Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Breastfeeding or protein factory of the future?

What happens to breastfeeding in a society when childhood is viewed as a fast-track to adulthood? What happens to breastfeeding when a society believes that the only value of an individual is based on the currency of the country. What happens when humans disconnect from their bodies and view breastfeeding with disgust? What happens to breastfeeding when men view women as an alien species whose value depends on a society's definition of attractiveness, youthfulness, and sexual availability?
We get a country where breastfeeding becomes "choice." We get large number of women who cannot breastfeed. We get many women who cannot breastfeed for any length of time and who have to leave their infants in the care of strangers. This is very strange mammalian behavior. We are mammals despite our wish to be considered better than animals. National Geographic just published an article (March 2008) on "Inside Animal Minds." The article is a fascinating look at the cognitive abilities of animals. The author, Virginia Morell writes about a cognitive psychologist named Louis Herman working with bottlenosed dolphins in the 80's. She quotes him in regard to his description of understanding the intellect of this mammal. He discusses the similarities between humans and dolphins, "That leaves social similarities--the need to establish relationships and alliances superimposed on a lengthy period of maternal care and longevity--as the likely common driving force."
"Lengthy period of maternal care," impacts intellect. Yet, our society is creating a world where lengthy period of maternal care (breastfeeding) is given up to be replaced by artificial nutrition and upbringing by strangers. We have a young generation that has no bonds, a rootless generation that is fed genetically altered foods. I feel an enormous sense of sadness for our children brought into this artificial world. How does one connect with multiple caregivers (no matter how loving these caregivers are)? How do mothers feel leaving their infants in the care of strangers? Happier? Does having more money but less time with your babies bring happiness, peacefullness? Or does it create a huge disconnect, a rootlessness, a massive disruption of human society?
I began this post with a wish to salute women who struggle to breastfeed. It is not an easy task in this alienated society. Mothers are bombarded with misinformation and multiple information. Who to believe? US society does not protect women and babies during this very vulnerable time. Instead, women are made to feel that their desire to be with their infants is unreasonable. Women feel that they must be employed to be a valued member of society. If one is poor and seeks help from the government programs (food stamps, etc) then the government demands employment of new mothers. Counterproductive in so many ways to creating a society that values the "intellect." Our society seems to believe that only the wealthy and formally educated have "intellect." Truth or fallacy? It is the wealthy and formally educated who run the country and organizations that impact our society. So they may have a vested interest in this belief.
Is our future one of disconnect from the reality of life? We are mammals, mothers and babies need time together. We need to breastfeed for the survival of our species.
Copyright 2008 Valerie W. McClain

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