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Mother’s Milk and Fair Play: Breastfeeding as food justice (Video)

I’ve been thinking a lot about food lately. Of course this is no surprise to folks who know me since I always think a lot about food. But lately it’s  not just what’s on the menu for the next meal (yes, I like to eat), but more specifically as access. I’ve been thinking about food justice! In fact, what really got me thinking about this is SISTAH VEGAN — a book I read and reviewed on the topic, whose editor, Breeze Harper, made the video below.

Of course I believe it makes sense. Being able to nurse anytime, anywhere, is a fabulous idea that in my opinion, is a human rights issue. But being able to nurse on demand it is also something that is fraught with privilege, since countless women are not capable of this luxury. This video also got me to thinking about the recent Blacktating post Pumpin Ain’t Easy, and how that also examined our culture’s blatant disregard for human lactation, the difficulties of pumping and inevitably the disregard for those holistic health benefits, including the mother-infant connection, maternal and child health, potential environmental issues and a list of others.These both came at a point when I will be working with the state coalition in a project surveying companies in Washington State who are compliant with the Federal Break Time for Nursing Mother’s law — something I believed to be forward-moving. Of course I don’t think it’s all bad, since it does provide some opportunity to provide mother’s milk. But are we selling ourselves short?

From the way I see it, if nursing on demand were actualized it would necessitate the dissipation of a slew of justice issues — including the capability to nurse on demand, ridding our society of those many systems that are constructed and strengthened with inequality that hinders our access to provide this priceless benefit to our babies. I will be thinking about this, and I hope you do as well.

3 thoughts on “Mother’s Milk and Fair Play: Breastfeeding as food justice (Video)

  1. Hi Acquanda,

    Thanks for another good post and for sharing Breeze Harper’s (beautiful name BTW) video.

    For me, breastfeeding on demand was the only way to go. I made a choice to stay broke and to leave a 2 year photography course I was doing halfway through in order to do this. It was not a difficult choice for me as my passion for mothering far outweighed my passion for photography and I had never had any great interest in a career. I just had jobs. Nor had I invested years in an education towards a specific career. I do have friends, however, who have advanced degrees and proper careers, and have subsequently had children. These women live in Ireland. I think they both stayed home and nursed for maybe 4 months, but then had to put their children in daycare and return to work. I am not sure how much of their time off was paid. I think here in germany most women get a year off with pay, which I suspect is paid at least in part by the government.

    The truth is, women are going to have to accept that it is not physically possible to always be able to pursue everything we would like to. When we choose to become mothers, are lives are going to change if we want to mother well. This is true if we are breastfeeding or not. Why is it not the same for fathers? Because it isn’t. No father has hormones coursing through him after his baby is born that basically force him to love his baby. Women do. No father lactates naturally when their baby is born. No man has ever carried a baby in his body and been one with it for 40 amazing weeks. Women gestate, women lactate, and in my experience it is the women’s lives that change most dramatically when the baby is born. And anyway, fathers’ lives change, too. Just not usually as much.

    What is needed is definitely more flexibility in the workplace. In the US in particular. But all the flexibility in the world is not going to allow a woman to nurse on demand while working full time. It is simply not possible to do both effectively. There were days when my boys were at the tit literally ALL DAY. I could barely get to the bathroom, or make a cup of tea, never mind actually working. This is how milk supply is built up. It is crucial. And it is totally incompatible with the workplace. So yes, women must make hard choices. I have made some questionable ones to enable me to stay home. I collected certain benefits in Ireland through lying. I knew it was “wrong”, but not as wrong as putting my newborn in daycare all day to earn just a little more than the daycare cost. It was the choice I made, and I would do it again.

    I think that we have to look at this less from the rights of parent to stay home or to work, and more from the rights of babies to be raised by their parents. Every baby has a right to be breastfed. Therefore, every baby’s mother should have the right to stay home for at least a year to facilitate that. Personally, I think women should be entitled to a year off with full pay from any position they held for a year or more prior to the birth, and should be eligible to recieve welfare benefits for a further 2 years should they choose to stay home longer. There should be no shame or stigma attached to it. Not all women would want to take that much time from their careers, but the option should be there. Not because women have a right to have babies, but because babies have a right to have mothers.

  2. Thank you, and you’re welcome!! I really wonder IF we have sold ourselves short with tying to implement a program that allows pumping on the job instead of lobbying for MORE time off WITH pay!! Like I said, I am heading up a project here in WA to see which companies are compliant with the new federal law that requires a separate station for pumping for 1 year after baby’s birth, but I really like your ideas! The rights to have mothers has slipped many folks’ mind, and I know here in the US even more so. For a country that believes we are so progressive, we sure prey on our most vulnerable members. I can’t answer — even for myself since I’ve never had a baby, but I can only imagine those who really want to stay home but can’t. I also wonder about the whole idea of “women’s rights on going to work” and how that plays into all of this — but then that also gets complicated and requires us to look at the history of WHO has been working (and who has not) in this country. It’s really quite complicated. I know for sure we need to take some kind of measures to see things from a baby’s perspective — and yes, they do have a right to their mothers — and file this under babies rights! I absolutely agree with what you have to say!! Oh, and thank so much for the link!! I really want one of those caps. LOL!

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