This is Wrong. Breastfeeding Support Groups Should Not Exclude Transgendered Breastfeeding Dads

As someone who has pretty much worked in bureaucracies her whole career I’m fairly patient with protocols and administrative processes, but every now and then I see people stumbling around in ‘red tape’ that has ceased to fulfill a purpose and which is now actively working against the original ideas behind the system, and it makes me feel very exasperated. Because, you know, we can actually change rules and regulations. If it makes sense to change it, and you have the power to change it, then fricking change it.

This is one of those times. La Leche League (LLL) is an amazing organisation and they do terribly vital work but this needs to change.

Milk Junkies is a breastfeeding and attachment parenting blog written by a transgendered dad in a gay relationship who is breastfeeding his baby son. (You should read it, he’s a great writer). On his blog he has been writing about his experiences as a new dad, and particularly, about breastfeeding after having had chest surgery. The writer of this blog, Trevor has had a strong relationship with LLL and now wants to train to become a group leader with the organisation but this is what happened:

In reading, please remember this: I LOVE La Leche League. Its books, meetings and online resources made breastfeeding possible for me. My experiences with my local LLL chapter have been fantastic and I am extremely grateful for this.

It seems that the decision regarding my leadership application comes down to policy: “Since an LLLC leader is a mother who has breastfed a baby, a man cannot become an LLLC Leader.” I understand that I don’t fit into LLL’s definition here, I just think that their definition is poor. I believe that the point of the above statement is that in order to be a leader, you must have breastfed a baby for a certain length of time. It is your experience that counts in peer-to-peer support. At the time the policy was written, the authors assumed that men wouldn’t/couldn’t breastfeed, so they defined a leader as a woman. I kinda doubt that many people envisioned my own scenario. I think that the interpretation of the policy should evolve.

Advice to all organisations seeking social change: whenever you come across someone who faces enormous obstacles of exclusion and yet finds the stamina to pursue a particular interest in being involved with what you’re doing, and what you’re doing is about social change, then you welcome them with open fricking arms. This is someone who brings invaluable drive, perspective and experience to your organisation, and your organisation needs that – because social change is hard work and to be effective it needs to be meaningful. You will not ever get there while excluding those who believe in and share your purpose. If you’re about social change, and this includes governments, then you need to be especially open to adaptation.

If you have to change rules to include them, you change them. This is why I hate Australia’s refugee policy, it’s why I hate the way some states in the US puts homeless, single black mothers in jail for sending their kids to good schools, it’s why I hate certain branches of feminism for persisting with transphobia and it’s why I hate the fact that LLL is excluding a transgendered breastfeeding dad from becoming a group leader.

(I welcome comments on this post but here are two important guidelines.. we will not let this discussion become an anti-LLL thread and nor will we let it become transphobic. As I suggested in my first post at Feministe – we tread lightly in any discussions of mothering/fathering and care work because we need to recognise that we are all walking about on the unpaid toil of others. Further, this particular topic involves an individual family and their lives and they need to be treated with respect).

About Guest: blue milk

blue milk is one of the 2012 roster of Feministe Guest Bloggers. She normally blogs at her own blog, Blue Milk and also contributes to Hoyden About Town.
This entry was posted in Discrimination, Feminism, Gender, GLBTQ, Trans and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

52 Responses to This is Wrong. Breastfeeding Support Groups Should Not Exclude Transgendered Breastfeeding Dads

  1. Pingback: This is wrong. Breastfeeding support groups should not exclude transgendered breastfeeding dads « blue milk

  2. DonnaL says:

    Thanks for this. I wonder how they would feel about a trans woman who was the biological father but identified as a mom and breastfed her baby — as has been true for at least a couple of women I know and/or have heard of.

    It’s interesting that since being a “mother” who breastfeeds appears to be the qualification, it seems that Trevor (as a man who was the biological mother) could have used that definition to qualify if he’d wanted to. I think it’s kind of cool that he chose not to take advantage of that loophole, so as not to have to disavow (in a sense) his identity as his baby’s Dad.

