Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Violence against women during birth

with 2 comments

Antiwomen context of breastmilk research
I am continuing the publication in the series on antiwomen context of human milk research as evidence how mainstream academic community contributes to devaluation of women, undermining of breastfeeding, and hiding deeper societal ills behind medical discourse on human milk. Birth violence

As you can see from the illustrations above, violent birth is scary. It almost looks like psy-fi in a bad way except it is not. It is the reality of birth for the majority of women. Disturbed and surgical births make breastfeeding extremely complicated if not impossible. The burden of fixing the consequences of violent births rests on individual women who are expected to do gargantuan amount of work to initiate breastfeeding against every possible obstacle. Since in most cases breastfeeding does not happen after a violent birth, every effort is channeled into human milk harvesting for the benefit of a new member of society. Violence in birth is justified by patriarchal ideas firmly rooted in Western evidence-based science – birth is dangerous and women are incapable of giving birth. The rise in violence against women during birth runs parallel to the methodical destruction of traditionally female birth support systems, elimination of traditional midwifery, as well as increase in control of women’s reproductive abilities such as restriction of access to abortion and contraception, as well as punishment for miscarriages, abortions, and unwanted or unplanned pregnancies.

The increase in premature births, stillbirths, infant mortality, and even infertility,  in general is strongly tied to social status of women in society and their ability to procure resources for themselves and their children, not to inherent faultiness of women or incapacity to bear viable healthy children. Biomedical research that fails to factor in the impact of subordinate status of women all over the world prevents people from finding social solutions to social ills while increasing women’s disbelief in their own abilities and convincing the public that only medicine is capable of solving reproductive problems of childbearing women.

Breastfeeding friendly society

So what are the solutions to the problem of violent birth and reproductive control of women?

  1. Women-friendly birth support. Check out Coalition for Improving Maternity services and their Mother Friendly Hospital Initiative  and Women Friendly Hospital Initiative from UNICEF
  2. Support and promote midwifery model of care. Citizens for Midwifery
  3. Learn about medicalization of birth and it’s roots in ancient philosophy that permeates every branch of western science
  4. Learn about social factors and environment affecting women and children. A good read on the subject is Sarah Blaffer Hrdy “Mother Nature”
  5. Tell others about what you learned. Talk. Blog. Share.
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Written by Medical Nemesis

October 22, 2015 at 12:03

Posted in Other

2 Responses

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  1. Natalie, I find your ideas on medicalization fascinating and thought-provoking. I also just read Parts 1 and 2 of your interview on mamocheknet via Google translate. I agree with you that medicalization is a huge problem, and I will try to keep these ideas in mind as I do my work. Just the other day I saw several women linking and commenting positively about a new device that measures how much milk your breastfeeding baby takes in. It’s possible that this could be a tool for an LC to use with a baby who is not gaining well that would be better than test-weighing and feeding, but instead it will be marketed to new mothers to feed their insecurities. I have a few concerns about some issues that by themselves may be neutral, but how they are used determines whether they are positive or negative. For example, birth control can be a positive for a woman who wants to space her children, or may not want children at all. However, if there is an expectation that all fertile women will use birth control, then the woman no longer owns her fertility. She has to ask permission to restore her natural fertility. It used to be that in times past, people got married and then they had children. It just happened. Nowadays “responsible” people use birth control and consult with each other to determine when or if they will have children. What if the woman wants children but the man wants to wait? This was not an option in times before widely available birth control. This gives the man power over the woman’s fertility! And women who have lots of children – even 3 is considered a lot these days – are regarded as irresponsible or too stupid to know how to use birth control. Just the other day, the CDC came out with a recommendation that sexually-active women of child-bearing age should either be on birth control or not drink alcohol. This is completely paternalistic. Another concern is access to abortion. I am pro-life, but I understand that others think access to abortion is important for women’s agency. In the U.S., most people find abortion acceptable in the first trimester, but begin to place greater and greater value on the fetus as it grows. So abortion could be a woman’s choice to end a pregnancy that would cause her great difficulty. Like birth control though, a woman who is young, or poor or unmarried, or in any situation that someone else considers not optimal, can be coerced into having an abortion, often for other people’s convenience. Lastly, milk-sharing can be voluntary or exploitative.Obviously milk harvesting for money is exploitative. All milk-sharing emphasizes the product of human milk instead of the process of nursing though. Just as there are rich entitled women who look for another woman to carry their child, I fear that there will be women who look for another woman to feed their child, in order to get the benefits of human milk without the hassle of actually putting their child to the breast.

    Mary Joan Florence

    February 21, 2016 at 21:48

    • Hey there, you give lots of examples how medicine and society uses science and technology to control women by coercing them to use them. I would like to add that use the term “milk harvesting” to describe the wide-scale “voluntary” pumping in the context of society that makes being with children impossible. It is exploitative on many levels from facing the necessity to buy products to express milk to coercion to provide milk while depriving women of opportunity to nurse at the breast without sacrificing financial security.

      Natalie Gerbeda-Wilson

      February 29, 2016 at 09:30


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To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

Breast. No Bottle.

To nurse, or not to nurse: that is not a question!

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