouflage.
Also, thanks for helping me remember my dream from 2 nights ago. It's provided today's blog entry.

Anna said...

Great post - totally cracked me up. Support or harassment for nursing in public seems rediculous for something that is entirely natural. I can't believe people get bent out of shape because an infant is being nursed. It's sad that support HAS to even be generated for this. Who gives an eff if someone looks at you wierdly for breastfeeding? I was really glad I made it to 15 months, but I took my son's cues and we discontinued a little at a time - very easy.

Have a wonderful day!

msuspartan99 said...

did someone just say "It's like "Hands across America," only with boobs." and correct me if i am wrong, but would that be boobs across america?

Jonathon Morgan said...

i agree with mike's comment -- it's rare that i EVER see this perspective, and i'm glad i did.

dawn224 said...

"(big boobs, short waist, and a squirmy and very distractible baby add up to more potential embarassment than I care to face)"

I think I love you, where have you been all my life.... You rock!

tripmom827 said...

HUGE RUN-ON SENTENCE ALERT: pnutsmama made me cry. OK, I am only 3 1/2 weeks postpartum, and yes I have nursed my lovely daughter ALL DAY and yes, I do think my nipples are going to fall off at any minute and yes I am wondering if this is worth it and maybe we would all be better off if I just cracked open those formula sample cans I got in the mail for some reason and yes, I am wondering if I will ever sleep again without something sucking on me the whole time. And, yes, I wish there was a group of people who I could talk to about it. People who won't say, "Oh just give it up and give her formula" or people who won't think I am terrible mother for even contemplating this idea. Thank you, Amy, for showing that there is sanity in being in the middle.

C said...

Amy, I am sorry you do not agree with La Leche. I do not know who spoke at the national conference that so upset you (the link does not work), but I can assure you that the mothers I know in our local Detroit group do not support the things you listed.

I was just about where TripMom is when I sought help from LLL for BFing my son. Beaumont's Lactation consultants did not work on weekends, when we were in the hospital and needed them. So I was sent home with formula and no direction.

I never dreamt, in a million years, I would join LLL. "Breast Nazis" was drilled into my head. But I was desperate and it turned out to be the best thing I could have done.

I would have given up without the support of the local LLL group (many times). I urge mothers to seek out local groups for help and not avoid them because of "lacativist" or "nazi" labels that are tossed about. Meet the women who try to make a difference and make your own judgments.