Friday, March 27, 2009

My Breasts, My Choice

An exellent short article that touches on the frequent (and counterintuitive) conflation of staunch lactivism with staunch support for abortion rights. H/T: Tea at Trianon.

13 comments:

Tertium Quid said...

Nice piece. Our baby was breast-fed until she was past two. We enjoyed it and had to work very hard to keep it going at times when it would have been easier to stop.

Nonetheless, as good as it is, you can't force anyone into being a happy breast-feeding mother.

Mrs. T said...

That is a good article. It provides an interesting quasi-counterpoint to a piece I read a few days ago at The Atlantic, by Hannah Rosin, picking a little at the "breast-is-best"message.

Our first child breast-fed until she was two-and-a-half, at which point we had something of a summit conference. Second child weaned himself at 15 months. Third child . . . well, we were living in the UK and had gone back to the US to have him baptized, and then returned to England, and his nights and days were horrifically turned around. Of all my children, he was the one who wouldn't nurse to sleep. He'd nurse -- all night. Sleep, not so much. In desperation I put him on a strict feeding schedule, started giving him a bottle last thing in the evening, and endured a couple of terrible screaming nights. He learned to sleep, much to everyone's relief, but he also quit nursing at seven months, at which point we promptly conceived child 4, who spent the first week of her life in neonatal intensive care with Group B strep and came home taking a bottle and on a feeding schedule. She nursed halfheartedly for about six months, at my halfhearted urging, and that was it.

Aaaaannnnd . . . well, the kid who nursed the longest had the most ear infections. Otherwise, they're all uniformly healthy and not stupid. I'm glad we had the closeness which nursing provides, but otherwise, aside from feeling like a dropout from the Attachment Parenting Institute, I can't say I have any long-term regrets about how each child received nourishment in early life. If any of them had not had a life at all, I imagine I'd have regretted that. (In fact, if Child 3 hadn't weaned when he did, we wouldn't have had Child 4, and life would be so much lonelier and less pink).

Pentimento said...

I also nursed for 2.5 years (conceived three children during that time, none of whom made it, but not because of nursing). I also read the Rosin piece in the Atlantic and thought it was really about an upper-middle-class woman's complaint about the fact that parenting and relationships are not equal after all.

The Wickler piece pointed out something I hadn't thought of before: that to be consistent, pro-extended-BF, pro-Attachment Parenting types would be naturally allied to the pro-life cause. But such is not the case, at least in certain circles.

Mrs. T said...

Yes, you're right. I found Wickers's argument to be a lot more to what I think the point should be. But I've been turning Rosin's piece over in my mind anyway, for all it does seem to be as you describe it -- she does seem to hit on a certain orthodoxy of the Mommy Culture which Wickers takes up far more provocatively in her far shorter piece.

It is interesting to me, thinking back on my early years of motherhood and the women that I knew, that the whole lactivism thing does seem to turn on a fulcrum of choice: having *chosen* this child, you enshrine him first in, then on, your body, in a completely different manner from that of simply accepting his humanity from conception. It's a whole different continuum. I remember talking to one woman in my organic food co-op whose six-year-old was still nursing (which was the norm in that group), and who was declining even to think of having a second child because she didn't want to tandem-nurse, and she was waiting for the first-grader to self-wean. You can only operate like that if you're sold on the idea that YOU calibrate these things. And it was my instinct even then that that whole way of being was potentially less good for a child than all the other array of La Leche League mortal sins: mother-led weaning, bottles, etc. I was certainly in "choice" mode myself at that stage, contracepting and a "supporter of reproductive rights." But something about the dynamic in these lactivist families struck a strange chord in me even then.

Pentimento said...

