Reflections on motherhood...


Sunday, January 16, 2011

That most controversial of topics.... ahem, breastfeeding

It seems that there's not a week that goes by when breastfeeding is not in the news.  This week a study in Britain has "cast doubt on the safety of the exclusive breastfeeding of babies until they are six months old", and Facebook earned the wrath of breastfeeders worldwide when it removed, then reinstated, then removed again, then reinstated again, breastfeeding support page The Leaky Boob.  (You can listen to a very good interview with The Leaky Boob founder and others here).

These two stories reminded me to post a few reflections on that most controversial of topics - breastfeeding.  In my experience, most people, both male and female, will have an opinion on breastfeeding - whether you should, where you should, how you should, for how long, schedule or demand, in public or private... the list goes on.

I've had my share of well-meaning opinions directed at me.  I find it fascinating that something so natural can provoke such depth of feeling - and make so many people uncomfortable.  In fact it makes my father-in-law so uncomfortable he has to leave the room if there's any suggestion that I might be about to breastfeed.  Thankfully, my boobs have never had the same effect on any of the men I've breastfed next to on plane flights (and somehow I do always seem to be seated next to middle-aged men) - none of whom have batted an eyelid (or even given a sideways glance) at said boobs.  Nary an uncomfortable wriggle.

Then there's the clear difference between generations - the most common differences arising around:
  • when and how to wean (according to my Nana, sooner is better - "they've had a good start")
  • schedule vs demand feeding (again according to Nana, the baby should be taught to take what it needs at one feed, in three hourly intervals)
I have learnt to smile and nod at the opinion-givers, while mentally crossing them off my list of people not to breastfeed in front of (father-in-law: never; nana: not after baby is a year old; friend X: not after baby is walking).  Breastfeeding's not for everyone, but like Brazil's breastfeeding ad - those in Facebook's halls of power should take a long look at it before deciding it's obscene.


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