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Is it the mother or her milk that matters more to her baby?
January 16, 2009 10:08 PM   Subscribe

If Breast is Best, Why Are Women Bottling Their Milk? Jill Lepore's article in the New Yorker explores the rise in the popularity of breast pumps.

Breast pumps allow nursing mothers to express their milk for feeding to their children when, for example, the mother works outside the home or when the baby is born prematurely and must stay in the hospital. Some women pump exclusively for a variety of reasons. Lepore suggests that the rise in the popularity of breast pumps in the United States and the promotion of lactation facilities in the work place is a poor substitute for better maternity leave.
posted by otherwordlyglow (39 comments total) 2 users marked this as a favorite

 
I visited YouTube a few minutes ago, and the first "recommended for you" video was entitled "Breastfeeding Toddlers". I have no idea why the universes seems to think (or know?) that I am so interested in this topic.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 10:52 PM on January 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


a poor substitute for better maternity leave.

The "ideal" time frame for breastfeeding your baby is at least 12 months after birth, if not longer. Personally, I don't want a year long maternity leave.
posted by starfyr at 10:56 PM on January 16, 2009


I visited YouTube a few minutes ago, and the first "recommended for you" video was entitled "Breastfeeding Toddlers".
I get "Fatal Crash Caught on Tape."

I went back to work when my child was 3 months old and breastfed until she was 6 months old. Although I would have loved paid maternity leave for an entire year, (well maybe that's not entirely true. Being a SAHM is really tough work and I'm not sure I could have hacked it for the entire year), I don't think I would breastfed her much longer than what I did and the 6 months that I got was due primarily to the fact that I had a really good pump so I don't really buy Lepore's argument but I think it's an interesting article.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 11:06 PM on January 16, 2009


From the article:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, however, does provide a fact sheet on “What to Do If an Infant or Child Is Mistakenly Fed Another Woman’s Expressed Breast Milk,” which can happen at day-care centers where fridges are full of bags of milk, labelled in smudgeable ink. (The C.D.C. advises that a switch “should be treated just as if an accidental exposure to other bodily fluids had occurred.”)

I looked up the fact sheet, because I forgot why that might be such a big deal- possible exposure to HIV and other communicable diseases.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:10 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


And can I just say, boy, that is not a conversation I'd want to have with someone in a million years- neither the "I gave your baby someone else's breastmilk and may have exposed him/her to HIV" conversation nor the "I gave your breastmilk to someone else's baby and now I have to discuss your HIV status with you in hopes that you'll be willing to tell other people, too".
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


I visited YouTube a few minutes ago, and the first "recommended for you" video was entitled "Breastfeeding Toddlers".
I get "Fatal Crash Caught on Tape."


Ha, I get Berlin's Take My Breath Away ...

[sorry, couldn't resist]
posted by starfyr at 11:12 PM on January 16, 2009


My wife would have gone fucking nuts with a year off.

I don't think that would have improved my daughter's life.
posted by rodgerd at 12:38 AM on January 17, 2009


Crap, man. Most of my siblings breastfed until they were like.. three and a half.
posted by dunkadunc at 12:45 AM on January 17, 2009


Always ensure that your wet nurse can provide evidence of recent testing for BBV's.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 12:59 AM on January 17, 2009


Do women in countries that have better (longer, paid) maternal leave policies breastfeed longer? I can't seem to find any good answers for this.

This article left me cold mainly because it left out the fathers. For those fathers who would like to feed their infants, expressing or pumping breast milk means that a baby could get the best from his/her mother and close, intimate contact with his/her father.

My child's father wanted to be able to feed him almost from the moment we came home from the hospital. By using a pump, I was able to allow them that quiet and special time together and myself the independence to finish school.

The author's title is a misnomer: breastmilk and loving contact is best for infants. How is it that mixed feeding is less than a good?
posted by blessedlyndie at 1:59 AM on January 17, 2009 [9 favorites]


Oh great, one more article to working moms telling us we're doing it wrong. What a unique and helpful article.

Jill Lepore can suck my left tit.
posted by pomegranate at 5:00 AM on January 17, 2009 [15 favorites]


Most of my siblings breastfed until they were like.. three and a half.

Bitty.
posted by pracowity at 5:02 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


At the University of Minnesota, staff with keys can pump their milk at the Expression Connection, but the sign on the door warns: “This room is not intended for mothers who need a space to nurse their babies.”

This is crazy. I'm glad I have an office with a door, so I can either pump or nurse in private (I do both, regularly).
posted by leahwrenn at 5:51 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]



This article left me cold mainly because it left out the fathers. For those fathers who would like to feed their infants, expressing or pumping breast milk means that a baby could get the best from his/her mother and close, intimate contact with his/her father.


Agreed. And also, if a woman doesn't pump, then she is the only person who can feed the baby - not the father, not any babysitters, not any grandparents, etc. This would mean taking the baby everywhere and I'm sure most women would not want to do that. It also means she is the only one who can get up for nighttime feedings, which can interfere with her sleep when the baby is young and needs to be fed all the time.