I've been disussing the Rosen piece with an online mothers' group I'm in, whose members all consider themselves crunchy and AP. I noted that I thought Rosin made a valid point about the IQ benefits of BF not being evidentially provable. Another mother wrote that she was planning and spacing her children based on how long she could BF without essentially taking IQ points from one and giving them to another. I expressed a bit of skepticism (not to say disbelief) about this, and she asserted that she'd lost a scholarship because of SAT scores that were 1 point below the cut-off, and she wasn't stinting her children on any possible opportunity, etc. This really made me thing WTF. First of all, thinking you have that much control over another person's (not to mention your own) life is folly, in my opinion. And for another thing, the AP moms tend to talk about moving away from excessive individualism and towards a more communitarian society, but striving to give your children advantages and seeing other children as the competition for a limited number of good things is moving, I think, in the opposite direction.

Hmmm - waiting for a six-year-old to self-wean? Well. You're setting up a problem of moral equivalency in a child's world when you let him make all the decisions - JUST FOR STARTERS ON THAT SITUATION!

Mrs. T said...

Wow, you have a basketful of IQ points, like Easter eggs, and YOU get to decide who gets what? That's a whole new one on me. "One for you, and one for you, and one for you . . . "

I'd like to talk more about this, but I've got to take two kids to the optometrist.

Pentimento said...

Well, if you'd BFd till six, maybe they wouldn't need glasses! ;)

Pentimento said...

Oh, my comment just above the last one should say "really made me THINK WTF," not "thing WTF." Can you tell I was formula-fed? :)

Betty Duffy said...

Enjoying this discussion. Just to throw another inconsistency into the ring: In my experience, the same women in the AP groups and organic food co-ops who said, "I would rather drive my children into the lake than let them eat white bread" (or formula), seem to have no trouble accepting the birth control pill. They will drink their green tea and study chakras, but Natural Family Planning is quack science.

I'd always thought that Catholics would have an alliance in the LLL crowd, but their beliefs seem more an obedience to alternative trends than to a consistent ethic.

Pentimento said...

That's an excellent point about LLL, Betty - especially considering that it was founded by a group of Catholic mothers of many children and named after Nuestra Senora de la Leche y Buen Parto.

Another inconsistency about food-conscious Pill users is that so many of them go out of their way to buy organic meat and milk in order to avoid the hormones that are, er, in the Pill.

Mrs. T said...

Yes, I was thinking as I typed that surely their shortsightedness stems from my not breastfeeding them into adolescence, but I think it's more likely that it stems from my having 20/275 vision, or something like that. Either way, it's MY FAULT.

And yes to everything Betty said, too. That's been exactly my sense. When you've adopted a constellation of practices, which you've taken on because they seem "right" to you, or mesh with some vision of, like, who you are, but you don't actually have some kind of larger vision into which to integrate them, then at any time any one of them can take on the significance of a cosmology which enables you among other things to divide the world into all kinds of sheep/goats formulations, depending on what the dividing principle of the moment is. My older children, on a canoeing trip with some relatives, were irritated by the tone of the vegetarian B&B where they stayed -- they said that there were signs all over saying denigrating things about "meat-eaters." And virtually all the people I've ever met in organic co-ops, secular-unschooling homeschooling groups, and the like, disapprove of Christianity because it's so oppressive and judgmental.

Pentimento said...

I belonged to an AP group in New York City (I met my dear friend Dreshny, who comments here sometimes, through this group). Another friend in the group, who recommended a Catholic psychotherapist for someone in search of therapy, was roundly trounced for this (she'd recommended the therapist because the seeker was looking for someone who wouldn't mind if she brought her baby and BFed him in therapy sessions. My friend knew he wouldn't mind, because she worked for him, and had brought her first two children with her to work every day when they were babies/toddlers).

Some of the moms also expressed distaste for the fact that Dr. Sears, the AP guru, is a devout Christian. But most other religions were accepted in this group, and even celebrated, including wicca.

Dave said...

Fascinating and maddening all at once. I can't quite put my finger on what is wrong with child led weaning ad infinitum... something like a mistaken notion of what the proper role of a parent is. I can't even remember now how my wife did all that with our four, so drenched am I in the concerns of today.

Seems to me that narcisism(sp?) plays a big role here too. The child isn't a whole new person exactly, just another pet project of the new mom. Oy.

You have the best verify words over here, and they're *legible* even. Sadly, google doesn't have a French translation for today's 'guetott', but I think it should.