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Breastfeeding what are the politics?

(42 Posts)
bigfatcath Tue 12-Jul-11 07:35:57

Genuine question. I breastfed both of my DC, but that meant that DH didn't have to share feeding at night etc.

I'm learning lots lurking and wondered what current thinking was? E.g. health benefits to baby versus total responsibilty of feeding to woman.

Goblinchild Tue 12-Jul-11 07:37:19

I expressed bm and OH used that in bottles when I wasn't available.

WoTmania Tue 12-Jul-11 07:59:24

Have you read Gabrielle Plalmer's book?
For me one of the main things was that while DH couldn't feed our babies he was 'freed up' up for other stuff - cooking, cleaning etc. I wasn't expected to do a lot in the first months because I was sitting nursing a baby most of the time.
Of the peopleI know who have formula fed usually one of the reasons is that everyone else can have their 'turn' hmm feeding the baby/cuddling the baby (and are left sometimes unable to get their baby back off domineering relatives) and DH/P can do some of the night-time feeds. OFten they complain that this doens't actually happen and turns into another burden on a woman who has just had a baby.

EauRouge Tue 12-Jul-11 08:25:18

There are also health benefits to the mother, like reduced risk of certain cancers. I consider myself a feminist and I don't see that BF clashes with this. I really like this blog post. I would like for society to make it easier for women to work and breastfeed by providing childcare nearer to work places, comfortable areas to express and fridges for storing milk.

I'm a serial lurker in the feminism forum because I'm a bit scared and I've glad you've brought this up. I've seen several threads where a woman wants to continue BF and her partner wants her to stop. I've always thought that it should be the woman's decision since it's her body but I've heard other people say that it should be a joint decision. I would love to know people's thoughts on this.

CountBapula Tue 12-Jul-11 09:46:36

EauRouge that's a really interesting blog - thanks for posting that.

WoTmania Tue 12-Jul-11 10:28:34

Ha! Eaurouge, I reckon you know what my opinion would be grin

WoTmania Tue 12-Jul-11 10:38:19

right, re: continuing BF if your DP doesn't want you too.
Breastfeeding has benefits no matter how old the child is. Why would the other parent not want this? I think we (as a society) tend to infantilise men a lot and this is another way. 'Oh, he wants you back' or 'he's tired of haveing to share you and wants some adult time'. Well, you can have all these things and if your partenr didn't want to share for a long time maybe they shouldn't have had children with you. Maybe they should just grow up a bit and start putting the baby's needs first rather than it all being about them and their wants.
Also adult time (for that read sex for most people) and BF aren't mutually exclusive.

StewieGriffinsMom Tue 12-Jul-11 16:27:25

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

bigfatcath Tue 12-Jul-11 17:58:54

Thanks for replies so far :-)

Reality Tue 12-Jul-11 18:14:13

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

SardineQueen Tue 12-Jul-11 18:25:30

Agree with reality.

Sakura is good on this topic. About how what women can do, and used to know how to do, has been basically taken away for profit.

ohanotherone Tue 12-Jul-11 18:32:00

Agree with Reality aswell.

Reality Tue 12-Jul-11 18:35:47

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

I think some mention of nurse-maiding should be made when talking about breastfeeding politics (although I hate that expression because it summons up images of rich people employing other women to breastfeed their babies and that's not what I mean but I can't think of another word so forgive me!). What I mean is groups of women helping other women out sometimes by helping to breast feed children when the mother is knackered, ill etc. I would imagine the thought of another woman breast-feeding your child would be shocking to most in a modern day context but it did used to happen in the past (or am I thinking of some kind of Utopia that never really existed?).

The other thing that bears mentioning is the sexualisation of breasts which inevitably takes the focus off their true function and seems to give some men a sense of entitlement in terms of how they should be used hmm.

And I agree with Reality with regards FF/BF. I find it really sad that people are castigated for making valid choices. Take Kym Marsh for example. Some awful things have been said about her and the fact that she is FF her 7-week premature baby (which was always going to be difficult lets face it). I am pro BFing btw but recognise that some situations negate that choice or make it very difficult. And most of the time it comes down to support either from professionals, partners, family etc.

MJHASLEFTTHEBUILDING Wed 13-Jul-11 00:25:34

Message withdrawn

TheRealMBJ Wed 13-Jul-11 15:37:38

Thanks for the link Eau, I particularly like her last sentence:

^ After 28 years in a culture where women's bodies belong to pretty much anyone but them, it was only my children that showed me that my body, even mine, belongs to me to give^

forkful Wed 13-Jul-11 23:15:00

Reality What's more, the FF/BF debate has turned otherwise sisterly women against each other in droves, which is shit.

