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Breastfeeding in Mongolia.
October 15, 2009 5:40 PM   Subscribe

Breastfeeding in Mongolia The author describes the ubiquity of breastfeeding and breast milk in Mongolia, and her experience over a three-year period of breastfeeding her infant in Mongolia and in the West.
posted by five fresh fish (84 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite

 
Best of the breast!
posted by jamstigator at 5:43 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I wish this society were a bit more like that.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:47 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


*was* like that...(gah, grammar...)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 5:47 PM on October 15, 2009


"Only in Mongolia would I suspect my colleagues of drinking my breastmilk!"

Quote of the day
posted by deliquescent at 5:48 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


DIFFERENT CULTURE IS DIFFERENT
posted by bicyclefish at 5:50 PM on October 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


I wonder if the Mongolian tradition has anything to do with the popularity of Kumis.
posted by exogenous at 5:52 PM on October 15, 2009


"I've seen more boobs in Mongolia than I have from all my previous girlfriends combined."
- a fellow Peace Corps Mongolia Volunteer
posted by soupy at 5:57 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


There we were, two mothers flapping our breasts like competing strippers trying to entice a client. If the grandparents were around, they'd get in on the act. The poor kids wouldn't know where to look - the reassuring fullness of their own mothers' breasts, granny's withered pancake boasting its long experience, or the strange mound of flesh granddad was squeezing up in breast envy.

Mental note to take this approach at the next sign of conflict. Nay, even if at work.
posted by contessa at 5:59 PM on October 15, 2009 [6 favorites]


One more Mongolia story - from another volunteer.

[Scene: Mom, Dad, two year child]

Dad (to child): I'm going to get mom's boob! [grabs Mom's boob]
Child: No! My boob! My boob! [child jumps on mom - putting her faces in her breast]
posted by soupy at 6:00 PM on October 15, 2009


Mongols like all kinds of milk, and the author's description of Mongol enthusiasm for breastfeeding children is very believable. I've never heard of anyone just offering a milky tit to anyone handy, but maybe that sort of hospitality doesn't extend to American students.
posted by thirteenkiller at 6:02 PM on October 15, 2009


So that stuff about growing up on wolf's milk is just big talk?
posted by Abiezer at 6:04 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


So, nobody would make a fuss about Meghan McCain's 'boobtastic' picture in Mongolia? Can we take up a collection to send her there?
posted by evilmidnightbomberwhatbombsatmidnight at 6:05 PM on October 15, 2009


*was* like that...(gah, grammar...)

Actually, "were" is an appropriate use of the subjunctive to refer to a counterfactual situation.
posted by Jaltcoh at 6:05 PM on October 15, 2009 [16 favorites]


Too bad Metafilter can't be like Mongolia.
posted by These Premises Are Alarmed at 6:11 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really like the desexualization of breastfeeding Mongolia seems to have going on. Over here (or, 'Merica at least, as per my experience) I feel like the mentality is more "Boobs are for teh sexy-times and incidentally seem to work well for feeding babies but mostly for teh sex!!!"

So it sounds like a total fantasy land for new mothers who may find the keeping of things appropriately modest to be a hassle, since it is just a boob. A working boob, as the author noted.

On the other hand, I even get upset vicariously when folks get all up in a pregnant lady's business with the unsolicited belly-touching, so I imagine I would have a really tough time dealing with people kissing my kid's head as he was latched on to my nipple. Also, IANAMom, but given what I understand of parenting and the constant personal sacrifice it entails... I think I would want at least my boobs back to myself by the time my kid was 2, at the max.
posted by hegemone at 6:20 PM on October 15, 2009


I even get upset vicariously when folks get all up in a pregnant lady's business with the unsolicited belly-touching

I had a friend in nyc who just had a child. She remarked how awesome it felt to finally walk on the street and just be an anonymous person again and not be concerned with everyone offering her advice on baby-related things or trying to touch her belly. I'm sure that could be annoying in general, but it has to be really weird coming from the classically aloof New Yorkers.
posted by scrutiny at 6:26 PM on October 15, 2009


I really like the desexualization of breastfeeding Mongolia seems to have going on. Over here (or, 'Merica at least, as per my experience) I feel like the mentality is more "Boobs are for teh sexy-times and incidentally seem to work well for feeding babies but mostly for teh sex!!!"

I wonder if the two are connected. Do Mongolians feel sexually attracted or excited by women's breasts even in a sexual context? I could well understand that they don't, that they never really see breasts like Western people do, though it would be interesting to know. I suppose, however, that they still look at breasts on a prospective partner, but more in the "she would make a great mother" way. Which is kinda nice, I guess?
posted by Sova at 6:30 PM on October 15, 2009


Sometime between the age of 2 or 3, when a boychild's lips are reluctantly pried off his mom's teat, and 13 or 14, when he wants to touch any breast BUT his mom's, we males in the States are instilled with the concept of breasts as 'naughty bits'. I don't know precisely when it happens or where it happens, but it definitely happens. Is it just that girls are trained to *treat* their breasts like naughty bits and hide them from us? That makes them oh-so-mysterious objects of longing so that's my guess.

