Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Texas polygamy sect breastfeeding issue: It's about the babies.

Time magazine recently published another piece about the Texas polygamists in which the writer reported that, "For the nursing mothers, the judge offered a lesson in contemporary feminism ... ."

Caught in the middle is Texas judge Barbara Walther, who was asked to weigh
requests from the parents to hold twice-daily prayer meetings with the children
and to reunite nursing mothers with the 77 kids who are under age 2.

It's a complicated case and I don't pretend to know the details. Maybe the judge's decision to take these breastfed babies from their mothers was the right one, but her comment in the Time article is telling:

"Every day in this country there are thousands of mothers who, after six weeks'
maternity leave, must go back to work—and they deal with this issue."

That's where I begin to wonder. So that makes it right? While judges are professionals who are usually able to make reasonable decisions despite their personal experiences, in this case it sounds like Judge Walther is pretty short-sighted. Her glib comment tells me that while her decision may or may not be the right one, her logic is faulty. It almost sounds as if she herself is expressing some guilt about leaving a newborn baby to head back to work, or that maybe she has no children of her own, or that maybe she does and didn't get the support she needed to breastfeed successfully. I only hope I'm wrong.

What our society tends to forget it this: It's not about the nursing mothers. It's about the babies.

One report asked if the Texas mothers should have the right to breastfeed their babies. We hear this kind of thing all the time. Should women have the right to nurse in public? They're missing the point. Big time.

No one ever asks if the babies have the right to eat when and where they are hungry, or if the babies have the right to nutrition and comfort at their mothers' breasts.

An interesting note: A study presented to the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that lack of breastfeeding and mother-infant separation are both indicators of future risk of child abuse and neglect.

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