Thursday, August 03, 2006

Brits and Breastfeeding

What is up with these British women? This is the second article I've seen in the last week out of a British paper about the horrors of motherhood.

In the article, "Sorry, but I HATED breastfeeding," Tess Stimson relates her personal experience with breastfeeding. While in the hospital, she was still having trouble getting her baby to latch on after twenty-four hours. The nurse spoke harshly to her and by her description of the situation, was most unhelpful. Later, when her child was ten days old, the health visitor accused her of dieting since the baby had not gained weight. Stimson also complained of becoming cracked and sore which certainly qualifies as an unpleasant experience, to say the least.

I am sorry that she had such a hard time with breastfeeding. Some women do, struggling with pain and infections and what not. Usually those things will clear up if one sticks with it. However, I have had friends and acquaintances that couldn't make it work for various reasons. Thank goodness that there are alternatives in such cases.

That said, it does sound as though part of her problem revolved around a bit of self-absorption and some real hang-ups about her body and a distain for infant care.
And breastfeeding is not wonderful and fulfilling, but painful, difficult, boring and humiliating."

faintly repellent

If I were a proper mother, I'd be happy and radiant like the (admittedly slightly bovine) women in all the breastfeeding leaflets the health visitor kept shoving at me, instead of feeling scared, angry, raw and above all trapped.

I'd never realised how boring breastfeeding was. No one can give you a break so you can wash your hair or make a cup of tea. I was tethered to the sofa for hours at a time, unable to do anything but watch housewife TV. Some days I didn't have a chance to get dressed until mid-afternoon.

I obsessed over all the things I could be, and should be, doing.

But I couldn't even make a brief phone call without the baby wanting to feed from me. I felt suffocated by his neediness, as if the sea of Motherhood was closing over my head.

squalling parasite
I'm not sure what she was expecting when she had a baby, but it doesn't seem she was viewing motherhood realistically. Babies are W-O-R-K, an endless cycle of feeding, burping, and changing. But how long does it last? They don't stay that way forever. After a couple months, the nursing is spaced out more and their little bladders can hold more, making diaper changes less frequent also. A couple more months and they start on solids and need mom's milk even less. By a year at the latest, they don't need anything from mom's body at all, and by that time they're only nursing once or twice a day anyway.

What a shame that she was bored. Whatever else life may be, let it never be boring! We adults, after all, are entitled to entertainment 24/7. OK, so I'm sorry you were bored, lady. But, nursing and caring for a baby are exhausting work. It runs a body down. Having to stop everything to nurse is Nature's way of ensuring that a woman rests and doesn't run herself completely ragged. It's also an incredible bonding period for mother and child. It's like falling in love, which is a crucial emotion for a young mother toward her child. If young lovers can sit and do nothing, just gazing at one another, just basking in each other's presence, then why shouldn't a mother feel the same for her child? Nursing seems a small price to pay for giving the gift of health to one's child and giving a baby the emotional closeness he needs to become secure within himself, trusting that he is loved and loveable, provided mom can do it while maintaining good health for herself. Even if one has no choice but to bottle feed, she should still take the time to hold the baby close, as if she were nursing, so baby can absorb the warmth of his mother's love. Bottle feeding is not an excuse to prop the baby up and go do your own thing.

Also in the article, Stimson also objected to the government beginning a campaign to encourage more breastfeeding in Great Britain.
Imagine how I felt last week, then, to read that the Government now wants to encourage mothers to breast-feed as much as possible in the hope of saving the Health Service £1 million a year. New guidelines aim to raise the number of women breastfeeding their babies for the first six months by at least 50 per cent.

Britain has one of the poorest records in Europe - with just 22 per cent of mothers still breastfeeding at six months.

The idea is that because there is evidence that breastfeeding protects babies from infections, raising the proportion of mothers who do it to about a third would lead to big savings for the NHS because fewer babies would need hospital care.
Well, just because some women do have difficulties with breastfeeding is no reason to avoid encouraging more women to try. After all, it's not about the adults. It's about encouraging a healthier start for babies.

