Monthly Archives

November 2011

Breastfeeding Parenting

When extended breastfeeding and etiquette columnists collide

November 30, 2011

Slate posted a “Dear Prudence” advice column on Monday that had a woman writing to ask what to do about the fact that her new sister-in-law breastfed her 5-year-old (who has severe allergies) at the dinner table. Some people were probably still picking up their jaws as soon as they read “5-year-old” and “breastfed” in the same sentence, and as soon as they did they promptly began making contorted faces and sounds mimicking a cat trying to expel a hair ball to convey their disapproval. Other people (no doubt often called names like “the breastfeeding police”) were jumping on the person writing the question and on the answer Prudence supplied, and taking to the internet to spread the word about the awfulness of Prudence.

I am a breastfeeding advocate. As many people have rightly pointed out, anthropological and biological study show us that a natural weaning age around the world is typically between 3 and 7 years, severe allergies or not. So while I may not wish to breastfeed a child of 5 years, I cannot say that it is “wrong,” as so many people did. I am not going to say “I’m all for breastfeeding. . . . a BABY.” I’m actually more interested in the *tone* of Prudence’s response than the actual advice. Because if you distill the actual advice down to about one or two factual sentences, it would be this: “Tell your brother, ‘we were all really uncomfortable that your wife breastfed her son at the dinner table, especially considering it was the first time we met her. I understand he has allergies, but would you ask her if she can step away from the dinner table if she needs to breastfeed him again at a family gathering?'”

When you say this matter-of-factly, it doesn’t sound too bad to me. I know that some people feel that the mom should breastfeed her son whenever and wherever she wishes, and I can respect that opinion. If the son in question were an infant or toddler, I’d be more inclined to agree. But breastfeeding a 5-year-old, even if anthropologically and biologically normal is not typical in our culture. Add in the fact that this was done in front of people you’ve never met (even if they are now your family, by marriage), and I am ok with suggesting that a more private location is a better choice.

But the tone of the response is mocking, condescending, and derisive. It suggests that because the mother breastfeeds her 5-year-old son (you know the child that she carried to term and birthed), that she is going to gleefully attempt to serve her unsuspecting guests her breast milk in lieu of cream for their coffee (which probably comes from cows, but yet that’s not weird?). She mocks La Leche League and then makes a completely unscientific declaration that 5 years old is too old to “still be at mommy’s breast.” When, she says, your kid can tell you to lay off the garlic, then it’s time to throw away the nursing bra (to which I say, hey, if it still fits, wear that sucker, because does she know how hard it is to find a good bra and those things are expensive and why, yes, I’m wearing a nursing bra even though my youngest hasn’t nursed for 2+ years). This sounds pretty much like the oft-heard “if they can ask for it, they’re too old.” What does “ask for it” mean anyway? “Nee-nees, pease?!” coming from a 18-month-old is asking for it. Is a 10-month-old who can sign “milk,” asking for it? Sorry, but when you get down to it, rooting, a behavior that is exhibited minutes out of the womb, is “asking for it.” The instinct to breastfeed is just that–instinctual and distinctions that have to do with the method of communication to express that human need and what they have to say about breastfeeding’s appropriateness are completely arbitrary. Then Prudence suggests that if the husband won’t ask his wife to nurse the son in a more private setting that the other family members run out of the room while doing their best imitation of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” rather than suggesting that the writer just say calmly and politely to her sister-in-law, “Can I ask you to give your son breast milk in the other room, we feel awkward having you do so at the table?” I mean, you can have a discussion about whether or not that is fair to ask of her, but it’s a heck of a lot less hysterical than the juvenile responses Prudence suggests. The woman could even suggest pumping milk for her son before coming to a family gathering. I know that this may not be an option; some women cannot get much, if any, milk by pump, but only by nursing. And yes, it’s way less convenient. But politely suggesting a different location or a pump is a lot less offensive than the attitude displayed in the column.

Prudence closes by praying that this woman find her son a milk substitute (by which, to clarify, she means a substitute for the cow’s milk that most people drink, which is a substitute for the milk of our own species, since the woman’s son is allergic to cow’s milk), because “[i]t would be bad for him socially if she had to come and give him nourishment to get him through his SATs.” We all know that no child has ever had his mother have to breastfeed him through his college entrance exams, but hey why miss one more opportunity to marginalize the parent outside the norm of the culture as a crazy, possibly pathological, child-ruining monster? I suppose that reasoned, practical advice isn’t what advice columns are for anymore.

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Miscellany

Tiny Prints Talent Search Contest

November 17, 2011

I know that many people drool over the super-cute stationery designs available from Tiny Prints. Just this week, I got the most adorable birth announcement from Tiny Prints featuring my equally adorable niece and nephew. (I’m totally unbiased, by the way. It has been scientifically proven: they are ADORABLE.)

Tiny Prints is running a talent search contest right now with prizes to be awarded in the following categories: cutest baby (0-2), cutest kid (2-10), cutest family, cutest couple, cutest pet. Winners could get $1,000, a $500 Tiny Prints gift certificate, and the chance to be featured in the Tiny Prints 2012 marketing campaigns. This last part is what I want to focus on and, why I am encouraging you all to submit photos of your beautiful children (see details on entering here). Think about how cool it would be if a babywearing photo won and were featured in Tiny Prints’ 2012 campaigns!?!

So, go search for your most beautiful babywearing pics showing off your super-cute kids and submit them to the contest (deadline November 21)! How fun would it be if there were tons of photos showing just how cute a worn baby is to choose from during the voting period (November 22-November 30)?

All smiles, being worn in the pikkolo baby carrier.

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Miscellany Parenting Work Life

Can’t afford diapers=can’t send baby to daycare=can’t work?

November 15, 2011

I just saw this post on Babble about the proposed Diaper Act. According to the post, right now neither WIC nor food stamps can be used to help supply qualifying low-income families with diapers; the Diaper Act is proposed federal legislation that would amend the¬†Child Care and Development Block Grant Act of 1990 such that it would permit agencies receiving federal funds for low-income families to decide if they want to spend some of that money on providing diapers for them. The post assumes $100 are needed per month to diaper a child in disposable diapers. I’ve seen estimates for this go as low as $65 a month as well. It would be great to see cloth diapering options figured into the bill as well, though! I realize that it’s quite likely that a low-income family may not have a washing machine and dryer in their home or apartment and would have to go to a laundromat to do diaper laundry, which may not be possible. However, typically, diaper service costs are on par with disposable costs (sometimes they can even be less); if a family does have the ability to wash diapers at home and will use prefolds and basic covers, they can realize much more substantial cost savings. BUT, many daycare centers will not allow cloth diapers, another wrinkle in the plan. But more and more do (we once used a day care center that allowed us to send in our cloth diapers with a large wet bag and we just picked up the wet bag each night). And maybe some of the reasons that daycare centers don’t want or feel they can’t use cloth diapers could be addressed by these agencies; if there are health reasons, what are they and how can they be addressed to make cloth at daycare possible? Is it just time and convenience?

What do you think about asking if cloth diaper subsidies could be part of the Diaper Act (or a future version of it)?

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