Americans didn’t always have a problem with public breastfeeding? What is that lactivist smoking?

breasts delight

When I finished Amy Bentley’s piece about public breastfeeding on Slate I looked for the disclaimer that it was a parody.

Surely no one could take such a ridiculous fantasy seriously? But, alas, Bentley’s piece is yet another example of the ways that lactivists deliberately mangle history to support their own beliefs, albeit a particularly laughable attempt.

Bentley’s piece is titled When Breasts Became Sexy, Breast-Feeding Became Disgusting and the central contention is hilarious: the sexualization of breasts began in the 1800’s and culminated in the mid-20th Century.

Okay, let’s catch our breath from laughing so hard and try to understand what Bentley is trying to argue with that delightfully nonsensical claim.

Bentley is apparently a purveyor of the lactivist revision of history that is attempting to demonize formula while simultaneously ignoring the lived experience of millions of women.

The real history of formula in the US bears no relationship to the lactivist fabrication.

Here’s a convenient chart to help you tell the difference between real history and lactivist history.

Real history lactivist history

In the real history, breastfeeding was ALWAYS inconvenient, often painful, and more than occasionally led to the death of the infant from starvation when his or her mother didn’t produce enough breastmilk. Lactivist history imagines a breastfeeding paradise in every time, place and culture.

Reality is that babies whose mothers didn’t make enough milk (and up to 5% did not) starved to death. Lactivist history pretends that all women produced enough milk.

In reality, doctors invented formula to save the lives of babies whose mother were dead or did not produce enough milk. In the lactivist fantasy, corporations invented formula to profit from it.

In reality, thousand of babies died each year because their mothers fed them cow’s milk rather than breastfeed them. In the lactivist fantasy every mother loved breastfeeding.

In the real world women eagerly adopted the use of formula because they didn’t want to breastfeed. In the lactivist fantasy women were brain washed into formula feeding.

In the real world La Leche League was created by a group of devout Catholic women who believed women shouldn’t work outside the home. Lactivists routinely ignore the real history of LLL.

Bentley had just added two new fantasies to the lactivist revision of history.

In the real world women breastfed within their homes, or perhaps within the casual company of other women. In Bentley’s entirely imaginary history, women breastfed publicly. That would be the same women who weren’t allowed to show their ankles in public, were swathed in layers of corsets and fabrics, and weren’t allowed outside the home except in the company of an escort, etc.

But Bentley’s best revisionist attempt at history is her most hilarious: the idea that breasts only became sexualized with the past 200 years.

Her article would be nothing more than a punchline except for one thing: It is a slap in the face to the millions of women who wanted to breastfeed but couldn’t. It is a slap in the face to the millions of women who watched their babies starve to death. It is a slap in the face to the mothers who did then and continue now to find breastfeeding difficult, painful,  and inconvenient. It is a slap in the face to the millions of women who don’t want to share their breasts with their babies. And most of all, it is a slap in the face to the millions of women who don’t have the opportunity to breastfeed because they have to be in the workplace so that their children won’t starve to death.

Moreover, it is based on a fundamental lack of respect for women. It rests on the assumption that women are silly little things who can’t think for themselves, have no authentic feelings and are easily manipulated by corporate interests. It utterly ignores the fact that women are sexual beings who may view their breasts as sexualized, and instead substitutes the profoundly misogynist assumption that sexuality is the sole purview of men.

Bentley has unwittingly joined the sexist effort to keep women figuratively barefoot and pregnant by glamorizing their function of their reproductive organs. Whether it is natural childbirth, lactivism or attachment parenting, advocates conjure a blissful past that never existed in order to keep women in the home.

Bentley’s piece elevates the lactivist revision of history to farce. The idea that women breastfed in public is utterly absurd and indeed Bentley herself can find no examples in photographs, art, literature or anywhere else. The idea that breasts were sexualized within the past 200 years is beyond absurd.

The truth is that infant formula, like other forms of technology such as the birth control pill, and epidural anesthesia are instruments of women’s empowerment and liberation.

To Bentley and her cohorts I say this:

You cannot force us back into the home no matter how much you glamorize reproduction, no matter how much you ignore our lived experiences, and no matter how ludicrously you rewrite history!

  • Julitta Issar

    Nothing should be inconvenient regarding the breastfeeding .Hey ladies ! We are talking about your own children’s health and well being – less sickness , better brains, intimacy. We start with formula and then jump to pizzas, McDonald and sodas, because it is so convenient and one does not have to cook. We start feeding the babies junk food in form of formula and continue it through their lives. Ladies stay sain , because insanity is all around us. If you breast feed in public do it freely.The breasts are made for breastfeeding and if any sicko says something negative seeing you breast feed in public say what I always did “Shame on you, pervert”!

    • Azuran

      Funny, my mom breastfed 3/4 child. And it didn’t stop us from eating fast food when we were kids. We also ran a lot after the ice cream guy.
      My breastfed SO LOVES sodas and imported beers.
      Yesterday, my breastfed niece and nephew ate pizza and fries with us.
      Being formula fed isn’t going to lead to a life of eating McDonalds, that’s just ridiculous.

      I do agree that women should be left to breastfeed in peace in public. But everything else you are saying is just stupid.

    • Sarah

      If nothing should be inconvenient regarding breastfeeding, Mother Nature seems to have screwed up a bit, because having to do all the night feeds is. Also, if you thing formula is akin to junk food you’ve got shit for brains.

      People should be able to breastfeed in public, though. You did manage to get that one thing right.

  • Rita Rippetoe

    I remember reading Dr. Spock’s Baby and Child Care in the 50s. It contained several recipes for home made formula using some combination of water, cow’s milk, and sugar or corn syrup. Another variation started with condensed milk, if I recall correctly. It also contained the directions for sterilizing bottles and storing them for later use. It all seemed very complicated and time-consuming. This is what commercial formula replaced. I was about 9 when I read all this–yes, I was a precocious reader.
    On a different topic, I was very confused by the section on circumcision because I had no idea what a foreskin was–kind of knew what a penis looked like from art books with nude statutes, although the fig leaves were also confusing 🙂

  • Things I don’t understand – when being taught to breastfeed, I was made aware it was often neccesary to cover a very alert and curious infant’s head with a cloth while feeding lest they jerk their head around a lot to look at interesting things while still attached to the nipple (ouch). Covering their head with a light blanket keeps down distractions and let’s them attend to the matter at hand. Also being in a relaxing, soothing environment helps both mother and baby relax better.
    Being out in public is not relaxing or soothing and provides plenty of distractions for the baby. Yet the public lactivists act like it’s the most horrible thing imaginable for them to cover their babies’ heads with a light cloth as accuse you of “shaming” and insist the babies would suffocate. Come again?

    • momofone

      Covering their head with a light blanket may work for some babies, but many–mine included–wouldn’t or won’t have it. I didn’t nurse in public, but I tried covering at home when I had visitors and learned quickly that it wasn’t going to work for us. There’s no right or wrong way or place to nurse, covered/uncovered, at home/in public, whatever; it’s a matter of what’s comfortable for mother and baby, what gets the baby fed. And of course, if seeing women nurse offends someone, they are welcome to look away.

