I'm Leah, and in a lucky twist of fate, I've landed my three dream jobs:
book editor, writer, and mother. Since having my son in December 2008, my
work-life has been in constant flux - full-time? part-time? freelance?
working at home or in the office? It depends on the day and which way the
wind is blowing - and figuring out how to keep it all going is a constant
challenge. Heck, I'm still getting used to the idea of being someone's
Check out my profile on Work It, Mom! and my personal blog, A Girl and a Boy.
Maybe I’m touchy because it’s World Breastfeeding Week, or maybe it’s because just yesterday I weaned my nineteen-month-old son (against his extremely vocal wishes), but I’ve got a beef with a Bundchen.
This week Harper’s Bazaar published an interview with supermodel Gisele Bundchen in which the new mom to eight-month-old Benjamin Brady said:
Some people here [in the US] think they don’t have to breastfeed, and I think, “Are you going to give chemical food to your child when they are so little?” I think there should be a worldwide law, in my opinion, that mothers should breastfeed their babies for six months.
Well, isn’t that special? I wonder what kind of penalty she has in mind for mothers who breastfeed for only, say, three weeks, which is exactly how long she breastfed her own son. In this article from the Boston Herald, Bundchen says it wasn’t practical for her to continue nursing longer because of paparazzi–”I can’t be sitting in Starbucks and breastfeeding because they [photographers] are taking pictures”–but she does make a point to credit those three weeks with helping her keep her figure, so at least she enjoyed that benefit, even if her baby had to suffer the ill effects of “chemical food.” Plus, she didn’t get, you know, thrown in jail or issued a fine for noncompliance with a mandatory breastfeeding law.
Now, I really like to think the best of people and chalk this sort of thing up to thoughtlessness and maybe interview nerves (or, dare I say it…mommybrain?), but it nevertheless makes me uncomfortable to hear yet another high-profile personality make a public statement that not only insults the relevant demographic but also spreads misinformation among–and encourages judgement from–those outside of that group. Sure, if people bother to think about it for more than two seconds, it’s obvious that Gisele is no authority on the subject and her opinion therefore shouldn’t carry the influence it does simply because she’s a celebrity, and yet…the public listens to its celebrities and even, despite their tabloidable foibles, looks up to them.
On Monday morning, Gisele responded to the outcry on her blog with this statement:
My intention in making a comment about the importance of breastfeeding has nothing to do with the law. It comes from my passion and beliefs about children. Becoming a new mom has brought a lot of questions, I feel like I am in a constant search for answers on what might be the best for my child. It’s unfortunate that in an interview sometimes things can seem so black and white. I am sure if I would just be sitting talking about my experiences with other mothers, we would just be sharing opinions. I understand that everyone has their own experience and opinions and I am not here to judge. I believe that bringing a life into this world is the single most important thing a person can undertake and it can also be the most challenging. I think as mothers we are all just trying our best.
So while she didn’t retract her statement exactly, I do think she positively shifted the focus of the issue from the details–a breastfeeding law; can you even imagine trying to enforce that?–to the larger, more important issue, which is that parenting is difficult and it’s made up of guesswork, and that families need to concentrate on finding solutions that work for them on a case-by-case basis. She said it herself: becoming a mother inspires a woman to think about things in different ways; every mother has her own experience; it’s no one’s place to judge another’s experience; and the magazine interview is an imperfect medium. There’s no arguing with any of that.
(I should confess that my original instinct was snark hard about the gap between Gisele’s six-month breastfeeding law and her three-week tenure as an actual nursing mother, but then I realized hey, it’s not my place to judge her any more than it’s her place to judge me or anyone else, and moreover, it’s none of my business. She knows what worked for her–and on that she is an authority–and likewise we are each authorities on our own situations as well. So I breastfed my son for ninteen-and-a-half months. So what? I’m not an authority or a hero; I just did what worked for us.)
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