I'm also guessing that in societies where they just let 'em flap in the wind willy-nilly, breasts just don't have that same allure because they just become a kind of visual background noise. We're such prudes in the States that through our very prudishness we give life to the concept of breasts as naughty bits primarily used (if that's the right word) for sex.
posted by jamstigator at 6:42 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


classically aloof New Yorkers (scrutiny)

scrutiny, do we live in the same city? My New York:

Checkout dude: "Hey, lady! Whatcha readin'?"
Me: "Delivered from Distraction. It's about ADD."
Cd: "Is it for you or your kids?"*
Me: "It's for me."
Cd: "I think I have some of that stuff, too."
*note: I have no kids.

Man in Elevator Whom I Do Not Know: "Should I enclose the pool in my backyard?"
Me: "I guess it would be nice in winter."
MiEWIDNK: "It costs too much to heat though."
Me: "Oh."
MiEWIDNK: "But it would be nice."

Woman Visiting Someone in My Building: "You look cold!"
Me: "I'm all right, thanks."
WVSiMB: "Go put a sweater on."
Me: "I might."
WVSiMB: "You better. You'll freeze your ass off!"
posted by ocherdraco at 6:45 PM on October 15, 2009 [9 favorites]


I do think it has to be connected. Pretty sure I've read before that in cultures where a naked breast isn't taboo, it isn't sexualized. Or, at least not to the degree it is in this country, where I think it's fair to say that breasts are hypersexualized.

Which I do think would be nice! I have a pretty wide personal space bubble, but I suppose even if my bubble was being infringed upon more frequently, it would be somewhat of a relief if it wasn't sexual in nature. If it was just... supportive, well-meaning infringing. I suppose then I also have to wonder if I would even have such a wide bubble if I hadn't been socialized in a hypersexual culture... ooh, questions leading to questions!
posted by hegemone at 6:59 PM on October 15, 2009


Two Mongolias at The Big Picture.
posted by vronsky at 7:15 PM on October 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


It would certainly be more convenient if I could just pop my boob out and feed my son any time, anywhere. I recently visited some friends and they told me that while I was in their house, I didn't have to worry about covering up to breastfeed, but don't to that in a restaurant. That's just gross.
posted by lexicakes at 7:25 PM on October 15, 2009


I'm also guessing that in societies where they just let 'em flap in the wind willy-nilly, breasts just don't have that same allure because they just become a kind of visual background noise.

I wonder if it's that simple. We sure manage to sexualize legs and eyes and biceps and lips and belly buttons and bare shoulders etc etc etc even though none of them are taboo. I'm sure people who see more breasts in a functional context aren't all ZOMGBOOBIES over them, but I imagine there's still an allure for those who swing that way.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:32 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Breast-feeding for more than a couple of years and co-sleeping are frowned upon by a lot of parts of American culture. This should be one area where we don't have to argue and draw battle lines.

Our daughter wanted breast milk for more than a couple of years; she wanted to sleep with us for more than a couple of years. We did not read propaganda from either camp; we just went with what felt natural. (I do admit to one rational defense I have about co-sleeping: it seems to make evolutionary sense to protect your baby by sleeping with him/her instead of putting the child in harm's way.)

She turned out to be an incredible child. She was never afraid of monsters in the closet once she was in her own room. In her teenage years she has been fearless and independent in all the best senses of the word.

I don't know if we can credit all this with boobie time. But: following natural impulses about child-rearing and ignoring programmatic advice from experts about weaning and cribbing would be my advice to young parents.

Older cultures often get it right, not having all the weird socio-religious hangups the Western culture has internalized.
posted by kozad at 7:32 PM on October 15, 2009 [10 favorites]


And holy shit those Two Mongolias pictures are gorgeous. Thanks vronsky.
posted by nebulawindphone at 7:34 PM on October 15, 2009


Rampant mammacentrism.
posted by phrontist at 7:36 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


At first I thought it said Breakfasting in Mongolia. Although, if you're an infant, I suppose it could be.
posted by Mister Moofoo at 7:39 PM on October 15, 2009


I think this is a poor venue for a mefi debutante, but I've had a few drinks tonight, so it only feels right.

To me the beautiful thing reading this is, it removes the pervasive sense of perversion from the idea of breastfeeding past a year stateside, and I'm forwarding this link on.

