Not to want to evangelise re breastfeeding?

(82 Posts)

A member of my family on DH's side is pregnant at a young age (teenage) and has expressed her intention to feed her baby formula from the outset. Boobs, in her view, are not for feeding babies and breastfeeding is weird and her mates would give her stick.

I have breastfed successfully (whee!) and have no problem at all with her plans, since it's naff all to do with me.

However, her mum and my MIL are aghast that she won't even try and want me to lay it on thick with her to encourage her to have a go. I have said that I will do no such thing - it's not my place and I wouldn't have liked someone having a go if the roles were reversed. If she asks me about breastfeeding then of course I'd be delighted to answer her questions but I'm not going to give her unsolicited advice.

MIL thinks I am being unreasonable and should be encouraging young mums to breastfeed - but I really think I'm not and hectoring will help no one. AIBU?

oldebaglady Fri 25-Jan-13 22:58:57

your hips keep you legs in place and allow you to give birth etc
they also have a role in attracting a mate
Breasts have a sexual funtion as well as another biological function - it's not one or the other

HopAndSkip Fri 25-Jan-13 23:00:12

Chunderella I thought (I may be wrong) that bigger breasts were evolved as they were seen as being more "child bearing worthy" like big hips, due to breasts being bigger when producing milk. So natural selection gave bigger breasts/wider hips a slight advantage? (I'm talking long long long ago)
Apologies if that's a load of shit, but I'm sure I read it somewhere.

Chunderella Fri 25-Jan-13 23:05:02

Honestly I can't remember where I first read it, but this article gives some information about the origins of the theory.

http://www.jstor.org/discover/10.2307/2460501?uid=3738032&uid=2129&uid=2&uid=70&uid=4&sid=21101707171147

The argument I first saw said it was for fertility reasons, but this article also discusses some others:

http://worldofweirdthings.com/2010/02/07/the-evolutionary-mystery-of-human-breasts/

I certainly wouldn't want to pass myself off as some kind of expert on these things, but the idea of breasts having a sexual as well as nursing function is not a new one. Obviously it doesn't exist in all cultures. But it exists in enough to make the generalised statement that 'the only purpose of boobs is to feed babies... that is all they are for' problematic.

Chunderella Fri 25-Jan-13 23:09:32

Yeah HopandSkip some of the theories in this area suggest it was basically sex selection- males preferring females with big breasts. It's very interesting. We know that humans have bigger breasts than other primates. We also know that breast size has nothing to do with ability to lactate, so it can't be down to that. I don't think it's been properly established yet exactly why breasts developed. They do have a comforting function for infants too, so that might have something to do with it.

dayshiftdoris Fri 25-Jan-13 23:26:43

Commander

You know what - agree to talk to her to shut your MIL up but tell her exactly what you told us...

Support her in this, make her feel like her choices are valid and she might just be open to learning more about the subject and giving it a go...

And even if she doesnt then atleast she isnt left with a feeling of BF being something to feel guilty about.

I am a midwife and BF for a long time... I am often asked to do these chats. I tell them I only care about what they want not about the right and wrongs of feeding methods. What often gets to me is that women have often agonised over the decision alone because they have only been offered opinions on what is best... Most have considered it carefully but have been missing someone unbiased to discuss the bits they are not certain about...

A couple of people have BF after talking it through with me and thats lovely but I try not to attach importance to that or I would become openly biased...

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 00:28:06

I agree with doris - have a talk with her about pregnancy and childbirth, what being a mother is about. But don't tell her that women have big breasts so that men can have sex with them 'from the front' as chunderella suggested.

oldebaglady Sat 26-Jan-13 15:17:51

I felt reluctant to breastfeed until a lovely midwife was honest about all the pitfalls of breastfeeding. She was the first person to not just sing about breast being best and most natural and wonderful and all that, and was frank and honest about the realities of breastfeeding! bleeding nipples and all!

rather than putting me off, having someone be honest about breastfeeding for a change made me give it a go. 99% of the pro-breastfeeding people you meet when pregnant give such an unrealistical glowey load of BS about it that it's hard to imagine yourself as one of their demurely smiling happy clappy glowey breastfeeding mums from their posters/fliers!

