Monday, August 6, 2012

Natural Birth, Breastfeeding, or Intactivism -- Could You Pick A Platform?

I saw the question "If you could just choose one issue, what would be your #1 platform?  Natural birth, breastfeeding, or intactivism?" posed on a birth facebook page this week and was shocked by how many people said "intactivism" would be their platform if they could only choose one thing to be most passionate about. 

If you read my blog EVER, you know that I feel so strongly about natural birth (I'd have to link to nearly every post here!) and not circumcising.  I've written on these topics on Banned From Baby Showers for 4 years now and taught it for nearly a decade.  I'm a certified Natural Childbirth Educator for crying out loud!  I even wrote my own curriculum called Birth Boot Camp, which many of you are getting certified to teach!

In honor of World Breastfeeding Week, allow me to tell you why BREASTFEEDING would be my platform if I had to pick just one topic to preach on.

As you know, I had an epidural with my first baby because I was scared to death of labor and childbirth.  Didn't feel a darn thing when I birthed my baby.  I had heard enough people say they they "couldn't" breastfeed, so I was hopeful that it would "work" for me.  It did, mostly, thanks to some great advice I received before my baby was born.  He never had a drop of formula and we blissfully breastfed and bonded for 15 months.  That baby will be 16 this week. 

Breastfeeding was the coolest experience I had ever had, witnessing my baby grow healthy and chunky on my milk.  I thought it was pretty cool that I could leave the house without anything but a diaper and I had everything I needed to feed him with me at all times.  My husband was in college at the time, so the fact that breastfeeding was free was extremely beneficial. 

I'll admit, my main motivation for breastfeeding my first baby was that it was free.  We really couldn't afford formula, so I was thrilled that it "worked" for me.

Each time I breastfed a new baby, the duration got longer.  19 months, 24 months, and number 4 breastfed for 28 months. That time of my life is over now, but I reflect with contentedness and happiness.  I wish this for all new mothers, that they are able to breastfeed and receive the help and support they need to successfully breastfeed. 

My favorite quote is "Breastfeeding is a mother's gift to herself, her child, and the Earth."

I feel like I always have to have a disclaimer when I make statements like "Breastfeeding is possibly the most important thing you will ever do."  Again, I'm very aware that there are legitimate reasons why a woman or baby may not be able to breastfeed.  One of our requirements to be a Birth Boot Camp Instructor is that the applicant has breastfed at least one baby for at least one year.  While the Board feels that this is incredibly important, we do have a few trainees who have appealed to the Board asking to waive this requirement due to their situation.  I'm saddened that some women try their hardest and it just isn't meant to be.  These are not the women I am speaking to. 

With that being said, I believe that the majority of women and babies ARE able to breastfeed and SHOULD breastfeed.  It has been documented time and again that breastfeeding benefits both mothers and babies.  The benefits are not just immediate, but last a lifetime for both the child and the mother.

So why not natural birth as my number one platform?  I believe that natural birth is healthiest for mom and baby and a good choice all the way around.  I'm sure you are painfully aware that less than 10% of women choose natural birth.  At least 1/3 of women are having cesareans in the US today.  I, myself, had an epidural with my first baby.  Regardless of how your baby comes out, YOU SHOULD DO EVERYTHING IN YOUR POWER TO BREASTFEED YOUR BABY!  It will help with bonding, postpartum depression or baby blues, your baby will be healthier, and you will release prolactin -- the "mothering hormone"-- which makes you more calm and nurturing.  Did I mention that you'll have more money in your bank account?

Why not intactivism as my number one platform?  Anyone who has sat in my class knows how I feel about this topic.  But at the end of the day, it is a decision that parents make.  I hope I was able to shed light on the function and purpose of the foreskin.  Most people that sit through my class do not circumcise, and that makes me happy.  But if they come back to a reunion and disclose that they did circumcise, I could care less as long as they are breastfeeding!

We didn't circumcise our son 16 years ago, but I don't feel that that helped us bond or was good for either of our emotional or physical health, in the same way that breastfeeding has been.  It was a good choice, I believe, and certainly one that I don't regret.  He's good with it too.  Everyone's happy.  But breastfeeding has potentially protected him from several diseases, given him a solid "gut" (the kid NEVER throws up), and a million other health benefits.  I also got health benefits from breastfeeding, including reduced risk of developing breast or ovarian cancers.

