Triticum Turgidum

Lying Dormant and Waiting to Bloom Since 2005

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Location: The Prairie, Illinois, United States

I am a beauty-loving ambidextrous higher-order primate who learned transcendental meditation at 7, statistical analysis at 23, tap dancing at 30, and piano at 35. I tolerate gluten, lactose, and differences of opinion, but not abuse. Or beets.

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Breastapo

I've posted a lot about my angst over not being able to produce enough milk for my baby. Most of my misery derives from the undisguised contempt I've witnessed on the part of certain medical professionals and breastfeeding zealots toward women who claim to have an inadequate supply. I was visiting a web board on breastfeeding and found a comment that sums up their attitude:

Wow, I have never seen so many excuses for quitting breastfeeding in my life. If all of you had babies several hundred years ago, would you have just let them starve??? Only 1-3% of women cannot medically breastfeed. And to the articles comment of, "I was exhausted from feeding the baby every hour" well that is what breastfed babies do. Both of my sons nursed every hour on the hour and sometimes sooner. Nature does not set it up for 70% of the women in the US to fail at breastfeeding. It is an interesting phenomenon that the "I didnt make enough milk" excuse happens mostly in THIS country. Breasts are supply and demand, feed more, produce more...simple as that..unless you are truly one of the 1-3% that cannot do it which is HIGHLY unlikely in most cases of "I didnt make enough milk" syndrome.

This post came courtesy of "Tiff," a member of what I've come to think of as The Breastapo. The Breastapo don't just breastfeed their own babies, they demand that everyone else does too. They reduce the enormously complex process of milk production, delivery, intake, and digestion to "feed more, produce more" and scoff at any woman who meekly suggests that it wasn't that simple for her. They assume that the psychological effects of feeding every hour for months -- which would almost certainly lead to serious psychological problems due to profound sleep deprivation -- are inconsequential. They don't seem to know their history -- that hundreds of years ago people used wet nurses when they couldn't or didn't want to breastfeed -- and have almost no understanding of the cultural factors involved in nursing. They also don't seem to realize that the infant mortality rate in other countries and in this country several hundred years ago is/was frighteningly high. Women who didn't produce enough milk and who didn't have access to wet nurses probably had babies who died or were sickly until they could eat solid food.

"Tiff"'s comments about all the excuses women have for not breastfeeding in the U.S. reveal that she thinks American women are self-centered and lazy. What she completely overlooks is that American women, more than ever before, are going it alone. Most of us no longer live with our families of origin, so we don't have mothers and sisters and grandmothers in the community to prepare our meals and clean our houses while we breastfeed every hour on the hour. One of my grad students, a woman from China, was appalled that I was back in the office a few weeks after my baby was born. She said that in China, a new mother simply stays home and feeds for 6 months while her family cares for her. I told her things aren't that way in America. She said, "How do you cope??" Good question. Stress and lack of rest affect milk supply; I know that both have been major factors in my own struggle with milk production.

The irony here is that just about every member of The Breastapo I've met is female. This is yet another case of women being each other's fiercest critics. Stay-at-home-moms and working moms fight about who's raising their children correctly, when they could be banding together to demand reliable, safe, low-cost daycare from our governing bodies. Women instead of men quit their jobs to be full-time parents based on the rationale that their men's salaries are larger, instead of asking why women are paid less than men for the same work. And when it comes to breastfeeding, women sit there battling each other over the evils of formula supplementation instead of lobbying collectively for extended, paid parental leave so early parenthood would be less stressful. The problem with American culture isn't that we're self-centered and lazy, it's that we're freaking exhausted. And isolated. And, consequently, depressed and ashamed. And if we can be coerced to direct what energy we have left in battle against each other, then we have no energy to demand policy changes that would enrich our lives and those of our children. This has always been our problem in the struggle for pro-women legislation: divided we fall.

The smart woman makes her decisions based on what she knows is best for herself and her family. Unfortunately some of us take a while to figure out what that is. I think I'd better stay away from those breastfeeding boards and just keep repeating my mantra: fur monkey, fur monkey, fur monkey...