  3. Eve says:

    Yes yes yes about adaptation; I am always confused and saddened when policies “can’t” be changed. Breastfeeding was so hard for me– my daughter was a preemie, latching was hard, my partner was uncomfortable when my breast was exposed, nothing seemed to work right. I would have been grateful to ANYONE willing to provide support. I would hate to imagine that women who need help and encouragement are missing an opportunity because of policies that no longer represent the people they claim to support. I would like to have more children in the future, and have and all resources available to me. I think (and I know this doesn’t need saying) that we are in a very strange time- politically/socially/culturally, and it’s incredibly discouraging as a woman, as an American, as a liberal, as a mother.

  4. Jane says:

    I was happy to see that the Winnipeg LLL group that Trevor belongs to supported his application to become a leader. I also saw some talk among leaders of a Toronto group that I went to while I was nursing my son about volunteering for a spot on the board specifically to get moving on changing this policy.

    Having a LLL leader who breastfed after chest surgery available for breastfeeding support would be pretty valuable – it’s not an uncommon question at LLL meetings and it’s a shame that LLL Canada has made this decision.

  5. chava says:

    So, a few things.

    1) I wonder if part of what is at stake here is the ability of (cis and trans) women to form female-only groups/spaces. This is something of which I am generally in favor–but in this case, bracketing off parenting roles into “mothering” and “fathering” seems…..iffy, perhaps shooting ourselves in the foot.

    2) By breastfeeding his son, Trevor isn’t just subverting our ideas about gender roles, he’s subverting our ideas about *parenting* roles. We tend to rely on a few base biological concepts to moor ideas about mothering/fathering; this stares the problems with that approach right in the face.

    3) Trevor describes himself as an “attachment parent”…I’m curious about how he reconciles the extremely cis mother-centric parenting philosophy of Sears et al with his role as a breastfeeding father.

    4) I admit that I don’t really grok why anyone would breastfeed with an SNS and next to no breast tissue, with the knowledge that you’ll never produce anything close to a full supply. It just seems counterintuitive to me; there are lots of other ways to bond. But whatever floats your boat, I suppose.

  6. SophiaBlue says:

    I’d like to second the thanks for writing about this, blue milk.

    Reading the letter and the comments that followed, the thing that bugs me the most is that LLL seems to be saying that Trevor wouldn’t be able to help cis women by virtue of him being a trans man. Given that he has breastfed I just see no reason he couldn’t do just as good a job as a cis woman.

  7. cherrybomb says:

    That’s really disheartening that LLL would play into breastfeeding politics regarding who should be “allowed” to breastfeed. I knew a straight cis man who let his son use his nipples as pacifiers so the mom could sleep longer, but they didn’t make this known to many people because people assume men are “always sexual” or “more sexual” and therefore him letting the baby suckle was “more sexual” than when the mother did it.
    One would think LLL would be in support of any parent choosing to breastfeed their child, regardless of gender. I mean, there are even adoptive parents who breastfeed, the act is pretty much the same regardless of the gender or biological connection to the child.

  8. blue milk says:

    chava – regarding your first point, I’m sure there is a fear that women might be uncomfortable learning something potentially intimate, like breastfeeding, with a man as their instructor.. but never mind the fact that we have male OBs and such, this man is a breastfeeding parent – he actually knows first hand what it is to get a good latch and how shitty it is when you don’t get a good latch, so he’s not just instructing with theory, he’s sharing experience, which is core to breastfeeding support groups.. and he also knows all about how exposed you can feel breastfeeding in front of other people .. such an important area of empathy for anyone learning to breastfeed.

    This is a case where you lose more than you gain, much more, from excluding him and it is just plain wrong to do so. When policies result in a net loss and are discriminatory they need addressing – end of story. Frankly, I think LLL could put a little more faith in cis women – we’re capable of overcoming initial ignorance and discomfort in working with a transgendered breastfeeding parent as a group leader. The world is not always about our comfort, it’s also about inclusion. Not to mention, the discomfort the next transgendered parent otherwise feels in joining LLL for support.

    Your points 2 and 3 would be interesting questions for a transgendered parent to address.. though, bearing in mind that no-one owes any feminist discussion an explanation and Trevor does already discuss elements of this on his blog.

    And regarding your last point – as with my own post about extended breastfeeding I see this theme coming out again; breastfeeding needs to be justified, why? Why can’t we just accept it as a worthwhile, routine parenting activity – why must it be deemed sufficiently valuable only on nutritional merits for it to be acceptable?