      • Wren

        I did nurse in public regularly, but my son was not going to have his head covered. Any attempt to cover led to screaming, refusal to nurse properly and every person in the area staring at me to figure out what on earth I was doing to that poor baby. Doing it uncovered led to a quick feeding and most people not even bothering to look at what I was doing.

  • Gozi

    I have breastfed in public, and as long as I didn’t have latch issues no one seemed to notice. I usually didn’t in public because my children usually had latch issues. By the time you have latched a screaming, kicking baby onto the breast, your cover is off and everyone is staring.

  • Mariana

    The only thing I dont agree with it’s that breastfeeding is inconvenient. I mostly bottle-fed my oldest and my youngest was mostly breast-fed (I say mostly because both were fed both bottle and breast. I had very little milk the first time and much more the second time, but still not enough). It was so much easier to just breastfeed them! I loved that I didn’t have to bring anything with me and that I had nothing to wash after. I loved going out with just two diapers and a pack of wipes, no bottles, no formula, not preboilded water. Where I live no one cares if you breastfeed in public, so no cover either.

    • DiomedesV

      If you’re a working mother, breastfeeding necessitates pumping. Pumping is inconvenient.

      • Sarah

        Does it necessarily? I don’t know, because I’ve never breastfed whilst working, but I was under the impression that if you were to go back when the baby was a few months old, you might well be able to just feed whilst not at work and not need to pump at all. My friend went back at 6 months, expecting to need to pump once, but didn’t have to at all as it turned out. Obviously this would be different if you had to go back at 6 weeks I’m sure, but I’ve heard a number of working mothers of older babies say they don’t pump.

        • Wren

          I think it depends on a lot of variables: how old is the baby when mom goes back to work, how long is mom away from baby, is mom happy to feed a whole lot once home, etc.

          A good friend of mine went back at 7 months, had very regular hours that allowed her to be home at pretty much the same time daily and was fine with nursing a lot at night. She basically had her baby (well, babies since she did it twice) nursing at night and going without during the day (just some solids and water) because it worked for their family. Longer hours, more irregular hours, going back early or just not being ok with feeding at night by that stage would all have meant pumping or supplementing.

        • By six months I just quit. By then they should be transitioning to solids anyway.

          • Wren

            By 6 months solids have not generally replaced milk but just been started. Formula is fine if that is the choice made then, but they are too young for cow’s milk and not really old enough to get all they need from solids.

    • MLE

      I have done both and found both to be inconvenient in their own special ways. But only with breast feeding did I ever feel trapped like a rat.

  • Rita Rippetoe

    I breastfed three children from 1977 through 1982–each for about 2 years. The only negative “Do you think you should do that here?” remark I ever got in that time was ironically from a hippy, Pagan friend .We were in a Chinese restaurant and I had a receiving blanket casually over most of my breast and baby’s face, sitting in a corner seat and sort of turned away from main room. That was how I usually did it. This was in Bay Area of California, but Vallejo is not that hip a town, being mostly former Navy. YMMV

  • deafgimp

    I wonder if the reason women even have breasts at all is from sexual selection. You don’t need boobs at all to breastfeed, otherwise all mammals would have them.

    It explains why men’s penises are all pretty uniform and woman’s vulvas are not. Dicks have been selected for while woman’s bits have not. They are technically unquantifiable in that you can’t put them into any kind of sets of descriptions like large clitoris, large labia, shapes of labia, that sort of thing. Men’s dicks pretty much all look the same.

    • RMY

      It is very advantageous to breastfeed in settings that were common for most of human history (where contaminated water is a concern, as is cost). Cows milk isn’t the best food for human babies, which is why we don’t feed it to them in place of formula now. Safe, reliable formula is only a few generations old, it’s very new in the scope of history.

      I think you’re talking about size of breast? Most mammals have boobs, the mammary gland is where the category gets its name afterall (men have the tissue as well, we just don’t call them man-breasts). I’d be surprised if they’re selected for too much, I mean, porn with big boobs sells, as does porn with women with small boobs (see the barely-legal collection of titles).

      • Sarah

        Yes I think deafgimp is referring to the presence of breast tissue, which of course isn’t needed for breastfeeding. We know size of breast isn’t relevant to ability to lactate. Humans, afaik, are the only mammals to have breasts, as opposed to nipples and milk ducts. Nobody seems to really know why. I presume we evolved them for a purpose though, we didn’t have them back in the monkey days.

        I don’t find the sexual selection argument very strong, it seems quite circular and not all men like big breasts as you say. However, there don’t seem to be any better theories. After all, breast tissue is more useful for attracting a mate, where it’s sometimes helpful, than it is for breastfeeding where it isn’t at all.

    • Mariana Baca

      Breast size (to a point) was a function of human’s very flat faces with no snout. It is easier for a human baby to breastfeed on breasts that aren’t as flat without suffocating. Having breasts at all developed from that.

      Much larger breasts, yeah, that is probably sexual selection. Strong sexual dimorphism is praised by many, but not all (see the 1920’s in Western Nations), human cultures, and larger breasts is seen as part of that.

      I’m not sure ladyparts are all that different compared to dicks/balls — there is a wide variety in both, but I can’t say one vulva categorically could not be a georgia o’keefe painting compared to another — they all have basically the same parts and shape. Penis size can vary a lot more than clitoral or vaginal size, for example. But I think woman’s bits have been strongly selected for “does a human head fit through here?” and penises have been strongly selected for “can I shoot sperm into a vagina” (which is a much easier criteria).

  • Interesting article. Never knew that history of LLL. But there are plenty of photos and paintings of mothers breastfeeding throughout history (in a religious context, common view of Mary and Baby Jesus). My own experience from 20 years ago was that nobody much cared if you breastfed in public. Now people equate it with public urination or sex. That’s crazy, too. Here’s a link to more breastfeeding photos from the Victorian era. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/17/victorian-breastfeeding-photo_n_3442872.html?utm_source=thestir.cafemom.com&utm_medium=referral&utm_campaign=pubexchange_article

    • Exactly. Here’s Honore Daumier’s painting Third Class Carriage, which shows a nursing mother on a train: todayinsocialsciences.blogspot.com/2013/05/the-third-wagon-class-by-honore-daumier.html?m=1

      Now, it may be that upper-class women didn’t nurse in public, but poor ones certainly did, at least in France.

      • Krista

        I would think that upper-class women didn’t nurse at all, as it was a sign of wealth to hire a wet nurse and therefore be able to reproduce again quickly. I have no source for that though.

  • Rita Rippetoe

    Here is a question for the all-natural crowd. If women always have enough milk, why do traditional herbals list so many herbs used to increase the flow of milk?

    • Charibdys

      I’ve always wondered about that too. And why does it seem like women who won’t take a Tylenol or a Benadryl while they are pregnant suddenly have no problem taking numerous herbs, teas and medications (Reglan for one) to try to boost their milk supply? Suddenly, things they would have run from during pregnancy (so as not to affect the baby through the blood supply) are magically rendered beneficial or inert if processed through the milk ducts. How does that work?

    • Daleth

      High five, Rita.