Blogger PFG said...

OMG, I love "the breastapo". Marvelous!!!!

9:32 PM, April 21, 2006  
Anonymous jonniker said...

run, don't walk, away from the Breastapo. Which, by the way, could possibly be the funniest term I've ever heard. BREASTAPO.

I've heard La Leche League being referred to as the Boob Nazis before. But never, ever, have I heard Breastapo.

And yes, fur monkey. All is going to be FINE. I'd like to poke Tiff in the eye with a sharp plastic fleeny.

11:21 PM, April 21, 2006  
Blogger Jemima said...

This upsets me. Partly because I might have been guilty of assuming breastfeeding is easy and natural because I found it that way. Partly because you really don't need more trouble and stress at a difficult time like being a new mom. I would never have joined the breastapo though. I'm not that conceited or evil.

But it's the same with a lot of stuff, people look on and assume they know everything and are in a position to judge. We rarely know enough to pass judgement, and even if we did, most people most of the time are trying to live the best life they can so we should all butt out of other people's business.

As you suggested, this seems to be a symptom of a system that degrades and hates women. Please keep away from these misogynists, for your sanity's sake.

10:44 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

i loathe the breastapo (a better name for them than breastfeeding nazis, which is what i had been calling them UNTIL NOW!!)

and i agree, it's desperately sad that there is this infighting amongst what otherwise one might assume was a wonderful common bond which could and is often so valuable when you are a new parent

oh, and besides all the 'rules' do not work as well for a second child ('stay in bed all day for days to feed' and 'sleep whenever your baby does' - um, and what to do with one's first child?? etc. etc.)

it all sucks (ha!)


11:54 AM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger Urban Chick said...

[eek - just re-read my second sentence - talk about rambling...anyway, you get my gist, right?!]

11:55 AM, April 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for posting this. I too was a breastapo victim and it seems the women who say these things are those with the luxury of help, rest, and staying at home. I was cleaning my tub 3 days after my c-section. I felt so guilty after both of my kids b/c I would feed/pump/feed/pump. It was non-stop and it was never enough. I couldn't get enough out-I just don't believe that low supply is a myth with the stress factors involved. My son had an allergy that made him have blood and mucous to something I couldn't identify in my diet. I was trying to store milk up for work (b/c I had to go back, I am an engineer in a factory). Even my pediatrician gave me guilt after my first child making me feel *not good enough* over bf. However, if you notice, his wife and these other women did not have the earning power or responsibilities of other working moms. The last thing a mother needs is guilt over feeding b/c it is there when you drop off at daycare and have to go to work. It is there when you question every decision of your parenting, it is there....over anything. There are *many* other things to worry about. I have friends that are stay at home moms and their kids are no better off than mine-I spend just as much quality time with mine as they do. I do my housework *after* my kids sleep. The difference is *she* admits it and says no way could she juggle it all. One decision is not necessarily better than the other, it is how you make it work. I have since concluded that *my* family situation is different. I BF for the length of time right for me (6 wks). I also concluded that the fact that I have guilt and worry means I am a good mom...because I question myself and try to be better. However, I will not be judged by someone who has no clue. I am sorry you are going through this but you are not alone in your feelings. I just couldn't share mine with anyone at the time and you have articulated better than I ever could exactly how I felt. Btw, my kids almost never get sick, we have a great bond, they are very bright-gasp, after drinking that dreadful formula :). It's the love you give them that counts and it sounds like you are doing a wonderful job at being a mom. Congrats!

4:42 PM, April 22, 2006  
Blogger BarbaraFromCalifornia said...

I agree with jonna...Run from that site.

As explained to you in another post, breast-feeding, and having the baby latch on did not come without effort, and advice from trailed professionals for me. If you decide you want to breast feed, consult with someone who is positive, and on your side, giving you nuturing rather than negative advice.

BTW: Fi is cuter and cuter by the day. She is bigger than Cowgirl!!
Now, if she gets bigger than Astro, I will worry!!

