Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Unbuttoned coverage on NPR

Tell Me More on NPR yesterday posed the question: Is the breast the best for kids? The discussion featured Maureen Connolly, co-editor of the new breastfeeding anthology Unbuttoned: Women Open Up About the Pleasures, Pains, and Politics of Breastfeeding and Patricia Berry, a mom of three, whose essay on why she chose not to breastfeed any of her daughters was published in the book. Jolene Ivey, who you may know is the co-founder of the Mocha Moms organization, and the mother of 5 breastfed boys, also contributed to the conversation.

Ms. Connolly said she and her co-editor decided to write the book because all of the how-to books paint breastfeeding as something that is easy and supremely enjoyable to do, but the reality can be starkly different. Part of the discussion was focused on Pat Berry and why she decided not to nurse. She says she didn't feel comfortable with it and it was something that she didn't want to do. She said she felt nursing would have made her feel more stressed as a mother, stress that she wouldn't have been able to handle. She also says that she had a physical reaction to the idea of nursing a child that prevented her from even being brave enough to try. Her essay in the book was, surprisingly, one of the most enjoyable for me. She was very honest about why she made this decision, but was also willing to admit that she is saddened that she won't be a breastfeeding role model for her own daughters if they have children. I thought it was courageous of her to say that she hopes that they do breastfeed if and when the day comes.

Ms. Connolly said the takeaway is that this is not an anti-breastfeeding book, but it definitely felt that way to me. I was disappointed overall in the essays selected for inclusion. Most of them were not pro-nursing, and save for the essays on weaning and pumping at work, I saw very little of my own breastfeeding experience within its pages. I was also thrilled when the host, Michelle Martin, said she did notice that none of the essays were written by women with blue collar jobs. That was a major problem I had with the book: it only catered to a certain demographic. The editor admits that she reached out to her friends who are writers who live near her, and of course they are all well-off and educated, with husbands who are, too. She claims that if she were to do another breastfeeding project, she might approach it as a journalist and speak to women from different backgrounds and socioeconomic statuses. I think this is a bit of a cop out. I think including more diverse writers with different expectations, feelings and experiences of breastfeeding would have only made the project (one of, if not the only, of its kind) a much richer book.

I really wanted to love the book and am saddened to say that I didn't. I'd love to hear from those of you who have the read the book. What did you think of it? Would it be something you would recommend to a new or expecting mom? Did you see yourself in the experiences? If you listened to the piece on NPR, what did you think?

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