Underscoring “lactivist” claims that breastfeeding still requires greater public support, consider a recent requirement that 7th and 8th graders receive parental permission in order to witness a mother feeding her baby in school.
Recently, a high school in Melbourne, Australia had second thoughts about allowing 7th and 8th graders to view a breastfeeding volunteer as part of a lesson on the life cycle and caring for babies. They asked her at the last minute to bathe her 4-month-old naked baby, but refrain from feeding him in the classroom.
If the infant got hungry during the class, one wonders where she was supposed to feed it, or if perhaps the school expected that she’d offer a bottle for the occasion?
I’ve read articles claiming that the breastfeeding “militia” is forcing nursing on everyone – unwilling mothers included. It’s true that increasingly, we’re provided with more information about the benefits of breastfeeding. And it’s certainly the case that bottle-feeding mothers can even feel shunned because they’re failing to feed their babies the best possible food. Yet, experiences like this demonstrate just how far from “normal” breastfeeding really is, and perhaps more alarmingly, how society’s attitude makes it that much harder for women to succeed doing it.
Wouldn’t a class on life cycles teach that young babies need to eat regularly, and breastfed babies are even less predictable in their hunger cycles than formula-fed babies? Would they not explain that it’s actually extremely important to the breastfeeding relationship that babies eat when they are hungry, directly from the breast? If the baby needed to eat during this demo, one would think that the natural thing to do, especially in a class such as this, would be to breastfeed the baby. Yet, because breastfeeding is still NOT the norm, facts like this can be overlooked. Breastfeeding becomes mixed with sexual associations of the breast, and censored from view.
In fact, I need only look to my own breastfed daughters to see how entrenched bottle-feeding has become in our society. With virtually no personal exposure to a baby bottle, upon receiving a baby doll with one, both my girls delightedly began to feed their babies with it. They went from breastfeeding “mothers” to bottle-feeders in a heartbeat.
Incidences like censoring breastfeeding in school show that we still have much further to go before we truly “normalize” breastfeeding – if it’s even possible in this age of fast-paced disposable lifestyles.
But this is just my perspective – what do you think?