I am handing over my blog today once again to my husband, Tim- or Tim Pop as Ramona calls him. (She also calls him Tim AitkenRead or Uncle Tim- very rarely Daddy! Hehehoohoo.) He wrote about general attachment fatherhood things quite a while ago now, and I’d like him to write about cosleeping and babywearing, but today he is writing about breastfeeding.
Of course, what men think about breastfeeding should be irrelevent – who cares what they think?! Babies need to be nursed by women and we will do it regardless! But, in actual fact, I think it is pretty vital. Husbands and partners can provide much needed support during those early tricky days, or wearying night feeds, or when people criticise the choice to breastfeed a toddler. Tim was the one who bought me endless drinks when that extreme thirst hit everytime I sat down to nurse, the one made me healthy meals and snacks, the one who gave important support to my decision to keep nursing Ramona even when Juno came along. But men are also critical in re-adjusting society’s perspective on breasts- they are the ones who have sexualised them, they now play an enormous role in reframing them as nutritous nursers of children. Only when men on the street and male media moguls/ policy makers/ shop owners make an effort in this will breastfeeding become mainstream.
Lucy would like me to write about her breasts. This seems an interesting prospect really considering my mother in law will no doubt read this. I vividly remember meeting them for the first time. It was fairly meteoritic. Since then they have, for the most part, become a normal part of life.
Growing up with two brothers the particulars of breasts were something quite foreign. The sort of thing you tried not to accidentally elbow when wrestling with our peers or try not to hit with a misjudged pass in touch rugby. The repercussions of these sort of indiscretions were often quite violent and embarrassing.
Breasts did take on a different dimension later in life, but I won’t dwell on this too much for everyone’s sake. Then along came Ramona. Things changed quite dramatically after that. Baby’s are often quite hungry, and if anyone as ever seen any pictures of Ramona (and now Juno) between 0 and 6 months you’ll understand that feeding time was pretty important.
I’d like to say that as a mature adult I have developed an amazing level of impulse control, for the most part I actually have. I have a good level of bowel control. I manage to not say too many awkward things to the extent that my friends at least think I’m reasonably normal. But as far as food goes though I can’t resist chocolate. It’s the answer to most of my problems ranging from hunger through to emotional upheaval. Ramona takes after me on this one. Though her focus seems to be “Mummy’s Milk” as she calls it.
Obviously with this in mind, meal times/comfort eating never really followed a set pattern or predictable routine. So whether we found ourselves walking to the shops, sitting on the bus, playing in the park, or even sitting in the privacy of our lounge Ramona’s desire to be close and eating became the expected norm. Arguably, for the most part I’m a reasonably modest character when it comes to skin showing. But the experience of becoming a parent has changed me. Hunger is hunger. Needs are needs. Ramona and Juno need to eat.
Last week I found myself sitting in a circle with 11 other students, and the coordinator of our experiential session of my weekly counseling skills course. In a lull in the conversation (there are loads of these) I stated that recently I have been struggling with a message that a friend sent to Lucy about her ”tits” being inappropriately all over facebook. I thought that it was perhaps a misjudged joke, but nonetheless, like Lucy, found it difficult to take.
What came next took a while to process. According to half the members of the group breastfeeding should be done away from others, if breasts are on show you should expect people to stare at them because they are essentially sexual objects, breastfeeding mums should not go round upsetting people basically; breasts should not run the risk of being spotted by a guy.
I don’t remember being massively surprised really. I sort of became sad and quiet initially as the conversation bouncing around the room became irrelevant to my initial statement, later on I may have said a few carefully chosen words. When was the last time you felt the need to go eat your dinner in a room away from your friends and family?
Breastmilk gives life to hundreds of millions of children everyday. Breastmilk has sustained and continues to sustain both of my children, even the 2 and a half year old sausage. Breastmilk is amazing stuff that has ensured the health and vitality of Ramona and now Juno. From pus leaking eyeballs, to blocked noses, basic infections to comforting a toddler with a broken leg Lucy’s breastmilk has been the answer!
I believe that breastfeeding should be normalized in our western, sadly male dominated culture. In New Zealand where I grew up we didn’t actually have the Sun’s page 3 (it’s not only the architecture of this country that is mainly Victorian), but the prevailing sexualisation of these amazing things still shaped our view of breasts. I support Lucy entirely in the pursuit of changing this, in fact more than that, I think that it’s an essential chorus that will enable all of us to grow up a bit.