Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Friday, 24 September 2010

The state is mother.

And that means, ladies, that if you bring any children into the world you are in fact bringing them into the world on behalf of the state, and as you lie exhausted and drained in sweat by the effort of childbirth, and as the hours of labour and the straining of both your body and your entire vocabulary of swearwords is swept away by new maternal feelings as you see and hear and touch for the first time that being you have created within yourself, the state would very much like you to fucking remember whose kid it really is and how they're to be brought up. So tits out for the sprogs, girls, because breast is best and the state's drones want to ensure you don't have any other option.
A CONTROVERSIAL call to make infant formula available only on prescription to boost breastfeeding rates has merit, the Australian Breastfeeding Association says.
A Melbourne expert argues that infant formula should be available only on prescription to boost breast feeding rates.
Doctors say a push to restrict infant formula could create difficult hurdles for young mums.
But association spokeswoman Kate Mortensen said RMIT University expert Jennifer James' proposal had merit and should definitely be seriously looked at.
Ms Mortensen also backed Dr James' proposed ban on infant formula manufacturers marketing their products to the public.
Yes, this is still bottle milk formula we're talking about, not tobacco.
"We support more support for mothers in general because most mothers do want to breastfeed, and they're able to with better support and better information," [Kate Mortenson] said.
It sounds like she's nicked half the supports for that Delhi footbridge. Look, Kate, our species is about 200,000 years old and our ape-man antecedents go back maybe twenty times that, and in those thirty or forty centuries we've managed get along without any need of support for support in support of breast feeding. We're good at the whole sex and child rearing thing, including breast feeding infants. We're so good at breeding and raising children that we managed to rebuild the population from possibly as low as a couple of thousand individuals 70,000 odd years ago to its current 7 billion despite war, famine and disease wiping out uncountable millions of us in the meantime. Individuals may not be, which in the past meant they'd be unsuccessful at raising children and in the present means they'll buy formula, but as a species we're bloody good at rearing replacement humans not only without supportive types supporting supportive efforts of support but, for much of that time, without a even a language with which to offer any bloody support. Christ, my cat managed, and in her case six million years of evolution has produced a creature that, while capable of surprising affection, is also so daft that she'll walk over the food in the near side of the dish to see if the stuff on the other side tastes better. Thick as two Planck length planks, I'm telling you. But despite being dense enough to bend light she still managed to feed a litter of kittens without some bossy tortoiseshell earth mother cat offering support for support of support to support her. In a supportive way.

