I identify as a feminist for a variety of reasons, but I haven't participated in any feminist groups besides this one. I am curious about what the various perspectives on breastfeeding are within this group.
I breastfed my two children for a total of about 3 years. I worked for about half of that three years. I was in a situation where my work was located very close to my daycare provider, and I could go nurse my babies on my lunch break. I had to work, as my hubby was on disability, and I also had to take care of my little guy. We could travel easily, as all my supplies for feeding baby were in me, not in my diaper bag. For someone who isn't a natural organizer by nature, I never had to wonder if I had enough milk packed along. It was always very important to me to provide the best start for my kids, but I also found it terrifically convenient and practical. I figured out how to carry and breastfeed my little baby in a sling while doing other things, and I also figured out how to night-time feed by co-sleeping. My son got most of his nutrition at night when I was sleeping or the next thing to it. It also meant that I had to eat like a horse and lost baby weight at the same time.
I ran into a lot of women who wouldn't consider breastfeeding because it made them feel like a cow. It took too much time and it prevented the Dad from being able to do it. I always took the approach that I am a mammal and breastfeeding was a skill I intended to master. It made it an easier choice for me, and I had more support than some since I had a Mom who bucked the trend and breastfed all of her children. It has been considered 'low class' for decades. Only poor, ignorant, or immigrant women would do it. There is still a big taboo around it and I know a lot of women who breastfeed but are confined to their homes for feeding times because of the taboo around it. They start bottle feeding so that they don't feel so stuck in their homes. Public breastfeeding is something that I support wholeheartedly. It's just something that after a while people get used to. Usually it's the women who are freaked that their husbands will be tempted to look at boob who object most strongly. And this in a culture that's saturated with images of boobs.
So when boobs are doing some job besides making men drool, why is that taboo? And where are the non-lactating women who will support other women in feeding their children where and when they need fed?
On a totally different tack Fatwa on Breastfeeding Co-Workers
An islamic cleric has suggested that if women want to be out of their homes more or join the workforce, that they should breastfeed their male associates or co-workers so that they can't have sex with them. I find this profoundly disgusting and counter-intuitive. As if exposing my breasts to a man and letting him suck on them would make him in any way less likely to seduce or rape me.
I agree. Furthermore, I consider breastfeeding the first and foremost infant's right. As you state, we are mammals, it's a matter of health. To take it a step further, I consider the intent not to breastfeed to be of the very lowest ethics. The intent not to breastfeed should be an automatic procreation disqualifier. And this goes for rental wombs also. I completely disagree with rental wombs for two reasons: the health consequences to the infant and the commodification of women's bodies. So to EVERY sterile (medical or lifestyle) couple out there, ADOPT, there are millions of potential orphans in the world. If you can't adopt, FOSTER, there are thousands of foster kids out there in horrible situations. As for couples who are "desperate" to procreate, DON'T, despair is the absolute worst reason to procreate. And couples wanting to procreate to solidify their relationship, let's not even go there.
The past trend to not breastfeed had several social consequences: unhealthy babies, increased reliance on a pharmaceutical lifestyle, and increased fertility rates. Luckily, it is a trend that is passing. I say past specifically, because from what I see, breastfeeding is making a comeback. Damn good thing, I hate it when doctors and Nestle try to improve on a perfectly functional aspect of nature.
Then there is also the issue of pumping oneself. I imagine there is some degree of degradation of the quality of the milk, depending on how long between the pumping and the feeding, which generally is not too long. I find it a little creepy to have males pretending they're females, when it comes to milking, but maybe that's just me. Through the years I've read several studies of the importance of the infant's face touching the mother's breast as it suckles. I'm not going to redo a bunch of past research, but I prefer to a woman breastfeeding, rather than pumping to feed later while hidden or for the father to pretend to be mom... Way back when I was a young adult, there were a number of infants who'd died or who had problems due to ingesting air from badly designed bottles. I think those bottles are no longer available in North America... but the rest of the world... who knows?
I breastfed my kids a little over two years each for a total of little over four years. It was a lot of work and I am a stay at home so work was not an issue for me. I lived in WV then where there is a huge culture against it. I even had the hospital chew me out for not feeding my baby when I did not order formula. That in hospital help is invaluable. With no mother or older woman to guide a new mother along, pretty much everyone has pain and feels unnatural. If the baby does not latch on right, there is going to be a lot of pain. Also, some women have inverted nipples and need nipple shields. Women need some help from minute one if they've never done it before. I didn't get to see a lactation specialist until my oldest baby was three days old. By then I had blood blisters. Yes, that hurt a lot.
The hospitals could stand to be a lot more supportive in WV.
Although, I never had many problems with men, my worst critics were other women. I don't know how many times I was told to feed my babies in the bathroom. Yuck! Would they eat their meals in the bathroom with someone pooping in the next stall? Gross! People go out of their way to be offended by breastfeeding. Most the time, the women are more covered than a Muslim beach party. Really, you'll see more on the beach than in a roomful of breastfeeding mothers. Most women try to be very modest and those who aren't, the baby's covering more boob than a lot of bikinis.
But that's WV for you...
It's a myth formula feeding is easier. You have to heat. mix and clean up a lot with formula. Plus the baby poop smells a million times worse.
It amazes me how people are offended by such practical, sensible things and would rather do something complex, wasteful and impractical to avoid them. I remember some high school classmates comparing it to urinating in public. (Well, I have caught more men urinating in public than women breastfeeding.) Taboos against breastfeeding marginalize children by putting someone else's prudery ahead of feeding a baby. Once again, if you are offended by the appearance of something, avert your eyes! Most people get pretty skilled at being discreet about it, too.
Since I was young it seemed like it's gotten better, more accepted, with more laws allowing it in public places. Then again there are always resurgences in fundamentalists...
More about the pro-choice aspect of it: I've read opinions that were understanding of non-breastfeeding women. Basically, breastfeeding supporters shouldn't be saying there is something wrong with women if they have problems with breastfeeding, find it painful, or it doesn't come naturally to them.
I breastfed for 20 months with my first, and of course it isn't as often as when they are newborns. I would have liked to have breastfed my son longer than 1 year, but it didn't work out. I would like to see the norms pushed more to 1 to 2 years. It was just such a good way to get a cranky toddler settled down for a nap. And the occasionally breastfed toddlers don't get sick as often (in my experience at least), which is especially important if your kid is in daycare. And it is really during the 8 month plus period that I lost the last of the baby weight and then started loosing a lot of pre-baby weight also. It's also very protective for the mum for breast cancer.
Eh, I know a few women who consider them fun toys, as well.
I think most of my siblings and I went to at least 4. I don't see why they can't serve both purposes.
My daughter, who is almost 8 now, asked me what I was reading about and I told her 'breastfeeding' and she got this disgusted look on her face and said 'Ew'. I don't want her getting the dumb idea in her head that it's 'gross' at this age. So i got after her for being ignorant about it and explained why it is 'normal' and 'natural'. I asked her if she knew what a mammal is and explained that all mammals feed their babies with some sort of boobs and that's not gross. We decided it would be more gross if I regurgitated partially digested hunks of food like some birds do, and that really milk is not very gross.
It will certainly be years before she has to worry about lactating, but I think attitudes become formed at a pretty early age. I wish all kids could be around family members or friends who are nursing babies in a very casual way, otherwise they don't really become used to it as adults as easily. Kids certainly have a lot of questions and are quite openly fascinated with the process. I have sat breastfeeding with an enthralled little kid beside me lots of times.