Equating breastfeeding relationship to sexual relationship?

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010
Equating breastfeeding relationship to sexual relationship?
24
Fri, 08-17-2012 - 10:25am

How do you feel about her response?

Kathy Dettwyler was asked by a reporter:

As a leading expert on breast-feeding, I wanted to ask: If there were a formula that could compete with the benefits of breast-feeding, would you still be a passionate proponent of breastfeeding and why?

She posted her reply on her FB page: https://www.facebook.com/kadettwyler

She posted that it was OK to share, so here is her post:

Imagine, if you will . . . . a man and a woman. Soul-mates, best friends, true partners in all the myriad experiences of life. Lovers. Participants in a physically intimate, loving relationship between each of them and their favorite person in the entire world.

They hold hands on walks. They hug and kiss upon leaving each other’s company, and on rejoining later. She massages the tense muscles of his shoulders after a long, stressful day at work. He rubs her feet as they watch TV. As she cooks dinner, he passes by and gives her shoulder a squeeze. She comes up behind him in the bedroom as he dresses for work and gives his naked bottom a gentle pinch.

They both laugh. They make love. Not as often as when they were first together, some 35 years before. Not with as much energy or passion as was typical of those early days, weeks, and months together. But they know each other’s bodies as well as they know their own. What feels good, what feels great, what can bring matters to a quick conclusion, and what can prolong the sweet enjoyment.

He knows many ways to give her pleasure, and is generous and patient, making sure they both experience the height of sexual release. Sometimes sex is quick and efficient, sometimes it is long and lazy, sometimes it is surprising and inventive. Sometimes they start laughing so hard they lose their concentration and momentum. Sometimes she doesn’t have an orgasm. Sometimes he doesn’t. But that’s OK.

Sometimes one or both of them fall asleep in the middle. They understand that “having sex”/”making love” is only one small aspect of their physical relationship. He could identify any part of her by touch alone, and distinguish her from a thousand others. She knows the smells and textures of every region of his body, and sleeps on his pillow when he is away overnight. He lets her put her cold feet on his warm legs in the winter.

She understands that even during the hottest summer nights, some part of his body must be in physical contact with hers. The sound of his voice calling out “Honey, I’m home” makes her heart leap. Just to hear her voice over the phone saying “Don’t worry, everything will be OK” helps him deal with any crisis.

There is love, affection, friendship, comfort, joy, familiarity, sexual desire and satisfaction. There is a complicated, sustaining, relationship between two people who love and respect each other. Someday, they assume that sexual relations will no longer be part of their lives, due to illness or injury or simply old age. They both hope that day is far in the future. But if and when that day arrives, they still plan to hug and kiss and sit together and go for walks in the woods holding hands, and talk late into the night.*


 Then, along comes someone who thinks that – to paraphrase a catchy ad campaign – “It’s all about the O.”

They tell women that a relationship like the one described above takes too much time, too much effort, is not worth the hassle, and is unrealistic for many women in this busy world of the 21st century. Sure it’s ideal, it would be nice, if you can . . . maybe for a brief period. But who has the time? Between productive work, housework, laundry, the gym, TV, travel, books, and shopping for shoes, who has time for a relationship with a romantic/sexual partner?

But the solution is easy: Just call the number on the screen, and buy our super-duper, multi-speed, solar powered, day-glow purple . . . dildo. Yes, a dildo. A vibrating massager, customizable to ensure maximum physical pleasure. Guaranteed orgasms every time or your money back.

Call now and they’ll add in – FREE – the tiny, discreet travel model that you can tuck in your purse and take with you anywhere. Imagine the time you’ll save, the energy, the effort!! Why would anyone want all the hassle and bother of interacting with another human being, when you can have sexual pleasure “at your fingertips”?

No mess, no bother, no need for anyone else. Nothing else is going on in an intimate physical relationship between two people who love, trust, and respect each other, right? There are no other benefits than reliable orgasms, right? Because, really, the point of all of this fuss and bother is the O, right?


