A balding, middle-aged man said something dumb about breastfeeding on TV last week.
Furious mums turned out in the force outside Channel 7’s studios in Martin Place, juggling bubs on their chests. As is their right.
But while this was happening, there was another protest underway.
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It’s a little known fact that you don’t actually need to be a so-called dinosaur to attract the ire of Motherhood Inc. Breaching their strict codes is not a crime restricted to middle-aged men, with lactating young women regularly convicted too.
You occasionally rely upon formula? Bad mummy. Your baby sometimes uses a dummy? Bad mummy. Your children attend childcare just so that you can pursue your selfish desire to work? Bad, bad, bad mummy.
You joke about caesareans? That’s a double offence (one for being “too posh to push” and the second for refusing to feel violated and less of a “real” mother for doing so).
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Australian women should be able to breastfeed anywhere at anytime. Are we clear on that? Anywhere, anytime. And the Australian public should be overwhelmingly supportive and respect that right of nursing mothers.
But, and call me a dinosaur, that respect is a two-way street. Nursing mothers also need to be aware of the sensitivities of breastfeeding in public and return that respect by, when appropriate, being discreet and modest.
Whether they be generational, cultural or religious sensitivities, some people in the community are just not comfortable with uncovered breastfeeding. It’s a very emotional issue, and the Koch family certainly isn’t immune.
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I was an aggressive breast feeder. Occasionally when we were out, if my wife raised a concern about being a tad public with getting the boobies out, I told her to go ahead and do it.
If anyone had a problem, they’d have to deal with me. So whenever my baby daughter fed in public, I was like a traffic cop with a radar gun on a lonely highway, just praying for someone to break the law so I could spring into action.
No ever did have a problem with it though. Or if they did, they didn’t raise it directly with us. Probably they didn’t care, or perhaps they noticed my state of anti-breastfeeding alertness and decided it wasn’t worth the trouble.
So we’re at war. Mums everywhere, online, on the radio, in the sand pit. Judging each other for the choices we make as parents. Putting each other down to sooth our own insecurities. Driving ourselves to competitive distraction.
If you believe TIME, and the reaction to it, we’re in the trenches and the enemy is other mothers who do things differently.
Only, we’re not… Because behind the controversy whipped up by so-called parenting experts, the media commentators and the shock jocks, ordinary parents are just getting on with the job of parenting.
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This is the latest TIME magazine cover which hit American news stands yesterday.
It’s a picture of 26 year old mum, Jamie Lynne Grumet of Los Angeles, breastfeeding her three year old son, Aram.
Grumet believes breastfeeding a child this old is “biologically normal” and has posted several pictures of herself breastfeeding Aram on her blog.
It’s caused a storm in America and you can read all about that here.
And check out this news.com.au story - some experts say breastfeeding up to seven years is ‘natural’.
There’s plenty to say on this issue. One Puncher’s first reaction was concern for the child when he grows up and how much he’ll be teased at school.
What’s your gut reaction? Eeww, or whatever?
Follow The Punch on Twitter: @thepunchhq
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I can feel the prod of pitchforks, the heat of flaming torches and suction of rampant breast pumps to nether regions already, but here goes.
A. I am no prude, and
B. I’m not a woman, so
C. I’ve never had a baby (Where’s the fetus going to gestate? You going to keep it in a box?”) So obviously therefore,
D. I’ve never breastfed.
There. A few disclaimers to hopefully delay said prodding, heat and suction. I understand the evolutionary purpose of breasts, that they shouldn’t be sexualized, I get the whole feeding is natural, women shouldn’t be ashamed, blah blah, I get and concur with all of that.
What I don’t get and strongly un-concur with is why a woman would choose to graphically breastfeed her baby in a crowded city café at lunchtime (ours as well as the baby’s apparently).
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The Facebook ban on photographs of women breastfeeding their own children raises some important issues about freedom of choice and the role of social media in setting behavioural standards.
There is no valid reason for any social media network to ban legitimate pictures posted by women of themselves breastfeeding their own children.
