Thursday, October 19, 2006

When breasts get political...

I love my kids, all 3 of them, and am fortunate enough to have had nothing worse than a couple of cracked nipples while breastfeeding. I have always had enough milk (so long as I have had enough sleep and water too), and have never had them react badly to anything I ate. When I went back to work part-time, I was close enough to visit my babies to feed them midmorning, and had my own office where I could pump in privacy when I needed to.
I am in awe of those women who pump for 6 months or more to give their babies breastmilk, particularly when they do it from their babies' first weeks, whatever the cause. I am also astonished at the stories I have read and heard of the public attitudes to breastfeeding in some other 'modern' cultures. I have never felt embarrassed, offended, discriminated against or harrassed for feeding my babies in public, in cafes, restaurants, on public transport, in parks, in my son's classroom, or in the middle of the food court of a shopping centre. I think it outrageous that many women feel pressured to give up or not even try breastfeeding, that some people consider it 'inappropriate' to breastfeed in a public place, that more families on lower incomes use formula than wealthier families, that there are workplaces which are still too inflexible to support breastfeeding mothers returning to work. I agree with Kate Langbroek who commented that the only time people got upset about a breast being bared on tv was when it was fulfilling its main function - to feed a baby.
The reason for the rant? I have got out the gear and am reacquainting myself with the wash, sterilise, pump, wash, sterilise, pump cycle - I want to go to a Girl's Night Out fundraiser for breast cancer research, and was refreshing my memories of storage etc issues so as to leave baby V at home, and kept coming across sites supporting breastfeeding which have amazing tales of perseverance and courage on the part of mothers who believe in their right to breastfeed. I just want a few hours out of the house by myself - what some women achieve for their babies' entire babyhood is incredible. They rock.