This is just another example of the great things I've found here over years of lurking, and finally I've bothered to sign up.

Thanks for the great post!
posted by BurnMage at 7:55 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


everyone offering her advice on baby-related things or trying to touch her belly.

Man, I must have a mean face. At least while I was pregnant in NYC. Nobody tried that belly-rubbing, advice shit with me. All I got was "Do you know if it's a boy or a girl?" or (in the 9th month) "WHOA, you havin' TWINS???!"

Much more perturbed by healthy young folk on the train who managed not to see my enormous belly so they wouldn't have to give me their seat. And by the fact that tiny frail crippled grandmothers ALWAYS tried to give me theirs.

/derail Cool post,fff, thanks.
posted by emjaybee at 8:13 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I really enjoyed that article. I note with interest that I nursed my son till he was 1 1/2, and he was only an okay wrestler. Obviously, I should have nursed him for several more years. My bad.
posted by theora55 at 8:25 PM on October 15, 2009


As a current breastfeeder, I feel like people in the US are tolerant of BFing infants, but as my kiddo gets older, I find people less tolerant and accomodating. I think that this (plus the adults' love of milk) was quite interesting.

this floated around the parenting blogs a few weeks back. Like everything else, it divided people.
posted by k8t at 9:07 PM on October 15, 2009


Nobody tried that belly-rubbing, advice shit with me....Much more perturbed by healthy young folk on the train who managed not to see my enormous belly so they wouldn't have to give me their seat.

Why should anyone give up their seat for you? Pregnancy is not a disease or disability. The right to a seat on public transport should belong to the disabled and the frail elderly, not to perfectly healthy young women. Nor should pregnant women or people with prams be allocated parking spots that should go to the disabled and elderly. If you choose to become/remain pregnant, the stresses and fatigues arisings from that choice are yours to deal with.

Far from being a hell for young mothers, Western society is tolerant and forgiving to a fault. By and large, non-breeders accept without complaint the stroller-squashed toes, and the migraines brought on by screaming tots on buses and trains. Why 'mommy' activists expect this as a right, rather than a privilege afforded to them because of their semi-sacred status as mothers, I don't know. I also can't fathom why the positions they hold are so inherently contradictory. Do they want to live in a rigid, uptight culture where strangers mustn't speak to you about your pregnancy, or a breezy, easygoing one where it's okay to breastfeed in a restaurant/taxi/church? If mommies took a consistent line, rather than expecting others to anticipate their changing whims, they might actually get somewhere.

Frankly, Mongolia sounds like it has a worse case of mommy-worship than the West. People are expected to laugh it off when breast milk is sprayed into their faces? I prefer not to be inundated with strangers' bodily fluids, thanks. But Mongolia probably doesn't have someone like Jenny McCarthy trying to overturn modern medical science on the basis of 'mommy instinct', so we in the West may be worse off.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 9:30 PM on October 15, 2009 [5 favorites]


Oh for fuck's sake. I'll give my seat on the subway to a dude with heavy bags if he looks tired enough. Sure, he chose to schlep that heavy shit on there, but it's kind of nice to be able to do a favor for a fellow human being, no?
posted by nebulawindphone at 9:38 PM on October 15, 2009 [12 favorites]


Oh for fuck's sake. I'll give my seat on the subway to a dude with heavy bags if he looks tired enough.

Do subway bagdudes bitch on the internet when they don't get a seat? No, they don't, so the comparison is meaningless. A favor is something you accept as a bonus, not something you expect as a God-given right.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 9:51 PM on October 15, 2009 [2 favorites]


I wish this society were a bit more like that.

I agree.

*was* like that...(gah, grammar...)

Your instinct was right the first time :) "were" is the subjunctive indicating a hypothetical situation.
posted by esprit de l'escalier at 10:07 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Great link, thanks!
posted by Asparagirl at 10:34 PM on October 15, 2009


Sometime between the age of 2 or 3, when a boychild's lips are reluctantly pried off his mom's teat, and 13 or 14, when he wants to touch any breast BUT his mom's, we males in the States are instilled with the concept of breasts as 'naughty bits'.

Yes, but is this a bad thing? If for Mongolians the breasts are desexualized, or rather never sexualized to begin with, then that only means that they are deprived of two extra naughty bits that we get. Sure, they get to have a longer and perhaps more meaningful attachment to them as children, but that only lasts a few years, whereas when they are naughty bits we (both men and women) get to enjoy them while adults for many more years. In net terms, I think we come out ahead.

(Also, consider the sorry state our consumer culture would be in if we didn't have sexy boobs to help sell everything.)
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:34 PM on October 15, 2009


Why should anyone give up their seat for you?