Chunderella Sat 26-Jan-13 15:34:35

Yeah, heaven forbid a teenage mum learn any theories about the evolution of the physiology of the human body. Plus, you know, she's clearly so uncomfortable about her body that it would all be too much for her poor, easily influenced little self.

oldebaglady Sat 26-Jan-13 15:41:33

Chunderella that's exactly what I mean!

when pregnant I had all the "that's what they're for" blah blah blah
noone would dare acknowledge that up until that point they were very much a sexual asset to me - and now they were telling me I was wrong to think of them that way and I should love them loosing that value and being used for something totally different! And I would love it and it would make me feel all warm and fuzzy! well I just couldn't imagine that being "me"

The woman who admitted that these were real issues and was frank about it gave me the first impression of BFing that I could actually relate to!

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 15:42:18

You mean the theories that you find on worldofweirdthing.com, chunderella

Startail Sat 26-Jan-13 15:50:30

She's a teen who didn't have the sense to have an abortion and who thinks what her mates thinks is more important than what's best for the baby.

Your well out of it.

Chunderella Sat 26-Jan-13 15:52:57

Or, you know, in academic journals.

Interesting account, oldebaglady. You pretty much sum up the problem with dogmatically telling a woman that her breasts exist only for lactation. Even if we knew that were true on a basic physiological level, which we clearly don't, erasing the views and experiences of the many women who see their breasts as sexual is pretty stupid if you want them to listen to what you have to say.

atacareercrossroads Sat 26-Jan-13 15:55:14

Wtf startail? Maybe, just maybe. She didn't want an abortion <radical>

BegoniaBampot Sat 26-Jan-13 16:32:00

You could congratulate her and just say that if she ever wants to ask anything about BF or having a baby in general, you are there. She sounds a little bit immature but she is young, must be quite scary for her. Seems few teenage mums BF anyway and she sounds typical of that.

teacherandguideleader Sat 26-Jan-13 16:44:11

I work with teenagers and in class we talk about issues such as these. I find it quite shocking that some of the girls I teach (I'm not being sexist - I don't really teach boys) are so uneducated about things to do with their bodies.

It is possible to talk to teenagers about their bodies without 'attacking' and getting their backs up. But you have to tread carefully. In my role as teacher, I can't really give opinion only fact and actually that approach can work quite well. Especially if you give a balanced argument.

Try to talk to your relative, but as a general feeding conversation - pros and cons of both breastfeeding and formula feeding. You might find that it is just what she needs - someone she can talk to without telling her what she should do.

EauRouge Sat 26-Jan-13 16:57:57

Does she know anything about breastfeeding at all? Fair enough if she still doesn't want to do it, every woman should be able to make her own choice but every woman deserves the opportunity to make an informed choice.

Her MW might be better placed to bring this up than you. You could invite her along to a BF group (if you go to one), or just mention BF in conversation, but there may be reasons that she doesn't want to BF that she doesn't want to talk about.

Are there any young parent groups at Surestart where she can get support?

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 19:09:12

teacher I would agree that a lot of this is about lack of education and understanding of the human anatomy. It's fine to feel that breasts are sexual and have a dilemma about that to begin with, but I'm sure that understanding how the breast milk is made, how it gets there, what it does for the baby, how the baby sucks etc - the simple biology, will make the pregnancy more real for her and empower her to make an informed choice.

On the other hand she could read worldofweirdthings.com as chunderella suggested and linger on the theory of the evolution of breasts and thereby allow the patriarchy to convince her that breasts were designed to attract men rather than feed a baby.

