Our Sentiments

Mothering and Life in General

Lactivist or Lactizilla…

I would consider myself a strong breastfeeding supporter. I will go out of my way to help another baby and mother succeed in whatever their goals are. I find this experience to be just as precious as the act of breastfeeding, that I signed up to become apart of my community’s Mother-to-Mother Breastfeeding volunteer group. I have done this work for 2 years now, and I enjoy it tremendously.

Friends and family know how passionate I am with breastfeeding, but mostly my belief of the woman’s body. Even at the young age of seventeen, I found the biological aspects of life fascinating, so much so, that I loved watching the TLC’s older version of Baby Month. Remember the documentaries of mother and baby connection, how the fetus grows and what hormonally develops in the mother?

Growing up I did have an interest in the breastfeeding relationship between mother and child. I found our human parasitical ways from conception to breastfeeding intriguing. I found my first breastfeeding experience (besides my Uncle smacking me for watching) amazing and the first act of love I wanted to have with my future children.

When I started breastfeeding, articles like these, were everywhere. I fully agree to them and support them in every intent. In Peel, my region where I live, we had the Formula No Thanks campaign. Where posters were everywhere, city buses, billboards, medical offices etc. Saying ‘Formula, No Thanks I am watching my waistline; Formula, No Thanks, its flu season’.

It was the first time I, as a breastfeeding mother, felt apart of this community. It was the first time that, publicly, I was proud to be  breastfeeding and I did not have to be shamed into the bathroom or undercover. Even with our local breastfeeding friendly places and stickers advertising that this place is breastfeeding friendly. I have always felt that it was a large oxymoron where everyone promotes it here, but it’s not protected and now finally it was public, no reason to argue.

Now the posters are being taken down, and the pictures are deleted from the Formula, No Thanks site. Articles like The Ten Commandments of Breastfeeding are not being viewed. Why? People are being offended and complaining that these ads and articles are making them feel guilty for not breastfeeding.

Beginning of this year, I ran into blogs and articles explaining a new technique on how to deliver the message to a range of mothers, friends, and families. At first I thought ‘we are on to something, what a wonderful idea’. Welcome and support every mother and still be able to give informed scientifically proven information for them to pass down. Since everyone is in one group and welcomed, breastfeeding is rising above to be publicly excepted.

I accepted this for sometime, and praise organizations like Best for Babes for their efforts in uniting every mother. I still think this organization is on to something, something I think should continue. What I am having issues about is another movement in Lactivism, where it is not correct to ask questions in summary of “Why are you not breastfeeding?” not to say anything unless it’s asked. To sympathize with a non-breastfeeding mother, because the reason she is not breastfeeding is unknown and strictly personal.

A recent example, to clarify what I am mentioning, is an article by PhD in Parenting called I won’t ask you why you didn’t breastfeed. I love Annie, I am impressed on how she thinks outside of the box, her posts are always informative and thought-provoking. She writes in a way I have not seen. However, while reading this post it made me wonder. Most of these things she mentioned she will not do, is what I do or have done in the past.

As I was reading her article I could not help but to think of the friend she was writing about. I pictured me in her friend’s shoes. Most commonly with my volunteer work I hear about mother’s guilt and myths, and things they wish they had known. I thought ‘what if this friend is burning with guilt, what if this friend is drowning with how her body, again failed or didn’t work?’

Isn’t that what Lactivists are trying to do? To help mothers stop feeling this guilt that they did not own to begin with while promoting breastfeeding? What if this friend has another child and is burdened with this belief that she does not work? When if fact she did work, she was not given the chance. Yes, Annie mentions another reason could be as personal as sexual assault. In my eyes, coming from that background, I would be set free if a friend was open to listen or even offer to hear what I can tell. Even if I could not tell the story, and I was honest to say “It’s personal” I would love to hear, “I am here when you are ready”.

Is this not why we are promoting and fighting for support? I know I personalize everything, but it’s the only way I can consider another persons feelings and actions. I always think, if that was me what would I want to know. I know I differ from everyone else, but this thought is behind everything I do and why I am who I am. I think if I can help a friend feel that it was not her fault that she could not reach her goal, than I fulfilled something that was needed.

I just have mixed feelings on this movement. I feel that we are getting some where with the Booby Traps explained by Best for Babes, that part is great and what I have felt to be the overall issue besides society. I feel this direction will help every mother and still be able to get information. However, I don’t think not saying anything in fear of offending and insulting or saying it’s too personal is not the way. Along with insulting and being intentionally cruel. I wonder if we can get to a happy medium?

For now I do, do most of the examples that has been mentioned, and I hope this does not make me, what I call, a Lactizilla. I don’t do this out of cruelty, I do not ask a total stranger at the mall who is giving a bottle to her baby. I do, however, ask a friend to help her talk about her feelings of guilt, and I apologize to her for not knowing enough to be the support she needed. I do ask a mother I support while volunteering when I find out this is her second child and she did not breastfeed her first.

I don’t critically ask “Why did you not breastfeed?” I ask “What do you feel you need from me to better support you, can you tell me what happened with your first child?” Then I move on to placing the blame to where it belongs, and often times, it’s never the mother’s ownership.Yet, the mother is the one paying the ownership price. Then after the correction and the hopeful relief of the mother we move on to myths and education and connecting to her that I am here, just a call away.