It's called being polite. Apparently a concept you are unfamiliar with.
posted by Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese at 10:36 PM on October 15, 2009 [4 favorites]


Mefites, I think the moral is clear. Mother's milk is best, while eating your cellphone is clearly injurious to mental health.
posted by Pranksome Quaine at 10:53 PM on October 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


Breeders??? Did you get lost on your way to cf_hardcore?
posted by kathrineg at 11:05 PM on October 15, 2009


Wow. Who pissed in his amniotic fluid?
posted by five fresh fish at 11:18 PM on October 15, 2009


It's called being polite. Apparently a concept you are unfamiliar with.

Luckily, those feeble creatures we call pregnant ladies have white knights like you looking out for them. Chivalry is not dead while Kraftmatic Adjustable Cheese is in the world!

Do you stand up for fat people too? Their feet get just as tired as a pregnant woman's, carrying all that extra weight. The genuinely incapacitated - i.e. the disabled and the frail elderly - should get seats. If some people want to give up seats for pregnant women, that's fine. But pregnant women should not expect this as a right. Pregnancy is not a disease or a disability.

It's unfair to ask society to liberalize its attitudes towards public breastfeeding, while also attempting to claim traditional privileges attached to motherhood. It is an inherently contradictory program, because it seeks to go backwards and forwards at the same time. Furthermore, it's mostly based on guilt-tripping people into feeling like mother-haters or sex fiends if they disagree. I am completely indifferent to the inconveniences experienced by pregnant women and nursing mothers, because I think they are only inconveniences. The plight of a woman who is unable to breastfeed her baby on the street seems pretty minor, all told. So does the plight of a woman who is offered unsolicited advice about her pregnancy. Fat people get offered diet tips, people with bad skin get told about miracle cures, disabled people get told that they'll be prayed for. It's not as if mothers are the only people who run into weirdoes on the bus. No one is sacred in the big city, even mothers. I refuse to take part in a society-wide wrapping of grown women in cotton wool.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 11:52 PM on October 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


Fat people get offered diet tips, people with bad skin get told about miracle cures, disabled people get told that they'll be prayed for. It's not as if mothers are the only people who run into weirdoes on the bus. No one is sacred in the big city, even mothers.

Um...this is not a good thing.

Anyway, I do stand up for fat people if they look tired or whatever.
posted by kathrineg at 12:12 AM on October 16, 2009


Do not taunt happy fun ball, folks.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:23 AM on October 16, 2009


Well at least we've managed to avoid the normal tangentially-breastfeeding-related slapfights I suppose...

If those who wish to breakfast on mobiles also wish not to be polite, that is their right. If those who wish to have children wish to treat people who wish not to be polite as though they are infringing on their rights, that is their right as well. You can assert any right you like, but it's also your responsibility not to be surprised when there's a continuum of responses thereto.

Or in the immortal words of Rodney King...

Anyway, on the one hand I find the whole screaming-children-on-airplanes annoying but I think we as a species have to put up with at least a little mommy-worship, as it seems like one of those things that's been wired into our lineage since it gave up volume as a reproductive strategy. Have an iPod and one of those little bottles of Jack and chill.
posted by Vetinari at 12:38 AM on October 16, 2009


So THAT's why the Mongolians are such awesome wrestlers. Baddest people alive, in my experience.
posted by wuwei at 12:43 AM on October 16, 2009




katherineg: Um...this is not a good thing.

Um...did you even read my post? I did not say this was a good thing. I merely pointed out that many groups of people experience that kind of gratuitous advice-offering. However, these groups don't have the social prestige of mothers, so their complaints go unheard while people worry about the slights offered to mothers. Mothers/expectant mothers are accorded a high cultural prestige, yet they want to be allocated more of our society's concern and approval, as well as physical resources like priority seating. This inevitably comes at the expense of already neglected/reviled groups.

I'm glad you give up your seat for fat people if they look tired. Do you only stand for pregnant women if they look tired? Anyway, neither group has a right to demand you give up your seat. And I'm talking about society-wide trends, not the specific behavior of katherineg. You could hardly claim that fat people generally enjoy the same kind of concern and forebearance mothers receive. Personally, I'd rather give my seat up to a fat person of either sex than to a pregnant woman.

five fresh fish: Do not taunt happy fun ball, folks

I'm sorry I disagree with your politics and your attitude to a particular (already over-indulged) segment of society. North American mommy-worship has already given rise to the dangerous Jenny McCarthy phenomenon, so I don't really get why you think it's so bizarre to oppose this cultural trend.

Vetinari: If those who wish to breakfast on mobiles also wish not to be polite, that is their right.

There's nothing impolite about not giving somebody help they don't need. Pregnant women are not made of glass. They are perfectly healthy. In fact, as a culture, we could probably stand to transfer much of our focus to a more deserving group.

