by Elizabeth Grattan
I found the Leaky Boob after a long while of going it alone in my nursing journey. I lurked silently for months. I watched women come for support. I listened and I learned. And I am so thankful and grateful for the resource. We are three plus years and going strong, my lad and I. And so, in the spirit of forward support, the following is my contribution to celebrate five wonderful years of encouragement for women and men. Thank you Jessica and your admins and the entire family of TLB. All those in this community who make the difference. — Elizabeth
So many questions. So many answers. Information at our fingertips as we crowd source for support and scour the internet to validate our choices. And still, with all the resources in the world, so much still unknown.
Until we figure out we’re answering the wrong questions. We’re framing our dialogues wrong. We’re talking, but we’re not really saying anything. We’re hearing, but we aren’t really listening. We’re trying to reach, without teaching the things that equip and empower women.
So stop for minute. And consider a better lesson….
The reproductive right that belongs to women. The informed choice she can make when taught all the information. The answer to every single question:
Teach children about anatomy. Equip and educate on reproductive choice early and often. Teach the history of breastfeeding. That autonomy always mattered. That milk is custom to species. That women weaned. That nursing a child is part of the reproductive journey.
Teach what alternatives were used besides the mother’s breast to nourish the offspring. Animals, meat stocks, slaves — hundreds of options that tested our humanity along the way. Teach the history. The good, the bad, the ugly. Teach the injustice. Teach the risk they carried. Teach that babies died early. That infant mortality was horrifying. That we used and exploited women’s bodies.
Teach that we wanted to breastfeed. That we wanted to wean. That we wanted to dry up our milk completely. That we were once unknowingly stripped of a choice. That a pill and a shot were just par for the course. That women and children were at risk. That our options were hit or miss.
Teach the advancements in our journey. How far we have come. How we’re still not done. How amazing that is. That women and children live. But that for some, those same horrors still exist. Teach that we are still working on it.
Teach the socio-economics. Teach the privilege. Teach the realities and the limits on women. Teach the strides we’re making. Teach the change in legislation. Teach that we can and have and will succeed in decisions.
Teach that nursing is a learning process. That seeing breastfeeding matters. That we need observation and exposure. Teach that qualifications have no place. That normalizing keeps women and children from hiding under cover in shame.
Teach about the imperfection in reproduction. So no one is taken aback because a myth told them it was for everyone. Teach how to handle the griefs and losses for women who had their reproductive choices stripped from them.
Teach how to dry the milk. Teach how to wean. Teach how to latch a baby. Teach the laws on breastfeeding. Teach people everything.
And don’t assume a woman will decide to nurse and don’t assume she won’t. Ask her. Trust her answer. Trust her answer might change. And empower her along the way.
So if she says: “I do not want to use my reproductive system this way,” you say: “Okay, here is information on all your options. From drying your milk to stopping engorgement to offering your child their developmental requirement. Here is what’s safe. Here is what isn’t.”
So if she says: “I want to use my reproductive system this way,” you say: “Okay, here is information on all you’re offering. From latching your child to expressing your milk to never forgetting to be kind to yourself. Here is what’s safe. Here is what isn’t.”
But don’t battle about if a reproductive process has benefits. Don’t project your personal preference. Don’t ignore the anecdotes. Don’t ignore the evidence. Don’t tell. Listen. And ask the only relevant question:
“What do you want to do? Because it’s your body, it’s your call. And I want you to know I’m here to help you. Through it all.”
How would you answer the above question? How have you asked it in support of other women? How are you giving support forward?