Monday, January 5, 2009

Breastfeeding on 20/20's Extreme Mothering show

I started to discuss several aspects of the show, but I have a lot to say about this one, so I'll have to do them one at a time. First, the breastfeeding. It was good and bad. Here are some highlights...

"Breastfeeding: How old is too old?" (watch the video)

They started off saying "These next women don't think breastfeeding an older child is disturbing; they think it's a private decision." Then they went on to ask the airhead question "So, where does that leave the dad?" I am sick and tired of references to breasts as sex toys which can be borrowed by babies for a short time before their maternity leave is over and they go back to workin' for the man. I recognize and appreciate that when a woman's milk has recently come in, sexual innuendo may see dad squirted in the eye. I know some people find that bothersome. However, in this segment we are discussing "extended" breastfeeding, and by the time a woman has been nursing a year or more her milk will likely have regulated itself to the point it isn't spraying everywhere. (Some women never have super-soaker breasts. Honestly, hearing about them makes me jealous!) Therefore, a woman should not feel bad if her milk-producing breasts are moonlighting as sexy boobs to please her partner. A lot of people just can't fathom that breasts can go back and forth from feeding babies to being sexually appealing, but it's a little hangup they have to get over.

What really bugged me about this segment was psychologist Will Braun's comments. He said "I have concerns from a developmental standpoint. I think a child really needs to learn to develop the capacity to soothe oneself, the capacity to tolerate frustration. When a child is constantly given a breast, it might thwart that from happening." Excuse me? This is the United States of America. We are constantly comforting ourselves with things! The two front seats in my van have seat warmers. We have pain relievers in our cabinets and a cushy pillowtop mattress covered with high thread count sheets on our bed. People go into debt buying jacuzzi tubs and spa treatments. They drink a beer after a hard day at work and coffee to get them going in the morning. Could not all these things be equated to what a breast is for a child? The only difference I see is that all these materials fuel consumerism and breastfeeding does not. Furthermore, children are given scads of things for comfort. As a child, I was given lollipops at the bank and coupons for free ice cream at the doctor. Jordan received coupons for french fries from his dentist. All three are attempts to pacify children during slightly tedious moments of their lives. And I wonder what this psychologist's stance is on anti-depressants. Continuing with his line of thought, shouldn't depressed people just get over it and soothe themselves? If that is what he thinks, and if he doesn't partake in any of the luxuries I just listed, then he may have a point. I highly doubt that is the case.

I must say, though, I was pleased with their selection of mothers and the points they made. Robin, who breastfeeds her six-year-old, was able to point out that her two older children who were also breastfed for six years were healthy and well-adjusted. She also made several good points: "We use breasts to sell everything, from beer to motorcycles. But then toddler is in mom's arms nursing, for what they're supposed to be used for, and everybody freaks out."

I was a little impressed that they mentioned the worldwide average age of weaning was four years old, but was a bit puzzled over their statement that mom Sophie was a "typical" mom except for the fact that she breastfeeds her nearly 2.5-year-old twins. I certainly don't think two and a half is an "extreme" age at which to be breastfeeding. What disappointed me more than anything is that they did not bother to consult an expert or researcher specializing in breastfeeding. They only brought in one silly little psychologist who thinks "a mother's main job is to work herself out of a job." Yeeeah. I wonder if his mom was watching. I don't know about you, but I sure don't hear many fifty-year-olds who have just lost their moms saying "She did such a good job teaching me to self-soothe that I'm totally fine with this! Heck, I don't really need her anymore anyway!" No matter how old I get, I will always need my mom--I call her every day--and yet, I've managed to graduate college, get married, find a job and raise a child of my own! (For the record, she only breastfed me for five months so you can't blame it on that. I don't remember it.)

To clarify, I don't think one must breastfeed until her child is in elementary school to be a good mother. I certainly don't think I will, but not because it would be wrong or gross. I have nothing but admiration for a woman willing to stand up to ignorant, judgmental people and nurse her child for that long. Personally, I am having a hard time making it to the World Health Organization-recommended two years. I love the women who appeared on the show for putting themselves out there, representing, and showing our culture that breastfeeding for more than a couple of months is not weird.

10 comments:

Ginny Marie said...

You make some really good points! I'm still breastfeeding my 17 month old, and I nursed my older daughter until she was 20 months. I've had people say to me that it's a mistake to nurse when your child can ask for nursing (Lily said "durse" and Emmy says "ice") but haven't our babies been telling us when they need to nurse since they were born? What about all babies who are given pacifiers? Do they learn to self soothe? I see a lot of older toddlers with a pacifier, and if a breast thwarts self-soothing, a pacifier would as well, don't you think?

I'll get off my soapbox now! Thanks for your review!

Emily Snapp said...

I love reading your blog Jenny! Great points...I hate I missed this show!! I would love to know what other "extreme" things were discussed. I'll look forward to reading more about the show from you!

inexplicableways.com said...

The other extreme items on the agenda were orgasmic birth, homebirth, and women who raise fake babies (seriously, they pay huge amounts of money for dolls that look like newborns and then parent them in public).

Extreme would have been women who give birth to baby dolls and breastfeed them.

Haasiegirl said...

I feel ya on standing up for what you believe in. It just scares me that people who BF till a kid is like 15...are the same kids that grow up to be the Adult Nursing Buddies I blogged about. I dont find that....well adjusted. LOL

BTW, i didnt know how to respond back with the insurance thing. Go to Banfield for pet insurance, its through petsmart!

trisha
momdot.com

Kacie said...

Great points! You're so right -- Americans have millions of ways to 'self soothe,' yet breastfeeding is given the tsk-tsk by people on their high horses. I don't get it.

Vicky said...

Very good points. I caught the last 45 min. of the show. I was glad that they mentioned the average world age of weaning was 4. I will admit I find breastfeeding an 8 year old "different" than breastfeeding a 4 year old.

Theresa said...

Oh honey, I'm so glad I can say I knew her before she was famous. Just remember the little people when you make it big, because you will! It must have been those 5 months of breastfeeding (ha-ha!!)

Hobo Mama said...

I loved your logic to counter the idea that we're eventually supposed to "grow out of" having our moms. Ack! What a stupid and/or sad thought. In fact, I feel like I don't need my mom as much as I would like -- we're not geographically close and don't keep in touch as often as I'd enjoy -- and I wonder if our independence-minded parenting culture is to blame. I know it was one of the ambivalences I had about becoming a parent -- why become a mother if the whole point is just eventually to be left behind and ignored? Then I realized that it doesn't have to be that way, that you can continue a close relationship with your kids throughout your lives together -- and the start to that closer relationship can be breastfeeding! :)

Anyway, thanks for the thoughts and the review. I'm feeding my 19-month-old to sleep as I type.

Rachel said...

You've written a very sane commentary on breastfeeding in general and extended breastfeeding as well.

Wish others were as sane as you. Keep it up!

Anonymous said...

that psychologist was a f***ing ***hole. people like him do a lot of damage and should be put down.