But, whatever. I obviously stumbled into a meeting of the 'Respect Radiant Motherhood' club. There's no point arguing any further. Goodbye.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 1:05 AM on October 16, 2009


Can I have a little toggle flag I can place next to a username so I don't forget, months later, that there's a reason I put a little flag next to their name?
posted by user92371 at 1:07 AM on October 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


No one is sacred in the big city, even mothers. I refuse to take part in a society-wide wrapping of grown women in cotton wool.

Did you get mugged by a mob of pregnant ladies or something? Did a pregnant lady kill your puppy in front of you when you were a kid? I'm at a loss to explain your wildly-out-of-proportion vitriol.
posted by hegemone at 2:03 AM on October 16, 2009 [7 favorites]


I'm at a loss to explain your wildly-out-of-proportion vitriol.

Mothers ain't shit. What did a mother ever do for anyone?
posted by Snyder at 2:21 AM on October 16, 2009


Mothers are way over-privileged because they get great paid maternity leave

What? They don't?

Well at least they get free health care. Right? No? Free child care? Still no?
posted by kathrineg at 2:30 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


You're missing the point. The point is that they get all the good seats and parking spaces! And constantly running over people's feet with their strollers. And causing people to have to hear children. And, by God, they are getting their breast milk all over the fucking place!
posted by hegemone at 2:41 AM on October 16, 2009 [8 favorites]


Counterpoint: babies are ten times cuter when I don't have to raise them
posted by kathrineg at 2:48 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Counterpoint: babies are ten times cuter when I don't have to raise them

This is a universal truth I think we can all agree on.
posted by hegemone at 3:10 AM on October 16, 2009


Why should anyone give up their seat for you? Pregnancy is not a disease or disability.

Have you ever been pregnant?

Look, I have been pregnant, and I have been fat. It's much easier to stand up fat than it is to stand up pregnant. But by all means keep YOUR seat, since this is what it's really about, right?

(why yes, I do have pms this am, thanks for asking.)
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 4:21 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


eatyourcellphone, you are being an ass. I am a fat person, and I will give up my seat to a visibly pregnant woman. Carrying a baby is different than carrying fat. Distribution of the weight, for one thing. Swollen ankles/feet for another. Other internal organs being squeezed (bladder pressure anyone). Etc etc.
posted by sandraregina at 4:35 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


The point about pregnant women is that if they have a fall because of a sudden stop of a bus or a train, they could hurt themselves and their babies very badly. The baby could even die. Seriously. That's not hysterical breeder shit, that's a very real risk.

So, in my opinion, it's got a lot less to do with the fact that the pregnant chick is tired... more that she may fall as she is less stable with the new weight distribution... and protecting the baby.

So, I think everyone should stand for folk at risk of falling. Pregnant women, disabled folk and the elderly. And me because I'm fat.
posted by taff at 4:37 AM on October 16, 2009 [4 favorites]


Disclaimer: I've been neither fat nor pregnant.

Why should anyone give up their seat for you? Pregnancy is not a disease or disability.

Pregnancy:

Your body is way out of balance, much heavier and has a strange shape, making even simple things, like turning over in bed difficult. Your abdominal muscles are useless for anything. Anyone who's had an appendectomy knows you use those for almost everything you do, like picking up a pen from the table in front of you. Someone is either stamping on your bladder or squeezing your spinal artery shut, making you run for the loo or pass out, preferably both at the same time. Then there's the turning him/herself sideways and seeing how far he/she can stretch out. I'm not sure what that does, but it didn't look pleasant. There's more, but you get the picture.

So while strictly speaking pregnancy is not a disease or disability, you could cut them some slack. Hell, if even barbarians like Genghis Khan manage that, the average iPod listening, latte-sucking, bus riding mefite should be able to as well...
posted by Djinh at 4:45 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


Good lord. Well, for one thing, eatyourcellphone, in New York City I give my seat up to pregnant women because, according to the announcements they make on the subway it's the law.

Also, let's examine what's going on in a pregnant woman's body. See that red line, how it grows and grows and grows to take up all the space in a woman's abdomen? Her abdomen wasn't empty beforehand. The growing uterus pushes her internal organs out of the way, making it more difficult to do just about everything involving their function. The other thing to note in that illustration is the way that pregnancy causes a woman's body to become off-balance. She has to stand, walk, and sit in entirely different ways than her body is generally made to do (since we aren't pregnant all the time, we haven't evolved for optimum balance during pregnancy, but rather when we're not pregnant).