    • One of the plot points in Gone With the Wind (the book, not the movie) is that Scarlett’s friend is unable to nurse her baby due to her frail physical condition and having to become a war refugee right after giving birth. No one in the community seems surprised and a wet nurse is found at which point everyone seems relieved one is available. Seems such situations were not unknown in the 1800s at all.

  • Nick Sanders

    Semi-OT: A woman in Papua New Guinea was murdered for being a witch who caused a measles outbreak.

    http://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/papua-new-guinea-woman-axed-death-over-witchcraft-measles-claim-n365941

    • Ardea

      And my students wonder why biology is relevant.

  • luckymama75

    I always think it’s weird that lactivists claim everyone is waiting around the corner to laugh and point if you nurse in public. I nursed two kids for over a year at parks, restaurants, tourist attractions etc etc and never once heard a peep from anyone about it, ever. I didn’t use a cover but i wasn’t overt about it and my guess is no one cared enough to even notice. I wouldn’t have.

    • Cobalt

      That’s been my experience, for the most part. Every now and then I get a creepy guy staring, which really bothers me, but 99% of the time people either don’t notice or make it a point to not notice.

      Well, every now and then a little kid will point out the baby, and the mother will say something along the lines of “yes, that is a baby, but he’s eating and we don’t want to bother him while he’s eating” and move the kid along. Which really can’t be complained about.

      • The Bofa on the Sofa

        I’ve mentioned this before, you can have 99% of people not care about breastfeeding in public, but it is the 1% that do that you notice. Sure, we’d like to reduce that 1% to be even smaller, but it’s really hard to say that it is a huge societal problem if 99% don’t have an issue with it.

        • Cobalt

          The 1% that bothers me don’t seem to have a problem with breastfeeding in public either. They don’t mind unconsentually sexualizing lactating strangers one bit. I’d rather deal with the pearl clutchers to be honest, but I’ve never had that problem.

          • Busbus

            I breastfed my older child until she was 2.5, frequently in public until she was about 2. I had not a single bad experience. I formula fed my younger child in public about 5 times in a way in which it was obvious that I was feeding formula and not breastmilk (those were the instances where I mixed formula in public for some reason or other) and had two (2!) Terribly rude people accost me.

            I’m not doubting that some breastfeeding mothers encounter rude strangers, and even one of those is one too much. But on the whole I believe that formula feeding mothers are WAY more likely to become a target for rude busybodies than breastfeeding mothers are.

          • Cobalt

            I never had trouble with my bottle fed kids drawing lactivist ire, but lactivism wasn’t really a thing there and then. I didn’t have pumping accommodations at the office then either, but I’ve heard the company changed that a few years after I left.

            Between when my youngest (<1 year) and oldest (13 years) were born, things changed, and at lot of it wasn't for the better.

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            Not in the least to discount your experiences, but I wonder if the nastiness that both FFing and BFing moms catch has to do in part with the local ideas about it? For example, I imagine that one is more likely to catch flack for FFing in, say, San Francisco or Seattle, while BFing in some areas of the south would bring out the “eeek you’re sexually abusing my child by letting him see a flash of boob while you get junior latched” crowd.
            I did both for the first four months, then switched to bottles alone. I live in central Texas, and never caught flack for the bottles per se, though I did once have a complete stranger walk up to me as I carried DD into the post office and demand to know if I was nursing. (My response, courtesy of Miss Manners: “The baby is being fed well, thank you for your concern.” This left her literally speechless as I walked past.)
            I also never caught flack for breastfeeding, but since I was never comfortable doing so in mixed company (DH aside, obviously) or outside the house, I don’t think that’s necessarily a fair assessment.

          • Busbus

            I do live in a liberal college town and you are right that that might explain why I never caught flack for breastfeeding.

            The two formula encounters I had both happened while travelling in the US (simply because those were the times I was forced to prepare formula on the go). In one case a mother I had been chatting with in the waiting area at the airport snatched her toddler away when he approached me as I was preparing my son’s bottle, saying loudly, “that’s not your bottle – that’s FORMULA!!! you don’t get formula. you get breast milk!!” and proceeded to pointedly ignore me after that. The other one was an acquaintance of mine in NYC who explained to his toddler son while I was sitting next to them that he should be glad his mom was not so selfish and breastfed him. (This must have been part of an ongoing, weird family dynamic between them – I actually believe he said this to his son not thinking of me – but it was kind of shocking nonetheless.) These two things happened within the space of a week or so… Crazy times. I’m just glad that I had made peace with the decision to formula feed at that point.

            For what it’s worth, I saw this article yesterday that quotes a UK report (don’t know more) that found that about 25% of breastfeeding mothers experience negative comments in public, while about 40% of formula feeding mothers do: http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/health/child-health/article4453498.ece

          • KeeperOfTheBooks

            That father-son interaction is one of the weirdest things I’ve read on this blog, and I’ve seen some pretty wacky things here. :p Good grief, if you value your wife’s bodily fluids over any other thing about her, you may have a serious problem. (And she’s married to one!)
            Interesting article. I think for the next decade or two we’re going to see more pressure on moms to breastfeed, and more in the way of nasty comments about formula feeding, but that after that the pendulum will swing back again.

          • toni

            I noticed people giving me funny looks for breastfeeding in public on two occasions. Didn’t upset me at all, I wasn’t doing anything wrong and I was trying to be discreet so I don’t give a crap if people have a problem with it. Idk why people let this stuff bother them. Who cares what rude people think? That was two occasions of literally hundreds of times that I have bf my son in restaurants, shopping precincts, on aeroplanes etc so it’s really very very few people that care enough to make their disapproval known. I’m not surprised women get more negative comments about ff because the only complaint about breastfeeding in public is that it squicks some people out or they think your kid is too old for it and I think most people who feel that way would keep it to themselves because of the embarrassment but when people criticize you for formula feeding it’s because you’re supposedly giving your child substandard food or you didn’t try hard enough to bf so dickheads actually think they’re helping you by imparting their superior knowledge.

    • ali connelly

      i agree I nursed both of my kids and was able to be discreet. Occasionally a momwould catch my eye and smile but we had no issues

  • Sarah

    My baby was jaundiced and losing weight rapidly when I tried to exclusively breastfeed him. I still had a friend suggest I not supplement because she knew how badly I wanted to breastfeed and that it might sabotage my efforts. I really shudder to think at what might have happened had I followed that advice and not my baby’s pediatrician. I really don’t understand where this “babies always get enough milk” myth comes from.

    • yentavegan

      I am a volunteer lactation peer to peer resource. Babies who have not regained their birthweight by day 12 are a major red flag. Babies who lose 10% of their birthweight any time during the first 5 days are a redflag. Jaundice is an indicator that baby is dehydrated and needs calories to flush out jaundice.

