Friday, January 16, 2009

Baby Food

Jill Lepore has a fascinating article in the January 19 New Yorker detailing the cultural history of nursing and breast pumps. We all know that breastfeeding is best for babies. Interestingly enough, though, she notes, we have now decided to treat breast milk itself as the vital component of breastfeeding, not the cuddling, body heat, skin-to-skin contact and other things that makes it so fun for babies.

In other words, we now believe that pumping is the equivalent of nursing, and that being supportive of breastfeeding means giving women time and privacy to pump. Consequently, the workplaces deemed "breastfeeding friendly" are the ones with the most gold-plated pumping rooms, which doesn't really make sense. In reality, the most breastfeeding friendly companies are the ones that either pay for long maternity leaves, or have a culture where working from home or bringing your baby to work is no big deal. Some companies with lactation rooms, Lepore claims, go so far as to decree that babies are not allowed in there for a quick nip!

I bought a Medela Pump-in-Style in order to have a bit more freedom to come and go when I was nursing Jasper. My breast pump has been many places -- Sen. Harry Reid's office, for instance, and Delhi, India, where I had to demonstrate what it did for a customs official who no doubt thought "these white woman are absolutely crazy." But it was not pleasant. One of the reasons we chose Jasper's particular daycare is that it was my equivalent of on-site childcare. Less than a 10-minute walk away, I could pop over for (his) lunch.

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