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'the politics of breastfeedin' - Gabrielle Palmer

(63 Posts)
Annpan88 Fri 30-Dec-11 15:51:32

I was wondering is anyone had read this? I'm only up to about page 15 and am finding it so interesting.

I think breastfeeding aside its a really interesting text on women in society and the trappings of a male dominated world.

Would really love to hear other peoples opinions

Thanks smile

HoleyGhost Tue 10-Jan-12 15:01:06

I agree with Sardine Queen's excellent posts.

There is some weird "breastfeeding is natural" notion, which seems to mean that sod all support is given to women, and the problems that we have are not taken seriously. Even 60 years ago, when breastfeeding was the norm, women were accustomed to seeing it done, and usually had extended family support - breastfeeding often failed, or so my Grandmother tells me. It is utterly marvellous that we have formula as an alternative, and don't have to try and make our own.

The risks of formula are minimal here in the UK, and so the benefits of breastfeeding are wildly exaggerated. It all adds to the pressure put on women at the most vulnerable time of our lives. Antenatally, I got lots of leaflets, a dvd, a whole antenatal class of breastfeeding propaganda - and none of it covered common problems like thrush. I memorised the positions but still could not get my baby to latch on. Hospital staff were worse than useless.

They have chosen to devote so much money and midwives' time to pressuring women antenatally, but very little to breastfeeding support. That says a lot about the respect they have for women and our ability to make informed decisions.

BranchingOut - I definitely want to do that! Thanks for the pointers.

MuslinSuit Tue 10-Jan-12 16:14:30

I would say that the breast-feeding counsellor in the hospital was not v sensitive at all, and showed no awareness of the pain I was in post-c-section, blaming my lack of commitment to bfing instead for my tears. If she'd been trained properly she could have helped me better. Also she came to see me about 30 mins after my morphine injection which meant I was high as a kite, which caused me to hyperventilate when I got stressed. I agree with the poster who said they concentrate on banging on about bfing and how important it is, but by not providing proper help to new mums they make you feel like a failure. I'm not a failure for ffing, and my baby is beautiful and healthy and my DH is taking an equal role in his feeding and nurturing from day one.

astreetcarnamedknackered Tue 10-Jan-12 16:16:31

What branching our said!

astreetcarnamedknackered Tue 10-Jan-12 16:17:00

Sorry branching: Out not our.....

hazchem Tue 10-Jan-12 18:01:36

This thread is raising some really interesting questions.

The big one I see is how do you offer good quality and timely support and encouragement without coercing woman to breastfeed? How can formula feeding be an option while not undermining breastfeeding?

As I was reading the book I did think i would get to the last chapter and have a bit of blue print for how to make things better. What to ask for? what to rage at?

MuslinSuit Wed 11-Jan-12 00:09:09

I wanted to bf and intended to bf. It was a logical decision - natural, free, bonding with baby. Also if I'm honest, a smidgen of wanting to be a 'real mother' after having a c-section so not going through labour.

But postnatal support issues aside: now that I am ff, I know logically that it is a bit of a faff sterilising and making up bottles, but that DS is thriving and will continue to thrive. It's no small thing for me as an adult, a feminist, an independent person and someone who likes to low-carb diet when I want to be lean, to drink alcohol to relax, as someone who wants to look good in a bikini, that ff is not at all a bad thing (I hesitate to say choice, because it wasn't really one). Most of all, my DH having a wonderful 5 weeks of paternity leave at full pay, he has taken as full a nurturing role as I have with our son, allowing me to recover and rest, not be overwhelmed and have lots of lovely bonding time with our son.

People who want to bf should be helped, not coerced or made to feel guilty. Ff isn't evil, the companies may well be but it's hardly heroin. It's removed a painful, difficult and incredibly demanding part of being a mother and made it into an equal opportunity role for both parents in my relationship at least. As a very new mum, the shock of having this beautiful little creature reliant on me for everything is a shock - feeding takes about 45 mins every 3 hours. I can't even begin to imagine what this would all be like if I was breastfeeding too. I have massive respect for women who do - not because they are somehow magical or superhuman, or achieved something great, but because they have actively chosen such a huge self-sacrifice for the benefit it has to their baby, when they have another, far far easier option which I pragmatically fail to see as a lesser option healthwise, and I am trying to make it a bonding experience by maintaining skin-to-skin and eye contact during feeds - these things aren't exclusive to bfers.

