Thursday, July 20, 2006
Politicizing the Breast
Yesterday I attended my first La Leche League meeting in years. My daughter-in-law was supposed to go with me, but she didn't make it- so I went anyway. I thought I'd check things out and report back to her. It turned out to be a really pleasant group. It reminded me of everthing I used to love about LLL. It turned out that most of the women were pregnant(!) as well as nursing- so we talked a lot about birth as well. We even discussed a little bit of birth politics on how to get a natural birth in the hospital. (We have 18 local hospitals that do births in our metropolitan area, so there is some choice, sort of.) I was so impressed with how these ladies had done their homework, but a part of me was saddened. I knew their knowledge would not fully protect them, neither would their 3 page birth plans, their carefully selected caregivers, or their birth balls and doulas. They would still have an uphill battle for a natural birth without undue interference. But still I was impressed as I heard them share with one another how to obtain a birth-friendly nurse. It made me feel proud and hopeful that not every woman around here is lining up for an epidural/induction in her eighth month! This is my hope for change, a ground swell of grassroots efforts on the part of women to adamantly ask for choices in birth and be willing to fight to get it. Of course, we also discussed breastfeeding, particularly public breastfeeding. World Breastfeeding Week is coming up, so that was discussed as well. I told them that I think nursing moms have an obligation to nurse in public, so that the public becomes desensitized and that the behavior becomes normalized. I reminded them that we live in a bottle-feeding culture- breastfeeding is not the norm. To change that, people have to see breastfeeding babies, and if someone says something ignorant to them while they are nursing their babies, they have to be firm in using it as an occassion to educate the person. I am a staunch public nurser and always wished someone would say something to me about nursing my babies in public, so I could give them what for, but of course it never happened to me. Nursing moms need to come out of the closet (so to speak) and proudly (if discreetly) nurse their babies in public. My Breastfeeding Committee is honoring a local Kansas woman during World Breastfeeding Week named Amy Swan. She is responsible for the recent passing of the breastfeeding law in Kansas. (Missouri had one, but Kansas did not until Spring of this year). She was nursing her baby in the NURSERY of her athletic club when she was asked to go nurse her baby elsewhere, like the bathroom. Amy got so fired up, she wrote a letter to the business owner. When that got her no-where she started a grassroots effort to have an ordinance passed in her city (Lawrence KS). It passed, but still not satisfied, she then went on to galvanize her state lawmakers and lead the effort in getting the KS legislation passed. This woman is my hero! I can't wait to finally meet her face to face (I've only had phone and email contact with her). Knowing there are women like these out there keeps me going, doing what I'm doing. I know I am not alone.