Friday, 28 January 2011

The Old Booby Question

Bringing Back the Boobies!

Disclaimer... if you are a) a squeamish male, b) a female who would like to breastfeed one day or c) anyone I have ever taught, you may not want to read this post!

I have reclaimed my boobs. Yes, that is right, after 10 months of breastfeeding I (and my child) decided enough was enough. And now that I am finished, there are so many wonderful things I can do with my new and (not very) improved breasts; I can give myself a round of applause with them if I run up stairs (but not too fast or I give myself two black eyes); I no longer need a pencil case for my stationary; and if ever I need to defend myself I can use them as a form of fleshly nun-chucks.

Despite all this, there is a lot of smugness involved in breastfeeding and after having now done my fair share, I can see why. First up, it isn’t the easiest. I expected to just pop the baby on and nurture her to her hearts content. I thought maybe I could do it whist carrying her in a sling, so that I could load the dishwasher and breastfeed, or maybe, hoover, read a book and breastfeed or even enjoy a latte, on the run, while catching the bus and generally gadding about town, while breastfeeding. How wrong I was... It took me about 9 weeks just to be able to give Little what she needed to keep her going, and another few weeks after that before I could do it comfortably without involving about 16 cushions. So when you do finally master it, yes, I can see why you might feel smug.

I suppose the whole ‘Best for Baby’ thing makes us breastfeeders feel pretty pleased with ourselves too. That is until the government, or the NHS, or a bunch of scientists come along and tell you that maybe, just maybe, it ain’t best for baby and that some babies might need something different. What, you mean to tell me each individual baby is different and has different needs? Shock horror! Don’t get me started on that one.

So I guess what I think I have learned over these many months of breastfeeding is that I am a closet bottle feeder. Despite the fact that I didn’t choose formula, I fervently want to defend the rights of women to choose. Some women can’t breastfeed, and some women don’t want to - and who am I to suggest that they should? The best thing about being a woman in the new millennium is having the right to choose; to choose whether or not to have kids, to choose whether or not to go back to work; to choose whether or not to marry; so why not have the right to a choice on this one too?


Back in the Day

Ah, the old breast is best issue, how nice to see that some things about the world of babies never change!

When I had my first baby back in 1976 we were given an information booklet at our first Antenatal class. Antenatal classes were similar to NCT classes, but they were spread over quite a few weeks, were very instructive and they were absolutely free! We were taught about the birth, our part in the production (‘scuse the pun), how to relax (not much use during labour but great for when dealing with a two year old tantrum) and about how to care for the baby once we were ‘home alone’. But I digress so back to the leaflet: there was a section on feeding, and to be fair, it explained about both bottle and breast-feeding.

The breast-feeding pages showed a beautiful coloured picture of a slim young woman with long blonde hair wearing an elegant white frock. She was sitting in an antique rocking chair breast-feeding her baby next to an open French window through which you could glimpse a perfect garden of rolling lawns and gently wafting willow trees. Aaah.

Turn the page to find out about bottle feeding; the picture is in stark black and white and depicts a fat old hag of a woman with her greasy hair only partly covered by a turban, she is sitting on a hard wooden kitchen chair surrounded by the debris of several meals and her floral overalls are grubby with nicotine stains. She holds the baby with one hand whilst using her free hand to tap the ash off her ciggie before shoving a dirty looking bottle into the poor little waifs’ mouth. Well, I may exaggerate a little but you get the idea ……..

So even back in 1976, no pressure about breast-feeding then……………..

I think it has always been a contentious issue which not only veers madly from one fashion to another but has always been a ‘class’ issue. I was a little bit hippy in my day and so knew without a doubt that there was only breast-feeding for me (oh yes, and, I nearly forgot, the baby too). The trouble was my baby had ideas of his own, and believe me, however hard I tried that baby would not take the breast. I struggled, he struggled, we all struggled until, one day, presented with a vaguely yellow, slightly jaundiced unhappy little baby I gave in and offered him a bottle. Reader, he didn’t just drink, he guzzled! He relaxed, I relaxed, we all relaxed.

Another Life lesson learnt – thank you baby.

Granny Bloggings

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