Friday, April 8, 2011

The Lies Behind Breastfeeding

Dolls that breastfeed and the lies lactating women tell: What do you think?

Today was day 1 of my new semi-regular gig on a local radio show. While I have a lot to say about the show itself -- the host is also Boston-bred, lives in my community, yet we share very little of the same opinions -- we'll save that for another day. I want to discuss today's topic.

Move over hoochie Barbie and your scantily clad counterparts, there's a new doll on the market...

That's right, this little baby gets her milk from 8-year-old girls.

Weird? Definitely.

Am I buying it for my daughter? Probably not.

But do I feel like it's the worst toy to hit the shelves? Uhhh, no. Especially not when you can grab yourself a trio of Jersey Shore dolls three aisles down or ruin your daughter's body image with one of several Monster High dolls (I don't even want my husband around those trashy broads).

The host, let's call him Joe, was concerned that the doll would introduce breastfeeding to girls way too young. As if the same girls wouldn't see a real live person -- whether it be a relative, friend's mom or stranger -- feeding her own child? Besides, let's just say that the doll was the first time a child saw anything relating to breastfeeding... is that the end of the world? "Yes Susie, that is how some moms have fed their children since the beginning of time." The end.

Then, there was the one caller (who breastfed her children until around 3 and a half years old) who called the lactation-obsessed babies "unnecessary." Of course they're unnecessary! So are 90% of toys and games out there today. But, in my opinion, if a mom can privately breastfeed her preschoolers, who are we to judge that another mom might want to buy a doll that emulates breastfeeding? It could maybe come in handy when the mom has to spend 20 hours a day feeding baby brother or sister, making the older child feel neglected. Just sayin'.

But the comment from a Web watcher (because yes, there is streaming video happening during this radio show) is the one that really got me. After I made the point that we also have dolls that emulate peeing and pooping, Berta commented that those bodily functions would actually deter a girl from wanting a baby, but the "natural" act of breastfeeding creates a bond that would encourage them to have a baby.

What the WHAT? Sure, breastfeeding is a bonding experience. But do we really think that little girls even understand that? And do you really think they would then go have sex in order to get it? But what bothered me even more about her comment is yet another 'breastfeeding is easy and natural' declaration.

Sure, I breastfed two of my kids. But it was anything but natural at first! I remember the excruciating pain... how I felt like a cow and how weird it was... and how, for months, breastfeeding pulled me away from family parties and the ability to be in public without having to leave or get scowled at. And did I mention how painful and awkward it was at first?

I think it's comments about breastfeeding being so natural and easy that does women a serious disservice. How many women have thought that, 'If this is supposed to be so natural, I must be the only woman who is absolutely miserable and must be doing it wrong.' As if a new mom needs more of a reason to feel like she's failing. And of course, once she's feeling truly defeated, she gives up breastfeeding entirely. And you know what happens then... everyone and her mother, who weren't there to honestly support her, is suddenly on a tirade, judging her for giving up and accusing her of not doing what's "best" for her baby.

Which brings me to my question...

Do you agree that breastfeeding comes naturally and easily to women and their babies? I want to know!


Jules said...

No, it doesn't come naturally. However, unlike generations before us, we grew up in a period where our mothers didn't teach us how to breast feed. Where I live, 90% of women leave the hospital nursing their babies and 70% continue to nurse into the first year of life. But that is only because we have loads of free supports (La Leche League, public health nurses come to our houses and teach us, hospital nurses teach us and freak if someone wants to choose bottle for babe).

Personally, it was easy for me. However, I wouldn't say it came naturally. I just didn't find it to be a burden but I realise I am not the norm here.

Unknown said...

I hated breastfeeding as for me it just didn't work. It was one of the most awful feelings of failure I have experienced. Hated every moment of it with my son and didn't even try with my daughter. I had people tell me I was a bad mother for not doing it and that was devastating. But guess what? Both of my kids have grown up healthy and intelligent and strong without it. I'm happy for those who can but for people to say breastfeeding is a positive experience for all is just not true.

Unknown said...


For starters my daughter didn't need a specific doll to pretend to nurse a baby. At 3-4 years old she sat with me nursing her baby as I nursed her brother.

Breastfeeding did not come easy for me. With my first it was hell. After 2 weeks of her screaming and losing weight I gave up. It wasn't worth the struggle and tears. She's a happy well adjusted kid and I have no regrets with my decision. With my second, I was able to nurse until he was almost 2 but it didn't come easy. Latching issues, cracked & bleeding nipples, thrush and the ever so wonderful blocked ducts. Right around 8-9 months it finally became easy and I enjoyed nursing my son.

Alison said...

i am a former LLL leader (and someone who also breastfed her *preschoolers*). I've seen a lot of women to which breastfeeding came very naturally and a lot who struggled with it and hated every minute. I really don't understand why moms spend so mich time judging one another for our parenting choices. Of course I believe that breast is best. But quite honestly, I have NO idea if my kids' friends (my kids are 9, 11 and 13) were breastfed, slept in the family bed, or were spanked when they were little. And I really don't care either. Moms who do their best, love their kids and learn from their mistakes will raise good kids. As moms, we need to back off and spend a little more time encouraging each other and a lot less time judging each other. The end.

Renee said...

It's taken my 10 years to admit it, but I really HATED breastfeeding. HATED it. I did it because I felt like I had to and did not get any joy from it at all. I was bombarded by "YOU MUST BREASTFEED" everywhere I turned! My Mom didn't make me feel like this, but my doctors and society in general did...I had completely all natural childbirth bc I was hell bent on not giving my kid any drugs whatsoever - and that was not fun, let me tell you. But breastfeeding? Worse. So painful (and yes, I saw lactation specialists many times)....nothing would help. Come to find out 3 yrs son has autism - and tons of sensory issues related to his mouth. Yeah. I remember feeling like a failure - especially to my mother in law who breasted my husband until he was almost FOUR. (this explains a lot about my husband to those of you who know him). Bottom line - if it works for you, do it. But in my Mom's words, "stop killing yourself over this - that's why God made formula". ;)

Cathy Anne said...

I think it's natural, but doesn't come naturally....if that makes any sense. I tried to breastfeed, but my son wanted nothing at all to do with it. So he was formula fed and my MIL and everyone else made me feel like crap about it. But he turned out happy, healthy, smart, sweet and funny, and isn't showing any serial killer traits, so hopefully he will be fine, lol.