This past week was National Breastfeeding Awareness Week in the US. So many people have been making posts and references to this that it got me to thinking about the dichotomy of my two experiences in breastfeeding.
When Mikayla was born, over four years ago, we were living in the states and I was working full time. This meant that I got a couple months off of work to stay home with her, establish our routine and then head back to work. At work I spent everyday in my kindergarten bathroom pumping milk for my daughter while my students were at recess. Not ideal, but I wanted what was best for my daughter. We had lots of struggles and ups and downs (you can read about them here if interested), but we survived and nursed for a good 15 months or so before weaning.
Fast forward to today. I have a one month old son, live in Africa and stay at home with my kids. This means I can nurse around the clock (and we do, he is a hungry boy) and I don’t have to pump! So far we have not had any major struggles, but he does want to nurse all the time (like every two hours on average).
Nursing in Africa is quite different from nursing in the US. In Swaziland, nursing is the norm and it happens anywhere and everywhere – on busses, in meetings, on the side of the road, in stores, in restaurants, walking in the bush. You name it and it happens there. In the US, while a lot of women nurse their children, it is still considered taboo to nurse in some public places (although it isn’t against the law). With Mikayla I began by being shy about nursing, afraid to nurse in public without a nursing wrap, and often nursing in my car rather than in a public place. (Towards the end I gave up the nursing wrap and would nurse her wherever we were). I remember one time I had gone on a hike with some friends and she got hungry so I sat down to nurse her. I had forgotten my wrap so I just nursed in the open. The looks I got from other people made me feel ashamed for feeding my child.
In Swaziland that would never happen. People here don’t even seem to take notice of women when they are nursing. It is just a regular part of everyday life. This time around I am willing to nurse Max anywhere he gets hungry. For example, the other day I had run into a drug store with him and he was screaming and crying, obviously hungry. The line was really long, but I really needed to purchase the items in my basket. What was a mom to do? I nursed him while standing in line, without a cover and the whole time felt completely natural and unashamed about it. Had this situation taken place in the US I would have probably forgone my basket items and headed to the car to nurse him because I didn’t want to have to defend my right to feed him in a public place. (I read an interesting and humorous defense for breastfeeding in public here). Is either situation ideal or right? I am not sure, but what I do know is that nursing here is a much more laid back part of everyday life and I love it!
In a lot of situations Swaziland is stuck in the past, but when it comes to nursing they are on the cutting edge. They have it figured out and aren’t ashamed to feed their children in the most natural way possible – breastfeeding. In one of our first few months in Swaziland Ben had a conversation with a staff member about breasts. Ben said something along the lines that in the US women wanted larger breasts and the larger the better. The staff member seemed a little confused and wondered if larger breasts meant more milk was being produced. He did not see anything sexual about breasts, instead they were a tool used to feed his family. To most Americans this is a foreign concept because breasts have become so sexualized.
Even Mikayla is getting in on the breastfeeding action by feeding her baby while I feed Max.
For the past week I have just been thinking about how different the two worlds are when it comes to breastfeeding and wanted to share my thoughts. I find it very interesting. I am going to end this post with a little poem I stumbled across this week. It is written tongue in cheek in Dr. Seuss fashion and I just think it is cute.
Dr. Seuss for Nursing Moms
Would you nurse her in the park?
Would you nurse him in the dark?
Would you nurse him with a Boppy?
And when your boobs are feeling floppy?
I would nurse him in the park,
I would nurse her in the dark.
I’d nurse with or without a Boppy.Floppy
boobs will never stop me.
Can you nurse with your seat belt on?
Can you nurse from dusk till dawn?
Though she may pinch me, bite me, pull,
I will nurse her `till she’s full!
Can you nurse and make some soup?
Can you nurse and feed the group?
It makes her healthy strong and smart,
Mommy’s milk is the best start!
Would you nurse him at the game?
Would you nurse her in the rain?
In front of those who dare complain?
I would nurse him at the game.I would
nurse her in the rain.
As for those who protest lactation,
I have the perfect explanation.Mommy’s
milk is tailor made
It’s the perfect food, you need no aid.
Some may scoff and some may wriggle,
Avert their eyes or even giggle.
To those who can be cruel and rude,
Remind them breast’s the perfect food!
I would never scoff or giggle,
Roll my eyes or even wiggle!
I would not be so crass or crude,
I KNOW that this milk’s the perfect food!
We make the amount we need
The perfect temp for every feed.There’s
no compare to milk from breast-
The perfect food, above the rest.Those
sweet nursing smiles are oh so sweet,
Mommy’s milk is such a treat.Human milk
just can’t be beat.
I will nurse, in any case,
On the street or in your face.
I will not let my baby cry,
I’ll meet her needs, I’ll always try.It’s not
about what’s good for you,
It’s best for babies, through and through.
I will nurse her in my home,
I will nurse her when I roam.
Leave me be lads and ma’am.
I will nurse her, Mom I am.