Sunday, February 05, 2006

The worst ante-natal video ever

There was a programme on this week which I think was designed to normalise the practice of breastfeeding “older” children (ie above the age of around eighteen months) and raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding across the board. Despite its best intentions, what was broadcast turned out to be yet another example of car-crash journalism, in which the extremes of a viewpoint were paraded for the apparent purpose of bringing out the Daily Mail-reading, true-blue reactionary in most of the population, and making a mockery of what the commissioning editor probably had in mind at the outset. I am a wholehearted proponent of breastfeeding for young babies – the arguments regarding the benefit to the immune system are beyond question and I certainly agree that all new mothers should be encouraged to at least try it. The problem lies with the issue of choice – it’s a subject that can make people positively rabid. A proportion of those who do it themselves can’t resist browbeating anyone who dares feed their baby with formula milk with scaremongering of the highest order. These women are in turn regarded as hairy-armpitted lentil knitters who would happily allow the family goat to suckle a newborn while they got on with weaving some organic yoghurt and making some new sandals for the family out of tree bark and Conservative manifestos. And while the two extremes battle it out the message is lost. Sadly, Channel Four’s offering did more to damage the cause than any amount of armpit hair and patchouli at the mother and baby clinic could have ever achieved.

We were presented with the balanced views of a woman who was still breastfeeding a seven year old, and the mother of a four year old who, by her own admission (and after a great deal of worthy waffling about benefits, and nurture, and bonding), was only continuing to wave her breasts in his face in order that she might breastfeed the Chinese baby she and her husband were in the process of adopting. The whole thing was more than slightly uncomfortable viewing, and I personally think that anyone who lets a child of almost eight have an “early morning feed” has psychological needs that far outweigh the physical needs of the child itself. This woman was the mother of two girls ands while I have no doubt that she loves her daughters she seemed oblivious to the frankly odd attitude of the girls who (the eldest was breastfed until the age of five and was openly jealous at her youngest sisters continued access to “boobie”) said they couldn’t wait to enter puberty and grow breasts themselves because “then (I) can suck them”. Brr. Oh, and when she had her second child she asked her mother to breastfeed her due to "birth complications". You're not telling me that's anyone's idea of normal. Sorry.

However, the one that I really couldn’t cope with was the prospective adoptive parent. She and her husband (along with said four year old) had traveled to China to complete the adoption process which would allow them to become the parents of an eighteen month old girl. This child had been abandoned at a very young age and brought up in a state orphanage for over a year. I applaud anyone prepared to take on the bureaucracy involved in adopting a child from another country. It’s admirable, and selfless, and all of that. What I struggled with, mind you, was this woman’s consistent, disturbing efforts to persuade an already-weaned virtual stranger (albeit an eighteen-month-old one) to suckle from her breasts. It made me want to hide behind the sofa. Hell, it made me want to ring the Chinese embassy in search of a plea for clemency for the poor child. It was beyond belief. As a small girl watched in abject bewilderment, a woman she’d presumably only ever seen about three times before variously fed her from a breast shaped bottle, squeezed breast milk into a spoon and coerced her into drinking it, and sort of grabbed the back of her head and proffered a nipple while a blank-faced four year old chowed down on the other breast. Um, could things be any more confusing? The mother did a lot of high-flown justification about antibodies, and nurture, and all that, but I personally couldn’t help but feel that it had an awful lot more to do with the benefits to herself (on what level I wouldn’t even begin to want to speculate) than those to the child.

Let me reiterate – in my opinion breast is best, if it’s best for all concerned. If it works or has worked for you then that’s a good thing. If it didn’t, then whatever you did was the best thing in your own personal circumstances. I just don’t see how effectively wanting to send a child’s development into reverse for your own peace of mind is doing the best thing for that child.

And don’t even get me started on the programme about giant cocks that was on later that evening.

11 Comments:

Blogger Betty chimed in with...

The issue was being discussed on Richard and Judy's show the other day. Richard asked one of the women if the fact she was still breastfeeding her six year old was reminiscent of the character on Little Britain who asks for "bitty".

"I can't really say because we don't have television in the house" she said.

"You know, I KNEW you were going to say that" replied Richard.

R. Madeley, One, self righteous middle class nutter, Nil.

05 February, 2006 19:05  
Blogger Kyahgirl chimed in with...

Here, here! Breast is best if you can do it but fer gawd's sake...eight years old? What is THAT about?

And the adopter ....I'd be right there behind the couch with you.

oh look, word verification today is u yowl. How appropriate!

05 February, 2006 19:27  
Blogger Spinsterella chimed in with...

Now, I realise that as a confirmed spinster this isn't really a subject I'm allowed to have an opinion about...but, as far as I was aware the first three months are the most important, with antibodies and all that?

When is that almost-eight-year-old planning on stopping? At ten? At puberty? Never??

05 February, 2006 19:50  
Blogger mig bardsley chimed in with...

I'm completely in agreement that if breast works for mum and baby it's brilliant. If it doesn't work it can be hell! (personally, I loved breast feeding but I know people who couldn't or whose babies wouldn't and I would never condemn an unwilling mum or baby to keep struggling...after all breast is very good but food is essential!)
Those other weirdos are into some other game and it strikes me as bordering on abuse.

05 February, 2006 20:23  
Blogger Meegan chimed in with...

Apparently some parents want to turn their children into the laughingstock of the school. This is very disturbing!

05 February, 2006 20:26  
Blogger surly girl chimed in with...

mig - i think that's what disturbed me about the adoptive mum. maybe if the child had been younger (and not weaned) it wouldn't have looked so odd, but it was the constant commentary of "another attempt proved fruitless...." and the woman gabbling "look, look! she looked at my breast! she touched it!" that really freaked me out. i too was pleased to have breastfed (even if only for a little while), but i felt that this programme was irresponsible and sensationalist and certainly didn't further the cause.

and meegan - i agree! those girls were drawing pictures of breasts and talked of nothing else. can you imagine the response in the playground??!

05 February, 2006 20:32  
Blogger suburban wonder chimed in with...

Eeeeeeuuuuuuuw! I nursed my daughter until she was 11 months old and started biting. That was it. Done. I can't imagine nursing a 7 year old. Sorry for the judgment here, but that's wrong.

05 February, 2006 22:44  
Blogger First Nations chimed in with...

i didn't-bitty amazon wanted nothing to do with my brand; i think she expected chocolate. grown amazon breast fed the gooneybird; it was a struggle, but worth it. when he got teeth, she stopped. ignore the psychological issues for a moment-imagine what eight years of babyteeth would leave you looking like. the words 'monkey leather' and 'torture' come to mind. OWWWWW.

05 February, 2006 23:14  
Anonymous Kristy chimed in with...

Yeah, when they start talking about "breast feeding your college bound senior" you know someone has gone over the deep end.

On the other hand, what's all this about giant cocks???

06 February, 2006 04:33  
Blogger Urban Chick chimed in with...

i totally agree on all points

i found the woman feeding two year old twins less weird (though it seemed to be inspired by a fear of breast cancer which had blighted her family) but 20 times a day??

i felt so sorry for her older kids who basically never spent any quality time with their mother because she constantly had two toddlers attached to her boobs

i actually felt cross about the woman with the adopted chinese girl

(thank heaven i missed the penis programme)

06 February, 2006 10:32  
Anonymous Whinger chimed in with...

As I have no children, I can only comment on what my own mother used to say:

If the child can lift your shirt, he/she is too old for breastfeeding. It gets very awkward in public.

06 February, 2006 17:37  

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