A pregnant woman is effectively disabled because of the changes in her body. And don't give me the line "Oh, but she decided to be that way." No. She decided to have a child, and unfortunately, there's no other way to go about doing that than one that drastically changes her body, making it difficult to stick around..
posted by ocherdraco at 5:30 AM on October 16, 2009 [2 favorites]


eatyourcellphone:

On top of the already well-explained physical differences between being fat and being pregnant, I can attest to the fact that I'm not really keen on being thrown to the front of a bus onto my belly when the driver has to make a sudden stop. I don't enjoy this when I'm not pregnant, but when I am, I'm a whole lot more concerned about what damage an impact would cause.

Luckily, on my local buses, we have something called 'priority seating' with a fancy little picture atop the seats denoting that elderly people, those with disabilities, women with children and get this, pregnant women are allowed first dibs. If some young fuck like you is unwilling to get up on their own, I would be happy to assist them by politely asking, and letting them make themselves into an ass in front of a bus full of people for saying "no, you're not disabled!".
posted by sunshinesky at 5:56 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


(great fpp, btw.... sorry it's been overshadowed by the comments... yikes)
posted by sunshinesky at 5:58 AM on October 16, 2009


I don't think that breastfeeding in public is a problem. That's what breasts are for. To feed babies. Acknowledging this fact is, actually, a 'step back'. Because we used to acknowledge that fact fairly universally. Then we got prudish about bodies and stopped. But not all steps back are bad. Its not so much 'forward' or 'back'; its 'is this in the right direction to treating people with respect'. And letting women feed their babies (even in public! with their own breasts!) is pretty respectful.
posted by sandraregina at 8:07 AM on October 16, 2009


I recently scoped out the breastfeeding forum on a pregnancy site I frequent... in fact, it was to share this article! I came across a thread to the effect of "weird places you have breastfed". Apparently a changeroom in a store or in the parking lot qualify as 'strange' and 'public' to the average Canadian woman. I was aghast! I thought we'd come a little further than that! Luckily a few 'brave' ladies shared the fact that they're more than willing to do it on a bench in public or in a restaurant, but I was really surprised to see they weren't in the majority. I fully intend on breastfeeding whenever and wherever my child needs it. Everybody boobs!
posted by sunshinesky at 8:16 AM on October 16, 2009


Anyway, getting back to the previous thing about the desexualizing of breasts in Mongolia because they're just flapping around everywhere over there, that seems a bit odd to me.

Here's my little anecdotal thing: When I was breastfeeding my nipples just didn't feel like erogenous zones at all. I mean, breastfeeding is an excellent feeling but it's not connected with sex at all.

But breastfeeding stopped eventually and then my nipples went back to just feeling lovely and sexy and so it felt good to incorporate them back into my once existent sex life.

I think sex is sex everywhere and just because boobies may be not be trapped behind cloth cages all the time over there doesn't mean that they would not be incorporated into sex. Mongolian nipples still feel, ya know?

So desexualizing in terms of media, possibly yeah. But in the fine art of rutting, still a major player I would think.
posted by h00py at 8:21 AM on October 16, 2009


Also, I breastfed when necessary, wherever. I guess I was lucky in that I never perceived it to be an issue at all. I could have just been oblivious. In which case, hooray for me!
posted by h00py at 8:24 AM on October 16, 2009


From my understanding, Mongolians do sexualize breasts. However, "privacy" in the West's sense of the term doesn't exist.

Mongolian families live together in a round, felt, tent: no doors and no walls. So, if a kid is hungry, boob comes out. Also, when some needs to change into different clothes, the person strips down and changes (except changing underwear - Mongolians do this more modestly).
posted by soupy at 8:26 AM on October 16, 2009


when he wins that Olympic gold medal in wrestling, I'll expect him to thank me

Interesting post, but I thought the whole wrestling thing was a canard and distracting. Sure, Genghis Khan is known for it, and it's part of the country's tradition, but are the Mongolians really that good at wrestling?

Well, they've competed in 10 Olympics and have 4 silver and 4 bronze medals. Poland likewise has competed in 10 Olympics and has 5 gold, 8 silver, and 6 bronze medals.

I know, I know, Mongolian wrestling is different than freestyle or greco-roman, but c'mon. Is it that different?

In SF/Oakland/Berkeley, breastfeeding in public is not that uncommon, though I'm always surprised by how many women don't breastfeed at all.

It's unfair to ask society to liberalize its attitudes towards public breastfeeding, while also attempting to claim traditional privileges attached to motherhood.

You are an ass.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:29 AM on October 16, 2009


I think sex is sex everywhere and just because boobies may be not be trapped behind cloth cages all the time over there doesn't mean that they would not be incorporated into sex. Mongolian nipples still feel, ya know?

I know nothing about Mongolians, but in the book, Bury Me Standing, Isabel Fonseca claims that the Romani don't see breasts as sexual.
posted by Ms. Saint at 8:54 AM on October 16, 2009


It's unfair to ask society to liberalize its attitudes towards public breastfeeding, while also attempting to claim traditional privileges attached to motherhood.

