One of the many things pregnancy has taught me is that no-one likes being judged …
Image: Flickr / Dan Nguyen
Pregnancy, such a personal life event, renders you remarkably open to the opinions of others. I’ve had my food choices questioned (“are you sure you should be eating that?), my movements (“I don’t think you should be carrying that”) and most recently my wish not to have a home birth (“Your upcoming road trip is more dangerous” – my midwife).
I’ve tried to become more zen about it. For the most part, I know these interjections are made with good intentions. But, also knowing how irksome they can be, I pledge to never pass on pregnancy information in a ‘judgy’ manner.
And so to breastfeeding class. For me, I attended because it’s something I hope to do. Whether other couples decide it’s right for them is their business. Either way, I picked up valuable information on the philosophy as well as the practicalities, so I’d recommend it whatever your personal inclination.
An entertaining teacher always helps. Running surprisingly late (the Dutch tend to be punctual), our teacher rushed into the venue, laptop mouse trailing across the floor. The day so far had, apparently, involved quite the catalogue of family incidents. If this start gave us the giggles, the comment a few minutes later really tipped us over the edge. We were asked to name the advantages and disadvantages of breastfeeding to help winkle out any urban myths. Eventually, we came to the claimed advantage of fast baby-weight loss.
“Wrong!” she said in delight. “Unfortunately, only those women who are very slim to start with might have this benefit.” She cast her eyes around our group, settling on one petite girl. “You might be a candidate,” she said, pointing at her. “But none of the rest of you.”
I’m well used to Dutch directness by now. But this one is still a cracker.
One of the most important things we talked about were the modern misconceptions and double-standards attached to breastfeeding. There appears to be a strange, negative correlation between the general visibility of boobs and acceptance of public breastfeeding. I found a poll on debate.org which is only 56% in favour. Prominent bosoms are everywhere: in newspapers, magazines, on shopfronts, in films, catalogues and of course never more than an internet click away. But, for some reason, seeing women publicly nursing is the exception to this breast-fest. Maybe it’s the fault of those selfish babies for turning breasts into something so very functional.
Our teacher showed us the stereotypical image of a feeding mother versus the reality. In truth, with the range of clever clothes and cover-ups available today you don’t see a thing. Even if you did – who cares? It seems ludicrous to me that it would offend anybody. I love the story of the young Canadian Starbucks barista who came to the defence of a nursing mother. Maybe the complainant should be made to attend information classes.
I learnt a lot of invaluable factual information too. But it’s best you don’t hear that from me second-hand. Enough to say, our teacher acknowledged it can be hard, but gave us all the practical advice so we’d have the best chance of success if we so chose. And, she let the men know how they can be useful in what might seem a 100% woman-centric task. I’ve tested Charlie on how much he remembered since and can honestly say he took in more than I did. A great result.
If you’re Amsterdam-based, look up Borstvoedingscentrum Amsterdam (classes in English).
Have you ever encountered public breastfeeding objectors? Maybe you think it’s something to be done in private? I’d love to hear.