About a week ago, I took Herr Meow to the doctor for a routine filling-out-of-the-paperwork visit. If I told you that it took effing FOREVER to see the pediatrician, I'd be a very truthful person.
But I would also be kidding myself if I told you that was the most obnoxious thing about the morning.
Where I go to the doctor –which happens to be in a military base, and I bet you might not have seen that one coming– there is always a dense population of children milling about, both as extra appendages and there for well visits and sick visits. It's one of those things about the military, I suppose: they encourage patriotism and reproduction because I guess that's part of the American way.
And you may not know this, but the military doctors are also very big advocates of what might be considered the "crunchy hippie agenda": they advocate natural birth and they have midwifes on staff; they are more open to alternative routes aiding in delivery such as the use of forceps and ventouse rather than opting right away for a caesarean section; they encourage and are sometimes militant (ha!) about lactation and about breastfeeding your child exclusively for at least the first six months, if not the whole first year of life; and they are generally very accommodating with a mother's birth "plan".
When I say that they are militant about lactation, I am mostly drawing from my own experience –we were not allowed to leave the hospital until the baby demonstrated he could draw milk successfully from me (breastfeeding bootcamp?!)– but I think that there are some generalized practices that would not change from base to base, the encouragement of breastfeeding chief among them. If you're bringing a child into the military family, you WILL be encouraged to breastfeed: you can say it's a bane, or you can say it's one of the perks, along with free medical care.
(Snarky aside: Of course, it's mighty hypocritical of them to send every new mother who's been instructed on breastfeeding with not one but TWO huge swag bags, courtesy of Enfamil AND Similac. But I digress.)
So I know that when I see new mothers waiting patiently with their little babies at the doctor's office, I am pretty sure that they have all gotten a version of the same spiel with which I was indoctrinated and for which I am also grateful, as Herr Meow and I were lucky enough to have a good, two-year breastfeeding relationship. And I know that some will buy the party line, so to speak, and do what's better for their child which is breastfeeding; and I know that some will not.
Now I realize that there is such a thing as not being able to produce enough milk, and traumatizing circumstances that make breastfeeding difficult if not altogether impossible; there is also a lack of information and/or role models to encourage breastfeeding, particularly in low-income urban areas. I may be a breastfeeding advocate, but I am not unaware of those facts. As a matter of fact, a good friend of mine had such a hard time getting her body to produce any milk –despite domperidone and fenugreek up the wazoo– that she had to give up lest she go insane.
But here was this mother –young, possibly more educated than her peers, very healthy-looking– who was just going ahead and giving her kid formula with a big smile. Someone who –pardon the classicism– was in my peer group and from whom I expected compliance with not just the milieu in which she birthed but with what I felt were similar norms in our respective environs.
And yet, there she was, bottlefeeding her very small baby. And anger roiled inside of me like it hadn't since those early days where I perceived I was sticking with something that was much harder than reaching for a bottle while those who turned to formula seemed to have lovely sleep while keeping their shirts on (and yes, I know– formula-feeding is not much easier on occasion either).
Maybe this is not the most shining endorsement, because no one wants to listen to a judgmental, hormonal crazy lady who writes to vent about her anger at an unknown person. But please, if you are pregnant or planning on becoming pregnant, I urge you to read up on breastfeeding and strongly consider it. It's what is best for you as a woman –from safer long-term weight loss postpartum to reduced risk of breast cancer and osteoporosis, it's good– and what's best for your child.
World breastfeeding week is from August first through the seventh. Help bring awareness to the fact that breastfeeding is not a weird atavistic behavior, but truly a child's brithright.