|Image from here|
In all honesty I could not care less what others do to nourish their children, nor how long they do it for. But I do think that we as a nation are kidding ourselves if we think we are promoting breastfeeding.
Firstly, my personal experiences with the nursing fraternity were less than encouraging. When Nugget was born and my over-supply issues were discovered, the lactation consultant was busily encouraging me to breastfeed, while several nurses suggested that I 'just give him/her a bottle' so I could have a sleep. Um, what exactly is formula made of if you are so confident that it is going to help my child sleep?
On one occasion while Doo Dah was partying under the big lights in the Special Care Nursery (for jaundice), I wasn't woken for one of his feeds. I woke spontaneously after about 5 hours in a pile of milk with exploding bosoms (they joys!).
When I was finally transported to visit him upstairs in the nursery, I entered to find him being fed formula from a bottle. Despite the large sign on his cot that read: "Mum has enough milk to feed an army. Please call ANY time for feeds". I *certainly* wasn't feeling the breastfeeding support from that particular nurse.
And with the twins, it was assumed that they would be bottle fed. The hospital wasn't even equipped with a twin feeding pillow or an armchair big enough to accommodate me, my pillow (that a dear friend secured from Ebay for me) and my two babies.
Secondly we need to pull up our socks with this whole 'discreteness' debate. Due to the over-sexualisation of the breast, women are not permitted to breastfeed in public. I mean, legally they can, but they are made to feel uncomfortable. Men walk away, women look in the opposite direction, and God help you if you should accidentally expose a nipple or squirt milk. Egad!
You don't see women with bottle fed babies slinking off to the 'feeding room' of the shopping centre to slip their child a bottle. You don't see their companions looking like they would rather be sucked up into the earth's crust than have to endure you feeding your child.
The effect of this is two-fold. Those who do breastfeed in public places are stared at by all and sundry, and feel the need to find ridiculous ways to cover up, making the 'supplies' of breastfeeding yet another expense for the new parents.
In addition, by covering up breast feeding, younger generations are not exposed (excuse the pun) to this ancient art form. They don't get a sense of what it is like, or the opportunity to ask questions about it.
The best way to 'normalise' breastfeeding is to have it central to culture. Children, teenagers, young adults, all need to see that breastfeeding is the natural feeding option, that many are doing it. They need to learn about it. They need to understand how it works.
Breastfeeding is hard bloody work in the early days so women need to want to breastfeed to succeed at it. Women need to expect to breastfeed. They need to see that it is possible and the best way to do that is to allow it to be part of the world around them.
Lastly, the issue of extended breast feeding needs to be addressed if we are truly promoting breastfeeding. Some people seem to tolerate babies breastfeeding, but the notion of a toddler, or God help us, a pre-schooler or school age child breastfeeding is far from tolerable.
Like all things in the parenting realm; to each their own. WHO recommends breastfeeding until the age of two (I have never gotten that far). There are lots of reasons why women don't feed for that long and, equally, many reasons why a women may choose to feed beyond that. Digestive issues/allergies in the child, unsettled home life, moving continents, financial constraints, bonding, to name a just a few.
Why are we so judgie about extended breast feeding? Women who breastfeed beyond the "culturally acceptable one year old child" stage, need to be given the liberty to do so. Because they want to. Because their child wants to. Because they can.
So you can see, that in my way of thinking, we are far from being a culture that promotes breastfeeding. There are too many prejudices for it to be integral in our culture, and we are given too many mixed messages (from as early as the birth of our child).
What are your thoughts on the attitude of society to breastfeeding?