The history of breastfeeding was interesting but I'm not sure what she was trying to say about pumping in 2009. I'm sure a six-month maternity leave would be more beneficial to both moms and babies alike, but if pumping makes life easier for everyone, especially the mother, I don't see anything wrong with that.
posted by sutel at 5:55 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]




The article plays a little too much into the cult of motherhood.

Also, what sutel said.
posted by computech_apolloniajames at 7:09 AM on January 17, 2009


The "ideal" time frame for breastfeeding your baby is at least 12 months after birth, if not longer. Personally, I don't want a year long maternity leave.

Well, I sure do!

No one should be forced to take a year long maternity leave, but it should be there for those of us who would like the option.
posted by zizzle at 7:28 AM on January 17, 2009


The article plays a little too much into the cult of motherhood.

How so?
posted by gaspode at 7:31 AM on January 17, 2009


What I found absurd about this article was that it didn't get into the real question that it was supposedly exploring: whether you get less "nurture" by the simple act of using a bottle rather than a tit, no matter what the bottle contains.

I don't think there's any evidence that people bottle-feeding babies pay less attention to them than people nursing them. If there is, she didn't present it. Obviously if you prop the baby and don't hold him, that's problematic. But I don't think *anyone* proposes that as a good idea.

Nor do I think anyone is saying that pumping rooms are a substitute for maternity leave. Pumping rooms are what you might call a harm reduction response to America's failure to care about children.
posted by Maias at 7:44 AM on January 17, 2009


I couldn't make myself click on the lick for the jump.

I am so tired of articles that imply, "If you do not breastfeed, you are a bad mother and should feel bad."

And now, we have an article that implies that even if you DO breastfeed, if you don't do it in exactly n way you are a bad mother?

Harrumph.
posted by misha at 7:53 AM on January 17, 2009 [4 favorites]


“Every physician is becoming convinced that the number of mothers able to nurse their own children is decreasing,” one doctor wrote in 1887. Another reported that there was “something wrong with the mammary glands of the mothers in this country.”

Gawd, too bad he didn't live to see 2000 because there is definitely something wrong with the mammary glands of mothers women in this country-- if you believe the movies, TV, and other media they are perfectly round spheres that never age.

My most vivid nursing memory is the time I first left the baby behind (about 2 weeks old) to go out shopping with my mom who wanted to buy me a new dress for an upcoming Mother's Day Tea. When I got home after an hour, my husband thrust a screaming baby in my arms and yelled at me never leave him alone with her again unless I left some milk as well. For him it always boiled down to: Crying baby wants to eat.

This article reminded me a lot of the recent NY Times report on Service Animals. People that were once relegated to staying at home, out of sight (disabled people, nursing mothers) are now mingling with the rest of society and new rules are being proposed to deal with new situations: monkeys in grocery stores and expressed milk mix-ups.
posted by Secret Life of Gravy at 8:28 AM on January 17, 2009


This bit from the article really jumped out at me:

(When did “women’s rights” turn into “the right to work”?)

Yes, Jill Lepore, the feminist movement, with which the phrase "women's rights" is associated, did indeed have as a major goal the equalization of working environments between women and men. It's just one line in a five-page article, but it casts a certain pall over the entire thing.
posted by breath at 8:54 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


I had a colleague who returned from maternity leave (about three months) last year, and she was delighted to be back at work. It wasn't that she didn't love her kid, she said, but that she didn't love being stuck at home with an infant all the time. My workplace is predominately women, and the tradition is that women using a breast pump hang a little sign on the door of the room where they're pumping. The sign is a picture of a cow.
posted by rtha at 9:12 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


I visited YouTube a few minutes ago, and the first "recommended for you" video was entitled "Breastfeeding Toddlers". I have no idea why the universes seems to think (or know?) that I am so interested in this topic.

Because 8 months ago you googled for birth control, and 7 months ago for a pregnancy test. Everything you've ever done... the Google remembers.
posted by Krrrlson at 10:00 AM on January 17, 2009


Oh great...the Nipple Nazi's needed a new front upon which to use their platoons of "You're a horrible mother because you don't follow our rules" war. Hooray.
posted by dejah420 at 10:05 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


rtha:The sign is a picture of a cow.

And if the men of the office need the room for their "private matters" , the other side should be a picture of a chicken with a hand around its throat.
posted by dr_dank at 10:49 AM on January 17, 2009


On the supposed breastfeeding wars, which I keep reading about but have yet to witness: I pumped for 9 months after returning to work -- because it saved a lot of money compared to formula, and compared to NOT WORKING. I appreciate that the women who want to stay home have a voice, and the women who aren't able to nurse have a voice, but who will speak for the stingy? WHO, I SAY?
posted by chesty_a_arthur at 11:02 AM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


And if the men of the office need the room for their "private matters" , the other side should be a picture of a chicken with a hand around its throat.

lol, because taking sum step to feed ur babby and masturbating are the SAME THING, amirite?
posted by piratebowling at 11:39 AM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


The problem is that pumping doesn't use quite the same suction as suckling (babies are much more expert) so that some women can only pump a couple of ounces while baby can extract much more than that, and are obliged to supplement with formula. Not that I want to make anyone feel guilty saying that; God knows I had enough trouble breastfeeding myself, and I know how emotive the issue is. The onus is (as ever) on the EMPLOYER to make it possible for working women to breastfeed whenever it's necessary.
posted by low_horrible_immoral at 12:16 PM on January 17, 2009


The history of breastfeeding was interesting but I'm not sure what she was trying to say about pumping in 2009. I'm sure a six-month maternity leave would be more beneficial to both moms and babies alike, but if pumping makes life easier for everyone, especially the mother, I don't see anything wrong with that.