    (Not making this personal chava, think it is worth considering broadly, because this is a common theme in breastfeeding discussions).

    • Ian says:

      Hi, I’m Trevor’s partner Ian … thanks for this article and all the thoughtful comments. Just to make a couple points: “attachment parenting”, to us, refers to an attitude towards childrearing, not to our own gender identity. Each coparenting partner has an equally dynamic role according to their aptitudes, at least in our experience.

      Some people here have expressed confusion about Trevor’s breastfeeding experience and what, if anything, he could contribute as a peer-to-peer volunteer LLL leader. I’ll offer a firsthand observation. Trevor has now breastfed our child for nearly 16 months and yes, he produces milk … in fact he can spray it. Our medical-care providers measured that he produces 25% or more of what our baby needs (and if you’re confused why we would “bother”, I invite you read more deeply into Trevor’s blog). It’s true we use supplement, but that in itself doesn’t make him less of a breastfeeder. Once, in an emergency, we had to look after an 8-week baby for a day, and Trevor easily latched her on for the feedings she needed (at her mom’s request, of course).

      Some have wondered if Trevor could refrain from talking about donated milk as an option, because that’s the route we’ve taken, rather than formula. At LLL, milk donation is an off-limits topic. I can assure you he can. I’ve heard him talk about breastfeeding for hours (can you see me rolling my eyes?) without the subject arising.

      Some here have had issues with LLL, but I’ve got to say we’re grateful for the support and the deep friendships that have evolved with those who are involved where we live. I hope folks will support evolution of their policies by writing to them … details on Trevor’s blog. Thanks, everyone!

  9. igglanova says:

    1) I wonder if part of what is at stake here is the ability of (cis and trans) women to form female-only groups/spaces. This is something of which I am generally in favor–but in this case, bracketing off parenting roles into “mothering” and “fathering” seems…..iffy, perhaps shooting ourselves in the foot.

    Regardless, whatever comfort can be established in a women-only support network like LLL is unlikely to be threatened by the inclusion of the occasional trans guy. The nature of the ‘must-have-breastfed’ prerequisite will select for a heavy enough bias toward women as it is – it’s not as though a previously women-only sanctuary is going to end up overrun by dudes if LLL changes the policy to allow for inclusion of trans dads.

    In other words, I don’t think changing a women-only space into a women-mostly-but-with-like-3-trans-guys space should present much difficulty to anyone who isn’t a flaming bigot.

    (I want to make it clear that I’m not accusing you of being a bigot or anything; I just thought I could use that snippet from your comment as a jumping-off point.)

  10. StarChilde says:

    As a Mother who breastfed four babies, I’m surprised by this. Breast feeding is breast feeding regardlesd of who does it. On the other hand, I have to be honest and admit that I had never even thought about this scenario. One point I would like to make is this, as a transgender, this wonderful father has a unique advantage, he can see and experience both parenting roles. Let’s face it, knowing how the ‘other half’ thinks and feels us something many if us would give our eye teeth for.

  11. shfree says:

    Chava, I think one of the key things is that he is an instructor, too. When I was first learning how to breast feed, I didn’t have a lactation consultant available, it was the nurse on duty in the medium care unit of the neonatal facility, and she had never breast fed herself. She had just seen it done a lot. So, she showed me the “football” hold for my daughter.

    And you don’t need a lot of breast tissue to be able to breast feed anyway. And plenty of trans men just wear compression vests and don’t get top surgeries.

  12. chava says:

    And regarding your last point – as with my own post about extended breastfeeding I see this theme coming out again; breastfeeding needs to be justified, why? Why can’t we just accept it as a worthwhile, routine parenting activity – why must it be deemed sufficiently valuable only on nutritional merits for it to be acceptable?

    It isn’t the nutritional issue as much as the enormous hassle factor of using an SNS–it isn’t something I would do if I didn’t see it leading to EBF, but if others want to, that’s fine. If I understand correctly, Trevor sources donor milk (already a large amt of work) and then uses the SNS.

  13. chava says:

    And you don’t need a lot of breast tissue to be able to breast feed anyway. And plenty of trans men just wear compression vests and don’t get top surgeries.

