Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Breastfeeding in a Man-Made World

"The large quantity of sialylated oligosaccharides in human milk is of particular interest.  Sialic acid is a nine-C sugar that is a vital structural and functional component of brain gangliosides.  It is thought to play an essential role in nerve cell transmission, memory formation and cell communication.  Studies in rat pups indicate that early supplementation with sialic acid improves both brain ganglioside sialic acid and learning ability in well-nourished and malnourished animals and that these changes persist into adulthood."
Patent # 8771780 entitled "Oligosaccharide ingredient"
Owned by Nestle, Inventors Norbert Sprenger et al.

Reality, thy name is Man.  A Merriam-Webster Student Dictionary on the internet defines man as "a human being, especially an adult male human" or "the human race."  This Student Dictionary defines woman as "an adult female person," and uses the sentence, "a woman who is a servant or attendant."   Men are human beings, of the human race.  Women are defined as servants of the human race.  Reality defined and designed by a dictionary.

How often is a reality defined by others?  What we believe, as defined by others, becomes the "truth."  As a teenager in the sixties, I accepted a reality that my family, my church and my school presented about what a woman can and cannot do.  My Dad was a computer technician for Univac but he spent his evenings and weekends working on and driving a stock car. Sometimes his pit crew buddies were not available, so I became the substitute.  Bleeding brakes, slanted carburetors, roll cages and slick wide tires became a new interest.  I wanted to be part of his pit crew and learn more about cars.  Maybe I could be a driver or so I dreamed.  I asked my Dad, if I could be part of his pit crew.  My Dad said no.  He told me women were not allowed in the pits.  I asked why.  I don't remember his answer.  I think it was something like "bad luck," same reasoning given for not allowing women into mines.  My anger is all I remember from that time, overshadowing what he actually said to me.  In those teenage years I remember his steadfast belief that women should stay home after they are married and that of course women should be paid less than men for the same job. Yet surprisingly, he pushed me to go to college.  We had many arguments over my going to college.  I didn't want to go because I was tired of school, in fact unknown to my parents, I was regularly skipping school.  My girlfriend and I ended up in my senior year at the vice principle's office for skipping classes.  I thought for sure he would call my parents but he told us that since we had never been in trouble before and since our grades were excellent he would let us go with a warning.  Next time there would be consequences!

My Dad won the argument about college.  Amazingly I graduated from college and enjoyed college more than I would admit to my parents.  I thought my Dad was authoritarian and backwards in his views on women.  Yet he pushed for my education.  And years later, he always read what I wrote and always had words of encouragement.  He was a writer himself and he understood the frustrations and joys of writing.

We are a society that is schizophrenic about women and their place in society.  My Dad's views on women were divided.  On the one hand he believed in a hierarchy in which men were in control.  On the other hand he recognized that women were more than objects to be controlled.  Growing up in that era has created within me a wish that I had been born decades later.  Seeing what women do and are able to do now in our society amazes me.  I am envious of the opportunities that are now available for women.  The first time I saw a woman working on road construction, I was so excited. Of course, now most people would not understand that excitement.  Women are astronauts, race car drivers, scientists, doctors, researchers, and even run for President of the US (although none have ever won the Presidency or even been a Vice President) The society I was born into has undergone massive changes as far as women and career opportunities.

Society can change.  But how deep runs that change?  Is it only a superficial veneer, a thin dusting of equality?  Like the dictionary definitions of man and woman, is our reality still man-made?  Women still make less money than men doing the same or similar jobs.  Something I was mad about and argued with my Dad about in the 1970s.  Women are still defined by their appearance not their accomplishments.  Rape is rarely prosecuted.  The word slut is often used among young people to shame a woman/girl who is supposedly sexually active with many partners.  No such term exists for men.   

How is breastfeeding, human milk and patents viewed in a man-made society? Breastfeeding represents a lack of male control.  Man cannot control a crying baby in need of its mother's breast.  Man cannot control the relationship.  They can control the relationship, if the substance is pumped and bottled. When I did breastfeeding classes, the first thing couples often asked was that the father wanted to feed the baby and so they needed pumping and storage information.  My suggestions to couples that there are many other things fathers can do with their babies besides feed them was often met with disbelief.  I found that pumping and storing milk in the early weeks often lead to problems.  If the mom could not pump tons of milk, she presumed that she had milk supply problems.  There are host of problems when pumping starts in the early days with a newborn:  oversupply, mastitis, sore nipples, less time spent with breastfeeding baby and more time spent with pump, giving bottles rather than breastfeeding, etc.  The reason for the breastpump often had nothing to do with employment or separation from baby but simply because the man wanted to bottlefed the baby.  

In our man world, women are expected to go back to employment quickly without regard for the realities of the postpartum period.  I worked with women who had to be back to work two weeks after their babies were born.  Some of those women had c-sections and some of those women suffered for years afterwards with health issues because of it.  In the US there is no consideration for the health and emotional risks for moms and babies created by the economic necessity of having to go back to work too soon.  Nor is consideration given to pregnant women, many who work right up til they give birth.  This standard US belief that women should be able to have their babies and get back to work immediately is essentially about the structure of male corporate and legislative power.  

Breasts in the US are considered part of women's sexual equipment and not about feeding babies.  Big breasts spilling out of bikini tops are used to sell everything from cars to beer.  Breast enlargement is often the desired gift of young women.  Never mind that such surgery can sometimes damage nerves that will influence whether breastfeeding happens or not.  In our man-made world it is okay for a woman to wear a skimpy bikini or thong in public but breastfeeding in public is a no-no.  How many women stop breastfeeding because they are too embarrassed to breastfeed in public?  How many women end up in some dirty public bathroom breastfeeding?  Why?  Because the reality of a male-dominated society defines what is sexual and what isn't sexual.  

Human milk in a male-centric society becomes a commodity to be sold to the highest bidder.  While the media appeals made by milk banks is for the poor premature infants needing milk in NICUs (neonatal intensive care units), the reality is that human milk has stem cells and components that are desired by various industries.  Who runs those various industries?  Mostly men.  While about 50% of the population is composed of women, very few women are CEOs of companies or in positions of authority.  Those few women who are CEOs get there because they play by the rules of corporate power.

Ownership of human milk components, patenting, is never questioned in a man-made world.  After all, women are not quite human.  Like mother earth, we are just a natural resource in which to make money.  So what, if donor milk goes to the infant formula, drug and food industries for their enrichment.  So what, if breastfeeding doesn't happen because women can just pump their milk.  Anyone watch the recent movie, "Mad Max" with enslaved women pumping their milk for the survival of a bunch of crazy, violent male villains?  Art imitating life?

The survival of breastfeeding is dependent upon a society that recognizes the needs of women in pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding.  The survival of the human species is predicated upon its treatment of women.  Treat women like objects, like a lesser form of humanity and for economic enrichment; the result will be the destruction of a society. 
Copyright 2015 Valerie W. McClain 



No comments:

Post a Comment