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Community, Feminism, and Breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding is difficult. No, it’s not hard to put a teat in a toddler’s mouth, but it’s not something that is easily accomplished in our current cultural setting. It takes commitment and support. Infinite amounts of support. Breastfeeding takes so much support, we might as well all get together and share milk, because that’s what is really best for our babies and how humans survived and evolved and a really good way to make sure every woman who wants to breastfeed her baby full-term is able to do so.

But we don’t live in that kind of world anymore, and along with all the sexualisation of breasts and our anti-family maternity and paternity leave policies, it’s near impossible for many women to breastfeed for as long as they would like. We know breastfeeding is best for our babies, but we don’t have systems set up to actually support and enable this in practise, and we shame women for how they feed their babies regardless of the method. Damned if you do. Damned if you don’t.

This week, however, I experienced something different. I found community, empathy, and support. The kind of support that keeps a woman breastfeeding when both she and baby still want to. I found support at home, in my real life and online community of women. My son is almost two-years old, and our breastfeeding relationship hasn’t been without its challenges. The kinds of challenges that would lead to pre-term weaning, without the support and community needed to continue the relationship.

This week, when I sought out breastfeeding support, I received it. My feelings of sadness and disappointment were met with empathy and validation. In one breath I was told it was great we were still breastfeeding at 22 months, and in the next breath was encouragement to tackle the issue. No one minimised my feelings, rolling their eyes at my distress of possibly ending the breastfeeding relationship after almost two years. I received practical and applicable advise so that we could continue breastfeeding.

This is what it takes to create a climate where women can breastfeed in a safe and thriving environment. Shared knowledge. Support. Empathy. Feminist values. I don’t know if we will be able to continue breastfeeding, but I do know I have a community of people, of women, with whom I can share in sadness and in triumph.

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