Nanny in NYC

A modern day Mary Poppins

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Breasts, My Body

During college I did a great deal of evening and weekend babysitting. Mostly it was for new parents and their infants and I quickly noticed a profound difference between the breast fed and the formula fed babies. The latter had way more stomach problems, they spit up constantly, cried considerably more after feedings, were often medicated for gas from birth and they were more prone to colds and other bugs than their breast fed counterparts.

Despite the very unscientific nature of these observations, it was enough to convince me that when I became a mother myself I would do everything within my power to make sure I was able to breast feed, at least for the first few months.

That being said, there is simply no way I will stand for the government telling me, or any other women, what to do with our breasts!! And, according to an article on the cover of the science section of today's Times, that is what the Department of Health and Human Services seems to be leaning toward. This spring they launched
a two-year national breast-feeding awareness campaign that . . . ran television announcements showing a pregnant woman clutching her belly as she was thrown off a mechanical bull during ladies' night at a bar--and compared the behavior to failing to breast-feed.
I won't argue with the idea that it's better to breast feed, and sure, there are some health issues that may arise because of choosing not to, but risk seems and incredibly inflammatory word to use in this situation. It seems chosen specifically to illicit guilt in women who might, for whatever reason, want to bottle feed.

So many things are more risky than not breast feeding! Strapping your infant into a seat and then hurtling him through space at rates of 70 or 80 miles an hour, as most parents have no problem doing, is far more risky than not breast feeding. Taking your children to MacDonalds on a regular basis seems to me (although, technically I have no proof for this one) also far more risky and harmful. Swimming! Sun exposure! Second hand smoke! Need I go on?

But what is more disturbing to me is that this article represents not a problem, but just another symptom of a much larger looming sickness that I'm afraid will soon come to a head in this country. In May the Washington Post reported that new federal guidelines
ask all females capable of conceiving a baby to treat themselves -- and to be treated by the health care system -- as pre-pregnant, regardless of whether they plan to get pregnant anytime soon.
So, according to the government, from day one of a young girl's first menstrual cycle until menopause sets in she should take folic acid supplements daily and never smoke or drink.

I first heard about these recommendations in Dan Savage's Village Voice column, where he so eloquently said,
Color me paranoid, but ordering American women to regard themselves as "pre-pregnant" opens the door to prosecuting women who harm their fetuses by failing to regard themselves as "pre-pregnant." How long until "women should" becomes "women must"? Does that sound paranoid? Well, so did a war on contraception once.

Oddly enough, Bush's Centers for Disease Control and Prevention doesn't urge straight men to regard themselves as existing in a perpetual state of "pre-fatherhood." Smoking, obesity, asthma, and diabetes could seriously hamper a man's ability to do the heavy lifting that comes with fatherhood. But Bush's CDC doesn't seem that interested in regulating the behavior of all those fat, smoking pre-fathers out there. Gee. Isn't. That. Weird.

I do not think it's paranoid to fear the idea of our country nationalizing the bodies of women of childbearing age. Countries have done it before, and I would not put it past the US. Just months ago conservative groups were gearing up to oppose the new HPV vaccine, a vaccine that would stop the spread of the number one cause of cervical cancer because they claim it will be seen as "as a license to engage in premarital sex". I suppose that on some level these people (yes, I said it THESE PEOPLE) feel that a young girl who engages in premarital sex deserves cervical cancer. They wouldn't ever say it, of course, but THESE PEOPLE are the same ones who will spout enraging phrases like "pay the piper" in abortion arguments.

Sadly, the time has not yet come when we can sit back and expect that we live in a world where equal rights will beaffordedd to women in the same way as men. The only way we can ever get to that point, and I do believe we will, is by remaining active in the causes that are important to us. I am an American woman, and as such, I will fight for my right to breast feed my child, and Amy's right not too. I'd much rather raise my child to have a mildly compromised immune system or be gassy and cranky for 12 months than to raise her in a world where the government values her control over her body less than a boy's.

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7 Comments:

Blogger Trish said...

This is a great post.
Here's the thing. I have two kids, one breastfed, one not. The first was formula fed by choice, the second was breast fed by choice. In my personal little microcosm, the theories on health, intelligence, etc. are so far from truth that it's laughable.
And in my circle of mom friends, those who are 'human' enough to be honest, will tell anyone that all the hype about breastfeeding is just that; hype.
Now, that said. I absolutely loved breastfeeding my daughter. I revelled in it and it's one of my most cherished memories. I'm glad I got past the initial difficulties and stuck with it.
But I'm no more bonded with #2 and she's not more intelligent or healthier than #1, and that's based on school records and doctors reports, not mom's word.
I think that if the government is going to start some sort of scare tactic to force breastfeeding it will backfire and make even less women do it. There is a gentler way to encourage those who are on the fence about breastfeeding. Scare tactics will NOT work in this arena, the motherhood arena, in which women rule. It will not work and 'they' will see.

3:36 PM  
Blogger Cinthia said...

Well said, NNY! My roommate who is mother to a beautiful 9-month old baby wanted more than anything to breastfeed her child all through infancy, but unfortunately the baby couldn't digest her milk and had very bad reflux so my roommate was forced to bottle feed her child in the third month. This goes to show that breastfeeding just isn't right for everyone. It's crazy that the government would try to encourage every women to breastfeed!

Btw, thanks for the comment on my blog. :) Hope you can visit again.

5:14 PM  
Blogger icancarryallthebagsandthebabiestoo said...

Good Post.

I also have two children, one breastfed, one not. I'm not going to draw any conclusions as both of my children are perfect.

That being said, I suspect the governments ridiculous recommendations are a response to the 280 (I believe) chemicals that have been found in researched American ambilical chord blood- a shocking amount (over 100) of these chemicals are known to cause cancer and harm the nervous system. It's no wonder that infertility is on the rise. People, in general, men and women, are full of man made pollutants and chemicals and pestisides.

How'd it all get there? Through the babies mama of course. In the past we thought the placenta protected the fetus from all of this, and now we are learning that this is incorrect and I guess people must be freaking out and worrying about the end of the world or something.

Who knows?

10:18 PM  
Blogger Mama said...

I liked this post. It's my opinion that with the rationale the gov't exhibits here that good old common sense no longer prevails in this country nor can we expect it to. We are being governed to death.

1:49 PM  
Blogger Keith said...

Very good article.. As a dad I can not fully "understand" what you are talking about. But, as a parent (and a father) I had hoped that my childrens' mom would breastfeed. I also can't understand why the government would say that. I applaud you for taking a stand on this and I hope this was just a "mistake" and will be corrected soon!

7:24 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

Post #4 on this subject (that I've read)

I'm sending you a link. I think you'll enjoy the post.

Or maybe I can do it from memory.

L. at The Homesick Home

Let's see if it works.

10:45 PM  
Blogger Granny said...

L. at The Homesick Home.

I missed the http://

10:47 PM  

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