Breast. No Bottle.

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

Medicine castrates breastfeeding into one story

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What are available to people in private spaces – the dinner table, the birth room, the deathbed

– are all being controlled more and more under industrial rubrics, with profit a core value.

A Bun in the Oven: How the Food and Birth Movements Resist Industrialization by Barbara Katz Rothman

This is a quote from a book of one of the greatest scientists of our times – Barbara Katz Rothman. I am tempted to add that the same sentiment applies to what is available at the breast or rather in a bottle. When I watched my co-worker struggle with “breastfeeding” which was nothing but a feeble attempt to extract milk from the tortured breasts of an exhausted woman, I realized that what women pass as the stories of breastfeeding had nothing to do with nursing at the breast the way I knew it.

Medical and current social context dictate that breastfeeding is first and foremost food. Milk. Nothing more, nothing less. Medicine has a peculiar way of stripping any human experience of its meaning be it birth, suffering, pain, eating, sickness, breastfeeding, or death. In the eyes of medicine all of the above are nothing but a chain of biochemically driven events that are to be controlled for best outcomes. Birth becomes fetus extraction, death – brain wave disappearance, food – a combo of carbs, fats, and proteins, and breastfeeding becomes milk in a bottle. At times, medical interpretation of health or disease gets infused into an already castrated meaning of any human experience. You will never hear an OB-Gyn exalt the beauty of birth or a dietitian rave about the taste of biscuits and gravy.

The stories of breastfeeding that I hear passed on around me are of pain, struggle for milk, self-doubt, and failure. If I heard all that I’d never breastfeed. Yet none of the women around me actually had a chance to nurse without interruptions by bottles, pump, shields, work, and other disruptions created by modern society.  None of them experienced the joy, the elation, the pride of seeing a whole human grow big and strong sustained by your own body for years at a time! None of them witnessed healing of  an illness at the breast. None of them felt despair, loneliness, pain, or frustration disappear when a child tormented by feelings finds zen at her mother’s breast. For them the magic of nursing at the breast was hidden by a culture that tells a story of “breastfeeding is milk” that eventually morphs into the story of some milk swapped for artificial milk. And artificial milk is less trouble.

Even when I talk to the few women who did breastfeed, for an understandable reason they repeat the one and only story they hear over and over again in the media, read in parenting books, or hear from their friends who all hear the same one story that reinforces itself. I even talked to a woman who kept repeating newborns nurse every 2-3 hours. When I asked her how often her home born baby nursed, she recollected that it was much more frequently than every 2-3 hours, more like every half an hour. Why did she repeat the story that was very different from what she experienced?

When I read an article Everything You’ve Heard About Uncle Remus is Wrong  I really enjoyed a TED talk by a Nigerian writer Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie “The Danger of a Single Story”.  What we see happening with breastfeeding right in front of our eyes is castrating many stories of breastfeeding, of nursing at the breast into one story of milk in a bottle.



Written by Medical Nemesis

May 10, 2016 at 13:15

Posted in Other

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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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