Breast form of attack: the stupid war between women
I’m sick and tired of women turning on each other. Why do we do this to ourselves?
I don’t expect all of us to sit around singing Kumbayah.But surely a little bit of support from the Sisterhood isn’t out of the question.
The latest example of sororicide is the story entitled ‘Breastfeeding, it’s not about choice’, written for The Punch by Rita Panahai. Ms. Panahai contends that Australia has deplorable rates of breastfeeding because mothers are selfish. (I’d always thought was an oxymoron.)
What’s worse, she blames poor mothers: “Breastfeeding rates are highest among educated and wealthy women whilst they are lowest amongst the socio-economically disadvantaged.”
While I’ll forgive the use of ‘whilst’ as a desperate bid by the author to make her attack appear highbrow, I cannot forgive her for these bald-faced, discompassionate, incorrect statements.
There are many, valid reasons why only 14 percent of Aussie mums breastfeed their children for recommended first six months.
First is our inadequate public hospital system. Most women who give birth naturally are discharged from hospital after two days, before their milk has come in.
(My sister was sent home 36 hours after pushing her uterus inside out during the traumatic birth of her first baby. She spent the next two weeks severely depressed, trying to force her starving, screaming child onto breasts that, for whatever reason, would not produce enough milk. It was heartbreaking.)
In days gone by, girls would watch their mothers and aunties breastfeed, picking up tips on the way. But over the years, it has become an activity cloaked in secrecy.It comes as an awful shock to most of us when the baby first latches on.
During the eight-week prenatal classes, six are devoted to giving birth, one to parenting and only one to the difficult, painful but wonderful experience that is breastfeeding.
On those first, crucial days after the birth, women need help, support and guidance from a midwife or lactation consultant.
Instead, most are left to struggle on their own, through a haze of sleeplessness, stabbing pain and – you guessed it – guilt.
I suffered five bouts of mastitis before getting the hang of it. Blessedly, I went on to breastfeed my two children for nine months.
They were some of the happiest moments of my life. But I was one of the lucky ones.
Women unable to breastfeed for a number of reasons – inverted nipples, insufficient milk supply, tongue-tie, psychological problems – are often devastated.
Many feel like they’ve failed.
The bottle is a last resort; welcome relief for a hungry baby crying out for nourishment.
Personally, I don’t know anyone who actively chose the bottle for selfish reasons.
For career women, it’s even tougher.
Few workplaces have facilities to support breastfeeding mothers.
Some women battle on, expressing milk in the staff toilets and hiding it in the fridge in a brown paper bag between the sandwiches.
I remember sneaking around the corridors with the bottle of breast milk hidden under my jacket, until I was safely near a fridge where I could shove it, shamefully, to the back.
The announcement last week that the NSW public service had granted new mums 60 minutes per day to breastfeed or express milk in a private room with a refrigerator should have been greeted with rousing applause.
Instead, it prompted Ms. Panahai to write an article, vilifying women who are unable to breastfeed.
And, in the comments section, dozens of women snipe at each other for the choices they have made.
Breast versus bottle. Stay-at-home mums versus career women.
It’s like a bad movie. When will it end?
I was reminded of this while reading a feature story on ABC newsreader Juanita Phillips’ terrific new book, A Pressure Cooker Saved My Life.
A female columnist for the Sydney Morning Herald accused her of extolling the torture and misery of motherhood, while deriding enthusiastic parenting. Her book does nothing of the sort.
In this well-researched tome, Phillips explores the enormous challenges facing us all, trying to juggle work and family.
Of the criticism, she says “Women attacking women – with men on the sidelines enjoying the spectacle, absolved of all responsibility – trivialises a serious issue that affects everyone”.
It’s the same battle faced by Chris Bath in her successful bid to read Channel 7’s prime time news bulletin, solo. Any negative viewer feedback inevitably came from women, who didn’t like her hair/clothes/make-up. It’s the same story in talkback radio, where female commentators are criticised by older women listeners for daring to question the views of their male co-hosts.
So, I’m issuing a call for détente. How about we stop beating each other up, and try a little kindness instead?
- Tracey Spicer is hosting 2UE’s Morning Show with Stuart Bocking for the next fortnight.
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