Disclaimer: This post has nothing at all to do with bilingualism. I may or may not actually mail this letter to the newspaper. But it sure feels good to put it in writing.
To the five ignorant, juvenile, and rude men sitting at the table next to me at lunch when I had hoped to eat a rare meal in peace all by myself today:
As the nursing mother of a 23-month-old child, I would like to express my sympathy for your wives, your girlfriends, and your children, based on the comments you made about breastfeeding in voices loud enough to carry throughout the restaurant. You were probably just trying to make each other laugh--you have probably already forgotten about the lady sitting alone with her Oprah magazine who sent you dirty looks and finally asked the waiter if she could move to a different, faraway table--but your comments were were so appalling--and offensive--and inaccurate--that I feel compelled to address them here.
First, let me summarize your discussion for our readers: according to your group, breastfeeding can be appropriate for a while, until the child is 9 months old or so, or until the mother has had a second child, which should occur around that same time. (I believe several of you use the word "breeding" here and another makes analogies to "horses." I'm suprised that you're not comparing penis size and sperm count right here over your chicken curry and saag paneer.) While you concede that mothers' milk brings with it some positive effects, like strengthening the baby's immune system and increasing the child's intelligence, this "peaks when the kid is nine months old." Some mothers stop nursing when their babies' teeth grow in; the thought of babies biting breasts is apparently very amusing! If the child is old enough to convey to his mother that he would like to nurse, he is clearly too old to be allowed to do so. On the other hand, the majority of you would like to be able to turn to your wives or girlfriends in the grocery store and ask to suck on their breasts. Most of you find this hilarious, until a colleague points out that you wouldn't want to do this to your own mothers. Another insightful man emphatically states that Anna Nicole Smith's extended nursing of her son (according to you, until he was six years old) caused the death of both of them. Imagine that!
Please permit me to address your thoughtless comments? First of all, the American Academy of Pediatrics prefers that babies be exclusively breast-fed until the age of six months. They recommend that mothers continue nursing until the child is at least one year old; the World Health Organization recommends that children nurse until age two.
Neither the AAP nor the WHO cites any examples of breastfeeding causing death for mother and child.
As for the humor of being bitten while nursing: please imagine pointy little baby teeth jabbing themselves with enough force to draw blood. Jabbing into your scrotum or penis or other particularly tender area. Repeat several times a day for several weeks. Still funny?
Nursing a child is not about giving women the opportunity to titillate you by exposing their breasts at home, at parties, on airplanes, or in public. Not even Anna Nicole Smith's breasts.
Nor, often, is nursing a child easy. It is a complex biomechanical process that rarely comes naturally to babies and new mothers, but one which brings with it so many benefits that we're willing to struggle through the pain, the frustrations, the awkward positioning, the infections, the clogged milk ducts, the twice-nightly feedings, the dehumanizing breast pump, the trickiness of expressing breast milk at work and at conferences and while traveling without privacy, the continued months of attention to what we eat and drink, the months of not taking medication because it will appear in the breast milk, and more.
My son now only nurses briefly right before bedtime. He no longer drags the Boppy into the hallway when he hears me come home from work. He hardly ever asks for "lolo" any more--and that was one of his first words! In almost two years, my son has rarely been sick. He seems exceptionally bright--his pediatrician said his language development at age 18 months was "amazing"--and he is very loving. My husband and I can't help but think that his being breastfed enhanced all this.
And I can't help but think about the women who are unable to nurse their children--like those who go back to work or school after the baby is born and whose bosses refuse to make accomodations for pumping. Those without the resources or time or money to find doctors, midwives, doulas, lactation consultants, or breastfeeding support groups who could help them figure out how to make it work. Those who have chosen to adopt children and who simply can't make milk flow despite how much they wish they could. Those living with physical diseases, mental illnesses, and other situations that make nursing inadvisable or impossible. And those like my dear friend Kelly, who had a double mastectomy several days after being diagnosed with breast cancer and whose baby screamed wretchedly when presented with formula. For weeks.
So to you, you five smug men without children who see women and their ta-tas as your property, I say you need to fall on your knees in gratitude to your mothers who welcomed your hungry little mouths and your pointy little teeth to their aching breasts when it would have been a lot easier to pour some formula in a bottle and go take a nap. Go say "thank you" to your mamas. And if your wives and girlfriends ever have children, just shut up. Support these new mothers no matter what. Whether they breastfeed or not. And try to feel a little ashamed about the days when you bachelors joked about how you were studly enough to get a woman pregnant whenever you felt like it; and about the days when you got hard-ons ogling women who nursed in public as discreetly as possible; and about the days when you made uninformed pronouncements about how long babies should nurse. Go on, try it now.
I make milk. What's your superpower?
PS: No, I'm not on the rag this week.