breastfeeding as biology, not ideology

Breastfeeding as biology, not ideology — can we look at it this way? If it works, great. If it doesn’t, for whatever reason at all, I’d like to give you moms out there a chance to consider a slightly nuanced perspective in hopes it alleviates a little of the angst, guilt or self-imposed diminishment you are suffering. Most especially, I’d like to counter the zealots out there, who sure seem to receive the bulk of the press, who I know are only adding to your pain as their banners of Attachment and Leche This and That are flown, as if breastfeeding were a glorified goal onto itself.

Yes, breastfeeding is best. Let no pro-leche person be mistaken that I support formula/hand-off non-attempts at this. I have three kids, breastfed them all, each one of them for different lengths of time as circumstance dictated, no problems starting, during or weaning. But here’s my take on that: It was no big deal. May I say it again? It was no big deal. Breastfeeding was a biological function that worked for me. Biological, not ideological. I will not put myself on a pedestal for having done so, and my goal with this article is to put all of us reproducing humans (a.k.a. women) back on a single playing field. Come back up/down here with me, whether you nursed or not. The mom air is fine; it is a calling, it is hard work, it is wacky and busy and never perfect, but we can all breathe the same air. Being a mom is not a club of ability-ranking and exclusiveness; it is a universally-applied definition to those who either give birth and/or raise children. Birth is one aspect, how we feed our child is another. Guess what? That is only the beginning.

Yes, again: Breastfeeding is best for both the kid and for you. As noted in countless articles and infinite posts, it doesn’t always work. The reasons why as are as personal as they are varied: tangible, medical, practical, you-call-it. Sure, we consumers are a gullible and comfortable lot, advertising budgets and political sway proves this very fact. That most assuredly includes the formula industry we still contend with.But I do indeed sit here and write and will vouch for two basic realities as formula feeding and me: 1) As a child of the ’60s, I was exclusively bottle fed and am still here and (so help me and by the grace of All) pretty darn healthy, fit and at full speed ahead with life. 2) I will never, ever forget the sweet memory of observing not only my husband, the oh-so-proud daddy, bottle feed his daughter (she was weaned to a bottle at 4 months to allow me to go back to work – aka basic reality #3) I chose not to pump). I also watched as my second son, then 16, also gave her a bottle ever so often, their faces inches apart, his heart and mind expanding in a new universe as he bonded with his baby sister. He dotes on her to this day.

All of us need to step back a bit from the ideology of breastfeeding and re-accept it as biology. We humans have such a tendency to create schools of thought that morph to religious zealotry and practice. Our minds are blessed (or cursed?) for their inclination to intellectualize just about everything. But lactation is a bodily function that follows the other big bodily function that is reproduction. No self-centered fanatic need make any woman feel the lesser mother for not breastfeeding long enough or not at all. Don’t we have enough on our collective plates as we make our way through life? Does this too have to become a contest, or worse yet, a social media quest?

In an ideal world, we’d all have the time and support, the knowledge and the absence of personal or practical issues that drive lactation success, but we don’t. In an ideal world, we’d all have the money it takes to buy the support or time we might not automatically be granted, but we don’t. In an ideal world, our bodies would have an easy time with all aspects of reproduction: quick deliveries, rapid post-birth weight loss, balanced emotions, sleep, rivers of milk, but we don’t. So, let us give ourselves a break. The fact is – and this means thinking not only of ourselves – the finely-tuned senses of our little ones, who no doubt can practically smell the anxiety on us, will thank us for it. Good parenting from day one on should be founded on flexibility – it is a learning process. Babies and life in general require that a parent learns to adapt to every best and then next best possible solution as any obstacle or opportunity presents itself.

Let the reality of the bigger picture of reproduction console us: Get that hefty tape measure out of the drawer and lay it on your kitchen floor. Pull it out to, say about 90 inches. Do you see inches one and two? Within that stretch, we are nursing or bottle feeding our little ones as it suits us. Now, look at the rest of the tape measure and note the distance. These are the years of your child’s life; many of which you will share with them as their parent, all nursing/bottle feeding aside. Consider each tiny, sixteenth-inch mark as representative of the additional parenting opportunities or tasks you will be handed. And the distance between those marks? Those are the light years of chances you have to love them. Release yourselves, moms, of the pain you are feeling if you aren’t nursing your child. I’d say you have about a gazillion other opportunities to define your role as Mommy.

Do try to breastfeed, yes. It’s biology, it is natural, it is what we were designed to do. And do it 1) for the baby 2) for you. Don’t abuse this bio-function to draw attention to yourself, as is often the case in our viralized society. To seek the attention of outside others is the most lamentable aspect of our viralization, as it comes directly at a cost to those closest to us, who most deserve out attention, who should be put first.

When I see all that exists in its viralized glory, I know the world is coming full-circle with its own gullible self: 50% of the FB/YouTube/EZfame/Meaningless-Achievement-Seeking, media-possessed masses refuse to question anything whatsoever about the spontaneous erupted hubris while the other 50% of the FB/YouTube/EZfame/Meaningless-Achievement-Seeking, media-possessed masses is posting it.

Do we say welcome to a new, tech-based religiosity aka that which is blindly believed? To see it online – no matter what, where, who or how – is to believe it? So let it be written, so let it be; so let it simply be the latest incarnation of the fussellian dumb.

If reality has handed you something different, I want you to know that you are no less a mom than I. August has been proclaimed National Breastfeeding Month. Well, January, February, March, April, May, June, July, August too, September, October, November and December are all Mom Months.

August 2013

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