I've got no problem with Kate Mortenson or Dr Jennifer James or anyone else thinking that breast is better. Hell, I'm prepared to believe it probably is better since we've evolved for it and it for us, whereas drinking cow juice and formula is a very recent move. And I have no problem with that information being put out there and I have no problem with trying to remove social barriers that might discourage breast feeding. Obviously in an ideal world everyone would just be able to look at breasts very functionally and mothers could simply feed whenever and wherever they needed to without anyone being bothered, but the world is not ideal and breasts do have a sexual significance. Sorry, sisters, but they do, and denying it is not dealing with it. And so prudes will complain about the dreaded breast while most of us men will either try to sneak a peek or look in absolutely every direction but the breast feeding mother unless forced to, and even then we'll try to look at a point at least twenty feet above her head. Yes, I am one of those, and yes, I realise that while it's a lot less embarrassing for her than staring straight at them and going, 'Phwoar' it's still going to make the poor girl feel self concious. It's often embarrassing for the mum and for men around her doing their best to respect both her privacy and her right to do one of the most natural things she ever will. We all know it shouldn't be, but it is. A very brave girl might go to extremes and bare her breasts with the announcement that the gents have a few minutes to admire the view after which she's going to feed her child, thank you very much, and she'd deserve nothing less than a twenty minute standing ovation for it. Others would be mortified at the thought and choose - the operative word, for the benefit of Jen and Kate - choose a more private environment. Probably the majority these days take the middle ground of lifting tee shirts or undoing some buttons and ignoring the extra attention drawn by what is really a pretty modest amount of skin being exposed, and there are even products available to help with that. Not surprisingly the breast zealots (is 'brealots' a word?) disapprove of them.
Nursing covers - the postnatal clothing accessory designed to allow mothers to breastfeed "discreetly" - are becoming an increasingly common sight as mothers cover up for fear of accidentally flashing a bare breast or midriff in public.
Mothers and breastfeeding experts are firmly divided over whether they are a wonderful idea or a step back to the Dark Ages.
Firmly in the "pro" camp is Murrumbeena mother Rebecca Azzopardi, who says her Peek a Boob cover allows her to feed six-month-old daughter Maya in situations where she might otherwise feel too self-conscious.
"I'm not ashamed of breastfeeding, but [the cover] is something that comes in handy when I'm out in public by myself, or even when I'm in a group with some male friends or around people that I think might feel uncomfortable," she says.
"For example, I used it at the doctor's surgery the other day. I had to feed her in front of quite a few older men and I thought they would probably be a bit embarrassed to see me breastfeeding. It comes in handy for those times when you're not sure how people are going to react."
Fair enough. She wants to breast feed and has chosen - Kate, Jennifer - chosen to buy a product that means she's comfortable doing it in places where otherwise she'd rather not. Sorry the world's not perfect yet but in the meantime isn't something that gets more women who want to breast feed actually doing it a good thing? Apparently not.
Jennifer James...
Oh, gosh, what a surprise.
Jennifer James, a senior lecturer in breastfeeding at RMIT and a lactation consultant for 28 years, believes breastfeeding covers only reinforce the idea that nursing women should cover up.
"It's time that women stood up and said, 'Sorry, don't like it? Then look away'," she says.
As I said, it takes a brave girl. Or possibly just one more intent on making the point than feeding the baby.
"It also sends an incredibly negative message to the baby."
What, more negative than, 'Sorry about lunch, kid, but your mother's tits are political now'?
Breastfeeding is meant to be a very interactive thing. When they are awake and feeding they are learning, so if you cover them up with a tent, the baby loses that contact with the world.
Oh, come on. What about the millions and millions of us who were born at a time when mothers had to leave the room? Did we all lose that contact with the world, and if so did we miss out? Or did it all take place at an age where we couldn't even focus on the world, which we would entirely forget within five or six years, and actually had few desires anyway beyond mum, milk, cuddles and not being in our own shit for too much of the day? I'll credit the Australian Breastfeeding Association spokesbrealot - not Kate this time - with being a bit more practical.
Australian Breastfeeding Association spokeswoman Karen Ingram says there are arguments for and against the cover-up range.
"We need to be really clear that women don't need to cover themselves while they are breastfeeding and by law they are allowed to breastfeed anywhere, any time, whether they have a cover over their baby or not," she says. "But for some mums it does help. Whatever assists the mum to breastfeed her baby should be accepted."
Quite. It's simply a matter of choice, and if the brealots are right that most mothers want to breast feed - and again I suspect they are - then given half a chance those mothers are likely to make that choice of their own volition. Ideally there'd be boobs on every street corner (and not a car crash to be heard) as women exercise their right to breast feed anywhere, but in this less than perfect world some women would rather minimise the exposure of their breasts.

But the ultimate sin against the sacred boob is that other women don't do it at all and buy formula milk instead. There are lots of different reasons why but again it boils down to a personal choice, the most offensive c-word in the vocabulary of the righteous. Choice is bad when the wrong choice might be chosen, so what Dr James and her ABA pal Kate want to do is to make breast feeding the only approved choice - approved by them and, since they want the law to remove the option of formula for any woman whose nipples aren't sufficiently wrecked to convince a doctor to write a 'scrip', approved ultimately by the state itself.

So let's just imagine a scenario where this actually comes about and let's imagine what the results will be when, for whatever reasons - and the actual reason is none of our business - some women want to bottle feed their babies. 'Breast is best' is already orthodoxy and there's an element who'll judge and criticise mothers who've chosen bottle, which must make them feel really good about themselves if they've tried to breast feed and given up with cracked nipples or just didn't produce enough. So let's imagine that formula milk is basically off limits to anyone who is feeding a baby and who isn't in fact a man. How many will feel judged and looked on as failures, inadequate mothers, by society and by their peers and by the medical profession itself because the orthodoxy of breast is best is even stronger than now? How many of them will go to the doctor to ask for the government permission slip to buy formula milk, and how many will be too embarrassed and ashamed to? How many will be bullied and cajoled or shamed into carrying on as best they can despite pain and discomfort, or a possibly underfed baby? How many of them will actually have to beg milk, breast or formula, on the QT from their most trusted friends or relatives? And how long will it be before a black market supplies that which Dr Jennifer James and Kate Mortenson want to have put beyond the casual reach of mothers, and the nourishment of a significant minority of babies becomes reliant on the activity of criminals?