I don't argue that her thesis seemed to be all over the place. But I didn't think that the intention was to argue that all pumping is bad, and that husbands should never get to participate in feeding their child, and that mothers should be required to latch infant to boob for a solid year.

But there is a trend for a chirpy sort of corporate trend toward "We fixed the problem of women being distracted by their infants by making pumping efficient!" Ideally, there would be multiple options to accommodate the nursing preference of mothers and the parenting needs of fathers.
posted by desuetude at 12:17 PM on January 17, 2009


I am so tired of articles that imply, "If you do not breastfeed, you are a bad mother and should feel bad."

My wife was very opinionated about this until we had our first child, and she breast fed for 15 months. "Breastfeed, or suffer the wrath of mothers everywhere." Now, if someone has the temerity to suggest that not breastfeeding is a sign of bad motherhood, I have to pry her kung-fu grip from the neck of the offender. Apparently, she says that breastfeeding is the hardest thing she has ever done, and people who glibly suggest it's easy or necessary produce a visceral reaction.
posted by mrmojoflying at 12:22 PM on January 17, 2009 [2 favorites]


Jesus that article was all over the place. Who edited that thing?
posted by gottabefunky at 12:32 PM on January 17, 2009


Too bad this wasn't written by the more interesting Lepore.
posted by Evilspork at 12:43 PM on January 17, 2009


Breastfeeding is generally low tech. It doesn't require that you buy stuff. Sure, a nursing bra is handy, and you might buy nursing pads, but what good is something that doesn't require you to consume? You're Americans, Damn it! Buy Stuff!
posted by theora55 at 2:32 PM on January 17, 2009


i am one of those nursing moms who doesn't get a whole lot of milk when i pump, maybe an ounce from each side. i am extremely fortunate to have had the choice to stay home with my 15 month old daughter -- i mean, she is old enough now to have food food if i were to leave her for a significant length of time, but if i were limited to the ridiculously short blink-of-an-eye 12 week maternity leave, there is a large probability that she would have been supplimented with formula. which wouldn't have been the end of the world, mind you, and it wouldn't have made me a bad mother either. but christ that stuff is expensive.

there's a lot to be said about the way our culture does and does not support nursing mothers, and mothers/children/families in general, though. i can't get my brain together to be the one to say it, though. i am useless after 9pm for the past, oh, 15 months or so.
posted by fancyoats at 6:38 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


a friend posted this on Facebook the other day and I will say the same thing here that I said there - what does this article's title have to do with the actual text? Nothing.

I bottle my milk because my son wouldn't nurse. I'll do it for at least a year, which is longer than the average woman breastfeeds. I feel good about that.
posted by pinky at 7:24 PM on January 17, 2009


My first kid wouldn't latch for love or money. I started pumping in an attempt to keep the milk bar open in the event she'd eventually take it straight from the tit. A flaming case of mastitis had me scared to stop pumping lest it recur, we all settled into the habit, and I pumped exclusively for 10 months.

At the time it tore me up because I bought all that shit about bonding and "all babies want to nurse". In the fullness of time I came to terms with it and now I'm simply grateful that we know enough about sanitation, nutrition, and technology to feed babies when nursing isn't an option, for whatever reason. My kid's healthy and happy and certainly bonded to her mama.

The second kid took to nursing like a duck to water. Go figure.
posted by Sublimity at 7:58 PM on January 17, 2009 [1 favorite]


The onus is (as ever) on the EMPLOYER to make it possible for working women to breastfeed whenever it's necessary.

Really? Generally speaking, the onus is on the employee to handle their personal and family life issues outside of work hours. I'm all for maternity leave, but it seems really unfair to other workers that a recent mother should effectively get additional break time to address the consequences of her personal life.

Already the single and childless get the short end of the stick in salary considerations as employers will figure those with families "need more," but you advocate additional benefits in the form of break time for mothers as well?

Let's not even forget the logistics nightmare of the fact that breastfeeding at work means having the baby at work. A child in the workplace is a horribly disruptive force, and even the most placid baby is not quiet all of the time.
posted by explosion at 10:29 PM on January 17, 2009


Really? Generally speaking, the onus is on the employee to handle their personal and family life issues outside of work hours. I'm all for maternity leave, but it seems really unfair to other workers that a recent mother should effectively get additional break time to address the consequences of her personal life.

I think that it's fair to say that the vast majority of the consequences of having a child are handled outside of work hours. You're considering time spent nursing or pumping free extra stolen break time, really? In your world, should people punch out their time cards when they use the bathroom, too?

For the record, I'm a woman who doesn't have children.
posted by desuetude at 12:15 PM on January 18, 2009 [3 favorites]


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