I listened to an interview by Jian Ghomeshi from CBC Radio’s Q. It was from Monday’s program, and he spoke with a woman named Emma Kwasnica, who is currently fighting Facebook for the right to post breastfeeding pictures on her profile. This kind of debate is right up my alley, considering that I have fairly strong opinions about both Facebook and breastfeeding! I was fascinated to hear what they had to say.
I fully agree with Kwasnica that North American society presents women with a double standard. We are told that breastfeeding is the absolute best thing for our babies, yet society doesn’t want to see it! When pictures of breastfeeding are deleted for containing so-called “nudity,” women feel embarrassed and shamed by having the natural act of nursing be labeled as such. As a result, fewer women are inclined to continue breastfeeding for the full two years that are recommended by the World Health Organization because they are made to feel uncomfortable, or at least not actively encouraged by our society to stick with it.
I breastfed my first son for twelve months. I fed him everywhere – on park benches, in the library, at coffee shops. I never used a cover; it was far too difficult to manipulate on my own and kept falling off, and I couldn’t see the baby if he became unlatched. I became quick at getting him on and pulling down my shirt so there was rarely more than an inch of bare skin showing. Not once did I receive a single complaint. People would sometimes do a double-take, glancing over in surprise, but they usually ended up smiling at me and looking away awkwardly.
I’m currently breastfeeding my second son. He is only three months, which means I still have to hold my breast as he nurses; this makes it hard to be discreet, so I avoid doing it publicly. Once he’s bigger, though, I will have no problem with it whatsoever. I am a huge supporter of breastfeeding and I like feeling that every time I nurse in public, I’m contributing toward its normalization in North America. I intend to nurse him for at least a year.
Formula was never an option. It has always creeped me out, the idea of mixing a strange powder with water to nourish my infant. Even if it were the most expensive, all-natural, lactose-free, organic, made-in-Canada who-knows-what that I could possibly buy, it could never replace my milk! I do, however, understand that some mothers have their reasons for choosing to use formula, and they’re entitled to those reasons. Feeling comfortable with one’s choices is the most important thing.
Regardless, the over-sexualization of breasts in North America is sickening. Breasts are used to advertise everything, from beer and clothes to perfume and food. Kids see them in magazines, on billboards, on TV commercials, on the internet, at the grocery store; what’s the big deal about a nursing mother? Not enough girls and women see breastfeeding going on, and that’s why it’s not as common as it should be. Women need to be less discreet about nursing in public, and the media needs to get comfortable with showing it more! Breastfeeding reduces the likelihood of SIDS, helps a mother to lose pregnancy weight, acts as natural birth control, decreases the likelihood of breast cancer and endometrial cancer, provides antibodies to the baby that reduce instances and length of illness, improves digestion and gas problems, and does not cause allergic reactions, just to name a few of its countless benefits.
An impressive 87% of Canadian moms initiate breastfeeding, but less than half make it to 6 months, and only 16% to a year. This, to me, screams a desperate need for stronger breastfeeding support networks: doctors and nurses who actively enable it, lactation consultants who are widely available, free clinics for questions and demonstrations. If the government invested more in breastfeeding, the long-term burden on the health care system would be significantly less because the general population would be healthier as a whole.
So, bring on the booby milk, as my son calls it! After all, breastmilk is the easiest way to give the absolute best to your child. To quote one person’s comment about the interview on Q, “I have yet to witness anyone breastfeeding in an obscene manner!” I applaud Kwasnica for more than just her battle against Facebook: for drawing attention to our society’s responsibility to nourish our children to the best of our ability.
Please tell me what you think! What are your experiences with breastfeeding? Do you agree or disagree with me?! All ideas welcome!