    Yeah. But this trans guy did get top surgery. And you don’t need a lot of breast *tissue,* exactly, but you do need a certain amt of glandular tissue to be able to produce an adaquate supply. Women with hypoplasia and breast reductions run into similar issues.

  14. Alison says:

    LLLC statement about transgender leader applicants. http://www.lllc.ca/sites/lllc.ca/files/DearFriends.pdf

  15. Jadey says:

    According to LLL philosophy the roles of mothers and fathers are not interchangeable.

    That’s a quote from their letter to Trevor. This organization skeeves me the hell out, if that’s the kind of philosophy they espouse. That’s feeding right back into gender essentialism and “traditional” families and seems at least implicitly (if not explicitly – ymmv) anti-queer to boot.

    I do not buy that there’s an essential, innate difference between “mothering” and “fathering” – it’s parenthood, for chrissakes. It’s nice to have at least two of a time, for the added financial security (usually) and in case one of them sucks at something (like why we have redundant genetic code!), but it’s not necessary and we can get by just fine with more creative arrangements.

    Blech, what I really hope happens is that Trevor finds a less repellent group to work with.

    • Partial Human says:

      This. If I had a child she’d have two mothers.

      There wouldn’t be a single task that couldn’t be performed by either of us, and there wouldn’t be anything missing due to the lack of a male parent.

      What are these dad-only tasks? Pfft. Screw that sort of 1950s essentialism.

  16. TMK says:

    It’s nice to have at least two of a time, for the added financial security (usually) and in case one of them sucks at something (like why we have redundant genetic code!),

    I concur. At least two, I’d say five is optimal!

  17. jemima101 says:

    As a breastfeeding counselor I have been following this story with interest. I have had medical professionals with no experience of breastfeeding who were supposedly qualified to advise me. Such as the health visitor who asked if my baby always made “those noises” when he suckled. (She had never seen anyone bf )

    Experience is a very sensible requirement the LLL demand. It is a support group. Trevor has a wealth of experience, in all honestly someone like I was with my second child, who could have fed a nursery, is not always the most helpful example to mums who are struggling. When counselling I always took the time to remember the struggles I had with my first child.

    Interestingly I contacted the National Childbirth Trust (the British organisation who trained me) about this. My old tutor has also been following the story and they are currently checking their policies to make sure they do not exclude transgender parents. Lets hope LLL can do the same.

  18. Li says:

    StarChilde: just a heads up, but using transgender as a noun (“a transgender”) is generally considered dehumanising and offensive. It’s better to treat it as an adjective, hence “a transgender person”, “a transgender man”, “a transgender woman”.

    Jadey: not that I’m likely to be breastfeeding any time soon, but even though I find the LLL pretty squicky, Trevor also obviously finds value in them as an organisation and as a gay transgender man sees sufficient potential for essentialism within the organisation to change. I also suspect that like many other orgs, local branches don’t hold the same kind of philosophical purity that the upper heirarchy do and that Trevor probably therefore has a number of reasons he isn’t just like RUN AWAY.

  19. suzy says:

    I agree with you and him completely. I also feel that it is important to note the most exemplary things about his stance:

    1. while hoping/waiting/blogging for change, he is not bashing the organization that has excluded him!

    2. while hoping/waiting/blogging for change, he has created a resource that would not otherwise exist for others like himself.

    While, I wish that the biases that excluded him did not exist, I find myself grateful that they did because if included his voice might never have been heard.

    Goddess bless him and his VERY lucky baby!

  20. Alison says:

    I am not sure that there is an essential difference between mothering and fathering either. But there is a difference in how the prevailing culture treats mothers and fathers.

  21. suzy says:

    @Alison,

    It is absolutely true that some women are not “maternal” and some men are extraordinary nurturers and that biology is not always destiny in terms of parenting. I do think it is also important to acknowledge that there are real differences that are not just about the prevailing culture.

    As a woman who has had 3 natural pregnancies and childbirths and spent many years nursing those babies, I know first hand that the hormones that raged in my body at those times impact the relationships between mommy and baby. Of course men CAN create bonds that are as strong, but it requires more effort on their part, NOT just because of society.

    Biology does not have to be destiny, but it would be unwise to dismiss it. Our species is still wired, hormonally, etc. for women to be the nurturers and men to be the providers and protectors.

