I hate to admit it but I first read about Facebook bannning breastfeeding on Paul Walsh’s blog and considering he has never breastfed in his life to my knowledge and he doesn’t reveal whether he has supported the breastfeeding of his own children, he is certainly as he calls himself the Irish Opportunist. Talk about jumping on the bandwagon. This is apparently a common tactic among bloggers of which innocent little me was unaware. Blogging about trending topics will pull traffic towards your site. You can find out about trending topics on the likes of Twitscoop for example.
Anyhoo, as anyone who has been reading this blog since day one will know, I breastfed both of my children for the WHO recommended period of six months. However I wasn’t trying to live up to any international standard: I went back to work after six months. I did try to continue with Nipper 1.0 after going back to work but it was just too weird and hard with the stress and the cycling and being away from him so I stopped. Unfortunately it took the ol’ milk machines a while to catch up but I learnt my lesson well.
I am lucky in that most of the women in my family breastfed and I can actually remember one of my aunts breastfeeding. According to a study published in the IMJ women’s previous experience of breastfeeding, their education level and their early decision to breastfeed are significant indicators in the length of time women would breastfeed so I consider myself lucky. It also had a generally positive experience although I did experience some problems especially with Nipper 2.0. I partly blame myself because I had a lot going on at the time as well with the house being renovated. A great help for me in continuing was the Breastfeeding Support Group in Rathgar run by the Public Health Nurses in the area.
However not all women are as lucky to be able to fulfill their biological destiny and use their bodies to their full potential. Similarly not all of us are Olympic athletes or can even jog around the block. All of us have different physical and mental thresholds and this goes for breastfeeding as it does for all activities that require not just physical perseverance and mental perseverance too. Top athletes always thank their support team when they win a prize and similarly a modern woman choosing to breastfeed needs the support of family and friends to do this. Top athletes will also talk about how their mental well-being was an essential part of their winning formula. Similarly I think feeling good about oneself and being confident about you body is essential to being able to continue breastfeeding.
Sadly I am in a minority and by the time I had reached even month two of breastfeeding the minority was getting even smaller:
Currently approximately 47% of mothers in Ireland are breastfeeding at discharge from maternity care (NPRS, 2008). Breastfeeding duration rate figures are not currently collected at national level, however, research studies indicate the fall-off in breastfeeding following discharge is worryingly high with less than 10% of infants still breastfeeding at 6 months of age.
What has all of this got to do with Facebook’s ban on pictures of breastfeeding women? As far as I’m concerned the central issue is not Facebook banning pictures of breastfeeding women: Facebook is not a democracy, they can ban pics of whatever they damn well please. What is at issue is the fact that somewhere once upon a time breasts, boobs, tits, hooters, jugs, jabs, knockers, puppies, bazoobas, (and Himself just added kajungas…) and whatever you’re calling them yourself stopped belonging to the women they were attached to and became the property of the people looking at them. The problem is not that breasts are sexual objects as well as the point of delivery for food, nurturing and comforting for babies. The problem is that they are rarely positively represented in the latter role and far too often represented in the former role but in a hyper, unreal, impossible manner to which it is difficult for many women to even dream of comparing themselves. If you feel your boobs don’t measure up to the Baywatch boobs it’s very hard to get ’em out in public. If you think that people only see them as sexual it’s discomfiting to get ’em out in public.
The irony of the whole Facebook campaign is the fact that once you upload pictures to Facebook, according to their terms and conditions, Facebook then owns those pictures. As one guy I was talking to about this last week said, “Expect the world’s largest stock photo site to be launched by Facebook in a few years…” Well, it looks like all those campaigns to encourage breastfeeding (which campaigns? Exactly!) will have to use real stock photo sites for their tasteful imagery of breastfeeding women.
To finish up here’s two points from someone who’s been there done that (breastfed, not appeared on Baywatch or sold my boobs to Facebook.)
- The best thing about breastfeeding is that it gives you total freedom. As a former colleague of mine said once, “All you’ll need is a nappy in your back pocket and off you can go!”. This is so true. I also really think that once you get the hang of it you will sleep better too because you can do it in your sleep. All you have to do is wake up to latch the baby on and even then it’s not as disturbing as some of the carry on you get from then when they are older. I actually found it quite relaxing when I got the hang of it with Nipper 2.0. I was too nervous to have Nipper 1.0 in the bed with me but I generally dozed through all the feeds anyway. You can also go on holidays without having to worry about bringing or finding suitable formula. You can feed the baby indoor and out, on the beach, in the car (not while driving though!), anywhere that you can sit down with a glass of water and relax.
- The beauty of breastfeeding is that with all the modern nursing bras you can be very discreet when feeding. You’ll need to wear loose clothing or bring a large scarf. When you get really good at it (and you will!) a Happy Baby Sling is a great help if you want to feed on the move (although it seems that they are no longer making them). I fed Nipper 2.0 while browsing for door handles in B&Q. Y’see I wasn’t messing when I said I overdid it!
If you’re expecting a baby and considering breastfeeding I say go for it. You’ll have to have a supportive family and your partner should be willing to take on ALL other responsibilities certainly for the first two weeks and even up to six while both of you get the hang of it. It will stand to the whole family in the long run.