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Hammer of Eden
WHAT I'M WATCHING...
Whose Line is It
That's it for today!
LAW OF THE LAND
3 August 2001
The House recently passed this bill:
SEC. 630. Notwithstanding any other provision of law, a woman may breastfeed her child at any location in a Federal building or on Federal property, if the woman and her child are otherwise authorized to be present at the location.
Times they are a-changing.
It never occurred to me that I would do anything but breastfeed our children. In fact, when someone offered to buy me a bottle sterilizer for a baby shower present, when I was pregnant with Jeri, I told her I wouldn't need it. And I didn't.
Our five kids were born between 1966 and 1972 and each of them was breastfed until they weaned themselves (we won't go into how long David nursed; let's just say that by the time he graduated from high school, the breasts he was interested in were no longer mine).
Before I became pregnant, I went to my first La Leche League meeting with a friend. LLL is a support group for pregnant and nursing mothers. After that first meeting, I came home and wrote in my journal something to the effect that it was a bunch of women sitting around nursing in unison. I couldn't see that I would ever want to be a part of something so silly.
Well, it's amazing how your perception changes when you actually have that baby in your arms. Though I had little difficulty adjusting to feeding our daughter, I still thought that the support of a group might be helpful, and soon I was one of those women "sitting around in a circle nursing in unison."
Jeri only nursed for 7 months, but by the time she quit, I was already pregnant with Ned and there didn't seem to be any point in giving up La Leche League meetings. I enjoyed the camaraderie, had made friends among the mothers and the babies, and found the support of just being with mothers going through the same new-baby issues helpful.
In due time, I decided that I wanted to become a La Leche League leader and so, after passing all the requirements, I got the Gold Seal of Approval. As a leader, it was my job to lead meetings and to deal with telephone calls from mothers who might not come to a meeting, but who had some questions or problems and needed a sympathetic, knowledgeable voice on the other end of the phone.
It was amazing to me that I actually wanted to lead meetings. Being in the spotlight has never been my "thing," but this was something I knew a lot about, and was learning all the time as my family, and my breastfeeding experience grew. I got so good at it that I could actually lead a whole meeting without really thinking about anything. How many ways can you give a mother the information about what to do for sore nipples, after all?
The years with LLL provided a lot of interesting--and not all pleasant--experiences. At one point we installed a "hot line" in our house, a dedicated telephone line for only breastfeeding calls, the phone number that was listed in the phone book. I spent a lot of time on the phone in those days. We advertised that you could call for help 24 hours a day. Most people were considerate of volunteer mothers' need for sleep, but the most memorable call came at 2 a.m. one night when a single mother called to ask me if her baby was crying because she'd eaten rutabagas for dinner. In retrospect, I know she was alone and scared and needed to hear a friendly voice, but she had been one of those people who called frequently and I fear that the 2 a.m. rutabaga call was not one of my shining moments.
There was another time when I had the mom on one phone and her husband on the extension phone and the two of them are arguing with each other on how the baby was taking "his" breasts and how he wasn't getting enough sex since the baby was born. Trying to referee that little debate was interesting.
I also regret the times I'd be on the phone offering compassionate caring to a mother about how to take care of her baby while hissing "SHUT UP!" to my own kids who needed mom's attention.
Those were the days when a group like La Leche League filled a very important function. Doctors didn't support breastfeeding and women who wanted to nurse often had to fight their doctors for "permission" to feed their babies. When we La Leche League people tried to come into the hospitals to speak with the medical profession, doctors didn't care and nurses laughed at us.
Pediatricians were quick to tell a mother her milk supply was insufficient, because it was easier to put the baby on forumla than to help the mother build up her own milk supply. Too many mothers from that era tell the story of "not having enough milk," or their babies being "allergic" to their milk.
I had the opposite experience. The mother I was working with had chosen not to breastfeed, but her baby was allergic to all milk products and could only survive on a combination of breast milk and some other nutrients. The mother spent two years collecting breast milk from volunteers. When she had her next child, she definitely breastfeed.
We also helped an adoptive mother nurse her little baby, Caitlin. I'd heard it could be done. I was amazed to discover that it could be done so successfully. This mother was so dedicated and by the time the baby was a month old, she was completely breastfed by a woman who had never given birth.
Many of the mothers who regretted having to give up breastfeeding probably could have had positive nursing experiences if their doctors had better training in breastfeeding. (At that time, we were told that in medical school, they received one lecture on lactation and that was about it.)
I gave birth in the days before "birthing rooms" and in an era where midwives were not heard of in hospitals. So for each birth I was flat on a table, my arms held in leather straps. When the babies were born, they were whisked off to baskets where the nurses would do...whatever it is that nurses do with newborns...before I ever had a chance to touch them.
When Paul was born, I managed to get permission from his pediatrician to nurse him on the delivery table. Nobody told the obstetrician (who was a stranger to me--that's the fun of giving birth in a teaching hospital; I never knew any of the doctors who delivered any of my babies) and I had to argue with him to be permitted to nurse Paul. And then the doctor laughed at me for wanting to try and for Paul's disinterest.
It's so different now. I worked in an ob/gyn office for 10 years and I was thrilled to see how mothers are supported, encouraged, and helped with breastfeeding. Now there are lactation consultants ready to help mothers get past the newborn problems. I am so happy for new mothers these days. They have it so much easier, if their choice is to nurse. There are still places where you can't be comfortable nursing in public, but breastfeeding has become more accepted--even the formula companies talk about their product being for "when you can't nurse" or "second only to mother herself" or things like that.
I suppose it's because Big Business has figured out how to make a buck off of breastfeeding. The thing I loved about it was that I never had to take any equipment with me. I was never caught unprepared when a baby was suddenly hungry and we were a long way from home. Lunch was something I always had with me. Sterilization was never a problem. Heck--given how lazy I am about doing dishes, a big plus was that there were no bottles to wash, and I never had to wake up in the middle of the night, just roll over and baby and I would go back to sleep together.
But now there are all sorts of doo-dads that you can buy to "help" you nurse. There are special breast pumps and I don't know what all. I remember seeing a "breastfeeding kit" once and being amazed at all that junk. But if it helps support new mothers in feeling better about the relationship they are building with their babies, I'm all for it.
But it's nice to see that the government is recognizing that there's nothing perverted about a mother feeding her child in a public place. I can't believe that I've finally found something the government has done right since Dubya came to town.
Some pictures from this
Created 8/3/01 by Bev Sykes