the drift


Friday, January 30, 2009

Bewbies for Babies

I breastfed both of my kids and just to provide some context for the following opinions, while I wasn't an exhibitionist about it, I've breastfed at restaurant tables discreetly and had no complaints. I figured most people probably preferred a little glimpse of side boob to the wailing of an unconsoled infant. I've breastfed a wailing baby in public without a blanket with my tot strategically covered (the t-shirt/tank/nursing bra trifecta is your friend girls). In my experience it's really not that hard to avoid garnering unwanted attention -- assuming it's unwanted. I actually had more comments when I went to a bar and had the occasional beer (doctor sanctioned in the last trimester) -- but I certainly didn't play the victim and whine about it. I knew I was baiting people to a degree. (I actually thought that was AWESOME that some stranger would speak up to me in a critical way about having a beer. While I clearly didn't agree, that made me think that just maybe this human race still has a bit of self-preservation instinct left.)
Each child was a different age and development level when they naturally wanted to drop the tit. However, I was listening closely for that moment because I saw it as a key developmental milestone. I'm skeptical that mothers who breastfeed ALL of their children to the exact same age are actually listening to the baby who will give you (sometimes subtle) cues (e.g. milk production gradually decreases, baby watching intently as you eat food, frequently turning away, baby growing a 5 o'clock shadow).
I have not doubt that a toddler would still want the closeness but that's where I start to wonder why an older child (2 or 3) would value that interaction over say reading a book together at nap time or rocking in a chair unless the mother has engineered their quiet time together to be based on breastfeeding. Yes it's perfectly natural and some ladies are 'addicted' to the zoned-out relaxation of breastfeeding (think I read a Selma Hayek quote to that end, talk about inviting the inappropriate thoughts of dudes everywhere). While that doesn't weird me out, it makes wonder about control issues on the mother's part. Are these mothers infantilizing their children in other ways that are more vital to the development of an independent identity and that may actually have some lasting effects? Are they stuffing their children in these ideological boxes that have more to do with their perceptions of themselves as mothers than they have to do with the child him/herself? (E.g. I WILL breastfeed this baby until s/he is X years old. He will not have sugar except on birthdays.)
All of that said, observing and validating the individuality of each of my kids is kind of my sacred cow of mothering, so certainly it is plausible that if I have a third it could give me no sign of loss of interest well into middle school. But I just really have my doubts.
Finally, and to me most importantly, regarding some moms who really get worked up about their right to breastfeed in public ... As a fellow mother in this dark, sometimes fucking abysmal world, aren't there about, oh, 999,000 causes more relevant to child and family welfare? I mean, I know that abused children, grieving children and homeless families are bummers, but those causes could actually benefit from your level of fanaticism, er, dedication. Just a thought.
Also, this dude totally LOVES it when you breastfeed in public. If that isn't reason enough.


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