Friday, May 4, 2012

Breastfeeding and why I'm mad at Whoopi

I haven’t watched daytime TV in years, but today I came across a tweet about Whoopi Goldberg ranting on The View against a new initiative by Mayor Michael Bloomberg to encourage breastfeeding in New York hospitals. I usually like Whoopi, but this time I think she’s just being ridiculous. What is wrong with encouraging new moms to breastfeed? It’s clearly best for the baby (and for the mom too), it’s also cheaper for the household than buying formula for a year. I understand that some women just can’t do it, and those women shouldn’t be stigmatized, but encouraging people to do something that benefits their child doesn’t mean you are blaming the others.

I breastfed A for a full year. It certainly wasn’t an easy thing for me, but I set this goal for myself and am glad I stuck to it. My main reasons for breastfeeding were:  1 my baby’s health 2. Not spending money on unnecessary formula, 3 shedding the pounds 4 not getting my period back (it sounds dumb but it’s a great motivator). I was able to do it, in part thanks to those lactation consultants and Leche League members who helped and encouraged me along the way. I took a class at the hospital before giving birth, and in the maternity ward, the nurses were incredibly helpful. The hardest part for me was probably having to pump at work and worrying about having pumped enough. The bonding part they talk about? I didn’t really get that… my son couldn’t stand being talked to while eating and would promptly stop if I said anything. He also never looked at me while eating. His feedings were about 30-40 minutes long, so no; it was not a simple, easy thing. But knowing that it was the best thing for my son kept me going.

What shocks me the most is how it’s so often women who are their own worst enemies when it comes to breastfeeding.  Like Whoopi and that dimwit Elizabeth Hasselbeck did on the show, I often hear women deride La Leche League and accuse hospital lactation consultants of being horrendous militants barging into new moms’ hospital rooms and guilting them into breast feeding. I am not sure how they operate in other hospitals, but in the one where I delivered, the main problem I encountered with the lactation consultant was that she wasn’t available enough. I never saw anyone from the League, but when I needed advice, I did pick up the phone and call a woman from the local chapter and she was incredibly helpful.

I pumped three times a day at work for about nine months (I had a three-months maternity leave). I was lucky to have my own office, so I just had to shut the door and pump. When I was done, I would put my bottles in the community fridge and rinse my apparatus in the kitchen sink. I never heard a word about it from any of my male coworkers. That’s right, it was the women in the workplace who gave me “the look”, and the women who made comments about my milk in the fridge. Seriously, what is so gross about human milk in closed bottles? You drink the same thing that comes out of a cow’s teats every day. At the time I worked in a store, and I heard female coworkers comments several times about women breastfeeding in the store and how “wrong” it was, suggesting they go to the bathroom to do it. Nothing angered me more. I didn't really care about any of this, because I knew I was doing what was best, and other people's opinions didn't matter to me, but I could see how it could discourage other people.
My point is that it seems that women DO need to be educated about breastfeeding, so yes, Whoopi and Elizabeth, it is a good idea to encourage it. It’s easy to make fun of things and act like a 6 year old about anything that involves boobs, but it’s time women grow up and support each other instead. Breastfeeding is one of the best things you can do as a new mom, but it’s not an easy thing, so new moms need all the help they can get. Thank you Mayor Bloomberg for taking the initiative to help our families, and sorry that some women don’t see what good you are doing.

Did you have a hard time breastfeeding? Did you encounter weird looks and comments about your breastfeeding?


  1. I don't understand women like Whoopi & Elizabeth. Breastfeeding is a matter of personal choice, and a perfectly natural action. I chose not to breastfeed two of mine (bad experience with my first one), but my girlfriend had such a positive experience breastfeeding her two daughters - I wish all moms could have that good of an experience! Better for babies & moms.

    As for doing it in public, or pumping at work.... well DUH! Of course you should be allowed to. I see women breastfeeding at the mall or the grocery store all the time. I work in an adults only environment (casino), so I never see it work, but wouldn't care if I did.

    We need to support other women, not make them feel bad for the decisions they make.

    1. Hi Kris,
      thank you for you comment. That would be odd to see someone breasfeed at a casino... but you are right, people shouldn't be made to feel bad about their decisions.