After hearing the news that most people think breastfeeders are stupid, I counted to ten to calm myself and then thought of all the incredible smart women I know who breastfeed. I will count myself among them. I breastfeed and I have a college degree, majored in math and science and English. I'm a published author and am also self-taught and educated in quite a few important parenting niches thanks to the incredible support system of other moms I know. It's also very important that I stress it's not just fancy degrees that make people smart.
When I asked a group of my breastfeeding friends, many who are stay-at-home moms, to share their super smart accomplishments for this very article to prove that breastfeeders are intelligent, competent women, I got a few answers that essentially said they have no skills, that they are just moms. I had to count to ten to calm myself again.
Just. Moms?! The feminist in me, or shall I say the feminist in me who believes that breeders too are feminists, got angry. Because any mom (and any person who is smart) knows that being a mom takes skill, takes smarts, takes educating oneself, and I was talking to some of the smartest moms I knew. Moms who taught me many, many things I needed to know about parenting that didn't come with the "manual" I received when my twins were born. Breastfeeders are smart. And I know stay-at-home moms who are some of the smartest, most educated (by books and self-taught) women I know.
The thing is people don't respect women who breastfeed. We are looked down upon, thought to be incompetent -- the study says so, the eye rolls I get when nursing in public say so. And yet breastfeeding is the smartest thing a mom can do for her child. That's giving that child the best start in life. Breastfeeding moms -- both who work and stay at home -- feel this. We sense it. It gets ingrained in our heads that we aren't respected.
It's not just breastfeeding that gets a bad rep. Think about the very word "mom," and aside from the beautiful word it is, it also is viewed as a negative word. Mom jeans -- unattractive. Mom hairdo -- ugly. She's a mom! certainly has a different feeling than if someone was to proclaim She's a doctor! right? Moms get the shaft when it comes to respect and yet without mothers life wouldn't exist or continue to exist. Our very bodies are what gives life.
The researchers of that "breastfeeders are incompetent" study also concluded:
A woman may not breastfeed because of worry over how she will be evaluated by other people. Data from the current project suggest this worry may be warranted, to the extent that breastfeeding is a devalued social category.
This just makes me sad. And mad. No woman should care what anyone thinks when she chooses to breastfeed. Outside opinions should never sway your decision to make the best choice for your child. To any woman wanting to breastfeed but worries about how she is "evaluated by other people," I say please get thee to a La Leche League meeting. Join an online support group. Talk to like-minded women. Write to ME!
And just to be sure, I don't need to point out all the competence and smarts of breastfeeding women, do I? I will anyway. I know breastfeeding women with degrees in math, psychology, and special education. I know a breastfeeder who was a single mom who created her own thriving business. One is a Certified Lactation Educator-Counselor, another is CEO of her household with three kids, another studied law. All smart and insanely competent women.
Are you going to tell me those women are stupid, incompetent?
We have to value all moms. We have to value all women.
Oh and if you don't like Michelle Obama or feel she's "stupid" and you're more of a Sarah Palin fan, remember, Alaska's most famous person breastfed her kids, too.
Do you think breastfeeding moms are viewed as incompetent? How can we change public perception of breastfeeders in order to avoid making new moms feel uncomfortable about nursing their child?
Image via Joe Shalbotnik/Flickr