Monday, 11 April 2005

When breast is not always best

Liz Weatherly, a mother of three from Torbay, is spearheading an effort to have the Human Wrongs Act amended to protect women who breastfeed on other people's property from being asked not to. The petition follows in the path of much other legislation ensuring that that the views of property owners are ignored, so she has every chance of succeeding.

Weatherly it was who was asked by an Auckland Early Childhood Centre some eighteeen months ago not to breastfeed her nearly-three-year-old at the centre without first discussing it with the centre's owners. Instead she removed her child from the school, waited a year and then called the Holmes Show, who she told she was "not after publicity."

Yeah right. Don't mention the word 'grand-standing.'

Ms Weatherly has never apparently heard of the word 'weaning' either, so perhaps I could point her towards it now. While there, might I suggest that Ms Weatherly and her supporters read and reflect on the independence of the child, and the concept of private property, and the nature of choice.

The rest of us can read this: 'Why doesn't she just use a baby's bottle?' Posted by Hello


  1. Is the right of center world going crazy? What could be more in line with family values that breast-feeding? It is a mammary gland placed by God in pairs on women's chest for one reason - to feed babies.

    Anyone offended by exposure to said event needs to sign up for therapy immediately.

    I am never very fond of government stepping in such issues. I think the community of upstanding Christian people should just form a committee to stone anyone who protests God's plan in action. It is a Breast, and being exposed with a child attached is not titillating or damaging to anyone.

    Good Grief.

  2. "Is the right of center world going crazy?" Possibly, but you'd have to ask someone from that world in order to be sure. I ain't. :-)

    My main point here is that property owners themselves have the right to judge whether or not they allow people on their property to smoke, fart, engage in political diccussion, sing opera, play the trombone or breastfeed.

    If it's their property, then it's their choice what they allow on it - not the government's - not some busy-body from Torbay - but their's and their's alone.

    My second point that I'm inviting advocates of breastfeeding toddlers to consider (did you consider these, Roy?) is the importance of independence, and as a consequence the necessity of weaning when the child is ready. At the age of three, a child doesn't need to drink breast milk in order to get nutrition ,and even the W.H.O. doesn't think they do.

    At this age, I.M.O., a breast-feeding mother is doing so more for herself than for her child.

    Now that's her choice of course, as it is the choice of a property owner to invite her in or to ask her to leave. The key things are choice - independent choice - and context.

    In the context of a school that explicitly encourages independence - a school that mother chose to attend without mentioning her own intention to breastfeed whenever and wherever she likes - then in my view it is entirely appropriate for that parent to be asked to talk the issue through, which is what actually happened.

    And all that said, do you really mean to tell me you don't find that picture of Lucy Lawless breast-feeding titillating? Good grief, man, what's wrong with you ?

  3. Amen. When a private property owner can't control what activities someone performs on his property, then it is no longer 'private'.

    Good blog by the way... put you on our blogroll.

  4. I'm not entirely sure why SH is on your Authoritarian list though.... I think my own political leanings are distinctly libertarian in practice.

  5. Cheers AL.

    I enjoy Sir Humph too ... should I have him filed on my Blogroll as 'Libertarian' or Authoritarian? ;-)

    I do promise to keep such classifications consistent. :-)

  6. There, we've crossed you see. Should I amend? Or put Sir Humph there on probation?

  7. There's nothing wrong with breastfeeding a 3yo. The natural age of weaning is somewhere in between age 2.5 to 7 years of age. But in Western civilisation, the norm is much younger than 7, of course.

  8. I agree that the Human Rights Act does not seem the right approach.

    We've given up on arguing about this issue and simply avoid those cafes that are breast-feeding unfriendly (a move PC will surely support). Now that's less of an issue since youngest is only feeding before bed we're still avoiding those cafes. I expect to continue to do so until, oh, about until hell freezes over? It takes a bit to get my dander up, but hassling my baby is a sure-fire way to do it.

    But PC: when she weans is none of your business, nor is it likely that she's doing it 'for the benefit of the mother, not the child'. There are proven health benefits up until 2, and probably beyond (research beyond 2 is too sparse to reach solid empirical conclusions). There are also psychological benefits: an almost-3-year old is an independent big kid sometimes that should go out and take risks, but when tired or hurt they're a toddler in need of love.

    [aren't we arguing the other way on parents rights re their kids in the other set of comments?]

  9. Don't get me wrong here: Parents are absolutely entitled to choose for themselves the age at which they begin weaning. God forbid you take to be saying that I advocate a law banning breast-feeding past two yeares of age!

    No, the references I give are not intended for law-making but for parents. They suggest that the child exhibits a 'sensitive period' for being weaned at about six to seven months or so, and this is the very time that they also begin to experience themselves as independent entities.

    But do read Silvano Montanaro's piece for the full info, (or e-mail me if you would like a full discussion of the Montessori approach to the question).

  10. PC, 6-7 months is too young to wean a baby. That is the time that, yes, they get far more interested in moving around and exploring their environment, therefore can get distracted enough to take a bottle. But a bottle is an unnatural way of feeding a baby. Humans are designed to breastfeed for far longer, and then go gradually to normal food.

    I've raised two, very independant, very sociable children that were weaned after the age of 3. It's really weird that this is even an issue. That people feel they can tell others where they can and can't feed their babies. That you think it's a property right. Like it's some sort of abnormal thing that needs controls to protect the sensibilities of those who can't cope with breastfeeding.

    And one other thing. Breast is not best. Breast is normal. Breast only became best so that bottlefeeding, ie formula marketing could become the norm. By making breast out to be "best", you then elevate the unnatural to normal.

  11. Lucyna, you said "I've raised two, very independant, very sociable children." Congratulations. and well done. :-)

    But you also say: "It's really weird that this is even an issue. That people feel they can tell others where they can and can't feed their babies. That you think it's a property right. . Like it's some sort of abnormal thing that needs controls to protect the sensibilities of those who can't cope with breastfeeding"

    I think you misunderstand what I'm saying here. I'm not at all saying that we need 'controls' to protect anyone's sensibilities. What I'm saying is that we don't need controls at all. 'Controls' is what Liz Weatherly wants; I would suggest that what is needed is not controls but simple courtesy. This is not a matter for law at all, but something one adult asks another, particularly if you are a guest in that person's establishment.

    The confusion perhaps arises because many places that are so-called 'public places' are still in fact private property - they are public only in that people are invited in, but properly speaking they are invited in under the terms set by the property owner. If for whatver reason - either a good reason or a bad one - the owner allows behaviour you object to (such as smoking), or disallows behaviour you would like to practice (such as paying a trombone in the saloon bar), then the courteous thing to do is to first seek to either dissuade or persuade, and then if the response is unwelcome to either accept the rules of the host, or to leave.

    The incorrect response is to storm off and moan "There ought to a law against it," or for it, or whichever, and then head off to Holmes, parliament and the press and kick up a storm, in a D-cup!

    You see?

    Having said all that, the actual issue of when to wean is not my business, as you say. It is not, or should not be, a political issue, but it is Liz Weatherly who has made it one. Her mistake. Anyway, the choice of when to wean is properly one for the mother and perhaps her partner. My arguments and information regarding the question of age and are intended purely for guidance and are argued from the Montessori perspective - one that promotes the child's independence, and one I enthusiastically endorse.

  12. I really appreciate people like you who take their chance in such an excellent way to give an impression on certain topics. Thanks for having me here.


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