I’ve just stopped breastfeeding. My son is eight months old.
I know some of you have chosen to breastfeed shorter, longer, or not at all. I know some of you would have like to but couldn’t. I won’t enter the debate. There shouldn’t even be a debate, actually. We own our bodies. It took long for women to win this right. To breastfeed is a very peculiar thing, so I completely understand these ones who don’t want to. Don’t let other people make you feel guilty!
On the other side, the (otherwise interesting) book by French philosopher Elisabeth Badinter, The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, has recently blamed breastfeeding mothers for being anti-feminist. Again: don’t let other people make you feel guilty either!
I respect… no, I even understand all these choices. All are honorable. It’s your body. It’s your decision. My point here is to talk about my own breastfeeding experience, especially in a geek perspective.
I was lucky: no sore nipples after the first few days, a baby with a strong appetite, ready to absorb anything from breast to bottle and solid food, a few friends able to help me when I wondered about breastfeeding rhythm. I enjoyed breastfeeding very much. However, it was the strangest experience in my life.
As geeks, we usually relate to the world in quite an intellectual way. Breastfeeding has nothing intellectual. Breastfeeding reminds you you’re an animal. No matter how complex, how civilized, how knowledgeable you are. Suddenly you’re an animal. A mammal.
Did you know it was Linnaeus, in the eighteenth century, who
renamed the category ‘quadrupedia’ (four footed) in ‘mammalia’ (mammals)? With this act he made the lactating female breast the icon of this class of animals in which humans were classified.
(according to Wikipedia’s History of breastfeeding).
So we’re mammals. We knew it, of course. We’re good girls who seriously followed their biology classes. But we never felt it. We never experienced it.
The pregnancy was a beginning, of course. When you’re crying for no reason, dropping objects, sleeping eleven hours a night, then almost none, and so on. All these things reminded us how… chemical we are.
But breastfeeding goes farther. You produce milk. Yes, like cows. Sometimes you express your milk with some (creepy) device. Still like cows. If you skip one or two feeds, you’re suddenly very uncomfortable. You feel a real empathy for poor cows waiting too long for their milking. Don’t laugh. I really did. Even worse: when you produce a lot of milk and carefully range the bottles of expressed milk in your fridge, you feel proud. Even stranger: when the baby cries, you experience a milk surge.
Such animal things may scare, or disgust, or simply displease some of you. I understand. For me, it was a great lesson. Perhaps the greatest I ever received. Because it should have displeased me, being what I am, and it didn’t.
Of course, I’ll stay this very intellect-centered person. But I hope I’ll remember these eight months as the time I become fully aware of our origins.
Bonus: since I’m still a geek, I cannot resist ending on a lighter note, with a few geek things about breastfeeding.
- A gadget: The breastfeeding pillow “My Brest Friend.” It’s not a gadget, actually, but the most useful tool I possessed for my nursing months. You can move, or even stand up, and the baby is still perfectly in position. It even has a pocket for your smartphone. And it frees your hands (at least if your baby’s a quiet one) so you can read or browse the internet on your tablet while breastfeeding. A must-have!
- An (official) complain: Hello, ThinkGeek, where are geeky breastfeeding shirts? You offer some maternity shirts, but we’d really appreciate some funny nursing ones. The closest one I found on the Web was this “I Make Milk, What’s Your Superpower?” t-shirt.
- Some trivia: Did you know why babies have these lovely round cheeks? No? Neither did I before the bit of research I did for this post. It’s because of Bichat‘s fat pads, which help babies to make vacuum in their mouths when they’re feeding. In short: that’s not only to look cute, but to suck more efficiently.
- A (literary) regret: Fantasy literature makes little use of breastfeeding’s magic. However, “Mother’s milk was considered a miracle fluid which could cure people and give wisdom. The mythical figure Philosophia-Sapientia, the personification of wisdom, suckled philosophers at her breast and by this way they absorbed wisdom and moral virtue.” (Still Wikipedia’s History of breastfeeding.) Human milk could easily figure on a list of magical ingredients. I even imagine a fantasy story whose heroine would be a wet nurse.