Ridiculous? Impossible? Not at all. Why wouldn't there be when there's already a black market in breast milk?
A BLACK market in breast milk has developed in Australia as families desperate to feed their babies the natural elixir are being charged up to $1000 a litre on the internet.
A thousand bucks? 'Elixir' had better be right. That's... that's... that's more than petrol for God's sake. Does it come in a 24ct gold bottle? Was it expressed by Scarlett Johansson? It's MILK, not cocaine.
One mother contacted the Gold Coast based Mother's Milk Bank to ask what the real "going rate" was for breast milk after online sharks demanded the extortionate amount when she placed a web advert seeking human milk.
 Mother's Milk Bank director Marea Ryan told her that the not-for-profit bank sold milk for $50 for 1.2 litres.
 "I think it is increasing more and more as people become a lot more aware of the benefits of breastfeeding," Ms Ryan said.
Or as they're increasingly made to feel like lousy parents if they're buying formula.
"It is very dangerous because in an unregulated fashion there are no checks and balances, the milk would not have been tested for viruses and bacteria," Dr James said.
Well, yeah, obviously, but ... hang on, Dr who?
"Women are being put in this insidious position because of a lack of breast milk banks nationally."
Which will be the same as if government controls the supply of formula. But what did you say your name was again?
"They have no option but to look outside the system."
Exactly what I've said will happen if women have no free choice between breast and formula. In fact it sounds like you'll not only create a black market but you'll boost an existing one. And sorry, but I'm sure you said your name was Dr James, am I right?
RMIT (Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology) lactation expert Dr Jennifer James said she was aware of the growing unregulated black market.
It is you! Bloody hell, Jen, you may know more than I will ever care to about lactation but how the hell can the likelihood of a formula black market escape you when you've got the evidence of a breast milk black market in front of your face? It's demand and supply - what the fuck did you expect was going to happen when you inflate that demand by nagging about breast milk all the bloody time?
The risky practice has increased with the advent of the internet where women advertise their milk for sale.
[sarcasm]No? I'm in shock.[/sarcasm] And her solution?*
Dr James said there should be breast milk banks in all major hospitals but blamed inconsistent legislation for making them difficult to set up.
"In some states it is classified as a food while in others it is human tissue or bodily fluids," she said. "The milk bank at the Royal Prince Alfred in Sydney had to close down because it was classified as bodily fluid. We need nationally consistent guidelines."
Ah, yes, of course. The answer is central government. The answer is always central government, especially when it comes to raising future generations of the taxpayers that are essential to governments' own survival.

Quite often I blog with a slight element of despair because someone has suggested giving government even more power to intrude and micromanage lives, and rather than howling them down vast numbers of people begin to nod and mumble that yes, it would be just super if the government would monitor and rule on the minutiae of their existence, and yours and mine and everyone else's too because the government have to do it for/to everybody. Happily, stepping between mums and their children looks to be one step too far (my emphasis).
Avondale Heights mum Christine Rookas said it should be a mother's choice whether to breast feed or not.
"I would be very frightened and afraid to think that formula will be prescribed," Ms Rookas said.
"I think there's already a paranoia for mothers. They feel guilty enough about using formula milk."
... other mums who commented on the were scathing about Dr James's suggestion.
"What do these people know about every person's situation?," Dee said in a post at 12.57am this morning.
"Unless you are in a situation such as my family, please don't speak for us. Don't push your ideas on us if you haven't walk in our shoes. These are personal decision that is made (sic) by each individual."
They are woman, Jennifer, hear them roar, 'Piss off and leave us alone'. You would force mothers into breast feeding despite the fact that many would choose to do so anyway, even if many of them would rather keep their breasts covered up instead of partaking in the open display of maternalism that you advocate. Surely it's best if mums can find whatever level of exposure or screening they as individuals are comfortable with and then carry on with the job of getting milk down babies' throats, which I thought was the whole idea. But if you get government to intervene, if you get it literally to lay down the law on how babies must be fed and to force mothers, who by nature overwhelmingly want the best they can do for their children anyway, to breast feed regardless of whether they're comfortable, then once again government takes away a little bit of our ownership of ourselves. Parents may still conceive their children and mothers may still give birth to them, but the state, which already demands so much control over a child's upbringing and education and yes, diet too, will also control how they are fed from birth. With that level of needless interference over both of them how much could a new mother honestly say that her child, and even her breasts and milk, are hers and not the governments?

