Saturday, January 26, 2008

Babes for Breastfeeding

I learned about Babes for Breastfeeding (BfB) in my latest eagerly awaited Fit Pregnancy magazine. The basic premise of the non-profit is to bring together "celebrities, corporations, foundations, fashion and advertising to create a cultural acceptance and celebration of breastfeeding" to help new moms feel less guilty and embarrassed about breastfeeding. They also offer advice about how to be successful, prepared, and informed.

All of this sounds great, but in spite of myself, I became enraged when reading Kim Acosta's In the Spotlight article about the organization in Fit Pregnancy. Acosta says (citing the co-founder of BfB Bettina Forbes) "Lack of visible, positive role models and conflicting advice are two reasons many women don't success at breastfeeding." This comes right after the accusation that only 11% of women who gave birth in 2004 succeeded in breastfeeding exclusively until their infants were 6 months of age. "Women don't need more pressure and guilt," says co-founder of BfB Danielle Rigg, "they need to see people like themselves who incorporate nursing into their lives."

In my opinion, the issues surrounding overall breastfeeding success have much less to do with the lack of glamorous breastfeeding role models than they do with socio-economic factors, like whether or not the mother has to return to work full-time after her maternity leave. Or for that matter, whether she gets a maternity leave at all (there's still no nationally-mandated paid maternity leave in the U.S.). Perhaps she has to work two jobs. In cases like those, how can a mother exclusively breastfeed for the first 6 months of her baby's life?

Feminism is about having the power to choose. It is widely known that babies benefit from breastfeeding, but its just not an option for some families. I resent the guilt and pressure moms feel to breastfeed. I have seen many of my own friends relentlessly berate themselves because they cannot sustain breastfeeding.

Here's an idea: organizations like BfB should fight for longer, mandatory paid maternity leaves rather than spending their time recruiting celebrity nursers.


Megan said...

I couldn't agree more, Juj! This is one of those areas where use of the "choice" rhetoric has worked against the ideals of feminism. When being forced to stop breastfeeding out of ecomonic necessity is framed as a "choice," cultural blame is shifted to the mother instead of where it belongs -- on our government, corporations and culture that thrives on keeping women economically marginalized. It is so important that we, as feminists, urge our leaders to support paid family leave (for mothers AND fathers), fair pay (support The Fair Pay Restoration Act in the U.S. Senate!), and to support workplace accomodation of nursing mothers (i.e., providing a clean, private and comfortable place for working nursing mothers to pump)for those mothers who either choose to or are forced to go back to work before they are personally ready to stop breastfeeding. The last thing we need is more eroticized photos of celebrity moms breastfeeding. Puhlease!

Thanks for raising these ever-important issues in your post!

Candy said...

I was offended by the article as well. I am expecting end of April, and the last thing I need is some ding bat celebrity to show me it is okay to breastfeed, nor do I need some idiotic exhibitionist making some big stand by whipping their boobs out in public and calling it breastfeeding. I am intelligent enough to know it is a good thing, and how to do it discreetly, my issue with maintaining 6 months of breastfeeding is that I only have 6 weeks of maternity leave, and since I make larger salary in my family, it is necessary for me to return to work, and up until now my husband has been unable to provide milk from his chest! You want to support the cause of breastfeeding then work on supporting longer maternity leaves. There is the issue, I so do not need some starlet whipping her boobs out in public to set an "example". Personally that would push me in the opposite direction.