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        I wish you’d been my LC at the hospital. DD lost 10% of her birth weight by the end of day 2. My options were to a) give her formula in the hospital and hope she regained enough in two days to let me take her home, all while continuing to work on nursing or b) leave her in the hospital while I was discharged so she could regain weight via formula. I had the crazy notion that option a) would be better for both of us and any breastfeeding relationship we might have. The LC’s clearly though I’d given up, and showed their obvious disappointment in me. Ridiculous.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      I’ve seen this multiple times on my local LLL page. I’m sure there are some sane moms there, but the loonies, including one or two of the leaders, have guaranteed that even if I try BFing with future kids I will NEVER go to a meeting for help. Recently, I saw one mom catching flack for letting her still-in-the-NICU-preemie get formula supplementation because it is, and I quote, “a slippery slope.” *snarl*

    • Inmara

      I recently got confirmation from pediatrician that she’ll take care of my first baby and we chatted a bit – she emphasized right away that she’ll look after baby’s weight in the first month because she had seen mothers who bring their babies to 1 month appointment and their weight is below birth weight (!). Might have something to do with the mindset that nothing can go wrong with breastfeeding…

  • yentavegan

    My own mother who will be 80 this year was not breastfed. She was born in Brooklyn New York and her mother (who was working class-rented apartment dwellers)had the community support of aunts cousins sisters none of whom breastfed. Every body used formula. Most of these women were immigrants and had limited english reading skills(they all spoke and read Yiddish), everyone knew how to boil water, measure the various ingredients and they all mothered thriving robust offspring. I am the first generation to breastfeed.

    • KeeperOfTheBooks

      That’s really fascinating! Do you mind sharing–assuming you know–why they didn’t breastfeed? I’m rather curious. 🙂 Not curious as in judgmental (the important thing is that the baby is fed appropriate food, period), but curious because I assume that prior to their arrival here, their families did breastfeed or use wet nurses, so I wonder what prompted them to FF? Because it offered more time for housework/older kids? Because it was seen as “higher-class?” This inquiring mind would love to know.

      • yentavegan

        My grandmother’s mother lived through the despair of losing 5 of her 10 children before their first birthday. Birth was hard on these infants and some never thrived, some succumbed to infection…i am assuming my grandmother did not breastfeed because her labors and deliveries were bloody life threatening messes and she was sick for months afterwards..formula was purchased at the pharmacy in powder form and was mixed with evaporated milk, water and oil

        • KeeperOfTheBooks

          Perfectly understandable. Makes me grateful, as ever, to live when and where I do. (Ditto that formula is as easy to make now as it is.)

  • Tiffany Aching

    It always pains me to see that “natural” parenting proponents so often pretend to lean on history or anthropology to justify their choices. Social sciences can and should be made with scientific methods, and the natural parenting crowd doesn’t only demean science when it come to vaccinations, it also does it when they do “history”, which in their case always sums up to humankind drifting away from “nature” (as if such a thing existed, by the way) and becoming more and more corrupt. They treat anthropology the very same way when they naively (and if I may say in a very racist way) assume that “non-westerners” (ie : “good savages”) live a more “natural” life, as if their beliefs and ways weren’t deeply determined by culture, just like ours. They don’t even try to have a scientific discourse, it is just a narrative they shape to give a meaning to their own choices and beliefs. It really irks me because it contributes to give social sciences a bad name amongst other scientists, which is really a shame (there are many of us who understand what scientific method is !).

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Ugh… I hate the “Noble Savage” trope so much. And you’re right it is racist! It makes them appear simple not only in life but in intelligence. I certainly wouldn’t want my entire culture or ethnic group shoved into that stereotype.

      I love social sciences and history but it’s a great disservice to white wash or demonize entire groups. Life is too complex for that. The faster we figure that out and start teaching that entire groups aren’t these hive minds then the sooner we’ll see a better educated population with an appreciation for a wider variety of peoples in the US.

      Everyone likes to think they’re the hero of their own story and history is written by the victors. You almost have to be a skeptic to study history. If you take all historical writing as fact you’re going to have a very skewed perception of human culture. A lot of times if it’s a public document you’re basically reading their propaganda. It’s easy to idealize a past society when writings outlining its flaws haven’t survived to our age.

      And oh my gosh can we stop attributing things we don’t understand to be for “ritual” and just say “we have no idea”? I mean the way the Egyptians transported the stones for the pyramids was staring us in the face the whole time but because we didn’t put together “wet sand = less resistance” from the pictographs of people pouring water on the sand we spent how long trying to figure out how they did it? No! Western society has made ALL the innovations! They wouldn’t have figured that out! It must have been some kind of cleansing or dedication ritual!

      Sometimes I get the feeling the word “ritual” in anthropology is code for “I have no idea.” I know not always but it’s hard not to wonder.

      Stop making social sciences look bad! They’re really good things, especially when studying epidemics!

      • demodocus

        No, no, no! it wasn’t ancient humans who built all those monuments! It was Aliens!!
        >sarcasm 😉

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Ha!

      • KeeperOfTheBooks

        Hear, hear! When I was in grad school in a field where arts and social sciences are somewhat comingled, I got progressively more annoyed by my advisor’s adulation for any group of people, any history, or any idea so long as it wasn’t Western.
        At one point, I had to read and report to him on a book about a particular tribe in some African country. I read it. He asked me what I thought: weren’t they all wonderful, perfect, amazing people since they viewed art in this way? Me: “Not really. Yes, their way of viewing art within their culture is interesting, but I don’t really think it makes up for their tradition of extreme FGM, or their tradition of killing unfaithful women and the babies born outside of sanctioned relationships, etc. Just because they have an interesting cultural idea about art and music doesn’t mean that we want to emulate them in every way; I can appreciate the one while having no interest whatsoever in living in a society that has those other practices.”
        His response was to tell me that thinking like that demonstrated racist tendencies.

    • demodocus

      I’m a bad savage. Bad, bad savage.

      • Tiffany Aching

        Indeed I thought that “good sauvage” was a poor translation for “bon sauvage”, but I had no better idea ! 🙂
        Now I know the accurate expression is ” noble savage”, thanks to Delphinium !

        • demodocus

          I figured out what you meant; just amusing myself with people’s opinions of my ethnic group. My college acted as though all cultures were valuable and good except Anglo-American, especially the pre-Revolution families.

  • Allie P

    This may be my 8 month hormones talking, but I just want to shake everyone, scream, “FEED YOUR BABIES!” and wash my hands of the entire affair. Breastfeed if you want to/can, and bottle feed if you don’t want to/can’t. I swear, if another near-stranger asks me if i’m planning to nurse and it’s not because they are standing there with a box of free, already sterilized bottles they want to give me if I say no, there might be blood.

  • Amy M

    If even the sight of a woman’s ankle was taboo, during the Victorian era and before, how could public nursing possibly be acceptable? Or even possible, given the layers of clothing most women wore?

    There’s one point there that she may have had vaguely correct, since I’ve seen women on here mention it more than once: In some circles, breastfeeding was considered “the way poor women fed their babies” because wealthier women could afford to buy formula (or wet nurses). I have no citations to back this up, but several commentors here have said their grandmothers told them something like this.

    • Cobalt

      In societies where breasts are normally covered, breastfeeding was typically discreet. There’s no society where all the modesty rules flew completely out the window for lactation. Some forgiveness for minor violations in light of the importance of feeding the baby, sure. But if full exposure was normally taboo, that didn’t magically reverse.

  • For the record, Dr. A, turns out that people get more rabidly fanatical over foreskin than they do homebirth and vaccination.

    • Maya Markova

      Of these three topics, only foreskin divides the opinions of Americans in roughly 1:1 ratio.

  • Camilla Cracchiolo, RN

    Not a single mention of upper class women hiring wet nurses to do the breastfeeding for them? A very common practice.

