posted by Amy
The excellent posts are piling up over at MUBAR. Having spent Thanksgiving leafing through the People and US magazines piled up at a relative's house, I can tell you with authority that after having given birth mere months ago, Britney Spears and Denise Richards are back in their size 2 low-rise pants and ready to show the world how sexy new mamas can be. You know, if they have nannies and personal trainers and a whole heck of a lot of money. To a mama who likes low-rise jeans because that post-baby belly can just flop over them, sexy doesn't look anything like Britney Spears.
In Housewife Chic, Jen Lawrence links to an article by Anne Kingston about the pressure to be a "yummy mummy" on top of everything else. "Kingston challenges [Danielle] Crittenden's notion that Housewife Chic is a new thing and also debunks her assertion that highly paid, educated women are opting out of the workforce as part of this trend (a slowing economy, not fashion, is taking women out of the workforce in slightly higher numbers than in previous years), " she writes.
Also, in Breast is Best?, Jen points out three articles about breastfeeding which appeared in the Toronoto Star, including one about lactation clinics closing and another—oddly separate—article about how women who can afford it are spending increasingly large amounts of money to hire lactation consultants and baby nurses. (The third article is about modern wet nurses.) In her analysis of the trio of articles, Jen fumes, "So breastfeeding is like so many other parenting issues. A private challenge to conquer, garnering private success. Like finding a spot at a coveted daycare. Like finding an employer who supports flex-time. "
When my first child was born and couldn't latch on, we called in a lactation consultant. Without her help—which we paid for out-of-pocket, as our insurance didn't cover her fees—I would have given up on breastfeeding. Because my husband had severe food allergies as a child and asthma as an adult and because I'd watched my stepson suffer with one ear infection about another (and three surgeries to have tubes inserted), I was really motivated to breastfeed.
But in the hospital, one nurse after another would come in to help me get the hang of the whole thing, and each one had her own idea of what was going wrong, always contradicting what the last one had said. It would have been comical, if I hadn't been worried my newborn son was going to dehydrate while they argued it out. I don't blame the nurses—we expect them to do everything a nurse on another ward would do, plus be lactation consultants? My OB didn't have any answers, and my son's pediatrician panicked and pressured us to give him formula. Since I was producing enough milk to feed triplets at that point, I compromised by pumping and finding alternate ways of getting my milk into his body until he finally got used to having been born and latched on.
So what's my long-winded point here? Oh, yeah—there should be a hell of a lot more support for breastfeeding mothers. I'm honestly at a point of exhaustion on this topic; we're told over and over that "breast is best" and then sent off to figure it all out on our own, with no meaningful support unless we can afford it. That's why, despite my many years as a lactating mama, I get so worked up by people who judge mamas for not breastfeeding—walk a mile in that mama's shoes and see if you might not be reaching for the bottle. It's easy to think we have all the answers when we're relatively privileged.
This quote from Kingston's article freaks me out: "My husband just wrote out the cheque," says Wharton. "My husband was so supportive. He told me, `Formula is not the solution. Do you want to be cleaning bottles all the time? We'll get it right.'" Um, maybe he could clean out the bottles? I don't know…it all just seems a little creepy to me, like having a wife who mothers the "right" way is what's important. I breastfed for a long time, and I'm glad I was able to make it work—that I had the money to hire help when things weren't going well, that I had the educational background that made me feel like I could stand up to the doctors and nurses, and that I had the flexible schedule that made breastfeeding work out for us—and the financial status to take advantage of the huge drop in income that came from opting to lighten my teaching load. But, as Jen writes, "I just find this to be so unpalatable. Has breastfeeding one's child now become some sort of status symbol, like pushing the newest model Bugaboo? And a status symbol financed by one's husband, at that?"
Have something to say about this piece? Email email@example.com. In your email, please let us know if we can post your feedback and name in our "mama likes" section. It just might happen. —Sheri & Amy