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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?

achillea Sun 27-Jan-13 18:06:11

Thanks for that Ethel. That really adds to the debate - which is may I remind you about a pregnant teenager reluctant to breastfeed.

ethelb Sun 27-Jan-13 17:41:28

@achilia what @chunderella is saying is fairly standard evolutionary theory. Just because you have never heard of it doesnt mean it is true.

I do wish ubscientifically educated people realised that their 'opinions' mean little compared to scientific theory.

Chunderella Sun 27-Jan-13 17:12:55

Oh, I should probably add that I don't particularly value the sexual aspect of my own breasts, whereas I have done some breastfeeding and may do so again when I (hopefully) have DC2. So this isn't about imposing my own point of view, but about upholding the right of other women to theirs. If you prefer to define your breasts as primarily or totally for lactation after having given birth achillea, I support your right to do this.

Chunderella Sun 27-Jan-13 17:09:00

Mammary glands, yes. I don't know of any other reason for them other than lactation. I'm not really sure what your second sentence means. Perhaps you would rephrase? If you're saying that when women have babies they ought to come round to your point of view and see their breasts as only or primarily for lactation rather than as sexual, then no. There is insufficient biological evidence to back up that view, and as we live in a society where breasts can be both, either or neither, it is for the individual woman to assign her own priorities. In the absence of such biological evidence, persuading women is not enabling, or allowing them to understand. It's imposing baseless dogma.

achillea Sun 27-Jan-13 16:25:26

But would you agree that the primary function of mammary glands is to feed babies whether or not they are surrounded by breast tissue? And that it is right that when women have babies they are enabled to see and understand this and put the breast tissue matter aside by not focussing on the fact that they are sexually attractive to men?

Chunderella Sun 27-Jan-13 14:54:09

Ok, you're incorrectly using the two terms interchangeably, hence your confusion. Maybe don't talk about other people's lack of knowledge about the human anatomy, then! Humans need nipples and mammary glands to lactate, but not breast tissue, and as such we don't know why we developed it. As the presence and amount of breast tissue makes no difference to ability to lactate and we don't have any evidence that it ever did, it can't be because of that. We don't even know enough to suggest that breasts, as opposed to nipples and mammary glands, even have a primary function.

Incidentally, I remembered where I first read about this theory. It was in 'The Whole Woman' by that renowned upholder of patriarchy Germaine Greer. The chapter entitled 'Breasts'.

achillea Sun 27-Jan-13 00:07:58

When I say breasts I mean nipples and mammary glands. Sorry. Keep your hair on.

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.

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 23:20:12

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!

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.

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

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

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.

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...

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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.

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

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

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!

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.

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