Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Breastfeeding in America

Breastfeeding is an interesting subject in America. It appears the majority of people, even those with children, think breastfeeding is not a public activity and should not continue past the first year of life, if even that long. I would like to address these two hypocritical beliefs.

Myth 1. Breastfeeding should always be private.

I am a Mormon, so I do believe in modesty and using nursing covers at least when men are around. Even so, I also think babies have the right to eat whenever and wherever they need to whether or not their mothers cover up. When people think breastfeeding is offensive, I can't help but think they are being offensive by sexualizing or making obscene something natural and precious. Our culture is obsessed with breasts and is perfectly content allowing women to flaunt them any other time, yet finds it inappropriate when a baby eats what nature intended for the baby to eat. I am appalled to hear of public places kicking out women for nursing their hungry babies, especially when covered, yet leave half-naked women in peace or display magazines with women barely concealing their breasts. Those women's intents are sexual.

FYI, many states, such as Arizona, protect a woman's right to breastfeed in public, covered or not. Although I usually try to find a private place to nurse, such as a dressing room, I have nursed (covered) in a restaurant and on a bench in an outdoor mall. I wish all places were as baby-friendly as the Swedish home store IKEA, which has a nursing room, among other amenities.

Myth 2. Breastfeeding should cease after one year, if not sooner.

Concerning weaning, "the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends continued breastfeeding beyond the first birthday as long as mutually desired by mother and child" and states that "the simplest, most 'natural' time to wean is when your child initiates the process." They also go into detail about the benefits of long-term breastfeeding, such as boosting the child's immunity and intelligence. Yet American mothers wean much earlier, in contrast to the worldwide average of 2 to 4 years old.

There are also other reasons to nurse: bonding time and comfort. The idea of encouraging a baby or toddler to nurse for comfort bothers some people. We have no problem letting toddlers become attached to pacifiers, blankies, and other such objects, so why do we oppose a toddler going to his or her mother for comfort? The AAP says,

Your toddler may turn to nursing for comfort and reassurance, but he is certainly still benefiting from the nutritional and immunologic benefits. In any case, emotional support is a perfectly legitimate aspect of breastfeeding.
Seeking out a reassuring nursing session when he’s upset and bouncing back as soon as he finishes builds your child’s confidence and feelings of security and well-being. Certainly there is no evidence that extended breastfeeding makes a child more dependent or harms him in any way.
On the contrary, many parents proudly tell how independent, healthy, and exceptionally bright their long-term breastfed children become. As long as you are comfortable breastfeeding your toddler, there is no reason to stop.
Whether or not you are comfortable with breastfeeding is irrelevant. My hope is that you respect other mothers' choices to breastfeed in public and breastfeed for as long as they and their babies want.


Clarissa B. said...

im really glad you posted this, i for one do not like mothers rooms, or nursing rooms, i will nurse right where i am, thank you very much. (even in sacrament meeting!) i always use my cover or a blanket and if someone asked me to stop (especially in public) i would say, how do you know what we're doing? but thankfully thats never happened.

i have nothing against women who want to be private, and use the mothers lounge. but i think a lot of the time women escape to the mother lounge to chat, and i don't like that. i will only leave if my baby needs a new diaper.

hooray for breast-feeding! i believe breast-feeding is a privilege and a sacrifice, lots of women are unable to who want to and lots of women who can choose not too.

i am proud to be able to nurse my children, and i will do so where ever they want! :)

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