Yes you're right - that's a really good point and I've read a book about how the media basically sparked off a lot of the SAHMvWAHM - it's an American book but very illuminating on the topic - The Truth Behind the Mommy Wars. It's cheap second hand.

Your post reminded me of it. I think the media really likes to categorise women into opposing positions and it it is very unhelpful to women as a whole group.

wicketkeeper Thu 14-Jul-11 08:18:24

I don't know much about the politics of it, but I BF my first for 3 months then went on to FF as I went back to work. With baby no. 2 I BF for 8 months, and never gave him a bottle at all - he went straight from me to a feeder beaker.

My thoughts, for what they're worth, are (assuming the woman has an equal choice of whether to BF or FF, and I know not everyone does) - BF is extremely convenient, you can 'bung a boob' at a moment's notice, without having to mix formula, sterilise, warm and generally faff on. Also, there's no waste - if you start a bottle but toots isn't very hungry, you have to chuck the rest out. Yes, it means the woman has all the feeding to do - erm, yeah, you've just had a baby, what did you expect. Personally, I would rather do all the feeding than have to faff on with all the FF paraphenalia on the off-chance that someone else might occasionally do a feed for me. Partners can still help - feeding isn't the only thing a baby needs. Our night-time routine was - baby wakes up, Dad goes and gets him, changes nappy if needed, brings him to me in bed, I feed him and put him back. No-one feels hard-done-to.

RitaMorgan Thu 14-Jul-11 08:25:57

Although a positive often mentioned of formula feeding is that fathers can share night feeds, in my experience of friends this doesn't often happen - especially not once paternity leave has finished. I found breastfeeding very easy in the night, it didn't really disturb my sleep too much, and as has been mentioned it meant DP took on a lot of the rest of the housework.

Formula "freeing" women mostly seems to come down to not having to hold your baby too much, not having to spend too much time with it, being able to go back to work quicker, being able to do more housework - none of those things sound like benefits to me!

NormanTebbit Thu 14-Jul-11 08:28:05

There is feminist discourse research into how pregnancy and bf has become moralised through public health promotion - the idea that s bf is a 'good mother' in line with the rhetoric of 'naturalness' and of being ' a good girl.
Have to go out but will link later if you are interested...

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Thu 14-Jul-11 13:05:33

I've not read the stuff that Norman will hopefully link to when she gets back, but it rings very true to me.

I really dislike talk of breasts having been sexualised. They've always been sexual, surely? They're nice to look at and men don't have them. I'm sure lesbians like them on other women, too. The idea that breasts' primary function is to feed babies strikes me as (ahem) feeding into the kind of moralisation (should that word exists!) Norman is referring to.

Now nipples and milk ducts - their primary function is to feed babies. But the extra cushioning/volume isn't needed for that.

Pagwatch Thu 14-Jul-11 13:11:40

My experience of bfing was one of huge freedom. I didn't have stuff to make or lug around. I appreciate that I was very lucky having found it extremely easy for all my dc right from birth.
But I gained a much greater sense of control of my enviromen. It was one thing I didn't have to ore pan or think about.

It didn't separate dh from the dc. His bonding was in other ways including taking happy fed baby from me in the middle of the night to change/settle/sooth/cuddle.
All good

ComradeJing Thu 14-Jul-11 14:58:57

I'm actually in the process of switching from BF to FF for a few reasons and have mixed feelings about it. On the one hand the convenience of it is brilliant. On the other I'm looking forward to not getting my boobs out in a country where only expats bf in public. I'm going to miss the snuggly, sleepy, milky moments that are just ours but I'm looking forward to having a few really big drinks before I hopefully get pregnant again.

That's beside the point however.

Jenai I do think you're right to a degree but I bet that 50 years ago no woman ever said, "I need to stop bfing because my husband wants my boobs back." Now it seems it's ok for a man to say that and not be told "off you fuck." Surely that is the sexualisation of breasts?

Jenai - breasts are designed for breast-feeding. That is the intention of their existence - it is a choice to sexualise them.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Thu 14-Jul-11 16:00:29

ComradeJing the "husband wants my boobs back" is equally grim. My breasts are mine. Not dp's.

But they are sexual - they look good and they feel good (to me and to whomever I share them with).

I suppose ds got first dibs on them for a while but other than that 18 month period they are mine and mine alone to share as I see fit. Even when I say ds had first dibs, that was my choice.

Their form has been more significant in my life than their function for most of their existence. I don't like to think of them only having been there to feed ds because although they have indeed done that - they've done a lot more besides.

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