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Friday, December 09, 2005

I'm unfortunately not surprised that the more regretful aspects of our boob-happy, male-dominated culture make women feel awkward about nursing in public. Ironically, though, persistent public breastfeeding is just the ticket for changing our public mores, both priggish and prurient, for the better. Men are crazy about breasts in part because of their cachet. They're hidden and forbidden, so naturally we must devote ourselves to coming in contact with as many as possible. But if women nursed in public more often and showcased the breast's true power, our society might become desensitized enough to make a dent in all this mindless titophilia.

A man can dream.

Despite all the emotional and nutritional (and yes, social) benefits, breastfeeding does have a big downside. The plain truth is, I miss them. I know they're on call 24/7, fighting the good fight and making the world a better place, and I respect that. But sometimes, after a long workday, I want them just for me. Is that so wrong? Can a fella wish they could return to maximum erogeneity, and not feel guilty when a wayward squirt in the eye ruins the mood?

So as great as breastfeeding is for my children, a large part of me can't wait until it's over and I can have them back for myself.

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (5)

Laid-Off Dad's detailed description of his two-decade lust affair with breasts underscores why women feel uncomfortable performing the most natural and basic of human needs--nursing an infant.

It's sad really that this perception discourages women from nursing, makes them feel like they are doing something perverse or that their baby's need to nurse is perverse. It's sick and twisted, but it's the reality of our society. Fundamentally, breast is best. But with men objectifying the source, it sure makes it easy to turn to packaged infant formula.

That said, if you can get beyond the sideways looks from strangers, and go for the boob, figuring it out is hard. I didn't get to try to nurse Toddler in Chief until he was nine days old. And I fully understood at the end of those first 24 hours why women just go to the bottle. It ain't that easy to get the hang of. Plus, while hospitals and doctors say breast milk is best, their actions speak louder than words. How many moms do you know who were sent home with free samples of formula?

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (2)

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

I had a similar epiphany about breasts after my first son was born. But I never considered them "useless." Quite the opposite, actually.

I had spent the better part of 20 years dreaming up nicknames for them, ogling them from afar, seeing them unleashed in R-rated movies, groping my way to second base. It's a strange imperative among heterosexual males, and I can't begin to explain it. We just like them. We want to see all of them, even though we have a good idea of what they'll look like. We want to touch all of them, even though we have a good idea of what they'll feel like. It's blatant objectification, and we feel terrible about it. But we can't help it. They make us crazy, like catnip. (Is it so far-fetched to assume that "catnip" and "nipple" have a shared etymology?)

When I first saw milk steaming out of my wife's breasts, all that changed. I saw my boys grow to be robust and healthy. I saw my wife spray breastmilk on open cuts to stave off infection. And the ogler in me kind of went into remission. Now I see those late-night commercials for Girls Gone Wild, and I think "Wow. Look at those all-powerful, life-giving mammary glands."

I understand that breastfeeding doesn't work for everyone, but as far as I'm concerned it's one of the more remarkable aspects of mammalian reproduction. Sometimes, it makes me a little jealous. My wife gets to nurture and nourish our children, and I get to open ornery storage jars. Which talent would you rather have?

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (1)

Laid-Off Dad's win-win-win pro-breastfeeding argument assumes that the biggest dilemma facing women post-partum is breast versus bottle. Sadly, there are economic and social reasons preventing women from nursing.

Many women have six weeks or less for maternity leave. And during weeks, mothers are likely focused on childcare options, not how they will get baby used to bottle and breast. The US and Australia are the only industrialized countries that don't have national paid-leave programs. And a lack of money and time affects choices.

Also, women don't have equal access to lactation support. When asked why they chose formula or switched to bottles so quickly, "nearly every reason, it turns out, can be traced to a lack of information, education and support, rather than a lack of desire." Finally, women are uncomfortable with their breasts. It might seem silly, but embarrassment is a powerful force.

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (3)

Monday, December 05, 2005

Breastfeeding offers parents a win-win-win-win-win scenario. First, the child gets nutrients and natural antibodies from the mama, which means the kid gets a great head start toward building a powerhouse immune system. Secondly, the wife gets to bond with the baby and work through her postpartum emotions. Third, it makes tight-assed people very uncomfortable. Fourth, it’s free, and fifth, it’s always there, like a bottomless keg ready to be tapped at a moment’s notice, so no late-night trips for formula, no fumbling with bottles and microwaves, and minimal cleanup.

True, there are potential pitfalls for the mom, like sore nipples (ouch), plugged ducts (double-ouch), and mastitis (super-humongous-ouch), and there lots of places where it’s easy to feel self-conscious about showing your breasts to the easily titillated. But I think these are easily outweighed by the pros, so if the mother is willing and medically able, more power to her.

If nothing else, we should consider the adage that "Michael Jordan was breastfed, Michael Jackson was not."

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (6)

Up until I had a baby, I'd thought of my breasts as mostly-useless pieces of flesh. Then suddenly they had purpose. I had the tools to nourish another human being and help him grow. It was amazing psychologically, emotionally...and physically. At the height of nursing, I was 10 pounds lighter than my pre-pregnancy weight. Score!

Breastfeeding was convenient. I never sterilized bottles, mixed formula in the middle of the night, or bought that powdery stuff my formula-feeding peers wouldn't even taste. There are huge health benefits. For babies, breastfeeding reduces the risk and severity of infections, may cut risk of SIDS, and reduces the risk of obesity, diabetes, and asthma later in life. Breastfeeding helps moms recover post-partum and may lower the risk of breast and ovarian cancer. Plus, there was almost nothing that a boob in the mouth wouldn't fix for my crying baby.

That said, how you feed your baby is a personal choice. I wasn't going back to work so I choose without wondering when or how I'd pump at work. And I never had an ounce of breastmilk in my life and I turned out okay. That's true for most people my age because 80 percent of mothers in the US choose bottle over breast in the late 60s and early 70s.

Breastmilk and formula provide babies with essential nutrients. And bottle-feeding doesn't make someone a failure. The most important things are that baby is loved and fed. Plus, there's something appealing about having your body all to yourself--no leaking breasts, not feeling "touched out," and everyone gets to help feed baby.

Permalink | Breastfeeding | Comments (1)