The Breastfeeding Trap
I just finished reading an article entitled 'The Case Against Breastfeeding' in the Atlantic. And although I'm by myself in my quiet kitchen (the kids are asleep and Marc is away for a few days), I want to stand up and applaud. Bravo to journalist Hanna Rosin!
Lest any of you get too uncomfortable, I breastfed both M and T just as any new mother is bound to do in this day and age in our culture. I bought the arguments that 'breast is best' and did my best to make it work. My pump was a big part of my life once I returned to work each time (although I figured out a way not to pump at work the second time around - an accomplishment of which I'm particularly proud). I gritted my teeth through those tough first few (make that six) weeks of soreness and pain, a bout of mastitis, nursing bras, leaking, etc. I made it through to when it becomes easy and quick - and it was pretty smooth sailing for the many months I breastfed after that. I never quite made it through to not wincing if I needed to feed in public; although I fully support the rights of breastfeeding mothers, I personally felt I needed to protect my own rights not to have to breastfeed in front of strangers sometimes.
Anyway, my own story is not the point here. Rosin's article is long, but it is excellent. I urge to you to click over and read it if the topic interests you at all. From an ESP perspective, breastfeeding can often interfere with a father establishing himself as an equal parent early on. It doesn't have to, by any means, but even well-meaning mothers and fathers can use breastfeeding's intimate and time-consuming bonding opportunity to set mothers on the course of being the 'better' parent if they don't consciously work to overcome this issue.
Rosin describes a friend who refused to breastfeed because she "felt that breast-feeding would set up an unequal dynamic in her marriage - one in which the mother, who was responsible for the very sustenance of the infant, would naturally become responsible for everything else as well." Rosin goes on to say: "We were raised to expect that co-parenting was an attainable goal. But who were we kidding? Even in the best of marriages, the domestic burden shifts, in incremental, mostly unacknowledged ways, onto the woman. Breast-feeding plays a central role in the shift. Then other, logical decisions follow: she alone fed the child, so she naturally knows better how to comfort the child, so she is the better judge to pick a school for the child and the better nurse when the child is sick, and so on."
I think that the breastfeeding effect on keeping couples from ESP is much larger than most of us realize. And somehow, the La Leche League, Dr. Sears, and so many others have made it taboo to even speak of not breastfeeding our children. Given the paucity of actual well-done scientific research to prove any true benefits to breastfeeding, not breastfeeding ought to be an option. This would sure make ESP a whole lot easier in the first year of parenthood. There, I said it!
But I know most of us aren't quite ready for that message. And we don't have to be. There are many ways to get around the breastfeeding period with your equal parenting intact. In fact, I've yet to meet an ESP mom who didn't breastfeed at all, and I know many who have done so well beyond the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended time period. How they did so is a subject for another post. But today, I'm just glad to see one journalist explore the issue so that perhaps we can all be better armed to get through it.