 Wrong. Orgasms are lovely, but they only represent the tip of the iceberg of the loving relationship between two partners.
 

Ahhhh, but your question was about breastfeeding, wasn’t it? You asked: “If there were a formula that could compete with the benefits of breast-feeding, would you still be a passionate proponent of breastfeeding and why?”


 So here’s my answer: The “benefits” of breastfeeding go way WAY WAY beyond the consequences of consuming breast milk. Even if there was a formula that could compete with the benefits of breast milk (which there isn’t now, and never will be) I would still be a passionate proponent of breastfeeding.

Because breastfeeding is a complex, physically intimate, loving relationship between two people who love, trust, and respect each other. It’s about the warmth of a mother’s arms, the adoration in a child’s eyes, the smell of the top of the baby’s head, the comfort of your mother’s voice. There is no substitute for breastfeeding.


 *This is written from my own, heterosexual, perspective, but of course it works exactly the same way for committed couples of the same sex.

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iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006



KD wrote: Why would anyone want all the hassle and bother of interacting with another human being..?

I think she hit the nail on the head. Breastfeeding involves dealing with another human being. It involves communication, coordination, awareness, empathy, give 'n take, emotional effort, patience and commitment.

I guess that it is not surprising at all that it is valued so little in or culture.

Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010

More from Kathy Dettwyler:

And here is what I wrote in the preface to the long answer, when I returned her email.

"Thanks for prompting me to put into words something I've been thinking about for a long time. Oh, and P.S. Mayor Bloomberg's initiative is neither "new" nor "controversial" -- it's been standard practice in Baby Friendly Hospitals around the world for several decades now.

We don't give away free cigarettes on the lung cancer ward, we don't give away free cake and candy in the diabetes unit, and we don't let McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken sponsor the cardiac care unit and cater all the meals for the heart disease patients. We don't give out free wheelchairs instead of providing physical therapy for accident and injury victims.

So why in the world would we give out free formula to new mothers? They can buy their own damn formula. And if they're too poor, WIC is happy to provide it for them -- making US babies sick with US taxpayer's money."

https://www.facebook.com/kadettwyler

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

Because it's about the relationship, not just the act.

Hear, hear!

iVillage Member
Registered: 06-03-2009
nisupulla wrote:



KD wrote: Why would anyone want all the hassle and bother of interacting with another human being..?

I think she hit the nail on the head. Breastfeeding involves dealing with another human being. It involves communication, coordination, awareness, empathy, give 'n take, emotional effort, patience and commitment.

I guess that it is not surprising at all that it is valued so little in or culture.

This would also explain why in some cultures breastfeeding until a child is past toddler years is seen as completely acceptable.

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Community Leader
Registered: 10-01-2010
ladybookworm wrote:
This would also explain why in some cultures breastfeeding until a child is past toddler years is seen as completely acceptable.


welcome

Welcome to the debate board. It's wonderful to see you posting here and I hope that you will stick around and post more often.

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-16-2010
  


Because breastfeeding is a complex, physically intimate, loving relationship between two people who love, trust, and respect each other. It’s about the warmth of a mother’s arms, the adoration in a child’s eyes, the smell of the top of the baby’s head, the comfort of your mother’s voice.

And this is different from formula feeding how exactly?

This entire analogy--breastfeeding is to formula feeding as an intimate sexual relationship is to a quick orgasm from a vibrator--is way off the mark and deeply offensive. 