    I find myself constantly in conversations where I have to clarify that I AM a feminist because I believe we must have the same pay, access, rights and privileges as men and dominion over our own bodies and reproductive options. AND, I have CHOSEN among those options to primarily dedicate my life to raising and nurturing my daughters.

  22. Jadey says:

    Biology does not have to be destiny, but it would be unwise to dismiss it. Our species is still wired, hormonally, etc. for women to be the nurturers and men to be the providers and protectors.

    No, I’m sorry, this is BS. I have not seen any persuasive science on this matter. If you have particular citations you’d like to share, I’m open to reading them, but I’m not going to take this as a given – it’s too hurtful to too many people. Men can and do nurture; women can and do provide and protect, and reinforcing these stereotypes only creates self-fulfilling prophecies.

    As for the socialized differences, of course mothers and fathers are treated differently, but as a breast-feeding trans father Trevor is treated differently yet again on top of that! See this follow-up post of his. Trans men in a cissexist and ignorant society are not totally unfamiliar with how cis women are treated even if they aren’t cis women.

    @ Li, you’re right and Trevor is being much more mature than I would be in his circumstance (and it does seem like his local chapter is more boss than the overarching organization is being right now), so maybe what I should say is that I hope the incident motivates a lot of self-reflection and a sea-change in the organization as a whole.

    • suzy says:

      Jadey,
      I am not going to select articles for you to read, but if you research the hormones prolactin, oxytocin, estrogen and testosterone there is plenty of evidence to support what I have said. I fully acknowledge that men are often fine nurturers and woman are equally capable in all areas. However, my life experience has shown me that the differences are also REAL and it serves no one to pretend they do not exist!

      Ashley,
      Thank you so much for your clarifications around the donor milk policy. It does help me to feel that the bias is perhaps less transphobic and more about being consistent with existing policy!

  23. Ashley says:

    As someone who’s been involved with LLL for a long time, I’m not surprised at this decision, and anyone in my local group who’s mentioned it (LLLI is NOT publicizing it internally) is sorely disappointed.

    That said, LLLI does have a pretty strong stance against donor milk. A Leader is not allowed to suggest donor milk or facilitate a mother acquiring it. This is largely for liability purposes as I have never met a Leader who doesn’t support informal milk donation and I know many who have benefited. LLL as an organization promotes retrogressive gender roles, though they deny it (and this is one of the areas where local group culture matters way more than the upper hierarchy; my group is very supportive of working mothers and run by two feminists). That said, even without the gender role thing they can’t have a Leader who promotes informal milk donation, which Trevor obviously would have to do as that’s primarily how he breastfeeds.

    I would love to talk about some of the organizational issues within LLL, but bluemilk doesn’t want this to turn into an anti-LLL bashing post so I’m going to refrain from adding anything else negative about them. I absolutely love the work LLL does, it’s vital and can be very feminist (women helping women achieve their goals is fundamentally feminist), but it needs a serious shake up on the organizational level.

    • GinnyC says:

      I hope that LLL changes its policies. Trevor sounds like he would be a wonderful leader.

      Can I ask a question too? You don’t need to answer this if it is too much of a derail. Why is LLLI against donor milk? Is it because of the risk of transmitting diseases? I was under the impression that using donor milk was not that uncommon.

      • Ashley says:

        It’s not that LLL is against donor milk as they are concerned about liability issues. All Leaders are covered by liability insurance as LLL could get sued for bad advice. If a Leader did facilitate milk donation and a baby got sick, they could easily get sued.

        Milk donation is very common and everyone I’ve ever met in LLL supports it and typically engages in it, but not in an official capacity.

  24. EG says:

    Wow. What a transphobic mistake on the part of LLL. They have been a wonderful resource for people I know and obviously for Trevor as well; I hope they reconsider their misguided policy. Is there a petition or anything that we can help with?

  25. blue milk says:

    A rule-change is being considered by the LLL in Canada. At least, I think this is bureaucratic speak for change AHOY!

    Contacting the LLL via their website and voicing your support for Trevor couldn’t hurt while they’re in this delicate stage of consideration.

  26. Lolagirl says:

    I absolutely love the work LLL does, it’s vital and can be very feminist (women helping women achieve their goals is fundamentally feminist), but it needs a serious shake up on the organizational level.