Such pictures can help normalise breastfeeding and educate others about how breastfeeding is done in real life.
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Four friends were dining over lunch in a swish Adelaide restaurant last weekend when a woman at the next table pulled out her chair and proceeded to change her baby’s nappy on the floor.
Can you believe that? The four friends couldn’t. They were so stunned they decided to phone The Sunday Mail.
“It was just so unhygienic and inappropriate,” said one. “Luckily it was only a wet nappy – imagine if it had been really messy.”
No thanks, ladies. Might put me off my own lunch. But talk about taking the new mums’ cause back 20 years.
How can a new, first-time parent feel any sort of confidence? Seriously, after being told time and time again that exclusive breastfeeding until six months of age is the best thing for our babies’ health, we now hear that maybe those recommendations are putting children at risk of other health worries. Just maybe. If you’ve recently had a baby, you know the pressure to breastfeed.
The stress placed on new mums to get their babies on the boob, and keep them there until they are at least six months of age, can be pretty overwhelming in those first few months. Especially if breastfeeding is not going so well for you. In fact, the pressure is so great that most new mums either persevere, or give up and are wracked with guilt.
So when stories like these are released questioning the advice we are given in those early weeks of parenthood, we’re left wondering who and what are we meant to listen to? Especially when the official government response is they will review the national breastfeeding guidelines later this year. Great! What if your baby is past that stage by then? What if you have a seemingly hungry four-month-old baby now, and want to know what to do?
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Dear Jackie O, what a bugger of a week!
Did you have time to read the Sunday newspaper between changing nappies, feeding your baby, changing another nappy, washing up bottles, having a shower, changing another nappy, eating some Weetbix, getting ready for work and cutting your baby’s fingernails?
I hope you did. The message was clear. Most women want you to know – you’re a good mother.
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So, radio personality Jackie O crossed a quiet, leafy, Double Bay pedestrian crossing while bottle-feeding her six-week-old daughter and made the mistake of being photographed.
Mothercraft and Nannies director, Jenni Waldron, tut-tutted in the Daily Telegraph that “it would be best to sit comfortably in a chair and hold your baby correctly while feeding”. She was probably caught off guard too.
Jackie felt compelled to explain herself on air: ‘I was running late and Kitty was screaming…’. Yes. I feel like doing that myself when I read stories like this.
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What is it about the fanaticism of the breastfeeding lobby? Why do they fixate so intently on this tiny aspect of childrearing?
Wouldn’t they do better to divert some of their energy to shouting about child protection? Housing for kids in low-income families? Water safety, perhaps?
Aren’t there dozens more pressing children’s issues where they could better channel their blusterings?
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“It’s just like feeding your baby McDonald’s.’’ This was the blunt, uncaring and highly inappropriate comment made by a breastfeeding advocate to a friend who dared to confess she was considering giving her baby a bottle of formula.
The new mum had been through weeks of torture, suffering several bouts of mastitis and dealing with a son whose gummy bite was more brutal than Jaws and whose insatiable hunger was not dissimilar to the killer shark.
She had given breastfeeding her very best shot, but it was not working and, after six weeks, she and her son spent most of their days, and nights, in tears.
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Frown on me. Put me in the corner, stone me or just hang me: I chose not to breastfeed.
I am a bad mother.
I put my own needs before those of my child. Put me in the same category as a woman who smoked during pregnancy while she sank a schooner (or three) each day after work, laughing ‘this isn’t a beer gut! It’s my unborn child!’
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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.)
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The breastfeeding debate has reared its controversial head again with news that the NSW public service had granted new mums 60 minutes per day, over and above their allocated meal breaks, to breastfeed or express milk in a private room furnished with a refrigerator for their exclusive use.
It is hoped this measure will result in increased breastfeeding rates and allow women to continue providing their child with the optimal start in life after returning to work.
It would be wonderful if such well intentioned initiatives had the desired impact but sadly they are destined to fail as they do not address what is at the core of Australia’s deplorable breastfeeding rates; the selfishness of mothers.
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