Friday, August 5, 2011

Breastfeeding: A Childless Woman's Perspective

Maternity by Pablo Picasso

DISCLAIMER: Please do not read my avid support of breastfeeding as a judgement against those who choose not to.  My primary objective is to normalize breastfeeding in our society!

This week the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), and breastfeeding advocates in more than 170 countries worldwide are celebrating World Breastfeeding Week (WBW) for the 19th year with the theme "Talk To Me!  Breastfeeding: a 3-D Experience"
When we look at breastfeeding support, we tend to see it in two-dimensions: time (from pre-pregnancy to weaning) and place (the home, community, health care system, etc). But neither has much impact without a THIRD dimension - communication! 

Communication is an essential part of protecting, promoting and supporting breastfeeding. We live in a world where individuals and global communities connect across small and great distances at an instant's notice. New lines of communication are being created every day, and we have the ability to use these information channels to broaden our horizons and spread breastfeeding information beyond our immediate time and place to activate important dialogue. 

This third dimension includes cross-generation, cross-sector, cross-gender, and cross-culture communication and encourages the sharing of knowledge and experience, thus enabling wider outreach.
As a childless, and therefore not nursing, woman, this issue may not seem to pertain to me.  Though, WABA’s call to action  is to reach beyond the borders of nursing moms and health care professionals, and include traditionally uninvolved parties. Supporting breastfeeding is EVERYBODY's job!  

Living Simply
There is nothing more organic, natural and whole than human milk for your human babe.  So, if you are into simple living, breast isn't best, it's the only option!  Also, there is no better way to save a boatload of cash than breastfeeding your baby for the first few years of her life.  Especially now that the Affordable Care Act requires the following to be covered by insurance without a copay, coinsurance, or deductible:   

Comprehensive lactation support and counseling, by a trained provider during pregnancy and/or in the postpartum period, and costs for renting breastfeeding equipment. -Women's Preventive Services: Required Health Plan Coverage Guidelines
Insurance will pay for pump rentals, lactation consultants, and maybe even breastfeeding classes.  That means that exclusively breastfeeding mamas will spend $0 on nourishing their baby.

The ability to swim is instinctive in most mammals.  While swimming comes naturally to some, others require more education. But we all possess the innate ability to keep ourselves afloat.  Generally, if one takes swimming lessons, and learns proper techniques, she can swim like a champ!  Likewise, breastfeeding comes easily to some women, while others find it to be one of the biggest challenges of being a new mother.  Just because it is supposed to be natural and instinctive, does not mean one can't benefit from education and support in the art of breastfeeding.  

Unfortunately, this education is not readily available in a lot of hospitals.  While you would hope that nurses working with first-time mamas would be super educated in the art of breastfeeding, this is not always the case.     If you are interested in furthering your education in the art of breastfeeding, find a certified lactation counselor.   The International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners (IBCLC) is the global authority that determines the competence of practitioners in lactation and breastfeeding care.

La Leche League has been supporting nursing mothers for more than 50 years.  You can attend a local LLL meeting or use their extensive online resources!  All LLL leaders are experienced mothers who have breastfed and have been specially trained by LLL to help moms with all aspects of breastfeeding.  They are also available by phone whenever you have breastfeeding questions or concerns.

But education doesn't end with breastfeeding moms.  Western society at large needs to be exposed to and educated about breastfeeding.  When kids are taking reproductive health classes in high school, they need to be taught about the functionality of breasts and the benefits and normalcy of breastfeeding.  They need to understand their bodies in order to appreciate their power.  

 Hortense Breastfeeding Paul by Paul C√©zanne
As was the case with overcoming previously held social taboos, we must bring breastfeeding out into the open in order for it to become a social norm.  The idea that nursing in public is somehow immodest, indecent, obscene or gross is completely absurd.  First of all, if you have issues and can't handle seeing a mom nourish her child, perhaps you should examine why that is.  Because you are the one with the problem, not the nursing mom.  If you are not willing to examine your own issues, there is an even simpler way of dealing with it:  LOOK AWAY!  NOBODY IS FORCING YOU TO WATCH!!!!!

There are many reasons why people claim to feel "uncomfortable" around breastfeeding, and I would like to discuss and respond to them all.  However, since there are so many I will just leave it at this.  If you have a problem with seeing a woman nurse her child, you are wrong and you need to fix your issues.  This is not a matter of opinion.  It is just truth.  Women have the right to nourish their children in whatever way shape or form they deem is best.  In most states, legislation affirms a woman's right to breastfeed her child in ANY location where she is otherwise permitted to be, irrespective of whether the nipple of the mother's breast is uncovered during or incidental to breastfeeding.

Breastfeeding at the Cloisters, NY

Are you a lactivist?  Well, you should be!  Here are a few events that will be taking place this month;

This protest was made necessary after a mother was harassed by employees for breastfeeding at her local Whole Foods.  The purpose of the nurse-in is to convince Whole Foods Market to publicly and officially support the healthy and natural act of breastfeeding within their establishments by providing a nondiscriminatory environment for families who choose to breastfeed and by adopting a global policy to ensure such an environment.   Visit the Whole Baby Foods blog for more info.

Big Latch On
On Saturday, August 6, 2011 at 10:30am local time in locations across the USA and beyond, nursing mothers will gather to celebrate World Breastfeeding Week and try to break the world record for the most women breastfeeding simultaneously!  I will be offering my support locally at No Sugar Added in Claremont, CA.

In Closing
To all of you nursing mamas out there, I offer my undying support of your decision to nourish your babes the natural way!!  

To mamas who were or are unable to nurse, I can only encourage you to seek out as much information and professional help as you possibly can.  Your OB/GYN and even your primary care physician may not be the best sources of help, try a lactation consultant or La Leche League.  I understand that some moms have genuine medical issues that prevent them from making enough milk for their babes, but there is always donor milk!  

To everyone else, I encourage you to do what you can to support breastfeeding moms in your community.  When you see a mama nursing in public, use it as a teachable moment with your kids, whatever their age.  If you are still around when she is finished nursing, approach mom and thank her for setting such a great example for the community at large and commend her for her thoughtful decision.  Every time I have done this, I am always greeted by a warm, yet sometimes surprised, smile!


  1. You are my hero! As a breastfeeding mother I was recently harassed in one of my favorite local restaurants by a mother, no less, who told me that there were "too many boys in the restaurant" for me to expose myself just to feed my baby. It's just these antiquated reactions that perpetuate the stereotype that the solution to uncomfortable reactions regardingbreastfeeding mothers lies in the woman who is breastfeeding as opposed to the other parties around them. Bravo for your stance, especially as a non-nursing/childless woman. We need more advocates such as yourself in the world!

  2. Oy! "just to feed your baby!" Because nourishing your child is far less important than some boys potentially stealing a glimpse of your breast. *sarcasm*
    Witnessing the functionality of breasts is exactly what young people need! (And apparently some older people, too!)
    I am flattered and humbled by your comment and will continue to offer my wholehearted support to nursing moms everywhere!

  3. Wonderful! perfectly put!
    I've tend to notice that any negativity surrounding breastfeeding comes across as rude and uneducated but all support and defense for breastfeeding is so intelligent and well rounded.
    I think mothers and people who get offended by a mother breastfeeding in public need to think about all the teenage side boob and cleavage the boys are seeing on TV or at the beach. Then evaluate which one is more innocent or offensive.