    The way this debacle played out is really not good for LLL or its reputation in the general public and the media, where it is often (and I think quite unfairly) associated with zealotry and anti-feminist povs. The main mission of LLL, to provide breastfeeding support and education to breastfeeding mothers, is a good and necessary one when health care providers and hospitals continue to provide out of date and even incorrect “advice” about breastfeeding to patients even today. Not to mention a safe space to not worry about shaming by others for breastfeeding, which is also still sadly common here in the U.S.

    This was a wasted opportunity for LLL to foster a reputation of inclusiveness and open-mindedness. It’s a huge mistake on their part to not take advantage of any opportunities for positive PR that may come their way.

  27. shfree says:

    I am not going to select articles for you to read, but if you research the hormones prolactin, oxytocin, estrogen and testosterone there is plenty of evidence to support what I have said.

    There is no “Nurture” hormone, nor is there a “Provide and Protect” hormone.

  28. Jadey says:

    Suzy, I did look into the research, though I have no idea if I found the things you wanted me to find given that “here’s some hormones – research!” is fairly unhelpful. What I ended up doing was putting search terms like “prolactin fathers” into Google Scholar. If there’s something else you’d like to direct me to, by all means.

    What I found was nothing to suggest that women and men aren’t capable of having the same hormonal responses to infants with the same effects (e.g., more prolactin associated with more closeness). I did find, however, studies suggesting that men react to babies differently and thus experience different hormonal patterns. Which suggests that long-term socialization (i.e., men are socialized away from nurturing behaviour) probably affects situational hormone levels rather than the other way around, which would be more consistent with modern thinking on biological-environmental dynamics than “Hormones make us do things!”.

    • suzy says:

      Jadey,
      I am sorry, I should have clarified that I have a longstanding internet policy of suggesting people find their own evidence because to some extent it is always true that we can find “experts” to back up whatever we have already decided.
      Anyway, kudos to you on your research and I agree with all your findings. My only clarification is this; only a person with a womb can become and remain pregnant for what really amounts to nearly TEN loooong months and then give birth to a baby and all of those processes produce more of certain hormones than are produced situationally.
      I also AGREE with you completely about socialization, etc. Please visit http://www.preparetomorrowsparents.org to see how I have devoted myself to improvements in this direction!

      Bliss and blessings!
      s

  29. Lemondemon says:

    @ Suzy,

    Trans men and gender queered people exist. Wombs et al aren’t only linked to women, which is the only logical conclusion of “men and women make different parents due to hormone levels”.

    • suzy says:

      @Lemondemon- I have no clue where you got that statement you put in quotations, but I have never and would never say or type such a thing.
      PLEASE folks, let’s try not to fixate on one piece of what each other says without absorbing its entirety. I KNOW all about queerdom and trans and intersex, etc. I have given birth to and spent my life in nurturing friendships with people all over the spectrum of human sexuality. I was not in any way saying that variations are not real. And I stated up front that nothing is written in stone. YES, men nurture, YES some women do not find themselves to be maternal even when they wish to, etc.
      All I am saying is that ignoring biological realities does a DISSERVICE to the subject. It gets my hackles up in much the same way as being told that I can’t be a feminist because of the way I choose to dress or live my personal life!

  30. Jadey says:

    And gender essentialism gets my hackles up.

    I don’t see the weight of the “biological realities” you are touting. Plenty of women with wombs who have gestated a foetus and given birth are terrible parents who behave appallingly to their children. Plenty of men without wombs (as opposed to men with wombs) who have not and cannot gestate a foetus or give birth are fantastic, loving, nurturing parents. We don’t seem to disagree on this, as you have stated repeatedly.

    So at what point are the so-called “mother” and “father” roles not functionally interchangeable from a *parenting* standpoint? (Recognizing that giving birth /= parenting and assuming that the effects of differential socialization are discounted as this argument seems to made on the basis of innate traits, not learned ones, given the emphasis on “biological realities”.)

    • DonnaL says:

      Plenty of men without wombs (as opposed to men with wombs) who have not and cannot gestate a foetus or give birth are fantastic, loving, nurturing parents

      Not to mention women without wombs who were assigned male at birth!

