Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Response to Breastfeeding Bridesmaid Huffington Post Blog

This is in response to a recent blog posted on the Huffington Post by Sandy Malone.

Why this article made me mad...

A friend of mine recently sent me a blog article because it specifically mentioned Puerto Ricans and breastfeeding. She wanted to hear my opinion on this and I promised her I would let her know what I thought...after I cooled down a bit. Here goes...

In the article, written by what we can only think is a wedding planner of some sort, a bride has a dilemma: her maid of honor wants to bring her baby to her wedding (no kids allowed), and she's a all-out-in-the-open breast feeder. Apparently, because the bride's family is Puerto Rican and Catholic, they don't agree with nursing out in the open. The author of the blog goes on to say that the bride needs to have a talk with her because this chick isn't her friend if she's trying to bring her baby and nurse no matter what in the open. THAT is when I exploded.

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net  "Mother Is Breast Feeding For Her Baby" by Jomphong
Public breastfeeding

While Puerto Rico has a law in place for breastfeeding advocacy, it was only passed in 2004. I'm Puerto Rican, folks. It takes us all a minute to adjust to new things. I say this because in 2008, I had to breastfeed in a changing room in the mall in Ponce, because I would be "more comfortable" there, and for the record, I had a nursing cover on. No one saw a thing.  It made me sad. I wasn't showing anything but I heard people making comments, because everyone has an opinion on everything in Puerto Rico, even if it goes against fact.

When I gave birth to Pixy and mentioned to some family members that I was going to breastfeed, I was asked why I would do that, because I worked, I had money, I could afford formula. Don't get me started on what they said when I started using cloth diapers! I heard things like: breast milk will constipate the baby, your boobs will be a mess, it's hard work. I agree on the hard work part, sometimes pumping is a bitch, and I have nothing against formula, having used it to supplement the babies while my milk production caught up with demand, not to mention to get Pixy to get fat. However, part of my family, who happens to be more humble, applauded my decision: it's natural to do, it's free, why not? I felt a little sad that I wasn't getting support in my choice to breastfeed. Not like I needed. It was uncharted territory and I was on my own. My own mother didn't breastfeed me, and even though she's often said it was due to the fertility drugs she was using and also her anxiety (people would tell her old wives tales, like her boobs would get ruined by it, and only country bumpkins did that), part of me feels like it was easier for her to not have to deal with everyone giving you their two cents. In addition for a while in Puerto Rico, formula seemed to be pushed on mothers, especially those who worked and were well-educated: it will help you keep your independence and be a good mom too. Interesting, huh?

How does this relate to this article? I think the bride's family belongs to the group of people who remain stuck in that weird conservative pocket, where breastfeeding is about showing off ones boob and not feeding the baby. In my experience, this happens in pockets on the island, mainly in smaller towns and not the metro area, Catholicism has nothing to do with it, and if you're covered, it's fine to do. Most of the problem is when a woman exposes herself completely to nurse, as Puerto Rico is still a very male-centric society. Men will stop to look at a boob, it's just the way it is. Not always though.  There have been nurse-ins at malls and other places, so that myths about breastfeeding are dispelled and more mothers turn to breastfeeding. The face of breastfeeding is changing on the island. In 2010, I breastfed Banshee in a restaurant in Gu├ínica with no problem or uncomfortable looks from anyone. This city is far away from the metro hotspots of Ponce or San Juan. So, there is that. To use religion as a blanket to cover up someone's misguided opinion is crazy. Granted, the church in Puerto Rico is a little more traditional than those here, it has not denounced breastfeeding in any way. To me, it sounds like the bride's family just wants a little more control of the situation.

That didn't get me upset though. What really got me mad was the "no kids allowed at my wedding because I'm the center of the universe" comment. It bugged me because she's Puerto Rican. In our culture, everyone and their best friend gets invited to weddings, with children being welcome,
because they are part of the family. Children to Puerto Ricans are worth their weight in gold, in my experience. To deny them at an event of happiness and love, is to deny family. Same goes for when a bride turns into a spoiled brat, whining about gown lengths, hairstyles, guests, food, and her in-laws.
Really?! This just turned into a "thing" because of the Bridezilla reality show phenomenon that is so popular. I find it silly and selfish to expect everyone to bow down to you simply because it is a special occasion you happen to be holding. Even more silly, when a professional, hired to aid in wedding preparations, thinks this behavior is perfectly sound. Because happy brides just don't make for interesting wedding stories. Sigh!!  It  should be about getting family and friend together to celebrate happiness, catch up with everyone, eat copious amounts of food, make up new words, and use Windex as a cure-all. Know what I mean?  Have we lost the joy of simplicity because we've gotten lazy? When did it become OK to foist your opinions on someone else? Why is this kind of thing OK?

Yeah, the breastfeeding thing is sad. Women are fighting constantly about which one is the one to do, not the one that is best for that specific woman and her family. We should support each other. Period. No matter what. There are places all over the world who struggle with things that we take for granted, so to fight over which way is best to feed a baby, seems trivial in the grand scheme of things. This, however, is slowly getting fixed in Puerto Rico, and attitudes toward both breastfeeding and formula-feeding are changing through advocacy and education. So that part of that article, while frustrating, doesn't upset me as much as the wedding planner's opinion that the maid of honor should bow out of her position because of her selfishness for wanting to a) brain her baby and b) by feeding her child on demand. Wow. Just wow. That's the real infuriating part. Here are my choice words for the wedding "professional": educate yourself, dear. Grow up, your immaturity, as seen in your opinion if what the bride should do, is showing.  To comment on things you have no experience with, is ridiculous. The point is not to propagate ignorance, but to use these "teachable moments" to create change. You missed the mark, girlfriend. As I sit here typing this while breastfeeding my son, I think...what a damn shame! It saddens me.

This is simply my opinion on the matter. I mean, I'm just a Puerto Rican Mama to 5 kids. What do I know?

Have you encountered any opinion pieces that have riled you up? Share with us in the comments. 

Photo courtesy of freedigitalphotos.net  "Mother Is Breast Feeding For Her Baby" by Jomphong