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Friday, April 5, 2013

Why Everybody Hates Breastfeeders

Mislactony is probably a word you had never heard of, but I’ll bet you have heard of misogyny.
Misogyny is: Misogyny (pron :mi-soj-uh-nee) is:
The hatred or dislike of women or girls. Misogyny can be manifested in numerous ways, including sexual discrimination, denigration of women, violence against women, and sexual objectification of women.
Mislactony is a word I made up, (What? You can do that???) sure, why not.
Mislactony: (pron.:/ mis-lak-tuh-nee is:The hatred or dislike of breastfeeding. Mislactony can be manifested in numerous ways including discrimination against breastfeeding women, denigration of breastfeeding and women who breastfeed, violence (verbal or otherwise) against women who breastfeed and the sexual objectification of women in such a way that interferes with breastfeeding.

I made up this word because I believe there is a singular culture that sits alongside misogyny and it is the process whereby breastfeeding women and advocates are denigrated, undermined, treated with verbal violence, objectified, sexualised and discriminated against.
Some of you reading this will take this as a cue to roll your eyes. No WAY you think, breastfeeding women have it ALL, not only do they think they are gods gift to human kind, but they are smug know it alls that get government support AND a bigger cup size. How dare they complain?
But the truth of the matter is that women who breastfeed are still in the minority, the WHO advises that less than 40% of infants less than six months of age are exclusively breastfed worldwide. When you look at figures at 12 months and 2 years, breastfeeding becomes very niche indeed. Women who breastfeed are still excluded from basic rights such as fair employment or being allowed to eat in public. Breastfeeding is still both actively and passively undermined, and people who advocate for breastfeeding are still openly criticised and bullied.
There are people who actively hate breastfeeding and all boob kind and there are people who undermine breastfeeding while at the same time purporting to support it. For many women the pressure to not breastfeed is strong and sometimes it is relentless.

Despite all of this, many people still think that breastfeeding and breastfeeding advocacy is a sanctimonious and blessed pastime reserved only for the self indulgent, privileged or the very stubborn.

 So what does mislactony look like? A lot like misogyny

Control of attire: When women are told how much or how little they can wear, or what style of clothing they can wear, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told to ‘cover up’ ‘feed discretely’ or be ‘modest’ this is mislactony.
Reduced rights in employment: When women are excluded from employment or receive lesser pay or prestige based on their sex, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is refused employment or she experiences discrimination based on her lactation status, this is mislactony. In NZ 38% of all women who stop breastfeeding at 3 months, do so because they must return to work.
Socially acceptable derogatory terms:  When a woman is called a feminazi, bull dyke lezzo or butch bulldog for requesting equal rights, this is misogyny. When a lactivist is called ‘the breastapo’ or a ‘BF Nazi’ or a ‘tit hitler’ for requesting equal rights, this is mislactony.
Body autonomy: When a woman is not afforded the rights to her own body this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told that her breasts are for her husband, or that she is simply not allowed to breastfeed, this is mislactony.

Derogatory terms based on sex: When a woman is called a bitch, a slut, a whore, a witch or other gender based insults, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is called a cow or similar based on the function of her breasts, this is mislactony.
Control of basic day to day activities: When a woman is prevented from leaving the house, is not permitted to drive or perform other normal day to day activities, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman is told to ‘stay at home’ to feed their baby or ‘express to feed’ or simply to bottlefeed rather than feed in public, this is mislactony.
Denigration of specifically female functions: When women are degraded based on their physical attributes or their sex, this is misogyny. When a breastfeeding woman has the act of breastfeeding compared to defecating, urinating or other acts that are considered unpleasant this is mislactony.
Controlling of how we manifest: When women are told how to behave to meet certain societal expectations of sexiness, attractiveness and modesty, this is misogyny. When breastfeeding women are told how they must breastfeed, how long they must breastfeed, when they must breastfeed. This is mislactony.
When support systems are removed: When support networks or systems that are essential to women specifically, such as rape crisis, fertility support and women’s refuge are removed, maligned or attacked, this is misogyny. When support systems such as volunteer service La Leche League are attacked or there is limited access to medical staff who are trained in lactation support, not enough lactation consultants or even medical staff who actively undermine breastfeeding, this is mislactony.

 When advocacy is shut down: When women who talk about feminism or womens rights are shut down using predictable rhetoric such as accusations of misandry or man hating. This is misogyny. When breastfeeding women who advocate for breastfeeding are shut down with predictable rhetoric such as accusing them of hating on formula feeding mums, this is mislactony.
When inherent abilities are undermined: When women are told they are inferior simply on the basis of their sex, this is misogyny. When breastfeeding women are told that their milk is inadequate, runs out of goodness or that their breasts are inadequate, this is mislactony.
Sexual double standards: When women are judged based on their sexuality in ways that men are not, or are required to be both sexy and virginal at the same time, this is misogyny. When women who are breastfeeding are told to keep their breasts concealed, that no one needs to see that or that they are disgusting and getting a thrill from feeding their child, while at the same time we have breasts plastered all over our malls, billboards and magazines and sex is used to advertise almost everything under the sun, this is mislactony.