Conservatives want things to go back to the way they were 100 years ago. Liberals want things to go back to the way they were 100 thousand years ago.
posted by Zalzidrax at 9:31 AM on October 16, 2009


Much more perturbed by healthy young folk on the train who managed not to see my enormous belly so they wouldn't have to give me their seat. And by the fact that tiny frail crippled grandmothers ALWAYS tried to give me theirs.

Commuting on BART from Oakland to SF with a somewhat recently broken hip has brought this point home hard. I use a cane and it's obvious that I need a seat. There are several young to middle-aged, able-bodied people in the seats designated for seniors and handicapped, but the only people who ever offer me those seats are the older women (and occasionally younger women). WTF, guys? I'm not saying able-bodied men should give up their seats more than able-bodied women, but c'mon. Why do we always have to be the assholes?
posted by mrgrimm at 9:37 AM on October 16, 2009 [3 favorites]


I know nothing about Mongolians, but in the book, Bury Me Standing, Isabel Fonseca claims that the Romani don't see breasts as sexual.

"They" may not see them as such but I'll bet individual members of this group feel that they are.
posted by h00py at 9:42 AM on October 16, 2009


Why should anyone give up their seat for you? Pregnancy is not a disease or disability.

You're a hard-hearted bastard. It's not a disease or disability but it's fucking uncomfortable. I haven't had a baby, but it's hard on the body in numerous ways.

Keep your bitch seat, you jerk.
posted by anniecat at 10:39 AM on October 16, 2009


North American mommy-worship has already given rise to the dangerous Jenny McCarthy phenomenon

I don't see how giving up your seat on the bus is in any way related to anti-science zealots peddling crazy ideas. The two aren't even remotely related. Sure, you will find some anti-vaxxers who listen to Jenny McCarthy because "she's a mom and doctors don't know everything," but these are often the same people who listen to homeopaths because "their treatments are natural and doctors don't know everything."

Showing a little courtesy and respect to pregnant women and nursing mothers is not the same thing as saying, "Moms know everything, so we should get our medical advice from them and ignore science!"
posted by lexicakes at 11:11 AM on October 16, 2009


Does anyone know of a place on our fine earth that has a comfortable balance of 1) letting boobs be sexy in appropriate situations, 2) allowing lactating boobs to function as needed without shame, and 3) a supportive, boob-friendly population that acknowledges the multi-faceted awesomeness of boobs but also gives boob-owners their space?

If this place does not exist yet, I will work toward buying my own island and ruling it by these principles, and all ya'll can come live there with me if you want to except for eatyourcellphone.
posted by hegemone at 11:15 AM on October 16, 2009


I know, I know, Mongolian wrestling is different than freestyle or greco-roman, but c'mon. Is it that different?

I don't know too much about wrestling, but the Mongolian method of taking an opponent down seems different than the freestyle method.

Also -
Mongolian wrestling: no weight classes, no time limit, one round
Other wrestling: weight classes, time limit, rounds
posted by soupy at 11:18 AM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It should also be noted that Mongolians are quite good at sumo.
posted by soupy at 11:26 AM on October 16, 2009


I was breastfeeding my newborn as I read this. In almost four years of total breastfeeding time (in Oklahoma and Texas), only one person ever objected to my nursing in public. She was polite, tried to convince me that I would be more comfortable elsewhere, and backed down when I declined. Other than that, I've never even noticed people looking at me funny.

What I have run into is lots of strong opinions about when I should wean. Most Americans seem to have come around to accepting breastfeeding in general as okay, but think there is some point beyond which it's gross, and will let a nursing mom know that in no uncertain terms. Any time from "six weeks" to "when they learn to walk" to "when they're old enough to ask for it" has been thrown at me as an absolute and obvious cut-off point.

I have no interest in extended nursing. With my older three, I got completely sick of the whole thing and weaned them at about 15 months. But it is completely ridiculous to say there is some definitive age at which it stops being okay and becomes weird. Why is it weird to give a four-year-old child human milk (for humans!) but not cow milk (for cows!)? And why should children be punished for learning to communicate that they want to nurse by no longer being allowed to nurse?

Belly-rubbing, seat-offering, unsolicited-advice-giving and the like are par for the course for moms and moms-to-be and will never go away. Everyone (including cellphone snackers) has an interest in children growing up healthy and strong and most people mean well - they're excited about babies and just want parents to do the right things for them. I've never been to Mongolia, but regardless of their comfort with breastfeeding, I can't imagine that there aren't busy-bodies there who drive new parents nuts with criticism about other aspects of child-raising.
posted by Dojie at 12:03 PM on October 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


Um... you American's know that you're one of the most "hung up" countries in the world about breast-feeding, don't you? You really, really are.

