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Breastfeeding: why I do it.

2009-03-13 - 8:44 p.m.

A friend emailed me a link to this article on breastfeeding, or rather, on not breastfeeding. And I have to say, itís a well-written, thoroughly-researched article that makes an articulate point.

So does it make me think twice about my own personal beliefs when it comes to breastfeeding? Does it, in fact, sway my own personal convictions or alter my intentions with regards to breastfeeding? In a nutshell, will I give up breastfeeding sooner as a result of having read this article? Nope, not one iota.

You see, hereís the thing: I donít breastfeed because someone told me it can make my kid smarter, or less prone to allergies or obesity, or that it provides a heightened immunity to illness or infection. At the end of the day, these things, if theyíre true, would be great and Iíd reap them as side-benefits since I do, in fact, breastfeed. No, as I told my friend, the fact is that I don't like formula for the same reason I don't drink diet drinks: I will never believe that food which is created by a lab, more processed, and more chemical-laden is superior to, or even equal to food which occurs naturally such as sugar or breast-milk. In my mind, both have their place for a certain segment of the population (artificial sweeteners are certainly a boon to diabetics and formula is good for babies that do not or cannot have access to breast-milk), but they are not the preferable way to go.

Studies can show whatever the studiers want to demonstrate, because in a complex system you can never control for every single factor which influences outcome. I will still always feel that breast-milk is better anyway.

That having been said, there are some excellent points made by this author. Take this one, for example:

ďThe debate about breast-feeding takes place without any reference to its actual context in womenís lives. Breast-feeding exclusively is not like taking a prenatal vitamin. It is a serious time commitment that pretty much guarantees that you will not work in any meaningful way. Letís say a baby feeds seven times a day and then a couple more times at night. Thatís nine times for about a half hour each, which adds up to more than half of a working day, every day, for at least six months. This is why, when people say that breast-feeding is Ďfree,í I want to hit them with a two-by-four. Itís only free if a womanís time is worth nothing.Ē

Right on sister! But I donít take this to mean that my time is too valuable to spend it breastfeeding. Rather, this underscores my belief that society undervalues and under-appreciates women and their contributions.

Now, this article is written by an American, and is, of course, influenced by the fact that they only get a ridiculous 12 weeks of maternity leave. Faced with only a couple of months post-partum to devote myself to a new baby, followed by many more months of trying to work out arrangements so that I can continue to breastfeed while working or having to give up my income so I can stay home, I canít say that Iíd be so hard-core about continuing to breastfeed. But I am in the enviable position of living in a country that allows me to take the entire year to devote myself to attending to my new child.

Given that I can breastfeed, I wouldnít consider not doing it. The time I spend nursing my son isnít time I consider wasted on something unproductive Ė how could providing one of the basic necessities of life be considered a waste of time? And while I think it would be great if society would say that they recognize what a valuable effort Iím making by breastfeeding, really, I donít need societyís validation on this front in order to want to breastfeed my children. I breastfeed because my kids need to eat and I can provide that food.

Iíd like to add, while I believe in breastfeeding, what I really donít believe in is ďmommy guiltĒ. Not everyone should breastfeed. Not everyone can breastfeed. I believe that, for almost anything, people should look at what is under their control with a critical eye and make an effort to inform themselves before making a decision. Canít breastfeed? Not under your control so stop feeling bad about it already. Donít want to breastfeed? Weigh the pros and cons, make an informed decision and do what you decide is right for you. Yes, no matter what you decide, there will be people who think youíre making the wrong decision, but what that really means is that youíre making a decision thatís different from what they decided, or think theyíd decide in your place.

And if you wanted to breastfeed but couldnít, or just didnít want to, and think that all the promotion of breastfeeding is being done just to make you feel guilty? Sorry but seriously, get over yourself. Not everything is about you. No one can make you feel guilty; that is a burden you have to voluntarily take on yourself and feeling guilt because the subject of breastfeeding has come up? Clearly youíre not at peace with yourself on the subject. If someone is running an ad to try to promote breastfeeding? Odds are much higher that the target market is primarily women who are about to become mothers and havenít done any looking into the subject before, and secondarily those all-too-common people who have hang-ups about people breastfeeding in public.

At any rate, I think everyone should read this article. Agree or disagree, it's some interesting reading and a point of view on breastfeeding that's not always put out there. I also look forward to reading the responses that will likely come on this topic from other bloggers. I'll let you know if I spot any.

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