mercredi, mars 11, 2009

Is breast always best?

I have a confession.

For years, I have gone around beating myself up because I only briefly breast-fed my kids.
I blame myself, and my own inability to master the routine or recover fast enough from postpartum depression, for a multiplicity of ailments affecting them, from ADD to that possible five point gap in intelligence.

I still recall a park chat with a women who saw me with young Mr. C, probably with a bottle of formula pressed between his newborn lips.

Unasked, she came over and earnestly discoursed on how much better it was to breastfeed him.

When the topic of breast-feeding comes up in chats with women friends, I keep quiet, or meekly agree how much better it is for a child. After all, I'm sure that most of them, being white, upper-middle-class women, did indeed make the right choice.

Now an article in the Atlantic by Hanna Rosin provides at least partial absolution for women like me.

There's a distinctive feminist slant to this piece which might be a little offputting by itself. I suppose that's because I am so averse to the idea of rights--as in, I have a "right" to feed my child formula so I wouldn't have to pump at the office. It's also a little reassuring, cutting as she does through the halo of the "perfect mother" persona we seem to try so hard to attain. Yes, we have egos. Yes, a lot of us have jobs. Yes, we love our kids but they drive us nuts sometimes.

But twinned as it is to Rosin's discussion of breastfeeding facts and myths over the past centuries, I can see her point. There apparently isn't enough conclusive evidence that breastfeeding gives kids a huge edge to make it a moral flaw not to.

If the research doesn't support the vast superiority of breastfeeding, then why is it that women feel the need not only make a cult of it, but use it as a stick to beat other women with?

Honestly, I don't have an answer. And I can bet that this article is going to get a vast wave of smackdowns, both literary and perhaps scientific.

But for now, I just want to tell Rosin how grateful I am to her for cutting a couple of links in the virtual chains that I've been carrying around for years.

I'm guessing that there are lots of other women out there who feel the same.

1 commentaire:

Sue a dit…

Fascinating topic -- I've bookmarked the article to read later, but this has always interested me. I did breastfeed both of my kids (Aidan for a year and a half, Grace for one year) -- but not always for the "right" reasons, especially when it came to Aidan. He never slept, so I nursed him out of desperation -- for his own rest as well as mine! I'll never forget my "lactation consultant" in the hospital, who practically smothered me with her soapbox.

I know my reasons for nursing weren't "perfect" -- but I learned to cut myself some slack. It came down to survival, functioning, living. Also, I think of my own upbringing -- I was adopted as an infant, so my mom had no choice but to have me chow down on formula. And am I worse off for it? No way.

I'm glad you have let yourself off the hook a bit! We moms have WAY too much guilt in other areas -- no sense in going backwards with this one. :)