Tag Archives: lactivist

Cover girls, June 2006

June 2006 was an interesting month for magazine covers. We saw this one:

Cosmo June 2006

Cosmo June 2006

Now as far as Cosmopolitan goes, this ain’t all that racy. But there’s definitely some boob, and those pants are very low riding. And not very long. And sorta see-through.
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Then, there was Harper’s Bazaar:
Harpers Bazaar June 2006

Harper's Bazaar June 2006

This wasn’t long before the trainwreck heard ’round the world. But she’s obviously pregnant. And obviously happy (or manic, as it were). And obviously, glaringly naked. I’m not quite sure how we’re managing not to see nipple on this, in all honesty.
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And this one:
People June 2006

People June 2006

There’s Angelina Jolie, gorgeous as always. And Brad Pitt, gorgeous as always. And a cute baby, who is destined to be either a gorgeous mega-superstar or a meth addict. Heck, maybe both. But back to the picture. It’s sweet, it’s innocent…. but what’s that?! You can sort of see Angelina’s bra straps… and that’s a NURSING BRA! Neat.
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Lastly, there was this one, which came out a couple months later:
babytalk June 2006

babytalk August 2006

Out of all these covers… this is the one I remember best. Not because the image is so incredibly striking, although there is definitely an intimacy to it that I like. I remember this cover the best because people went off the freakin’ deep end because of it. It was indecent, it was gross, it was offensive. This simple picture, of a baby doing what’s it’s supposed to do, sent people into hysterics. We can quibble over the square yardage, but really I don’t see much difference in the boobage exposed here vs. in the Britney cover. Now, I know there are lots of people around who’d gouge their own eyes out with a knitting needle if they happened to witness the abhorrence that is breastfeeding in public. I really don’t get it, but whatever. But man, did this cover make those people ooze out of the woodwork to vociferously vocalize their objection and disdain of this cover. It simply blew my mind.
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All this comes to mind because the new issue of “W” magazine is supposed to feature pictures of Angelina Jolie taken by Brad Pitt, and at least one of the pictures is of her nursing at least one of her twins. I was reading an AP article that recalled her nursing bra strap showing picture on the People cover and how it “caused a stir”. I know it fueled a few conversations, as I was privy to at least a couple of them, but a stir? Really? Over a bra strap? Isn’t “causing a stir” like causing a controversy? Was her bra strap, and her implicit endorsement of breastfeeding really controversial, given that every health agency from here to China advocates breastfeeding as the best way to feed a baby? Anyway, I digress. “W” is coming out with Angelina breastfeeding on the cover, and I’m very curious to see what the reaction will be. Will she be labeled a “lactivist” who wants to shove her breastfeeding in everyone’s face… or is that label only saved for us more normal, homely looking moms? Will she be lauded for being so open about breastfeeding, and praised for her open advocacy? Will my blog get more and more hits for people searching for husbands breastfeeding? I’m guessing all of the above. One thing certainly accomplished — I’d never heard of “W” magazine before reading the article on CNN.

Enabling the Mommy Milk

I’m a breastfeeder.  I’ve had two kids, so far, and they have both been happy to partake in the milk a great deal.  For reasons too numerous to count or list out, I like breastfeeding, they like breastfeeding, and it works for us.

I wouldn’t call myself a ‘lactivist’ or that awful term ‘breastfeeding nazi’.  I do like to advocate breastfeeding and encourage those near and dear to try it.  I recommend books.  I’ve let a couple friends watch me breastfeed.  I’m open about my own experiences – the troubles I’ve had, how much I’ve enjoyed it, good comeback lines when faced with stupid people.  I hope I’ve helped where there have been successes, and I’m very happy for the people I know who have successfully breastfed their children.

And unlike the ‘nazis’ out there, I don’t think formula is evil.  I think it’s stupid that it’s called formula — I’d love to see a truth-in-advertising law passed that made the formula companies call their product “artificial human milk” since that’s what it is.  But many women cannot breastfeed, due to medical, physical or emotional issues.  Many women get bad breastfeeding information which creates insurmountable hurdles in the breastfeeding relationship.  Some babies just cannot latch well and get the food they need from a breast.  There are zillions of pumps available, but the best pump in the world simply cannot maintain a milk supply as well as a baby, so for most women it is really impossible to exclusively pump for long.  Plus, pumping sucks.  I’ve had to do it when I worked full-time, and it sucks.  It takes a ton of time, it’s impersonal and weird and awkward and messy and just ugh.  Plus there’s the situations where there simply isn’t a lactating mother around.  A lactating mother dies or is imprisoned.  A baby is adopted.  Mom gets sick with cancer or something else awful and has to take meds that are incompatible with breastfeeding.  So, for these and a bunch other reasons, formula comes in very handy.

And yes, someone more militant than me could come along and refute everything in that last paragraph.  I could refute a lot of it.  But at the same time, I simply can’t pretend to know what it’s like to have a baby that refuses to latch, or to have been sexually assaulted and to hate my own body so much I cannot get comfortable letting a baby nurse from my own breasts.  So to any breastfeeding advocate who would take such an insensitive position, screw off.  You’re not wanted here.

That said…

I know someone who just had a baby.  Actually, she’s a very dear friend.  She tried breastfeeding, ran into some minor issues (most women do) and I guess decided it wasn’t for her, and soon enough the baby was on formula.  It’s not unexpected – she was never very committed to the idea of breastfeeding, and her older sister, who is very much a role model for her, did not breastfeed her daughter for long.  I’ve had to spend some time figuring out how I feel about it.  Am I disappointed in her?  Do I think she didn’t try enough?  Do I think she should have tried harder?

Really, I guess I don’t feel much of anything about it.  The breastfeeding relationship I have with my kids is super special, I love the intimacy and closeness it provides, and I hope for my friend that even absent that aspect of her mother/daughter relationship, she’ll find ways to achieve that closeness and intimacy.  I am a little disappointed, I guess.  Formula is a perfectly adequate food for most babies, but the reality is that breastmilk is superior, I can’t ignore that, which I guess where the disappointment comes from.  But, I hope my friend’s baby will be one of those that her mother can say, “Well, she was formula fed and she doesn’t have a smidge of a health issue.”  I am also just a little worried that the baby will have a health issue, and that my friend will question herself or have guilt because of it, wondering if it would have not happened if she’d breastfed.  I don’t want my friend to feel guilty.  I want her to spend every ounce of her mothering energy loving her gorgeous daughter.