8:27 PM, April 22, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

eesh.. I have guilt as I was the Jersey cow, who could have fed small neightbouring nations. Did I once think about it, nope. It just happened! My sons however got so they would never take rubber EEk in their little spoiled mouths. Water had to be given by dropper. That said it was interesting to see the minute they could order food on their own they headed straight down the road of Yes Junk food.(sorry off topic) MY Mother never once let me forget she gave up her career to adopt me, hum all the 20 years she sayed home? Really 3 months would have been fine if I could have had my way , but being too young to talk ...? Yes sir I was potty trained at 9 months old and anyway who cared she washed and ironed my diapers...has this made me a better person? So you can be sure I would have heard all about her breast feeding me , if she could have. I thank all the Goddess in the Uninverse she did not! So Ladies, does the child care if it is breast fed is the question to me. So far my little men have never asked me if I did or did not? Nor do I think they care , all I think that may mattered to them is I held them with love while I feed them with a bottle or a breast. Okay you heard from the "cow " now and I say if it happens as easy for you as it did me, do it but if it doesnt don't or is that just too simple. Katie

3:41 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger Parisjasmal said...

You are so right about the cultural differences when it comes to breast feeding. Luckily, we live in a time and a place where there are many safe, adequate substitutes for breast milk.

My DH talks to women about this very thing all the time. He always tells them that we do not live in a third world country.

I wonder if Tiff had her baby in a hospital,(how dreadfully modern and lazy) or if she chewed on the broom handle and gave birth under the kitchen table the way they did it back in whatever century she believes we are all living in.

You are so warm, wonderful, smart, and special. It kills me to think you are being so hard on yourself.


8:15 AM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

J -- 'chewed the broom handle' -- ROFLMAO. Seriously. Just what I needed to read today. I wish your DH were my pediatrician, whose wife (also a ped) had 6 kids and no problems feeding. Grr.

9:44 AM, April 23, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I saw your post on a Google blog search.

I just would like to add, as a mom who breastfeeds and gets hassled for it, that I would love to live in a world where people won't give me dirty looks when I discreetly nurse in public. Where they won't tell me to go my car, restroom, or another room to feed my baby. I would love to live in a world where I'm not the only mom at the neighborhood Easter egg hunt who's breastfeeding her baby (all the other mom's had bottles.)...and getting funny looks for it. I would love to live in a world where all my relatives aren't asking "so when are you going to wean this one", about my eight month old. I would love to live in a world where my pediatrician asks me when I'm going to wean at his six month well check, then says "you make a good cow".

I guess all I really want to say is, no one is above getting grief for their feeding "choices". Do I want to live in a world where all choices are equally celebrated? No, because I'm not naive enough to believe that would happen. As long as we love and want to do what's best for our children, and one feeding "choice" is better than another (at least the scientific data says it's so), then there will always be inferior food choices and superior food choices, and the guilt or guilting that comes from that. The best that I can hope for, is that more people treat breastfeeding as the normal way to feed a baby, more information and education was available about it, more moms get better support for doing it, and those that have to formula feed are treated with dignity. Sadly, that's not the world we live in.

6:26 PM, April 23, 2006  
Blogger WinterWheat said...

To the last poster (anonymous) -- I agree that it's ridiculous that nursing moms should be the object of disapproval from strangers (and family members!) who are uncomfortable with breasts displayed, however discreetly, in public. The only reason I don't BF in public is that DD gets so little out of me at one time that she'd start crying, and I don't want to deal with it. So I pump and bring a bottle of EBM along. I must say, though, that I would much prefer "How dare you show your nipple?" to "How dare you feed your child anything but nature's perfect food?" The latter charge is much graver. That's partly why I'm shocked that your pediatrician is subtly pressuring you to wean. Mine has six kids and a pediatrician wife made of titanium who successfully BFed all of them until, oh, I'm guessing the age of four. He accepts no excuses, the SOB. (But he's a good pediatrician.) :-)

12:00 PM, April 24, 2006  
Blogger Pregnant Bloke said...

Great blog. I have added a link on my site

10:14 AM, June 15, 2007  

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