Just my thoughts smile

Mostlymum Wed 11-Jan-12 00:35:22

I find it very odd that breasts are seen as sexual organs, but then I spent my teens in rural Africa were breasts were predominantly stuck in babies mouths.
It really was a shock, I recall the instant someone told me they would have a problem breastfeeding cos of sex. I was like what? There was a very interesting documentary looking a young women's attitudes so I have got my head around it better. ie understand why, but don't have the view myself.

I did better at bf when I got home, I just lay on my bed and kept my babies very close, it was claustrophobic but I was determined to succeed which is also why I never went out for 3 months - except brief visit to hospital.

I used to keep a diary of feeds as I was so sleepy, each twin, latch on, off, and duration of feed per day at the end, just so I knew who had what as I was so exhausted I really did not know which nappy had been changed etc.

The upside for me was I was on Mat Leave, DH knew his way around a cooker and vacuum cleaner, I did not do anything except BF one child, and struggle to BF the other.

The women in Africa that I had seen somehow managed to feed their children, get firewood, fetch water, go to market.......

no particular point I am trying to make, odd jumble of thoughts, memories. BF is complex and wonderful, and rewarding and hard too. If I had only my expert intuitive bf child(DD) I would not have realised all this. If I had only my "er mum what are you trying to do to me with THAT Aaaaargh" child DS, I may well have given up in the first week no matter my convictions. DD taught me that I should not blame myself I wasn't a failure. DS to keep trying and not everything you were taught to expect is right.

HoleyGhost Wed 11-Jan-12 12:52:49

That is a lovely post MuslinSuit. I managed to breastfeed my dd for over two years, and I still wish I had set out to formula feed.

Breastfeeding is wonderful when it works out, formula is also excellent, nobody should be brow beaten about their choice.

Annpan88 Sat 14-Jan-12 16:02:24

Really good to hear points from mothers who ff.

I'm reading this book at a really interesting time, not only because I'm bfing, but because the birth of my son has really made me rethink a lot of things. For example, I don't think I ever truely respected the role of a mother (didn't disrespect it, just thought 'have baby, then go back to work after 6 months) and I never thought I'd even consider extended breast feeding, but now it just makes so much sense.

ClothesOfSand Wed 18-Jan-12 00:12:48

Muslinsuit, I breastfed two babies and I really don't feel that I have made any kind of sacrifice or that FF would have been an easier option. Like most things in life, some people find one way easier and others find another way easier.

I don't think breastfeeding mums are more likely to make eye contact. Yes, it is time consuming to breast feed, but I spent a lot of the time reading books or the paper, as I didn't at the time know about the eye contact thing! Certainly beyond a certain age, the baby breastfeeds itself at night, so I wasn't even awake when that was going on.

And I can't really be bothered with all that washing of bottles and heating of milk. I did express some milk, and did find it a bit of a hassle with all the sterilising and heating and so on.

When you get on to extended breastfeeding, the amount of time you spend doing it each day is tiny compared to how much you'd spend feeding a newborn. By 2 it might just be one feed when the mother gets in from work or when the child gets in from playgroup.

And I enjoyed breast feeding. It was no more of a sacrifice than being asked to eat chocolate every day. Of course some days I'd rather not, but overall I found it very enjoyable.

So I don't think it is a self sacrifice for women who it worked out well for. FF and BF is perhaps like some people playing the violin and some playing the guitar - not harder or easier, just different and suit different people.

Finished the book and really enjoyed it. It got me so angry about how bring has completely been taken away from women by men because they thought they knew better. How many women and children have died because of this. Millions, literally. The "Maternity Letters" bit made me want to weep for those women.

I liked how it also delved into other aspects of having children such as giving birth, recovery from birth, childcare and working and breast feeding (and here I have to disagree with SQ in that I think we have been socially conditioned to not accept bfing in the workplace. If the whole working system was overhauled from a female perspective then breastfeeding and working would be much more normal and preferable).

I did think that Palmer minimised a bit the problems women in the Western world experience and painted more traditional communities as idyllic. Women are having real problems, they aren't imaginary. For example she barely mentioned tongue-tie which causes a mass of issues, pain included, and is under-diagnosed in this country. I did agree though that the way we give birth, the way we recover and the lack of ongoing support and BF structure in our society all lead to breast feeding issues.

I agree with you Annpan that extended bfing makes so much sense now and I would never have considered it before.

That first sentence should say bfing not bring.

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