Her analogy depends on the idea that feeding formula does not involve human interaction, which is frankly ridiculous.  (To the extent that bottle feeders can theoretically prop bottles or let their kids hold the bottles, that can be addressed by advocating that people always hold their babies while bottle feeding--as does every bottle-feeder I know.)

iVillage Member
Registered: 07-11-2006

This entire analogy--breastfeeding is to formula feeding as an intimate sexual relationship is to a quick orgasm from a vibrator--is way off the mark

I disagree. Certainly a vibrator can be used to enhance an intimate sexual relationship, but I'd guess it is equally often used for personal pleasure. Likewise, feeding formula can be done using skin to skin, using an SNS, or closely mimicking the intimacy of breastfeeding, but it is equally or more often done efficiently - to feed a baby - rather than to build a relationship. IMO, it is impossible to breastfeed without building a relationship.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008

I do not know of a single person in real life who would bottle feed skin to skin on even some occasions, let alone every single occasion. I do see lots of people who prop bottles or once the baby is old enough to hold it, let the baby do so.

I was just reading an article the other day about how many injuries occur when babies as just beginning to take their first steps - because they are walking with a bottle in their mouth. Now if they only ever had a feed from a bottle while someone was holding them, these accidents certainly would not happen.

Teresa

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-16-2010

nisupulla wrote:
This entire analogy--breastfeeding is to formula feeding as an intimate sexual relationship is to a quick orgasm from a vibrator--is way off the mark

I disagree. Certainly a vibrator can be used to enhance an intimate sexual relationship, but I'd guess it is equally often used for personal pleasure. Likewise, feeding formula can be done using skin to skin, using an SNS, or closely mimicking the intimacy of breastfeeding, but it is equally or more often done efficiently - to feed a baby - rather than to build a relationship. IMO, it is impossible to breastfeed without building a relationship.

If you're right, then the proper analogy is this:

Formula feeding is like a married couple who own a vibrator (and equivalent sexual aid for men).  They can choose to have an intimate, interpersonal sexual relationship if they want to.  Or they can just rely on the vibrator (or whatever) for an efficient release.  The fact that the vibrator is around might make the "efficient" option more tempting, but it's up to them to decide what to do.

Breastfeeding is like a married couple who are incapable of masturbation and thus have no choice but to have an interpersonal sexual relationship if they want release.

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Also, the suggestion that you need to use skin-to-skin contact to mimic the intimacy of breastfeeding strikes me as fairly absurd now that I have extensive experience with both bottle- and breast-feeding.  The way I like to nurse (and given the size and shape of my breasts), my child has very litle additional skin-to-skin contact compared to what she has when I bottle-feed (which I do fully clothed).  And the way I nurse is absolutely not more interactive than the way I bottle feed--if anything, nursing requires less attention to the baby, because I don't have to be watching her to figure out her cues about when she's done, and because I can't look at her face and interact with her in the same way as I do when bottle feeding.

I'm still trying to figure out how exactly this: 

 It’s about the warmth of a mother’s arms, the adoration in a child’s eyes, the smell of the top of the baby’s head, the comfort of your mother’s voice.

does not apply to responsible bottle feeding.  It strikes me as a deeply ignorant statement.

iVillage Member
Registered: 04-13-2008
jessica765 wrote:

 

I'm still trying to figure out how exactly this: 

 It’s about the warmth of a mother’s arms, the adoration in a child’s eyes, the smell of the top of the baby’s head, the comfort of your mother’s voice.

does not apply to responsible bottle feeding.  It strikes me as a deeply ignorant statement.

I do think these can apply to responsible bottle feeding. It is just that so often I see examples of bottle feeding that does not look like that at all. The reason given for so many who choose to bottle feed is that it is quicker, more efficient. If these are the arguments in favour of bottle feeding, then the only kind of bottle feeding that fits this bill is where the mother is not engaged with her baby in the way you talk about. 
Because lets face it, in terms of preparations and cleaning time, bottle feeding loses out. If it somehow wins on time/efficiency elsewhere, it has to be because the mother/caregiver is NOT involved in the way a responsible bottle feeder would be. So I can only conclude that the huge proportion of people who cite time/efficiency as a reason to bottle feed are not 'responsible' to use your word . I would prefer to think they are less involved than they ought to be, rather than paint them as irresponsible though.
Teresa

 

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