(also posted in mcraeintheoven.wordpress.com)
Last night Mike and I attended the first of four educational workshops provided by the Birth Centre for first time parents. I was encouraged to attend these workshops by my midwife and I saw it as an opportunity to meet some other mothers and learn a few things that I might not get from books. The topic of the workshop was breast-feeding.
First of all, I agree with the premise that “breast is best.” It is the safest, simplest way to feed a baby. It is what our bodies are built to do and it is a perfectly adapted function to get the best nutrition into that growing baby. Breast milk is the perfect food, and breast-feeding helps create an important bond between mother and child.
However, what irritated me (and Mike) was that almost right away, the workshop began to be not just preachy, but almost propaganda. The answer provided by the midwife to every possible problem was “If you do it right, there are no problems,” without really offering any alternative. It reminded me of abstinence-only sex and drug education. “If you do it our way, you won’t have any problems.” “What if I choose another option?” “Our way is the best way. Here’s some reasons why the other option is bad…” When addressing the disadvantages of formula, the explanations often included reasons related to people not mixing it correctly or overfeeding. Why couldn’t these problems be addressed by educating women on how to do it correctly? Sure, formula isn’t as easy or as good for the child as breast milk, but it’s there, it’s an option and if a woman is unable to breast-feed, for whatever reason, or if say, she becomes ill, or if she dies and the father or grandparents have to raise the child on their own. What then? Who is going to educate them to minimise the drawbacks of bottle-feeding? Or are there still wet-nurses around to take up the slack?
I tried at one point to address one problem with this sort of environment, that this approach could create emotional stress if the mother isn’t comfortable with breast-feeding or has problems. My point was glossed over and dismissed.
Mike was also obviously uncomfortable as well. Alarm bells started going off early with him. The first activity we did was break up into two groups, men and women (which I thought was slightly insensitive since one poor girl was there with her mother). The men made a list of breast-feeding benefits, the women, a list of disadvantages (quoth the midwife before we started, “There are none”). Mike came back from his list making and whispered to me “Ignore number three, I tried.” I looked at their list: 3. Natural. *Cringe* Yes, I understood. There are benefits to it being natural (it’s regulated by the body, the mother’s body filters out toxins, it’s easy to prepare, there’s nothing to add to it, it’s perfectly suited to the baby) but being “Natural” in itself is not a benefit.
Over all, the midwife was an awkward teacher. I have spoken to her one on one and she’s pleasant enough. She’s knowledgeable and wise and has been a midwife for a very long time. Unfortunately, she seemed to suffer the deer in the headlights problem when speaking to a larger group. It didn’t help that she seemed to have taken an oath to not say anything bad about breast-feeding, or anything positive about bottle feeding.
The next class is about birthing methods, I think. Hopefully, it will be less pushy (no pun intended).