At the end of July 2019 my wife and I welcomed our son into the world. Apart from the obvious – and I am assuming typical worry and anxiety – it was a “trouble free” and profound experience. The jordmors or in English, the midwives, were amazing. The nurses too, impressive, dedicated, and kind. The women who assisted in the birth of our son, I shall never forget. The majority of caregivers who helped us adjust during the week we spent in the birth ward, they too have left a mark on my life.
But there is another group of people who have left a mark on my life – and more importantly my wife’s – that I wish I could scrub from my memory. They are what I had been calling the Breastfeeding Cultists of Norway, that is until I heard a better description and stole it; The Breast Feeding Mafia. When I used the word cultist, I was not being overdramatic. They are just like over zealous and pesky religious types. They are the Jehova’s Witnesses of the titty and I jest not when I say there are aspects of their approach that are just as unsound, unfeeling, and even cruel.
To understand the scope of my aggravation and brewing contempt for these foul people I need to take you back prior to 2012 when my wife ( who I had yet to meet ) had some reconstructive breast surgery following massive weight loss. My wife was a large girl, so large that when she had lost her excess weight her breasts had “sagged” to a point that she was uncomfortable with, uncomfortable as in unable to look at her breasts in the mirror or undress in front of others. She saw a physician, was accessed, and they took care of the excess skin and lifted her breasts. She was thrilled with the outcome but that was short lived as she was unlucky enough to be in the one percentile of the population that is allergic to the type of stitching they used in the surgery. They rectified this but not before nerve damage had been done and as we would learn the inabilty to produce milk on the neccessary level to feed a child and without great pain to my wife.
I’m no Dr. but I could probably impersonate one, besides a medical license isn’t needed to gather from the tale of my wife’s breasts that an issue with breastfeeding may have been expected, in fact it would be more of a surprise had there not been an issue.
But still, let’s just say, she didn’t feel like it. Let’s just assume for a minute that a grown woman made her own choice regarding both her baby and her body and ruled out breastfeeding for whatever reason. And yes, I’m aware of all of the science backing up the belief that breastfeeding has some remarkable benefits when it comes to the health of the newborn. My wife is no fool, she is also compelled by science and also wants the best for our son, so even after it was suggested that breastfeeding might very well not be an option, she still tried.
The Norwegians often display a quality – a charming quality that I happen to admire that involves avoiding uncomfortable situations and/or conflict. I don’t possess that quality, at least not so much that I remain silent when I see someone being abused or bullied. And make no mistake, this was that. This was systematic organized bullying that made a stressful situation even harder and in some respects tainted the days following our son’s birth. Everytime we had a “breather”, a time for some intimate bonding with our son during those first few days it semed that some boob obsessed shrew came barging into the room to lecture my wife for the upteenth time about breastfeeding. Thank Thor that we were given the green light to take our son home when we did because I was on the precipice of losing that cool head that I am famous for maintaining.
You may think that the term “mafia” or “cult” is over the top or an exaggeration, it is not. What I witnessed my wife endure was a form of systematic mental strong arming, intimidation, and shaming.
After arriving earth side our son was immediately placed on my wife’s chest and as nature intended he immediately sought her breast and attempted to feed but to no avail. We weren’t too discouraged as we were still caught up in the bliss of having just met our little boy but about five hours later after we had been moved into the post labor ward for new mothers and their babies the first of a series of nipple thugs descended upon our little family.
Naturally our first question was regarding the feeding of our son. The answer was not what we expected.
“Sometimes it takes as long as four or even days before baby eats.” My wife and I looked at each other in astonishment. Thankfully, we had the energy and mindset to immediately object and insist that we give our child some formula. Then came the first of a half a dozen condescending sermons on breastfeeding. Just patronizing enough to anger me and overflowing with enough judgement to make my wife feel like a failure.
We were given a tiny medicinal cup and were directed to gently pour 20 ml into our son’s mouth every feeding. As it turned out the advice of the Nipple Nazis ran contrary to the instructions of the physician who was concerned about jaundice and blood sugar levels.
On the second day my wife, who is by nature non-confrontational agreed to try again. This overjoyed the second member of the breast brigade and she returned with the breast pump. She assisted my wife in attaching everything, turned it on, and left the room. After several minutes with zero milk production my wife was in tears. Again, nerve damage, frustration, and the sound of her hungry son crying out was too much for her. I assured her that she had tried hard and long enough and she needed to discontinue the pumping.
And this continued for the following three days and then in the middle of the night when my wife was using the toilet she noticed a dried stain on her gown. It seemed that a small drop of breastmilk had leaaked out and of course she immediately laid down and held our son close to her breast to try and least get a few drops of the liquid gold to him. It did not work as the well was dry. Her frustration and sense of failure had peaked.
Finally, a more sane and compassionate nurse took a look at my wife and had a heartfelt conversation with her. She said that it was evident that breast feeding was not a realistic option and that the more stress she put on herself was detrimental and she fetched for us a proper bottle and even took our son for a burping and a nap allowing my wife and I some sleep.
To hear the smarmy comments like, “Oh, so you’re giving up?” or “You understand just how important this milk is for your baby?” or even the well meaning but uncouth hippie down the street that suggested we find a woman who was nursing and let our son latch on to her tit or better yet, “find some rabbits milk because that is the most nutrtious milk” were maddening. I imagine my immigration status would be called into question if I were to be hauled in for accousting strange women and inquiring about borrowing their breast or creeping onto Mr. Jorgenson’s farm after sundown and milking his rabbits.
So my grievence shall end with this; if you’re one of these abhorrant insensitive individuals, one of these “Nipple Nazis” who, when on social media and you see a photo of a woman ( or man ) bottle feeding their child you are compelled to plaster onto their timeline #breastfeed, #nobottle and various links to evidence from the medical community pertaining to the benefit of brestfeeding, stop it. If you are in the medical field then you have definitely have no excuses, just stop it. Remember the aspects of your training that call for understanding and compassion.