I know that to many of you a lot of these seem extreme or tenuous, but the thing is, they are not. These are real incidents and they happen on a daily basis. If we want to give every woman a chance to best meet her breastfeeding goals, it is not to tell them how breast is best, or how bad formula is. It is simply to stop all the mislactony!

Monday, April 1, 2013

Birthing Affirmations

Trusting our own births is one of the most important thing you can do to ensure a physiologically normal birth. A calm relaxed body dilates faster, a relaxed body allows the muscles of the uterus to work more effectively and puts baby under less stress. If anxiety and fear slow labour and make it more painful, then calm and relaxation hasten it and make it feel better. Women who reach deep levels of relaxation can actually have euphoric or orgasmic births

The problem comes when we live in a society that tells us birth is to be feared, that it is dangerous and painful and deadly. These messages reinforce our inner doubts and anxieties. A woman who fears birth does not trust her body, she doubts her ability to birth and in a nasty twist of irony, this actually lessens her ability to birth well and birth safely. 

A tense and scared body cannot relax, the uterus does not contract as effectively and it contracts painfully, which ends up being a vicious circle of fear and pain. A tense body does not release oxytocin or endorphins, it releases catecholamines (adrenaline and other hormones) which block oxytocin. This increases heart rate and breathing rate and stresses your baby.
So how do we trust birth again?

One thing that can help are birthing affirmations. They speak to your inner conscious and repeated enough will actually reaffirm your trust in your body. Here are some affirmations you can use. I had mine playing on an audio track so I could listen to them while walking or resting. Print them and put them on your loo wall, make flashcards, have your birthing partner read them to you. Every day absorb these affirmations and let them do their work.

My body is completely relaxed and ready for birth
I feel the waves of labour wash over me
I relax my mind and my muscles.
My body will give birth in its own time.
My body is totally relaxed
My jaw is relaxed my cervix is opening
My baby is totally relaxed
I am not afraid, I am serene
I surrender my body to birth my baby
Every surge brings my baby closer to me
I am a strong and capable woman
I can feel my baby move along the birth path
I surrender to the power of labour
Each wave brings my baby closer to me
My cervix opens like a blossom in the sun
Childbirth is a normal, healthy event
I trust my body, I trust my baby
I relax my body to birth my baby
I will labour like the women before me, with power and in peace
With each breath I relax, my baby is ready
My body is filled with the power and serenity of birth
Birth is a natural and happy event
I feel safe, secure and relaxed
I feel my body relaxing more and more
My baby is ready
I breathe my baby down the birth path
My body opens to birth my baby
My body is loose and limp, my jaw is loose and limp
Each breath brings my baby closer to me
My body is powerful and capable
I am deeply relaxed

My pelvis releases and opens as have those of countless women before me
My muscles are warm and heavy and I am totally relaxed
This is a sacred moment for my baby and I
I am in the moment
I feel each breath as it comes, I feel each surge as it comes and it is wonderful
I move, I sway, I dance, I walk, I squat, I kneel, I birth.
I am ready to birth my baby
I trust the process of birth
Birth is a happy and healthy state of being
Babies are made to be born and my body is made to birth them
Birth is normal and natural
I follow my baby's lead
Babies are made to be born, women are made to birth
I am peaceful, my baby is peaceful
My body opens naturally and with euphoria

I trust my body and my baby
I am filled with love for my baby, my baby is filled with love for me
The hormones for loving and birthing are the same. Love birth

With each surge I feel stronger and more relaxed
I close my eyes and sink deeper into a place of serenity
My pelvis is flexible and open, my baby is ready

The power of birth flows from my head to my belly, from my lungs to my cervix
I honour my mother and my grandmother with this birth
My power comes from within
I breathe, I roar, I sing, I moan I birth.
I look forwards to the time of our birth
My body grew this baby, it can birth this baby
The hormones that birth this baby will let me feed my baby
I sink into the powerful feelings of birth
As each wave crashes on the beach I breathe
Birth is as old as humanity, it is perfect
My body knows what to do, I relax and let it birth in peace
I am serene
I am an island in the ocean and the waves crash over me
We are ready for this baby
Our baby is loved and welcomed and ready
I am ready for birth

Obviously some of these will resonate with you and some will not, you can even write your own! But the key is repetition, every day talk to yourself (er just not out loud?) and reaffirm your power to birth well.

Trust me, 

Trust YOURSELF, trust birth ;)