I'm also going to choose breastfeeding as my number one platform because I have 3 daughters.  By choosing circumcision as my number one, I'm not giving the girls anything.  All of my children have benefited from breastfeeding, but not natural birth, and circumcision only pertained to one child.

As an educator, I hope to inform expectant parents of all their choices.  But at the end of the day, regardless of how they give birth or whether their son gets to keep his foreskin, I hope all mothers and babies breastfeed and feel supported in this most sacred time of their life.


SB said...

I circumcised my only son (I didn't realize I could choose *not* to, kind of link I thought it seemed bonkers you were *allowed* to birth at home) and I nursed him for 25 months. If I could go back and not circumcise of course I would.

But I would choose that breastfeeding relationship ANY DAY over just about any other parenting decision.

Sarah Williams said...

My first son was induction and epidural. He was also circumcised and completely formula fed. (3 &1/2 yrs). My second son (3months) was a natural drug free water birth. And he is exclusively breastfed. He is also circumcised though (tried to convince hubby not too but caused too many fights). But having both of these experiences I would definately choose breastfeeding as my platform. I was completely uneducated on child birth and breastfeeding with my first. He was induced early (for no apparent reason) and had breathing troubles. We also both got an infection. All of that led me to a natural birth. But, I also got really depressed afterwards. And I really believe if I would have at least breastfed then the depression may have been better. ( hospital kept telling me he was starving in the NICU because my milk wasn't in. And we had trouble with a latch.). Oh I will also be looking into becoming a birth boot camp educator as soon as we hit a year.

Sarah said...

I would also choose brestfeeding as my platform, mostly to make it more of the norm so that NIP wasn't such a hot topic so that mamas were no longer stressed out about it and babies were fed anywhere, anytime.

Hannah said...

I think that breastfeeding advocacy is a good platform for you. And it is very important. I breastfed my son for over 2 years and hope to do the same for all future children.

I guess I'd have to choose intactivism as more important to me though. Because it is something that affects the person for life and in a very personal way. Also, because I don't view "not breastfeeding" as a violation of human rights. It's either not an option, or not a good option, for some. Circumcision is never medically indicated on a newborn and is medical fraud. Would you "care less" if parents cut their baby girl's genitals, as long as they were still breastfeeding? (besides the legal aspect, I guess). I'm not trying to be sarcastic, just a question.

Circumcision was legal for girls and practiced in the US until 1997, although not nearly as much so as circumcision for boys. Girls benefit from being intact (I know I'd hate to be missing any sensitive areas of my genitals), but they're already protected by law and US culture, so yes they don't "benefit" from intactivism as much, at least in the US.

Thankfully we don't actually have to choose just one cause :).

Happy Breastfeeding Week.

Julie said...

You took the words right out of my mouth. Human rights are more important to me than feeding and birthing choices. Thank the gods that we can choose to educate people on all of them!

Cathy said...

I choose intactivism and this is why, the majority of society realizes now that "breastfeeding is best" but there are still rampant myths that are wholeheartedly believed about circumcision and doctors making money off this horrific procedure to unconsenting individuals. There are mothers who are uneducated and deffering to doctors and husbands on this issue instead of protecting the bodily integrity of their baby.

I don't think any of these issues are mutually exclusive of each other and I support and am active in all three. But I find there are ample resources for natural birth and breastfeeding - women just need support to find them and face the struggle that breastfeeding can be.

Circumcision on the other hand needs a larger body of human rights activists to end this both as a cultural practice and sadly a still legal practice. Because in the end the person having it done to them can't do the research because the choice is being made by someone else, even though it shouldn't be that way.

louise croft said...

reading some of the comments on here has really shocked me. i'm from the UK and had no idea that it was common practice in the western world to circumsize perfectly healthy babies for no reason. is this a religious thing? i feel i must be a bit uneducated. totally agree with the breastfeeding comments, BF both mine and still going strong.