Sunday, 16 November 2008

The undeniable selfishness of the breastfeeding mother

Lauredhel has a fantastic post at Hoyden About Town on the strange case of Salma Hayek's breastfeeding. Apparently the fact that she is "still" breastfeeding her daughter at 14 months of age is not only news-worthy it is also cringe-worthy for many many people. Harsh judgements have been made; that Hayek is somehow unhinged, abusing her child, and of course (most importantly) not keeping her breasts available for their much more important role, namely being a passive and willing recipient of lustful gazes. Actually, judging by some of the comments Lauredhel has gathered, many are still indulging in said leering, but somehow the idea that there is a little girl also accessing those boobies gets in the way of their mental masturbation. It must be hard to be them.

Like Undomestic Goddess before me, I'm now in the land of "why haven't you weaned yet". Wriggly is over 10 months old and while we've significantly reduced the feeds since I went back to work, and a lot of people are keen that I give up altogether for my own health, he's still getting his breakfast drink from me. We had a lot of trouble to start with and now I really want to make it to a year. I'm not sure quite why, I just do. I don't think Wriggly would mind much either way; he gets very excited now when he sees the milky bottle coming his way at lunch and dinner times.

Having read Lauredhel's excellent summation of the situation for Salma Hayek I'm now wondering if there are people I know personally who think I'm somehow abusing my son by continuing to breastfeed him. :-(


Pauline said...

Personally to me it reeks of issues surrounding "public ownership" of women's bodies (ugh!). BTW - the WHO recommends breastfeeding for 2 years.

Not A Feminist said...

(New commenter! Yay me!) What is WHO to get in the way of societal squeamishness?

Also, can I ask, has breastfeeding always had this stigma? I'm a little too young to remember what it was like um, any amount of years ago.

barvasfiend said...

Yay for Salma Hayek! You've read it right as far as I can see - people are uncomfortable with the sexual/mothering thing represented by breastfeeding. Bugger them. It's tragic this is in a magazine though.

Azlemed said...

this week i will reach a year of breastfeeding for the first time. (i fed my daughters to 10 months and 11 months) i am very proud of myself but am also very aware of the comments about weaning him soon... i actually arent planning on weaning him anytime soon... i will bring him down to a morning a night feed soon though.

Breastfeeding has a strange place in our society, we are expected to breastfeed, but not expected to like it or continue doing it for too long.

Congrats on still feeding julie its a great achievement.

Deborah said...

Do you remember that book, "Toddler Taming" and its baby counterpart, "Babies!", by Christopher someone-or-other, a paediatrician. Umm... they were actually good, because they are very much in the mode of "try this, try that, or here's something else you could try, and remember that what works for someone else may not work for you and your baby and really, you're doing okay"

When it came to breastfeeding, he recounted a story about a woman who contacted him when he was doing a radio show, worried because people around her were pressuring her to give up breast feeding her toddler. She didn't want to. So he asked her, "Are you happy? Is the baby happy?" And then he added, "If you're both happy, then keep on feeding him until he goes to college, if that's what suits you."

Lots of listeners were offended, of course.

All the "you must wean" stuff is so much part and parcel of controlling women and controlling women's bodies and telling women what they may and may not do. If you're happy, and the baby/toddler/pre-schooler/school kid (even) is happy, then that's all there is too it.

Mkura said...

Yay Selma! Her and her daughter look healthy and happy az. Hope she doesnt listen to the negative press and keeps doin what she wants to do.

"Also, can I ask, has breastfeeding always had this stigma?"

I don't know about Western cultures, but an antenatal tutor told me recently that in many Chinese dynasties potential emperors were breastfed until teenage because the people knew instinctively that babies who are breastfed longer are smarter...

...and we are encouraged by old white men to feed our children formula... god forbid a women should be allowed to feed her child independently of the military-industrial complex, let alone for as long as she sees fit.

I wonder what the tikanga for us Maoris was before the missionaries showed up - Anyone know?

Nikki said...

Oh gosh. Honestly? People can bugger off.

You do what you gotta do with parenting. And breastfeeding is so cheap and easy (well... not always, but ya get what I mean!) and mothers should be able to feed their kids as long as they and the kiddo are comfortable with without the public feeling they have a right to comment negatively. Gah.

Anonymous said...

Hi there. I'm a bit late to this thread but I wanted to say that I breastfeed my child for 14 months and did not get any negative comments. Granted, it was right down to only one feed a day towards the end and in the privacy of my home, but still. I think it depends what kind of people you surround yourself with. Of course, public people/celebs get the worse end of peoples' opinions.

Lucyna Maria said...

Err, 14 months is still really young to wean a child.