HopAndSkip Sat 26-Jan-13 19:12:20

Startail biscuit

I think Olde has made a good point. Maybe it's worth mentioning your good and bad experiences. It might make her actually think about or ask questions about breastfeeding rather than her just getting defensive if she thinks you're trying to change her mind. And then she will also be prepared by knowing the bad points and some ways to work through them if she does decide to bf. smile

A lot of my friends began to breast feed, and decided to switch to formula after a few days because they were finding it too hard/were worrying about the baby not getting enough etc, so if you do speak to her it would be a bit pointless saying the good parts without mentioning the hard parts too.

oldebaglady Sat 26-Jan-13 19:30:02

the MW talked about the possible problems and the solutions, so when I did hit those I knew it was normal and fixable - I know other people who considered BFing to be not working and switched to formula when they had the same problems as they didn't realise it was normal and temporary

she described things like the nipple shred-fest that happens on night 2 or 3 to make your milk come in so that we knew it was normal but most importantly TEMPORARY!

she started the session by saying "breastfeeding can be really really hard" at which point I uncrossed my arms and sat up and listened! I was expecting the usual blurb about it being the most natural thing in the world...

I have helped guide a 17 year old relative, due March, towards BF, even for a few weeks.

I have been honest, it can be hard going, especially if you have a baby who feeds constantly.

If that happens and she cannot cope with the isolation that, that can bring then i will support her to stop.

It depends on the teens peer group, some friends will be dropped, as the stuff they stress about, means nothing to a new Mum.

I am close to my DD's friends and have enjoyed taking an "empowering" role, there is a depressing amount of low self esteem and body hatred amongst teen girls.

I usually asked by the girls for an opinion in the first place, though.

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 20:04:22

Perhaps you could apply for her to get a Home-Start volunteer?

Home start volunteers are in any way particulary qualified, or necessarily non judgemental.

She should have been refered to a teen MW and there are teen groups at Children's Centre's.

Chunderella Sat 26-Jan-13 23:20:12

Just because you were evidently unable to read the more complex academic paper achillea doesn't mean the mum to be won't. You really need to stop patronising her. Also, if you're trying to suggest that the theories mentioned are The Patriarchy in action, it'd be more convincing if you had an explanation as to why humans developed breast tissue when other primates didn't and when it isn't required to lactate. Probably easier just to keep projecting on and making assumptions about the teenage mum, though.

Startail come on. You don't know anything about the woman's circumstances or beliefs. She might not want to have an abortion!

achillea Sat 26-Jan-13 23:29:23

Chunderella This thread has nothing to do with why women develop breast tissue when other species don't and I won't be drawn into the debate, I don't think it will be helpful to discuss this with a pregnant teenager unless it's in the context of a biology lesson at school. Perhaps if she had learned a little more about the fact that if women didn't have breasts their babies would have died and so breasts primary purpose is practical and not aesthetic she would see a way forward now. Chances are she's spent too much time comparing her body to other women's photoshop images and fearing imperfection.

Breastfeeding is not the issue here, inexperience, youth, peer pressure, empowerment is.

Chunderella Sat 26-Jan-13 23:40:02

Yes achillea it does. The woman concerned mentioned what she considers the function of her breasts to be, it was in the OP. Other posters then discussed how to get her to change her mind about this, and one made a sweeping claim that the only function of breasts is to lactate. As such, the function of breasts is clearly a big part of this thread.

As for not being drawn into the debate, you already have been and you are saying things that are demonstrably wrong. It is simply not the case that if women didn't have breasts, our babies would have died. You don't need breasts to lactate successfully, you need nipples and mammary glands. I assume you know that flat chested women can bf a baby if they want to? Not all women have breast tissue and some of those who don't, still bf. If you don't want to continue discussing this then you can stop posting about it. What I'm afraid I shan't allow, though, is for you to say things that carry on the discussion, like your remark about humans dying without breasts, then pretend you want nothing to do with it in an attempt to get the last word. You can't have it both ways.

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