Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Points for Effort

A colleague (let's call her Royal) sent around a link to this article. The point of the article is that a recent study shows that kids who breast feed are smarter than kids who don't. This didn't make one of our office mates (let's call her Slice) happy. Slice had tried unsuccessfully to nurse her son, so this really wasn't a happy subject for her. When Royal made the comment that nursing was "so easy," I couldn't keep quiet any longer and stepped in with some thoughts on the subject (who better than a man to discuss breast-feeding?)

Breast-feeding is beneficial in many ways, and it is natural, but it isn't always easy. Mrs. Kid had big challenges with nursing Boy Kid. In those first few weeks, she had blocked ducts and nursing gave her pain that felt like needles shooting through her certain parts of her skin. When she then pumped, the milk was pink because of all the blood that was coming along with the milk. It was a real low point. She was depressed and Boy Kid was unhappy. With the help of doctors and a lactation consultant, Mrs. Kid worked it out, but it was a physically and emotionally painful journey.

I know several women who have had problems with breast-feeding, so I know it's not always easy. Mrs. Kid has said to me that I shouldn't judge women by what they do with breast feeding, but I do anyway. In this area, I judge on intent and effort. For instance, Royal gets points for intent, but none for effort. Slice gets points for intent and big partial credit for effort. Mrs. Kid gets extra credit. She wanted to do it and persevered through great pain to get it done. Any woman who gets to that painful place and backs off still gets partial credit.

Aside from physical challenges, there can also be great logistical challenges. For instance, a mother who returns to the workplace has to pump and that is really not easy. I had an office-mate who pumped three times a day. This was logistically incredibly difficult, but she made it work. I acted as bouncer at our office door while she pumped behind me (the whir-whir-whir of the pump is the soundtrack of those months for me.) It still fills me with great joy that I was able to help her out in some little way.

So, I'm sure I have pissed off women who didn't breast feed, but such is life. Anyone who wanted to do it and really tried (through physical and/or logistical challenges) gets big points in my book. I'm sorry for anyone who wasn't able to make it work.

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