  • jhr

    My understanding is that before the late 1960s, breastfeeding in public, even discretely, was considered something that only the “lower classes” did, since upper class women and middle class who aspired to upward mobility were so swathed in corsets and layers of fabric, and later, long-line bras and girdles, that nursing was impossible without disrobing.
    Lower class women were thought to not corset themselves and additionally, to be less repressed about public or even subtle displays of bodily functions such as nursing. Such women were also understood to have less freedom from family demands such as child care, with numerous “stair-step” little ones hanging on to their skirts.

    Those who nursed in church, did so very discretely, as part of a faith community that viewed missing any portion of the service to be akin to sinning.

    • Allie P

      Even lower class women wore corsets — that was the support garment. But they were not “over breast” garments as are worn today in Victoria’s Secret catalogs. However, upper class women had “lying in” periods whereby, if they were nursing, they weren’t out and about in public anyway.

  • namaste863

    I think it’s downright insulting to claim that women have been brainwashed by formula companies. We have brains, thank you very fucking much, and the reasoning and critical thinking skills that go along with said brains.

    • Sue

      This assertion has been misapplied from the poor behaviour of formual companies in marketing to vulnerable women in impoverished countries.

      It’s true that formula was presented to them as hygienic and modern, and fed an aspiration to give their children what women in rich countries had access to.

      Ironically, what works just fine in our welathy societies became a disaster in impoverished communities, due to water contamination and dilution.

      For us, though, in the blogging world? “Brainwashed or not”, there is minimal risk in either choice.

      • Sue

        (Oops – “formula companies” not “formual”)

    • Allie P

      Yeah, “brainwashing” is not the same as pressure and cultural and medical encouragement. My extremely impoverished grandmother, who lived in a shack without a bathroom with her miner husband and 12 kids, never nursed, which meant many of the kids were less than a year apart. But if there was formula, that meant she had time to take care of the house and subsistence garden, the older kids could feed the younger, she knew it had “enough nutrients”, and she could get work in a factory, etc.

  • Laura

    Both of my grandfathers talked about how they saw women breastfeeding wherever and not very discreetly when they were growing up (1920s-1930s in Utah). Of course, they both grew up poor so maybe that had something to do with it.

    There is also a picture in a museum in SLC of a church meeting where there are women obviously breastfeeding in mixed company during the Victorian era.

    • DelphiniumFalcon

      Do you know which parts of Utah they were in?

      • Laura

        One was near Hurricane, UT and the other was West Jordan.

        • DelphiniumFalcon

          Hurricane is pretty rural even now (I live pretty close by) with a lot of working class people or people decended from working class so that could be part of it.

          West Jordan was pretty desolate back then too. It was still a tiny town with one stop light when my mom’s family moved there in the early 70s. Probably no one would have cared because they had jobs to do and didn’t have time to go berate someone.

          Then again, Utah and the Mormon culture that influences a lot of the area can be considered pretty odd to outsiders, especially back then. Utah and Wyoming allowed women to vote even before they were absorbed into the union and I believe were the first “states” to allow women to vote. When they became part of the union women couldn’t vote anymore and a lot them were quite miffed.

          Around 1854 one of my ancestors lost her husband and basically told family members that wanted her to remmary to shove off because she’d be fine. She owned a house with a stove in her name I believe and did rather well for a while on her own. She did remarry later and after her second husband passed away she learned nursing to help support her family. Stuff that would have been a bit odd in some of the other states and territories at the time since all the states moved ar different paces for women’s rights. It wouldn’t surprise me that a woman breast feeding her child in public wouldn’t be seen as scandalous considering the culture. Women being allowed to have a vote, own land, receive higher education, and have a profession probably meant there was going to be a baby hanging on a breast somewhere in all that industriousness because they wouldn’t have time to go cover up somewhere!

          Maybe these mommy wars people need to learn to card wool, weave silk, and run a business like my ancestors did. They wouldn’t have time to run around judging others!

          • Laura

            Yes, back then West Jordan was considered “the bad side of the railroad tracks”. I went to Hurricane several years ago for a family funeral.

            Both grandfathers came of age during the Depression, and everyone was probably too busy trying to stay afloat to scoff at a nursing woman.

            Of course, nursing in public here in Utah (at least in Utah County) is not like that anymore. At church, you’re basically expected to hide in the mother’s room with a trendy nursing cover. I actually made some friends in the mother’s room, but there seriously weren’t enough seats for the demand. It was also a nice excuse to get out of boring lessons 😉

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            I gotta remember that excuse when I have kids. I mean I like church but there are just some days that draaaaaaag. I’m not the traditional Mormon girl of today’s world. I’m kind of a throwback to the earlier days that shoots guns, fixes their own car, trains the dog, takes apart household appliances that aren’t working right and puts them back together, and keeps the tools clean and sharpened because I enjoy it. Some of the women here in Southern Utah find that incredibly weird. Which I find a bit sad.

            My parents didn’t buy into the ultra-feminine ideal that ended up being popular in Utah the last few decades. Dad didn’t want his girls to be helpless little flowers that couldn’t take care of themselves and Mom takes after her ancestors and owns her own business. She went back to school in her forties and runs a graphic and web design business doing all the coding and drawing. And she’s quite the crack shot with an AR-15. Mom was also the one who taught me how to use power tools. We didn’t have hugely strict traditional gender roles in my family I guess. Both Mom and Dad cooked and cleaned too.

            Women in my family have always been equal partners to their husbands and have accepted nothing less because we saw the examples set by our parents. I’ve always felt that’s how it’s supposed to be and those the subjugate their wives in the name of our religion are way off the rails. Be the change you want to see I guess. It’s rather different outside of Utah. I grew up in Oregon which is like a complete 180 from Utah! Lol

          • Laura

            You single? Cuz I have some brothers who would really like you!

          • Laura

            I grew up in Texas myself, and have been really icked out at the uber-feminine ideal here. Yeah, I’m a homemaker and all, but I don’t scoff at women going for advanced degrees as some seem to.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Ha, I’m married actually. Coming up on three years this July. Found someone that can put up with my insanity long term. I think I’ll keep him. He’s a good critter. He’s seen the worst of me and didn’t run screaming. And being homemaker can be a lot more than dishes and poppy diapers. It can also mean reupholstering the furniture and landscaping work if you’re my mom lol. She stayed home when we were kids because she wanted to be with us.

          • MLE

            Depends on the part of TX too. My best friend (Mormon) got advanced degrees in Spanish, served a mission, and is not the best bread baker. Another friend is now a practicing lawyer. They aren’t the exception among our generation/region.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Yeah outside Utah there’s a wider variety of Mormon girls. Several girls in my age group in the ward I grew up in actually went into the military. One into the marines. The Utah bubble is weird with gender roles sometimes. It’s not as prevalent in the SLC metro area as it used to be but there’s still a lot of holdover of that stuff. Really crazy culture shock for me when I was first moved out to Utah.

          • Amy M

            I worked with a Mormon woman for a while—in a research lab. She was from Utah. Aside from her aversion to soda/coffee, she pretty much acted like the rest of us and she was open to questions about her religion, since its quite a minority in our area.

