Michaels: Breastfeeding zealots are the least of this community’s concerns

Keep an eye out for the book burning session at their next meeting... And that moment when Kevin Bacon dances into town

Have you heard of “breastfeeding Nazis?

The politically incorrect term bandied about by recent breeders has now been brought to the general Okanagan public courtesy of a West Kelowna council meeting.

It was offered by a public nurse who, while trying to convince the district’s elected officials to adopt Baby Friendly initiatives at the municipal level—as has been done in Lake Country and Kelowna—was met with an unusual rebuke.

Social engineering, boobie bullies, dubious concerns over enforcement and fears around excessive use of breast milk application were some of the arguments against adopting an innocuous policy. That reportedly prompted her to reply, “I have always made an effort not to be a breast-feeding Nazi.”

It all made me snort my breakfast milk right out of my nose. Cow’s milk, for the record.

There was something oddball, smalltown and ridiculous about all of it, particularly elected officials rallying against an education campaign for breast feeding. Keep an eye out for the book burning session at their next meeting.  And that moment when Kevin Bacon dances into town on his way back from Taber, Alberta and makes every thing better.  I digress.

The point is education  is a helpful way to help make the townsfolk smarter. Clearly, when it comes to things like breast feeding, there’s a need for people to do some book learning.

Handily enough for me, an example of such need  popped up in my newsfeed this morning.

Kristen Hilderman, an editor of BC Business magazine, was on a United Airlines flight last Sunday when her five month old baby started to cry because of a change in cabin pressure.

As any good mother would do, she decided to feed him. In addition to its obvious everyday soothing effect, feeding during these times relieves pressure on their wee heads, like chewing gum would do for people with teeth.

As she popped opened the hatch on her feeding top and the five month old latched on, she was met with some unusual opposition.

A male flight attendant then approached her and her husband, she wrote in a Twitter post, and asked loudly “Are you two together?” When Hilderman’s husband replied yes, the attendant then tossed a blanket at him and said, “Then here, help her out.”

Hilderman said the flight attendant ignored her follow-up questions and walked away.

“I felt so completely embarrassed, uncomfortable, and self-conscious for the rest of the flight,” wrote Hilderman.

Just the type of emotions you would hope a woman would feel in the early stages of the most important relationship she’ll ever form —especially when she is doing something right for not only her baby, but the many passengers who likely started holding their breath when the dreaded baby-wail got underway. Well done, United.

Sure,  there will be people who complain about having to see a boob in public. It’s not an argument that holds much value in my mind. But even if it did, if those people have ever been a passenger on a plane, they should know that seats aren’t exactly arranged in a comfortable sharing circle formation. They’re squashed together in a line, making for maximum discomfort and a handy amount of privacy.

Hilderman has had loads of support in the days since this incident, as can be seen on her Twitter account.

It was nice, but it along with what’s happening at West Kelowna all underscored the fact that there is still a strange amount of  ignorance when it comes to breast feeding.

Here’s a thing I didn’t realize before I became a breeder two years ago— breast feeding doesn’t necessarily come naturally. In fact, staying up for days on end trying to make a screaming baby latch on for a meal it didn’t seem to want may have been the most unnatural thing I ever experienced.

I had breast feeding coaches come to my house, I went to meetings where it all hung out with other mothers who also had it all hang out. Then my little human would be plopped on a scale and I’d be told he’d ingested nothing, but to try, try again.

My poor little sister had never seen so much of me during this stretch of time. I don’t think she’s been the same since. Jealous, I like to think.

Despite my best efforts I eventually gave up. My little human couldn’t get enough au naturel so I got a prescription, a pump and spent an unseemly amount of two years pumping up a storm. Robobreast, would be a fitting title for my role in those days.

I’m oddly proud of my tenacity with the pump, which is all sorts of unpleasant. But when I was out and about plugging his little mouth with a bottle, I’d apologetically tell people that it was my milk within, as though it matters what other people think. Which brings me to the other thing I didn’t know until I became a breeder, and what Coun. Rosalind Neis touched on.

People want to tell you what they think, especially when it comes to breast feeding.

And there’s nothing more irritating than some twit who gets their medical intel from Dr. Oz, telling you what is best for the human who becomes your reason for being from the minute they’re sprung from your womb.

It’s annoying because I’ve come to believe most women do their best when it comes to raising their children.  We’re biologically geared to do so.

What it comes down to, however,  is this: if you’re able to go au natural, then you should be celebrated. If things aren’t going as planned, but you’re giving it your all then you also deserve to be supported and celebrated for your efforts, whatever they may be.

Motherhood is grand, but it’s hard sometimes and the last thing a woman needs while she’s navigating those rough waters is to wade through ignorance.

So, let’s bring on the education and shut down the judgments.

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