I had no idea that North Americans were so prudish till I started reading parenting forums when pregnant with ToddlerTaff. Even some American women have a problem with breast-feeding. It's extraordinary.

You should all come to Australia where, according to an American friend, we let our boobs all hang out. Women breastfeed everywhere. I've breastfed on a bus, while walking around a market, in the supermarket, on a ferry and in a gazillion cafes and many restaurants of differing ethnicities. Oh... and in India... all over the place there too. And in Tibetan exiled communities in the Himalayas too.

I've never had anyone tell me to go elsewhere or even had an odd look. Actually, I used to get a heap of Sydney's Mosman grannies smiling at me. The Indians ignored me and the Tibetans used to smile, and tell me that they thought western women all bottlefed... then grab the baby from my breast, with the nipple still in her mouth, for a cuddle.

Cannot believe it's even a discussion for the U.S.A. in this day and age. You generally seem so enlightened in many other areas. Nice for a humble little Australian to feel superior about something (other than our healthcare system).

And for any of the folk that are interested... Tibetans breastfeed till the next child comes too. So if a mum has miscarriages or stillbirths or trouble getting pregnant again, children can breast feed for quite long times. Mr Taff was about 4 when he was weaned. And that's completely normal. And so is he.
posted by taff at 3:27 PM on October 16, 2009


Hee! What a great attitude.

Can you imagine having a 'working boob' out in public transit in LA? Hell, the last time I just made accidental eye contact with some fool on the train, he made kissy noises at me until I was out of earshot.

God, I wish this country would grow the hell up.

/vast generalization
posted by Space Kitty at 8:21 PM on October 16, 2009


What I have run into is lots of strong opinions about when I should wean.

Yeah, weird. I'm not sure why some people think it's not right to breastfeed in public, but then have no problem whatsoever sharing their opinions about someone else's very personal behavioral choices.

And you're right--there is definitely a stigma around continuing to nurse after the child is old enough to talk and then walk. For some reason, even for those folks who aren't disturbed by public breastfeeding are disturbed by a child walking up to a boob and nursing. I'm sure there are scads of socio-sexual issues going on here.

The best I can surmise is the commenters are usually mothers (and mothers in law) looking to validate their own decisions from back when. (To be fair, I've never heard a men offer an opinion on when to wean. They generally just shut up during those conversations.)

Lastly, I can't believe no one has offered the #1 breastfeeding benefit for men/partners of nursing women: FREE BIRTH CONTROL (but don't count on it after you stop night nursing ;)

Why is it weird to give a four-year-old child human milk (for humans!) but not cow milk (for cows!)?

I've never heard a good answer for that one.

Last breastfeeding anecdote: my friend's uncle travels a lot around the world and always drinks local mother's milk as soon as he gets anywhere (where he can, I suppose, perhaps mostly Asia) to inoculate himself against local diseases.

I'm not sure how much my friend's uncle's tactic works, but the bolstered immune system is one of the benefits I'm sure most moms are aware of but many people still aren't. Babies' immune systems are obviously immature, and mom supplies baby with loads of antibodies for fighting disease/infection. That's the No. 1 argument in support of breastfeeding (for as long as you can manage it) for me.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:39 AM on October 19, 2009


Thank you so much for this link. I'm lucky enough to be surrounded by friends and family who see it as the norm to nurse my 3 year old (well, he weaned recently, but still). I'm glad that most of the posters so far seem to be supportive, or at least not necessarily adversarial. I did what was natural for my son, and he's the most confident, independent, cuddly and thoughtful kid in his current peer group. Seriously, I can't have more because he's set the bar too high. I think the attachment created by extended breastfeeding (and also in our case, co-sleeping) has given him amazing confidence in his family and in himself.

And reading back into this bloggers' archives, I will be adding her to my rss feed :)
posted by Lullen at 7:11 PM on October 19, 2009


My last two children were eleven months apart. Nursing is NOT birth control.
posted by St. Alia of the Bunnies at 7:13 PM on October 19, 2009


Nursing is NOT birth control.

C'mon. It certainly is. It's just not 100%. Apparently it's called the Lactational Amenorrhea Method. According to the link, it only works if you: a) haven't gotten your period (duh); b) are not supplementing breastmilk with anything else; c) your baby is less than six months old. That link claims 1-2% error rate when those 3 conditions are met.

The big problem is that by the time you get your first period, it's already too late.
posted by mrgrimm at 11:46 AM on October 20, 2009


Nursing is birth control in the same way that withdrawal and cycle-timing are birth control. Which is to say: Not damn much in the way of birth control.
posted by five fresh fish at 12:04 PM on October 20, 2009


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