          • DelphiniumFalcon

            Good! I like hearing that! She may have already explained but church leadership wants young women to get a higher education. Not just in like home ec but also in the STEM fields. You never know if your husband will be more suited to being home with a family, you may have the job with better benefits, or if, heaven forbid, he is the main provider and ends up disabled or even killed. We don’t want our women to be uneducated and helpless, despite what some inside and outside the religion may believe.

            Don’t think I don’t like Utah Mormons, I just don’t like some of the trends I see parents force on their children and their daughters are the ones who usually end up with more pressure.

            In general, the wards here are extremely supportive of their members, even if they’ve gone inactive, left the church, or something else. I have severe depression and anxiety and they’re a lot kinder here than the ward I grew up in outside of Utah. They don’t always understand why I’m suffering, they just know I am and that sometimes keeps me away from church because I end up a sobbing ball in the corner. The comradery is a lot stronger since that is a large part of the culture. Outside Utah there’s still the comradery, definitely, but I haven’t seen it as strong as in Utah wards.

            So there’s pros and cons to living in Utah where there’s a large Mormon community and outside Utah where it’s more spread out. Part of the reason why I think our mission program is a really good thing. In generally for everyone I think it’s a good idea to be exposed to as many different ways of life as possible in order to have compassion for people outside your perception of normal. And you definitely learn to love others when you serve them. The actual definition of service, not expecting something in return but serving out of the kindness of your heart.

            What does bother me is that there is a lot of pressure on young women in certain parts of Utah that can end up being too much. I don’t see the same pressure applied to the young men for the most part.

            I’ve seen it changing in the Northern part of Utah but in some of the more rural parts where I live they still cling pretty heavily to it. Girls are expected to have perfect hair and make up every morning from the time they’re like fourteen or fifteen years old, learn multiple instruments or sing, be in some kind of sport or dance class and excel at it, be good with children, make perfect grades, not have an interest in STEM fields as they’re not things girls should be interest in, and practically have a pintrest portfolio of crafts and dodads of their own design. And never make a mistake like staying out too late on a date, missing church, and so on. Basically to be perfect. And to defer to a man’s judgment no matter who he is, blah blah blah. Men and women are supposed to be a partnered team that works as one meaning that one cannot rule over the other. A man cannot receive the highest glory of heaven without a wife and vice versa. You’re in it together.

            If all of the beauty regiment and extracurricular activties are the choice of the girl then I say go for it and enjoy it. But more often than not they don’t have a choice. Which, as your friend in the lab likely explained, is against everything we believe in. We believe that the ability to choose is so important because it’s how we learn in this life. We also know that perfection is not a realistic goal in this life. If it was, we wouldn’t need the atonement if Christ. We should strive to be the best we as an individual can be but that will be different for everyone. No one can be perfect and that’s okay. You just try to be a better person each day and if today didn’t go so well that’s why there’s tomorrow.

            I work in a hospital and I see so many teenage girls go into the ER for suicidal thoughts or actual attempts and their reasons are often along the lines of “I’ll never be good enough so why should I even try?” And then the parents brush them off as being overdramatic and don’t get them the help they need or assess how their daughter got to this point. Which just breaks my heart because its so against what is taught. Church leaders have been putting an extra emphasis on recognizing and being compassionate to those who suffer from mental illness and those who are prone to depression especially. But these parents keep running their daughters into the ground. Parenting isn’t raising a perfect child, it’s teaching them the skills they need to be a functioning member of society that hopefully has compassion for the human beings around them.

            There are changes happening even here though as the message finally gets through. Sometimes members think they know better than the leadership and go off the rails with some really bizarre stuff. Not to say you shouldn’t question leadership because following blindly is just as bad. But consider the counsel of the leadership and why they would give that and how it applies to your life. Also realize when a prophet is speaking as a prophet and when he is speaking as a man. A prophet doesn’t become immune to temptation once they take on that role and it’s dangerous to believe so. When they speak in conference or release a statement to be applied to all of the church they are speaking as a prophet. When they’re talking in classes or outside of their role you need to consider if it’s their opinion or if it’s truely inspired word.

            We should be as diverse as everyone else. Shoving everyone into a prescribed role doesn’t work. We aim to be people that are kind to others and have had several conference talks recently emphasizing to stop sticking our noses in other people’s business. You don’t know the trials they have to bear so love them even as they wrestle with them. You don’t have to agree with someone but that doesn’t mean you have to be cruel to them either. You may not agree with someone lifestyle, gay relationships being the hot button, but they have not entered into the same commandments LDS members have. We cannot expect to hold them to our morals when they have not chosen those covenants. Again, everyone has a choice. Consequences also follow those choices. Choosing to harm another living being like attacking a fellow human or killing an animal for no other reason than for enjoyment isn’t excused by having the ability to choose for example. You still face consequences for your actions against them.

            Sorry that got a little long winded. Especially seeing how many suicidal teenage girls there are in those situations and how opposite it is from what is taught it makes me a little testy. Especially when the heritage we came from is considered.

          • Laura

            Yeah, looking at our heritage, women in the early days of the Church were AWESOME. I hope we can restore some of that–my ward is actually pretty great on that front. We come from all walks of life and we support each other.

    • Nehimomma

      Everyone in West Jordan at that time was pretty poor. The only families that had any amount of money were The Gardner family and the Bateman family and compared to today’s standards would still not be that grand.

      Mormon’s are taught to be as frugal as possible and that includes breastfeeding. That is likely why it was more acceptable.

      Former longtime resident of West Jordan with my grandparents being their since they were born.

  • Daleth

    My great grandmother was strongly discouraged, by her husband and other relatives, from going out in public or receiving non-family visitors when she was visibly PREGNANT… it was seen as indecent… so I have difficulty imagining that public breastfeeding would have been even remotely acceptable.

    • Yeah, different cultures and socio-economic groups had different views on pregnancy and breastfeeding.

      • Wren

        My grandfather was one of 13 and grew up poor in rural Texas. Not leaving the house when pregnant would have had a huge impact on his mother, who from all accounts from her children missed only 2 Sundays at church in her life. I can’t say for sure when he developed the attitude, but he was clearly far more comfortable with me breastfeeding my child in public than his son, my father, was. When my son fussed the first time the two met, my grandfather assumed I was breastfeeding and told me “Don’t be shy. Put that baby to the tit if he’s hungry.”

        • Your grandpa and my dad have a lot in common 🙂

        • Gatita

          Ha! Your grandfather sounds awesome.

    • Dr Kitty

      It was called “confinement” for a reason.
      My husband’s grandmother remembered being told to stay home and just walk around her back garden whenever she got “heavy footed”, or about 7 months into each pregnancy, and she bottle fed specifically so she would be able to go out and about again after months inside.

      MY grandmother on the other hand…nope.
      SHE was doing everything she usually did (although she had “staff”), and breastfed wherever she happened to be, which I think is a combination of the more laid back attitudes in colonial Southern Africa, her general DGAF attitude to anything she personally felt was ridiculous, and my grandfather being absolutely supportive of her choices.

    • Cobalt

      I Love Lucy was nearly cancelled because of Lucille Ball’s pregnancy, and they weren’t allowed to use the word “pregnant” on the show. She certainly wasn’t showing any breast either, in any context.

