05/02/2012 10:12 EDT | Updated 07/02/2012 05:12 EDT

Baby and the Breast

I am not rattled by women breastfeeding wherever they find convenient. The obstacle is my own self-image as a sexual being -- a gal who has long enjoyed her body for reasons that have nothing to do with babies.


A woman's breasts are not sandwiches.

Nor are females cattle, sitting idle waiting for a milking.

Now, if we did share the same mental wiring as the mooing, grass-grazing set, none of us would grapple with the breastfeeding concept or wonder how to transition from seeing breasts as sexualized body parts to providers of milk for newborns. But we're not, and the pressure for new moms to breastfeed is intense.

It's worse than a pushy gym sales guy trying every angle to get you to sign on the dotted line, and perhaps more severe than getting cornered by a Scientologist recruitment member.

It is this incessant force -- which whacks moms-to-be over the head with a good pounding of guilt, shame and eyebrow-raising judgment should they dare wonder whether breastfeeding is right for them -- that turns some gals off.

Now, before going any further, let me say this: I am planning to breastfeed come June when our son is born, as breast milk contains antibodies that help reduce the risk of infections and certain types of diseases.

That said, it feels completely unnatural to me.

Realizing that at this moment in time, questioning breastfeeding is like voluntarily diving into a politically-correct snake pit, I know I am not alone.

A recent book review in the The Globe and Mail confirmed my suspicions that other women are also examining parenthood and the exhaustive realities of breastfeeding, as newborns typically feed every two to three hours.

The book, entitled The Conflict: How Modern Motherhood Undermines the Status of Women, written by Elisabeth Badinter, is getting a ton of ink. It's bound to.

In it, Badinter challenges, among other things, the expectation that maternal instincts automatically demolish all other roles a woman might have played until the onset of parenthood, that with arrival of baby, even the most successful, career-minded women will magically transform into selfless, coo-cooing creatures ready to breastfeed on demand around the clock.

The other day a neighbour and father of a two-month-old told me about the scorn women receive even if they're unable to breastfeed. His wife couldn't due to surgery she'd had, but regardless, she tried, going so far as to hire an at-home lactation consultant and rent a hospital-grade pump.

"Even if you physically can't, you'll be told it's your fault," he warned.

The modern-day message is this: Not breastfeeding equals appallingly bad parenting.

But before it gets lost in the shuffle, allow me to return to the aforementioned breasts as sandwiches analogy, which derives from a rather unpleasant breastfeeding class.

I signed up because a friend asked me to and, at $10 a pop, it seemed a small price to pay to try and warm up to the idea.

It didn't work.

Watching the instructor turn an oversized stuffed breast into a makeshift sandwich, bring it to her mouth and pretend to chomp down to demonstrate how a person would naturally eat it (for the record, don't hold your sandwich vertically, but horizontally) was OK the first time, but three or four sandwich demos later, I'd reached my hoagie limit.

Her goal was to illustrate the proper positioning of a breast to baby's mouth, a message the class certainly got the first time around.

Still, not all was lost.

After a lengthy finger-wagging lecture by the borderline lactation radical, she asked to hear our concerns.

Finally, we speak!

When she reached me, I told the truth: I was desperately struggling with shifting years of programming that's impressed upon me that breasts are sexual, sexy and fun and instead embrace their more pragmatic purposes as lactation devices.

Then, all really was lost.

What followed was a long diatribe about a woman's rights to breastfeed in public.

Ah, yeah, not quite what I was getting at.

I am not rattled by women breastfeeding wherever they find convenient. The obstacle is my own self-image as a sexual being -- a gal who has long enjoyed her body for reasons that have nothing to do with babies.

While I am thrilled to bits to soon meet the person who has been squirming in my belly all these months, that hasn't stopped the wrestling match of questions in my mind.

And, hopefully it never will. After all, we are not cattle.

For now though, I will just keep chugging forward trying to find satisfactory answers. Hopefully they will come before mid-June.

Meantime, I've got to run -- I am pretty sure there's a sandwich in the fridge with my name on it (which I'll be sure to hold correctly when eating).