The recent Time magazine article on extended breast-feeding (along with the over-hyped cover that I won't bother posting the image of here - like it's much different than any ridiculous Jennifer Lopez would wear to an award show) was an interesting read. Time magazine is usually just a bastion of liberal bias nonsense, but I'll give them credit for this story (albeit done in with a deliberately-sensational cover image.) This is an important topic, and it it reminded me of my other blog thoughts on the Duggars that I'm going to repost here, slightly abridged:
I've been thinking more about the Duggar phenomenon and, in particular, Michelle Duggar and her comments and practices regarding breastfeeding. I read once her remarks regarding what she considered the "myth" of breastfeeding infertility, and how it was something she didn't believe in (regardless of the fact that I've known quite a few people: nurses, doctors, midwives, LaLeche League consultants, etc, who would completely disagree with her information.) The fact is, breastfeeding, when done regularly and consistently following birth, delays the return of menstuation. It is a wonderful design that God put into place to naturally allow for the spacing of children. And let's be honest: had Michelle Duggar been correctly informed about breastfeeding and infertility, there would likely be no Duggar television show or Discovery channel royalties, etc. A natural pattern of infertility and spacing would have left the Duggars with a much "smaller" family of, likely, 9 kids or so, as opposed to the 20 they have.
I do admire this family (although I think it's crazy that they let their privacy be invaded by cameras, and allow themselves to so openly receive the spite and venom of the anti-family folks of the mainstream) and I think there are many things about them that I really admire. But at the same time, I think Michelle is mistaken about breastfeeding and infertility, and while she is very blessed to have been able to have so many healthy deliveries, the fact is, breastfeeding is not only the means to offset fertility, its also the way that a woman's body physically RECOVERS following the physical ordeal of pregnancy, labor and birth. God designed the woman's body to nurse her young AND to heal itself, as well as to give the newborn an unrivalled healthy diet (that cannot be matched by anything out of a can of formula.)
Which leads to the point I'm trying to get to: I think that breastfeeding is something of a taboo subject (or a sensational topic to be exploited as done by Time magazine's cover), and while I think that most women COULD nurse their children, I think that many don't, either because they don't want to, or they've been misinformed by BAD doctors and bad advice to think that they don't need to.
Speaking as an informed Dad here, I know it can be an exhausting experience physicially for the woman and requires commitments of time. It's also difficult, and I'm led to think that many women find it hard to do, thus it becomes less a matter of "I can't" and rather one of "I don't want to." I belive that its the rare woman who has a legitimate medical reason why they can't. But rather, far more likely, they've just received bad advice from "lactation consultants" at a hospital, or bad advice from a doctor or a nurse, or bad advice from a family member or friend, or a quacky woman's magazine, or television show, or infant formula propaganda. Or worse, the woman gave into the drug-pushers at the hospital during labor and, sadly, the drugs (such as epidural) complicated the initial breastfeeding experience, or brought about a drowsy baby unable to nurse, or required an extensive hospital stay comlicating th initial nursing timeframe, causing the baby to not be able to start nursing initially, etc, etc.
As far as Michelle Duggar goes, I do respect this family, but I just wish she had been better informed about nursing. I have a suspicion she was just misled by a quacky, drug-pushing meidcal provider (in the show, the Duggars are quick to go along with whatever their doctor's say without question. "Time for tubes in the ears? Sure, doctor". And just for argument sake, I'll grant that, maybe she couldn't nurse the first one. But same thing for the second? And the third? .... And the nineteenth? At some point over this time, someone who cared should have gone to Michelle and said, "Look, you're not giving your body the time that it needs, the time that God designed it to have, in order to HEAL between pregnancies. Have you considered going to a LaLeche League meeting, to speak to one of the leaders there to get some advice on how to adequately breastfeed? Maybe they can give you the help and support that you need to do it this time? Maybe they can help answer your questions and uncertainties? Maybe they can help show you the proof that, yes, breastfeeding does indeed offset fertility." In a way, I think this is somewhat selfish of Jim Bob to not at least use some sort of non-abortifacient barrier following childbirth, if only for a short amount of time, to give his wife's body time to heal. Yes,I know, birth control isn't natural, but neither is infant formula.
And yes, mastitis happens, and can happen bad, but LaLeche League women know all about assisting and supporting with that as well (often without liver-damaging drugs, but with herbal cures and natural options). And I'm not just speaking hypothetically here - I've actually been to LaLeche League meetings (Dad's go to them too. Dad's SHOULD go to them to support their wives, actually. To miss out on this opportunity to support your wife - then you're a loser, Dad.) These groups are a wealth of information that you don't get from most western medical doctors. The experience and knowledge of the women leading these groups is so rich, that any woman having a child should consult with them to know how to get started with nursing. Michelle and Jim Bob should go to one of these on their show, but instead they waste their time at... Weight Watcher meetings?
Or... is this all just a big taboo subject that no one wants to hear? Breastfeeding is too much trouble, it's too painful, and it takes too much time, so just get a bottle and don't bother with that LaLeche League stuff, right? Besides, in the movies and on television, EVERY woman, immediately following birth, sticks a bottle in the baby's mouth, so if Hollywood says that's how it should be, then maybe that's how it should be? Even in churches today, breastfeeding is often frowned upon in the church. Who wants a fussy baby there in the sanctuary with the mother? They can both go back to the "cry room" and separate from the rest of their family. Of course, how often in the church today are nursing mothers segregated, yet women can wear tops as low-cut and exposing as they like, and no problem there at all. Wear what you like to church and no one minds but, erm, don't feed your baby in public, if you please...
Animosity towards breastfeeding what I expect from Hollywood, or pharma-pushing medical doctors and hospitals, but sadly, it's not what I like to see being reflected in a Christian family like the Duggars. They are setting a excellent example of what a Godly family should be like, and I respect much about them (plus I respect that Jim Bob hasn't been surgically mutilated like every other vasectomied man in the world), but in terms of the example of large family size at the cost of foregoing breastfeeding (and not allowing the mother's body to recover between births), I think they're ultimately setting a bad example.