I'm sure your intentions are the best, Dr James, but the road to hell is paved with many more like them.

* That is the process which will solve the issue, not her personal solution. That'd be yucky and not what I want to think of when I'm about to get a milky cup of tea.


BuckoTheMoose said...

That was a good article, even after a few Guinnesses.

'Sorry, don't like it? Then look away' - Smokers should adopt that one.

As I was reading, I was preparing a comment about starting a black market in formula milk, but then it turned our there was already a thriving black market. Whoda thunk it?

JuliaM said...


I just...


Lisa said...

This proposal is truly breathtaking in its arrogance. How very dare they?! Your post was well worth the read.

I breastfeed quite happily whilst out and about and I support women (as an unpaid volunteer) who are struggling to breastfeed but desperately want to, a situation that is more common than it was because (I suppose) the expectations and normal trappings of modern life with children make it harder to set up and sustain a breastfeeding relationship.

For some people this automatically bestows upon me the 'brealot' label. Irksome.

As a voluntaryist I have been totally unable to support legislation forcing private businesses to allow mothers to breastfeed on their premises, for obvious reasons. For as long as I am breastfeeding on my own or wholly public property, there shouldn't be an issue with what I am doing and I will tell people to piss off if necessary (I'd really rather just be left alone, though). I don't wish to be told by the state what to do with my property (breasts, children etc) so it would be entirely unreasonable for me to desire that the state should do the same to other people - restaurateurs, shop keepers etc. I'd far rather deprive them of my hard-earned cash and go somewhere a little more Lisa-friendly.

And yes, the state should have nothing to do with regulation; it will only end badly. Here's a little example of local voluntaryism in practice: A local woman I knew was undergoing chemotherapy but wanted her youngest son to receive breast milk for the first year of his life as his older siblings had. Her closest breastfeeding friends all donated expressed milk on a regular basis to make this happen. As the child's mother *she* was the best possible person to QA the milk - and obviously it was donated for free by people who knew how seriously ill she was and wanted to contribute in a way that would make a difference to her. Not a whiff of regulation in sight :-)

Angry Exile said...

Mmm, yeah, me too. Took me a couple of hours run up before I could begin to blog it without it being 100% invective.

Angry Exile said...

Ta, Bucko. And you've proved one of my points. Even after a few Guinnesses you could see the possibility of a formula milk black market, while it apparently hasn't occurred to Dr James even after she's been contacted for comment on the existence of a breast milk black market.

BuckoTheMoose said...

And I bet she doesn't even touch alcohol. Just a feeling.

Angry Exile said...

Hi Lisa. Wouldn't call that being a brealot as such, or at least not in the way I meant it to apply to Dr James and her fellow mammaryloons. There's a world of difference between being vocally in favour of something and forcing people who aren't keen to do it anyway. Your story about the woman being supplied with milk for her son by her friends is a good example of what free people can do and what a government can't, and of course I'm absolutely with you on taking your trade away from boobaphobic establishments and rewarding the more open minded businesses with your trade. As you say, not a regulation in sight and to the would-be regulator's surprise everyone ends up happy. Even the prudish farts who are actually relieved to see trade walk out the door if it means not having to worry about those terrible bosoms doing whatever it is that makes them so scary.

Polly Peachum said...

$1,000 a litre?

They say once you've breast-fed once, you can always start up again: I'm seriously thinking of moving to Oz and setting up as a dairy.

Angry Exile said...

Polly, even at the official rate of $50 or so it must be one of the most expensive commodities by weight in Australia. This'll put it in perspective - a decent sized family car here, say a Ford Mondeo, weighs something in the region of 1,500kg and costs about $35,000. The same amount of breast milk at that price comes out at $65,000, which means that if you could somehow drive a tonne and a half of breast milk the government would charge you luxury car tax on it.

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