I just don’t know about where Lactativism is going and whether I fit that title, maybe I am a Lactizilla. I hope not, but I fear I might be considered one. I have strong feelings about not saying anything is another way of promoting myths and demeaning the mother. I am not for this and never will be. I feel that correcting someone on a myth or a misconception the same way I would if someone states the sky is green, is viable in education.

Personally, if someone, especially a friend takes something I say to be damaging to them and insulting. I would except that friend to tell me about it. I can not mind read and I can not explain in a different way if I don’t know about the insult. I can’t own something if I am not told, I consider this apart of being a friend and the relationship.

I think I am going to need a little help with understanding this new way and how is it suppose to work. I feel that it’s going to be a struggle for me to stay true to myself but also include myself in Lactivism. Wow, I think I have a long way to go.

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7 responses to “Lactivist or Lactizilla…

  1. Erin W. / Beatnik Momma July 5, 2010 at 3:10 am

    I know I already told you this story when we spoke a couple nights ago, but I will repeat it for the sake of anyone else reading the comments.

    The first time I ever even considered that I could possibly breastfeed Kairi, my second child, happened because of a conversation that began, “Well, why didn’t you breastfeed Gracie?”

    I was at a baby shower for my best friend and I was pregnant myself. The woman who asked is now someone who I am so happy to be getting to know – the Le Leche League leader for the group I go to.

    I explained to her my reasons – none of which were very well founded, and all of which she very gently corrected my information. For instance, I thought that breastfeeding was going to be so natural that I wouldn’t have to do any reading or educate myself on it at all. I just assumed that I’d put my baby to my breast and she’d eat, easy as pie. Tori explained to me that nursing is a learned skill, something that both mother and child have to practice in order to master.

    Since the nurses at the hospital where I gave birth to Gracie weren’t much help, I waited until we got home and in a more relaxed, comfortable setting to try nursing her again. By that time, however, I was incredibly engorged – and even after having nursed for 15 months, Kairi and I still have a little bit of a rough time getting latched if I’m engorged. I didn’t know that though, so I thought that there was something wrong with me. I figured that Gracie had gotten by well enough on formula by that time so I shrugged it off and reached for the can of Good Start the hospital so *ahem* generously handed me on my way out. Tori managed to explain to me that there was nothing wrong with me and that my body was completely capable of providing for my children.

    Before that conversation, without a doubt in my mind I knew I was going to be formula feeding. But as soon as she started explaining things, it was like a light bulb turned on and my world was turned upside down (in the very best way possible!)

    As soon as I got home, I broke out all the pregnancy books I owned and opened them to the breastfeeding chapters. I looked up breastfeeding information online. I educated myself and prepared myself as much as a woman who had never seen a baby nursing in person possibly could. And when I delivered my baby, we nursed like champs and we continue to do so 15 months later.

    So do I agree that we should perhaps quit asking why people choose not to breastfeed? No, I don’t. I certainly see the reasons why some might not and I also choose to use my own personal discretion when it comes to who and how I ask, but from my own personal experience I KNOW that if not for that specific question, I would not, under any circumstances, even tried to nurse.

  2. Erin W. / Beatnik Momma July 5, 2010 at 3:11 am

    PS – I’m gonna use my above comment as a blog post and link back to you… LOL

    • Our Sentiments July 5, 2010 at 1:42 pm

      I am so glad you are going to write a response to me. It was so hard to write this because I did not want to sound like I was attacking PhD in Parenting. She is great and have helped me so much while on the Kellymom boards. I just could not stop thinking about her friend. Which I assumed is close or I think she would use acquaintance, right?

      I agree that I would not use this form of questioning on everyone I meet, but I don’t believe that is should be stopped. Asking is in the form of understanding, and I truly want to understand.

  3. Lisa C July 5, 2010 at 5:46 pm

    I believe in asking women why they don’t breastfeed. Maybe not every woman, but if the subject comes up and you can ask tactfully, it’s a great opportunity for them to share their story. By asking women to share why they didn’t breastfeed, I have learned of their struggles and given them a chance to tell their side of the story. When you hear these stories, it is much easier not to judge them.

    And like Erin commented, you may be allowing them to learn something that may help them the next time around.

    • Our Sentiments July 5, 2010 at 6:05 pm

      Agreed, when it comes to strangers and acquaintances yes, I think I would be iffy on saying anything unless the topic came up. For a friend I speak to regularly, well the topic comes up often, most of the time by me starting it. K2 hums a lot while nursing so everyone knows she is doing it LOL

    • Our Sentiments July 5, 2010 at 6:06 pm

      PS: thanks for reading, I hope you enjoyed your stay 🙂

    • Erin W. / Beatnik Momma July 5, 2010 at 7:13 pm

      …if the subject comes up and you can ask tactfully, it’s a great opportunity for them to share their story…

      Exactly. I’m not going to go around to every woman I know who is a parent and ask interrogate them on why they didn’t breastfeed. But, as you said, if the subject happens to come up then I will more than likely find a way to ask if I can. If the person starts getting defensive or the conversation starts getting rocky, I’ll back off.

      I just feel like it’s important to at least present the opportunity for education and broadening of horizons.

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