      • Gatita

        Plus twin beds! It was an immaculate conception!

  • DelphiniumFalcon

    So breasts have only recently become sexualized? Sure lady.

    I believe the Dream of the Fisherman’s wife, numerous nipple pinching paintings from the Renaissance, Venus of Willendorf, and so on would like a word.

    They could be symbolism of something. But in absence of the original artist’s opinions, I’m going with people really like boobs.

    And as an additional thought, let’s give men some credit here. I think a breast being used for breastfeeding doesn’t trigger “I wanna tap that” like one not being used for breastfeeding would possibly do. Contrary to what the internet says, men aren’t animals who can’t control their raging lust.

    • Wren

      Having breastfed for nearly 4 years altogether, my personal anecdote would back up your claim. Breast with baby on it never did seem to lead to a sexual response from my husband, but breast with baby safely asleep in another room? That often does.

      • DelphiniumFalcon

        That’s what I’ve heard from a lot of my breastfeeding friends. Which makes sense to me. Men do know that breasts have a use besides fun bags.

        So I guess we have a twofor on this one on the sexist ideas? Women are defined by the success of their reproductive organs and men aren’t capable of controlling themselves. Good to know we’re making so much progress in the crunchy world!

    • Bugsy

      Yep. I’ll always remember my husband’s reaction to the video shown at the hospital’s breastfeeding class – it was of a woman who had a stream of milk squirting out of her breast. “Wow, she’s hot” was about as far from my husband’s reaction as one could get.

      • Megan

        Yeah, my husband could not even watch me manually express my breasts in th beginning, said it made him squeamish. But breasts sans milk? Different story!

  • TsuDhoNimh

    Breastfeeding in public happened, and was considered acceptable and even sexy (see French aristocrat portraits), but as the middle-class mores took over in the 1800s, it became “low class”.

    Feeding in your boudoir or the baby’s nursery was womanly, feeding in the streets and on the buses was what slatterns and the Irish did.

  • TsuDhoNimh

    AND … women who had to work couldn’t bring the baby to work to nurse it.

  • Worstlactivistever

    I will argue with you the point that women only nursed in their homes. There are plenty of photographs from even the victorian age that show breastfeeding mothers. Some with the entire breast out. Heck i’ve found examples of line drawings of mormon mothers quite obviously openly nursing IN church meetings. We’ve got portraits of ROYALS breastfeeding their child. (and in some cases royals with their wet nurses!!)

    As far as our victorian ancestors- If you look at the style of clothing- if a woman was “homebound” she’d be wearing certain clothes, (something called a wrapper and no corset) instead, there are extant garments that are basically victorian nursing clothes. We have examples of discreetly placed slits, and corsets that have nursing panels. Obviously, not all women had them, but seeing as there are more than one extant example, we can likely say that more than one woman ventured out in public in a nursing corset and modified clothing. Now, if you know anything about historical clothing – “work clothes” or clothes that are worn daily tend not to survive, so all we have left to look at are the high fashion things. So yes, examples of such are rare, but if you look at them, they’re examples of work garments for “regular” women.

    There are also historical parenting books (some available on google books that have been scanned into a PDF) that describe how to nurse in public. The books suggest covering the breast with a towel or blanket not for modesty but to prevent chilling the breast and to prevent infection. (They also describe how to choose a wet nurse. Apparently redheaded wet nurses are a bad idea)

    The ankle thing is also not technically historically correct. Working women had “working dresses” that DID show their ankles. In the 1830’s in fact, most high fashion showed the ankle. The horrifically restrictive clothing- it was like the couture ankle breaking Jimmy Choos today. And those women would likely would have had the wealth to hire a wet nurse (but not a redheaded one. Ha).

    I’ve done a lot of research (and no, not the “i’m a google expert” that anti vaxxers claim, i’m talking extant books and magazines from the time period and such) because i am a historical reenactor and historical accuracy as far as how i comport myself (and feed my children) at an event is important to me.

    However your other points are 100% valid and something i harp about daily. Obviously women have had lactation struggles since the dawn of time- as we also have extant examples of bottles to feed infants going as far back as Roman and Greek times. Nestle started marketing formula in 1867.

  • Alcharisi

    Even regardless of Bentley’s dubious cultural history, I fail to see how one gets around the fact that, owing to higher concentrations of nerve endings, breasts are likely to be an erogenous zone for most people who have them. Wouldn’t that in and of itself contribute to their sexualization–unless, of course, you dismiss women’s sexuality?

    • Wren

      Well, women’s sexuality can be ignored, can’t it? I mean, the rest of the woman outside of her role as a mother is generally ignored by these people, so why not her sexuality too?

    • Megan

      This is exactly what I was thinking. If it feels good for breasts to be touched (and I understand that’s not entirely universal for all individuals) wouldn’t breasts have been sexual for as long as we’ve possessed them?

      • delegate2010@hotmail.com

        I can confirm your understanding. My breasts are pretty much not at all sensitive, and I’ve never enjoyed having them touched because I don’t feel anything and it just seems kind of silly. However, I think due to the lack of sensitivity, I had very little trouble breastfeeding. It was hardly painful at all, except a little very briefly when she would get a new tooth. We’re all different and feminism is about the freedom to make the choices that work for us as individuals. I don’t get why that’s so hard for lactivists to grasp.

      • Medwife

        Mine like being touched, but touch /= having a vacuum cleaner hose attached to the nipple. While breastfeeding they ceased to be sexual for me, out of sheer shock, I think. Luckily it was reversible 🙂

  • Zoey

    Every time lactivists bring up their revisionist history of infant feeding, I think of my 90 year old grandmother. She tells me that her mother did not breastfeed her (I don’t know if it was because she could not or did not want to) or any of her 3 siblings. My grandma was the youngest, and the others did well drinking regular cow’s milk from birth, but she had constant vomiting and diarrhea and came very close to dying. She said the only thing that saved her was Eagle Brand sweetened condensed milk. I’ll bet my great-grandmother would have been thrilled to have safe, nutritionally appropriate infant formula instead of having to feed her daughter sweetened milk from a can.

    • momofone

      My 86-year-old aunt has a similar story. She was unable to tolerate cow’s milk, so my grandmother gave her Eagle Brand condensed milk. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been my grandmother’s first choice if other options had been available, but it kept my aunt alive, which cow’s milk wouldn’t have.

      • deafgimp

        Except that stuff *is* cow’s milk. Maybe the extra cooking did something to it, like lowered lactose levels.

        • Mariana Baca

          Cooking would not lower lactose, but it would denature some milk proteins. Babies are as a rule not lactose intolerant: that would mean they can’t drink breastmilk and would die. But many are allergic to cow’s milk proteins. Denaturing milk proteins by heating breaks down some proteins a kid is allergic to in to a form that is more hypoallergenic. Also, because condensed milk is more calorically dense, a kid would need less exposure to milk in general to get the necessary calories.