One last thing that I didn't know what to make of---her complaint that women are forced to feed their babies in public toilets to avoid causing offense. Are they really? What is up with that? So England can have their Page 3 Girls, the West can be saturated with pornography, women can wear revealing clothes in the West unlike in some other nations, but it's offensive to breastfeed in public? You've got to be kidding. If it is as she says, well, talk about prudery! Breastfeeding can be done incredibly discreetly. How is that offensive? That's how babies have been eating since time began. I don't think there should be any shame in it. That's my take on it, anyway.

Most emphases throughout are mine.

H/t: Ace of Spades


At 8/03/2006 9:34 AM, Blogger Helen said...

I don't know where you got the statistic that breastfeeding in England is considered offensive-it's true ONE newspaper has Page 3 girls, and the world over seems to have a supply of porn, but breastfeeding in England-and in Europe in general-is publicly tolerated far more than it is in the States.

At 8/03/2006 9:44 AM, Blogger Anna Venger said...


Not my stastistic. I was quoting Stimson and found it a dubious claim. That's what I was sounding off on in the last paragraph. If it is true that breastfeeding in public in England is frowned upon, I find that hypocritical at best and utterly ridiculous.

At 8/03/2006 11:40 AM, Blogger Helen said...

Anna-I agree with you. Dubious claim. You see breastfeeding here all the time-restaurants, buses, trains, parks. I've yet to see anyone confronted about it.

Wonder if Stimson should up the doses?

At 8/03/2006 12:04 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Sounds like you're from England. Thanks for weighing in.

I was confronted only once here in the States. Cloistering myself in some dirty bathroom on the floor didn't cut it for me. The kid had to eat. No one else I knew had to go eat in private, so my babies weren't going to be relegated to some dingy corner to have their most basic of needs met either. Nor was I going to be cut off from society because a few sour pusses couldn't handle our discreet nursing. Heck, most of the time a person can't tell a woman is nursing until he says something stupid like, "Oh, may I see your baby! Oops! Sorry. Didn't know you were nursing."

Guess you could say I copped an attitude early on, like after two weeks. :-)

So what's up with these writers on the femail page. Are they always so negative or has it only been the last two weeks?

At 8/03/2006 8:31 PM, Blogger Christopher Taylor said...

I don't mind breastfeeding in public so much, in a way it's sort of comforting to see something so natural and mothering, although it can be sort of embarassing for a man. You really want to look but feel as though you ought not to...

What I do object to is women changing diapers in public. Please, can't you take it somewhere more private, like a bathroom, for crying out loud?

At 8/03/2006 9:25 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

I don't mind breastfeeding in public so much

You breastfeed in public!!!! Who knew!!

At 8/03/2006 9:29 PM, Blogger Anna Venger said...

Just teasin'! You know I love ya, CT.

Seriously, if a woman does it right and wears cooperative clothing, there's really nothing to see. Maybe in the latching on phase, but that's about it. I'm pretty modest. My doctors are all female, so believe me; I know what I'm talking about.

At 8/04/2006 9:16 AM, Blogger Duffy said...

Shallow women seem to be getting lots of press in the UK of late. Much to the chagrin of the rest of the women there, I'm sure. What the self-absorbed author overlooks is her own benefits when breastfeeding. It helps you lose weight and get's your body back to it's pre-pregnancy shape. It releases hormones to close your cervix and such. It also releases endorphins to give a warm and fuzzy feeling. Nature's way of rewarding your for good behavior.

Do these women not know that when you have a kid you have to, you know, care for it? Why not complain at the kid pooping or crying? Is this really a shock?

When we had our first, I was surprised how short the cycle time of eat, sleep, poop was but after the second week, you pretty much know the routine. While it's not uncommon to look at the pile of laundry or stack of dishes, you have to put things in perspective and prioritize. If your infant's needs are less important to you than having clean laundry and dishes, I submit your priorities are out of order.

At 8/04/2006 12:36 PM, Anonymous Nancy Willing said...

The main thing mothers should think about is the welfare of the kid and it is WELL DOCUMENTED and increasing evidence is continually being published about the myriad of benefits of breastfeeding.
Nutrient, immunesystem boosters and now self assurance are closely linked to this bonding with the one that birthed ya!!!


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