Adjusting our focus…

It amazes me how we all seem to be well-meaning, but continually just off the mark.

The recent uproar from La Leche League about Piri Weepu giving his baby girl a *gasp* bottle just decreased my opinion of that organization’s credibility.  Babies get bottles.  Get over it.  Giving a baby a bottle does not encompass some political statement over the benefits of breastfeeding.  He was feeding his child.  Good for him.  I love it when my husband feeds my child.  I love that they get that moment to cuddle and bond.  I get that moment six times a day and, next to him giving me a gummy smile, it is my favorite thing about having a baby right now.  What was in that bottle is irrelevant.

Think about it for a minute…what do you think is more beneficial to a society as a whole: breastfeeding or men bonding with their children?  Which do you think results in stronger families, less juvenile crime and higher levels of education completed?

Mmm hmmm.  Thought so.

And don’t give me that tired argument that men can bond through acts other than bottle feeding.  I already agree with you.  They can.  But, you bond with a crying helpless not very pleasant infant by looking after it – especially in those early months when you don’t get much in the way of social interaction.  There is something about feeding such a tiny wrinkly creature and watching it grow that bonds you to it in a way that is more powerful than all those diaper changes that lactivists suggest men get involved in.

I also agree that society needs to see more images of women breastfeeding.  Hey, I do my part.  I whip my teats out here there and everywhere.  On the subway?  Check.  In the doctor’s waiting room?  Check.  On a park bench?  Check.  In a restaurant?  Check.

Maybe Beyoncé breastfeeding Blue in a restaurant will encourage more women to do the same…

Or maybe we should stop getting distracted by which celebrities breastfed and which bottlefeed and focus on an issue that will actually make a difference to breastfeeding rates…

How about maternity leave?  I read a lot about women in the US taking only 6 weeks of maternity leave.  I looked up the FMLA legislation to see it gives you 12 weeks.  I suppose that’s better than 6, but it’s still dismal.  In Ontario, you can take 17 weeks of pregnancy leave and 35 weeks of parental leave.  You don’t necessarily get paid, but you don’t lose your job either.  Most of the other provinces give 35-37 weeks of parental leave for both mothers and fathers.  Wow.  If you tag teamed it you’d have a kid almost old enough for preschool before both parents had to be back at work.

What would do more to increase the number of babies that were exclusively breastfed for 6 months in the US: shaming women and families that decide to bottle feed or lobbying for federal legislation to allow a longer maternity leave?

Mmm hmm.  Thought so.

I know that LLL of New Zealand made the fuss about Weepu…but the LLL of US makes similar fusses.  In NZ, maternity leave is 14 weeks although if you’ve been employed for more than a year you can take 52.  14 weeks is still dismal so I think my arguement applies equally to the NZ LLL.

Why don’t we put our energy towards fighting for things that make sense?

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7 comments

  1. That 12 weeks is unpaid so the majority of people can’t even afford to take that much time and only take what paid time off their employer allows them. I agree with you that allowing parents more time off with the baby would be a beneficial thing for society in general. I am pretty sure that the bond with your chile would get a lot stronger more quickly if the worry of how can you afford to take care of this new little being was not pushing down on you.

  2. Rebecca · · Reply

    I [heart] you. Great post.

    FMLA is principally a medical leave act, not a parenting leave act. The paperwork requires your health care provider to estimate your recovery time and that is, for all practical purposes, the limit to how much time you can take off.

    1. Wow…thanks for the clarification. Now I’m even more incensed.

      In Canada women on maternity leave can apply for EI (employment insurance) so even if they don’t have paid leave from their employer, they have access to a small financial cushion. Unless you are self-employed like I am. Then you get squat. I’m just lucky enough to be paid enough that we were able to save and cover these months of one income.

    2. Actually this isn’t quite right. You are guaranteed 12 weeks of unpaid leave. The part that depends on your provider is how much of that time is for your recovery, and how much is for taking care of the child.
      I had the most uncomplicated pregnancy, labor & delivery in the history of the planet and therefore had six weeks in which to use sick time. Had I had complications that could have been extended. The remaining time was spent caring for my child and I had to use my vacation time for it.
      This applies to my husband as well. He qualified for FMLA as well, but could only use sick time during my official recovery period or if our child was sick (thankfully she was not!). Otherwise his paternity leave was covered by his vacation time.
      Adoptive parents qualify for FMLA, so it is most definitely for parenting as well.

  3. JennG · · Reply

    There are new provisions in the act for self-employed mothers, just so you know: http://news.gc.ca/web/article-eng.do?nid=502959

    You have to pay premiums etc. but it is a step.

    1. Darnit. That’s the last time I’ll assume I’m not eligible for something. Thanks for the information.

      I had a colleague who had a baby in her last year of medical school. We were all working about 50-60 hours a week as clinical clerks in the hospital. We all received a stipend of a couple of hundred dollars a month…so they reported our hours as being something like 10 a week so that they wouldn’t be in disregard of minimum wage legislation. We all paid EI premiums on that tiny stipend. When she applied for maternity benefits she was denied because her official hours didn’t meet the minimum requirement!

  4. Amen Adequate Mother! I sometimes think that we get a little muddled between process and outcomes – we seem to care a whole lot about how things are done (ie. breastfeeding above all else) but seem to ignore the ‘real’ outcome (ie. adequately noursished babies with parents who are happy).

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