Wednesday, January 11, 2012

It's Time to Talk About Breasts

I have been toying with the idea of writing a blog about breastfeeding for a long time, even though it has very little to do with my job as an author. However, it has a whole hell of a lot to do with my life and who I am, just as my writing does, so maybe it has more to do with my job than I think. So I'm going to lay it out right here, and you can think all the crazy things you want about me. Talk shit about my writing? I may get defensive. But about breastfeeding? I will cut you the hell out.

Any person on this planet who thinks breastfeeding is wrong or gross or "his law" (a judge in this Yahoo article, also referenced below) is a child-hating scumbag. I understand that not every woman wants to or even has the ability to nurse her child, but no one can dispute the fact that breast milk is the most natural food for a baby to eat. Did you know that every woman's body makes breast milk tailored to their baby's needs? For example: my daughter was born six and a half weeks early, and the milk my body made was specifically made for a preemie until she was ready for bigger baby milk. Then my body changed and made different milk. Total super power, right? Did you know drinking breast milk gives a baby not only a boost to their own growing immune system but also the benefit of their mother's immune system during the duration of breastfeeding? A ton of studies have been done, linking breast milk to everything from increasing baby's brain size to helping mothers combat breast cancer, and yet people are still weird about it. I don't get it. Even the argument of breastfeeding in public doesn't hold water (or breast milk) because rarely is a mom just going to whip out her boobs to expose them to a pervy passersby. We whip them out discretely because OUR BABIES NEED TO EAT. Oh, I'm sorry, did I offend you for FEEDING A HUNGRY CHILD? Where is this coming from, you may ask?  This Yahoo article about Sesame Street removing breastfeeding images from their show over time and mothers asking they bring them back so that kids will understand it as a normal thing. The article should not have given voice to a random, user-named commenter (quoting it as "gross")to help fuel the fire that breastfeeding may be normal, but that doesn't mean we need to see it. Again, Sesame Street isn't about to throw some tits up on the screen. That's the problem with people and their anti-breastfeeding stance: they are sexualizing breastfeeding. It's as though a woman's body only has one purpose in these people's eyes: as a sexual object. But I think the fear of breastfeeding really stems from the fear of women and the power they can wield. Our bodies can produce and sustain life, not just during pregnancy, but even afterward. It's an incredibly important job, one without pay, one that takes a lot of time and hard work, sometimes with excruciating physical pain, and often without the support or encouragement of others. To be a working mom and a breast-feeder is even harder. I am going to admit right now that while I was pregnant, my school library was going through a major renovation. Part of that renovation was to change my office, which originally had three doors that could be entered by other people in the school at random. I designed my new office to have one locking door. It also had a tiny, cable-fed television. Do you know why I designed it this way? So that when I returned to work after my maternity leave, I could pump breast milk in a private, comfortable setting. I even offered it up to other nursing moms after their maternity leaves ended. You know what else? My daughter is three, and I still breastfeed her. We're both about ready to stop (a decision we can make together), and we only do it on occasion in the privacy of our home at bedtime, but it's still a part of our shared existence. Some mothers set their limits: I'll stop when my kid walks or talks or turns one. I set my own boundaries, too: not nursing on demand or in public when my kid was old enough to eat real food. Three may sound old to some people for breastfeeding, but when it's your kid, and you've been doing this since they were a baby-- hell, even before they were technically a person (preemies are pre-dated until they reach their due date)-- it doesn't seem gross or weird. It's what my body was meant to do, and I have never felt more proud or worked so hard at anything in my life.

I'm a little nervous to even post this blog because of the discomfort people have over breastfeeding in America. But I don't want to feel ashamed for doing something so beneficial for my child, at absolutely no cost to anyone else. Our society needs to stop knocking women down, and instead start holding us up for the important work we do. If this is a difficult notion for you, just envision yourself as a giant, supportive, polka-dot bra with comfortable, wide straps and a hidden under wire. And if it still bothers you? Stop looking.


Natalie Whipple said...

I totally agree. I mean, while I didn't breastfeed my kids that long, it IS important and healthy and empowering. Go you for saying it out loud.

Julie H said...

Thanks, Natalie! I had to work really hard at it (wasn't easy with a preemie). I have a woman I call my boob guru :)

Megan said...

On the dating site I use unsuccessfully, one of the "survey" questions was "Are you weirded out by a woman nursing her child in public?" My response was, "Are you usually weirded out by people eating?" People get way too antsy about breastfeeding, when it's one of the best things a parent can do for their infant.

Ronni said...

Hear hear! *raises glass*

Julie H said...

Megan, what an interesting way to gauge a person you don't know! And Ronni, I hope it's not a glass of breast milk :)

Teenage Librarian said...

I don't have kids, but my best friend is a Bradley instructor and has done extended breastfeeding. It's really opened my eyes to the way we as society look at birth and breastfeeding and that whole kit and kaboodle (ps. do you remember kaboodles?!)

I'm not sure what I'll do with my kids (if and when) but I'm a lot more open now because of my friend. She talks about it, she explains her views and opinions and is not militant about it (which I find to be AWESOME!).

Kudos to you for talking about it. :)