No I’m not talking about the oxytocin release nor am I talking about skin to skin contact.
Gabrielle Palmer in her groundbreaking masterpiece “The Politics of Breastfeeding” pointed out a crude yet effective equivalence between learning to breastfeed and losing your virginity. For those of you who haven’t read the book (what are you thinking??) I have reproduced the paragraph:
“Imagine a young man making his first attempt at sexual penetration. Ask him to set about a project in a special sex centre where there are ‘experts’ he has never met before, ready to supervise and tell him how it ought to be done. Presume that his partner is as inexperienced as himself, and that he is asked if he is going to ‘try and achieve an erection’. When he starts, a busy ‘expert’, who may never have personally experienced sexual relations, starts telling him how to do it and inspects his body with a critical expression, prodding him and his partner in an insensitive manner. By the bed is an artificial penis, put there, as the young man is told, ‘just in case you can’t manage it’.”
Aside from its effectiveness at helping men envisage the plight of new mums, this dialogue raises several interesting breastfeeding questions. Are hospitals the best place to give birth and learn to suckle? Should we banish the discourse of “try”? Should all breastfeeding counsellors be required to have successfully breastfed themselves? Should breastfeeding support involve the health worker physically touching the mother or her baby? Should formula be banned from the postnatal ward? I’d be interested to hear your thoughts on these enquiries.
In the meantime, if any of these scenarios ring true to you, pop over to my article: “Top 10 Breastfeeding Boobie Traps” to discover how it’s not just the hospital environment and its staff that sabotage breastfeeding. The prime saboteurs are closer to home than you think. One may even have given birth to you.