  • guest

    In retrospect, I wish I hadn’t breastfed past two months or so (I did seven months). I had uncontrollable hunger from nursing twins and somehow still developing an oversupply, and not enough free time and sleep to make careful diet choices. I first lost all but ten pounds of my pregnancy weight, then put all but ten pounds of that weight back on – and years later I am still unable to get rid of it (please don’t lecture me on how I might do so now, or why it’s my own personal flaws that are preventing me from doing so. The point is that I never would have *gained* this weight if I wasn’t breastfeeding). This obviously did not happen to everyone, but I didn’t enjoy breastfeeding, and it was painful and difficult, and I wish I hadn’t felt like it was soooooo important that I keep doing it.

    • Megan

      My experience with the weight gain was very similar. I can empathize.

    • The Computer Ate My Nym

      So much for the “breast feeding will help you regain your normal weight” argument. Personally, I was also hungry pretty much from the time I started breast feeding to the time that I stopped.

      • guest

        No kidding. It was a hunger like I’ve never felt before.

      • Bugsy

        Yep. I was starving around the clock while nursing…and if I didn’t eat enough (probably 4-5x per day at least), I’d start getting signs of hypoglycaemia. Bleh.

      • Toni

        For me it was THIRST. Ungodly, crossing-the-Sahara-after-eating-a jar-of-pickles-and-a-bag-of-potato-chips THIRST. With my fist child I know I annoyed my husband by asking him to fetch me water (cuz I was on the couch feeding the baby) umpteen times a day. By the second child I learned to fill the water glass before settling in, and with my third I graduated to a 32-oz bucket that stayed with me at all times, lol.

        I did hold on to the last 10-15 lbs of baby weight until my periods returned tho. Which wouldn’t have been so bad, but AF didn’t resume until 9 mos, 10 mos, and 12 mos postpartum, respectively. It sucked to carry the extra weight that whole time.

        I enjoyed bfing, and plan to do it again. But there are some serious demands on the body during lactation.

        • Megan

          I had the same thing with the thirst. I literally could tell when my let down happened because I would immediately get so thirsty! I resorted to drinking out of a huge Mason jar!

    • Kq

      I met one of my best Mom friends over a buffet at a holiday party. We were both nursing and ravenous

    • SporkParade

      “Did you know that breastfeeding women need even more additional calories than pregnant women,” asked the waiter to my husband as I ordered the humongous piece of flourless chocolate cake a la mode after having eaten an appetizer and a large entree.

  • Bugsy

    Very interesting points regarding LLL. I have never been a member of LLL; however, at the time that Crazy Lactivist was a local leader, she and I were close friends. She told me flat-out that the tenets they continue to promote (at least w/ respect to group leaders) are such that moms are expected to be home. She worked part-time, and this tenet was a bone of contention for her as well as a source of what she perceived to be non-stop judgment & criticism from the other local leaders.

  • NoLongerCrunching

    What evidence is there that the founders of LLL were trying to convince women to stay home? I have read extensively about them and only ever saw them wanting to provide support to women who wNted to nurse

    • Amy

      This isn’t direct evidence, but have you ever read The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding? Lots of passages about how much better staying home is, how working outside the home isn’t worth the money you’ll make, etc.

      • NoLongerCrunching

        Yes but it’s been a while. Good point. I was thinking more about the founders. It’d be interesting to read the first edition.

    • Allie
      • NoLongerCrunching

        Thanks! I don’t know how I didn’t see that.

  • The Computer Ate My Nym

    If breasts aren’t secondary sexual characteristics in humans why do we carry them around all the time? If the guys aren’t into them, it’d sure make jogging easier if we could just have them atrophy when not in use.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      Aren’t the evolutionary explanations for why the human breasts have the shapes and appearance that they do based on their role as secondary sexual characteristics?

      That would put their introduction as sexual about the same time we developed consciousness

      • Nick Sanders

        I read somewhere that part of the reason for the shape is that with our flatter facial shape compared to our primate cousins, nursing on flat monkey boobs put us at risk of suffocation, so a rounded, protruding shape became evolutionarily favored.

        • The Computer Ate My Nym

          That might be why human breasts are rounder, but why to they have to be there all the time? If there were no sexual component, I would expect breasts to hypertrophy only during breast feeding and then atrophy after completion of breast feeding.

          • Nick Sanders

            Again, this is all IIRC, but it was hypothesized that they triggered similar attraction responses because of their similarity in shape the rounded buttocks, a common point of attraction across many primate species.

            I wasn’t really trying to in any way diminish the point about the now being secondary sexual characteristics, I just wanted to share a bit of trivia.

          • Roadstergal

            I wonder if it has something to do with species recognition. It’s been a while since those classes, but basically, if there’s a characteristic that makes it easy for a mate to tell you’re the same species, that will be selected for. It’s the main driver behind the peacock’s tail, which is a massive survival disadvantage, but peahens know unambiguously it’s a cock of the right feather. Similarly, I wonder if the shape of the breasts of Homo Sapiens allowed male Homo Sapiens to grok “this is not a waste of sperm to mate with”?

          • Kq

            This was what I learned in biology too.

          • Amy M

            Part of that is the hidden ovulation humans have. Other animals’ breasts only swell when lactating, or (and here I’m not remembering correctly) or when in estrus. If a human woman’s breasts are always swollen, its impossible to tell if she is pregnant/lactating or not. At least, I read that somewhere.

        • demodocus

          Some video we were watching in into to Anthropology suggested it was because boob cleavage looks a bit like butt cleavage, and a lot of apes prefer sex from behind

          • Roadstergal

            Boobs need a bra in order to have cleavage that looks anything like buttocks.

            Apes don’t so much ‘prefer sex from behind’ as some of them have cues of female sexual readiness that are butt-based (technical term).

          • Nick Sanders

            *Giggle*… Ahem, we are are serious people, this is a serious discussion.

          • Roadstergal

            Victoria’s Secret was that she had a Neanderthal outlet.

          • demodocus

            Said professor was, bless him, a looney. Very nice man but rather out of his gourd.

    • Valerie

      It annoys me that we have to assign them a specific role at all. Milk glands and nipples? Yeah, I’d buy that we’d have a hard time as a mammalian species if we lost those because our infants depend on them (without our current technology of course). But we don’t know “why” we have protruding breasts- it didn’t ever have to be a target of specific selection. It could just be a byproduct of, say, being able to store more body fat on our thighs and butts. Or something like that. We can think up a lot of reasons as to why, and correct me if I’m wrong on any hard data here, but our best evolutionary explanations are pretty much “just so” stories. I don’t really see the need to give them a universal primary purpose or raison d’etre (to justify or incriminate their “sexualization”)- the function of my boobs is whatever I want to and am able to use them for.

  • anh

    I read this article and laughed. People have been obsessed with breast forever. There are references to gorgeous breasts in Song of Songs.

    • The Bofa on the Sofa

      I remember my old Human Anthro prof’s comments: ancient people’s versions of attractive women came down to “big boobs, big butts.”

      Based on the statues we have, it’s hard to argue

      • Sue

        Even this:
        (trigger warning)

        • Infant: “Hi, I’m Jesus or something and this breast milk is BORING.”

          Mother: “HOW DO YOU HAVE SUCH A LONG TORSO?”

        • Life Tip

          Even better…

          • Cobalt

            There is so much going on here, I don’t know where to start.

          • The Computer Ate My Nym

            Is it just me or is she shooting breast milk right at that guy’s mouth?