It’s fascinating to me how quickly we evolve and change. For instance, I re-read the Oh the Controversy! post, and I feel much stronger now about things than I did then – and I wrote that less than a month ago! At first, I thought of editing the post to better match my more current “mood”, but decided against it. That is how I felt then, those feelings were valid and maybe someone reading will be able to relate to that former version of myself and who am I to interfere. Not to mention, it’s my prerogative as a woman to change my mind! My feelings went from wanting to encourage and inspire (which is still true) to wanting to advocate.
I recently watched a documentary that was shared with me (I think I might have developed a slight reputation) about the “public health crisis” of breastfeeding in America. I personally never thought of it as a “public health crisis” per se -it sounded a tad on the extreme side. But after watching; I went from feeling “Strongly opinionated” towards breastfeeding to teetering on the verge of becoming a radical. I told my husband if he finds me wearing 1960’s garb, making homemade posters to start picketing out front of formula companies to reel me in with a hot coffee and a Real Housewives marathon. But all joking aside, if I could take all of the thoughts floating around my head and back them up with research, statistics, and professional opinions…this documentary is what it would look like. It validated my feelings, empowered me, and let me know that I’m not alone in feeling the way that I do. I’ve been trying to keep a lid on these “strong opinions” for the sake of appearing my “people-pleasing”, “non-abrasive” self for a while (and frankly, I don’t think I’ve been doing a great job). But how cowardly is that? When did being passionate about something become a bad thing?
This documentary was eye-opening about the way we treated birth, breastfeeding, and overall infant care in America and most importantly: MOTHERS! It showcased the overwhelming lack of support for women who had just had babies especially when it came to breastfeeding. I can “recommend” to watch the documentary a thousand times… I’ll plug it again here—->>> CLICK HERE TO WATCH!!!! but I know most of you won’t and that’s okay, because I realize not everyone is as “into” this topic as I am and what better than having an extremist like me to share the key points with you anyway.
These are just a few things that stood out to me, but I could never encompass this whole documentary in one blog post.
- Pediatricians are given minimal medical training or education on breastfeeding and infant wellness. (Enter creepy Conspiracy Theory: Formula companies have been funding American medical universities for a LONG time.)
- We are one of the few cultures who believe the medical community is more knowledgeable than we are when it comes to caring for our babies.
- The U.S. is one of only FOUR countries where it is legal for formula companies to advertise. (A 13 BILLION dollar industry)
- In many places, a woman is usually offered support following postpartum (i.e. a midwife or home visits from a lactation consultant) as well as paid extended maternity leave (>6 months). What are we offered? Free formula samples and a few weeks off from work.
- Tell a European that it is “weird” and inappropriate” to breastfeed in public in the U.S., and watch as their reaction ranges from shock to laughter.
Why does all this matter?
The U.S. has one of the LOWEST breastfeeding success rates in the WORLD!
I hate saying there are “benefits” to breastfeeding. The proper term shouldn’t be “benefits”, it is the biological norm; what the baby’s body as well as the mother’s body expects. It helps with the hormonal shift causing a lower chance of postpartum depression, it releases oxytocin which helps the uterus shrink and lowers the chance for postpartum complications. It’s even been shown to decrease your chances of breast cancer. I could go on …… and on… and on….No woman should be deprived of this.
I suddenly felt hypocritical after watching this documentary. I believed that breastfeeding needed to be normalized so that mothers no longer felt scared or nervous to feed their children when they were hungry (because I was that new stressed out mom crying in a dirty bathroom stall trying to feed my hungry newborn) or for the mothers who gave up or decided not to breastfeed at all due to the social stigma. Yet I have always found a private area or nursed with a cover. How was I making a change for future mothers? I was fueling the cultural mindset. Allowing people to think going into hiding to feed my child was appropriate- and it’s not!
Breastfeeding is a time when my active, loud, destructive 9 month old is peaceful, content, and affectionate. It is calm within the storm I call parenthood, a time of tenderness and shared sweet smiles. It enrages me, hurts me, and humiliates me that I cannot enjoy this beautiful gift of motherhood in even my own backyard while we lay in the afternoon sun for the fear of ridicule or making my neighbors feel “uncomfortable”. (And don’t even tell me to “use a cover”, YOU try nursing a nine month old with a blanket over their head in 80 degree weather). I have spent this past year hiding away in bedrooms at family functions and social gatherings; I sometimes wondered why I even bothered to go at all. When did our priorities get so backwards? When did a mother feeding her child, once a symbol of beauty that was celebrated turn into something so “inappropriate”? When did MY comfort or my child’s comfort become inferior? (The real answer is in the mid 20th century when formula companies began marketing breastfeeding as “disgusting” to promote sales, coupled with the sexualization of breasts post WWII… but I digress…)
I want to be a part of the cause. I want to stand up for my rights as a woman and a mother. I want to raise the success rate of the measly 15% of breastfeeding mothers at 6 months in the U.S. I want to make sure women have the information and the support that they deserve, that they’ve always had until recently.
How do I do this? I’m only one person. What tools do I have? It dawned on me that the most influential tool I have right now isssss: you guessed it, Social Media. Social media can be powerful. It has evolved from a place of sharing drunken pictures and stalking your ex-boyfriends to having the capacity of doing so much more; to become a personal platform, and whether you believe it or not; cultivating change. Think about it, how many of us read articles and statuses when gay marriage became legal for the first time? How many of us changed our profile picture to the universal equality symbol? Social media made LGBT rights trendy.
I’ve joined the Milky Way Foundation, and the Normalize Breastfeeding Organization and I encourage any nursing mother who feels/felt insecure, unsupported or is just passionate about helping mothers, to do the same. The goal is not to be a brazen attention seeker but to normalize something that is so normal. To stop making it about “breasts” and start making it about what it really is: nurturing and nourishing a child.
I don’t think feeling strongly about something, or taking something seriously means I suddenly cease being myself. I can still be lighthearted. I can still be fun (Well, as fun as a retired party girl with a diminished tolerance for alcohol can be). But I do want to create awareness. I do want to normalize breastfeeding. I do want to help change the cultural mindset in a graceful way. So that one day when my daughter goes to feed her daughter, she will have the loving support and encouragement she needs, and she will never have to feel the way that I felt.
I want to leave this post with my first #Brelfie… My most profound act of Motherhood.