      I would never, ever presume to deny the effect of hormone surges on the emotions, since I’ve certainly experienced that myself, as have many other trans people — although I actually did have extremely elevated prolactin levels at one point, and all that signified was that I had developed pituitary gland tumors, not that I suddenly had an overwhelming desire to nurture an infant!

      What I don’t believe, however, is that those hormones are either necessary or sufficient for bonding with an infant, or that my immediate and overwhelming love for my son from the moment he was born and I first held him a minute later — and my desire to both nurture and protect him — was any less than that of anyone who’s ever actually given birth, or breastfed, or been flooded with hormones of any kind.

      • Lolagirl says:

        I would never, ever presume to deny the effect of hormone surges on the emotions

        Thanks, Donna.

        I agree that the whole derail about “mothering hormones” is silly. It’s the relationship between the parent and child itself that creates and reinforces bonding.

        Otoh, having experienced post-partum hormonal swings myself I don’t want to see it get diminished or discounted as a real thing. I just don’t think it is what facilitated my bonding with my babies. In fact, I think it can actually do some damaging stuff to undermine that process because the crash itself can be so quick and drastic. Others mileage may vary, of course.

  31. Jadey says:

    Aaaaand I am seeing that this is getting into derail territory, sorry, so I will leave off now as I think I’ve made my point. Suzy, that’s not to shut you out of making a rebuttal but I’m not going to keep pushing this line of discussion right now.

  32. jon says:

    suzy – As someone who studied biology at the undergraduate level and is currently a grad student studying the history of science, I can say with a fair degree of confidence that your hormone-based gender essentialism is nonsense. The “biological realities” you want people to uncritically accept simply don’t exist, at least not in any useful ways. Even leaving aside the issues of trans people, cis men and women vary greatly in levels of hormones, and there’s no correlation between “nurturing” or “providing and protecting” behavior and those variations in hormones (not to mention that those behavioral categories are, themselves, pretty much meaningless).

    I might recommend Cordelia Fine’s Delusions of Gender if you’re interested in the current state of research on biological differences across gender.

  33. chava says:

    I asked mr. chava today if he would breastfeed, were he biologically able to do so. He blinked and said “Are you &^%# kidding me? OF COURSE!!!”

    Having baby-soothing devices built into your anatomy is more handy than I had realized, apparently.

    • jemima101 says:

      With one disabled child, fed with EBM and one who suckled 20 hours a day Mr Jem often expressed the fact he wished he could breastfeed. He, along with many men I know, saw the tiredness, and often pain there partners went through and sincerely wished to share the burden. Getting up to make a drink doesn’t really equate to bleeding nipples or nights where no more than 2 hours sleep was ever got in one block.

      As well as as Chava says the fact you have something which may pacify the baby (although it may simply make it scream louder if milk is not what it wants.)

      This is a large part of the reason I have stayed out of the mother/father innate roles idea. It is irrelevant to Trevor’s fight, he is not a Mother, he is a father who can breastfeed, LLL is not a birthing organisation but a breastfeeding organisation. The ability to breastfeed matters, not anything else.

  34. Liz says:

    I detest gender essentialism. There’s no evidence to support it. It’s an idea which is used to keep women at home and treat women who don’t have maternal desires as weird, almost non- women. We’re not outliers.

    As for Trevor’s situation. I can’t for the life of me understand why organisations pull this sort of shit. Why can’t they just say, “Cool. He wants to work with. Let’s get on with it.”

    • jemima101 says:

      “It’s an idea which is used to keep women at home ”

      Just a minor point, some women like myself choose to stay at home, I believe my partner would have done just as good a job as the full time care giver, we simply believed children thrive better when one parent is at home and happy with that choice.

      I stay at home because I want to, lets not get into the “twue” feminists work idea.

  35. Liz says:

    My apologies, jemima. What I should have said is that it’s used to keep women at home who don’t want to be there. I didn’t want to imply that SAHM can’t be feminist. But, I did.

    • jemima101 says:

      In fairness I am sure that far more women have had to stay at home due to societal expectations than have chosen to do so.

      Whilst I was the one who said the whole instinct debate is irrelevant, it is interesting to note I am not in the least maternal*. I love my children, but when I see other mothers weeping at school plays, or unable to cope when they are separated from their kids I am bemused. I stay at home because I am a trained kindergarten teacher, I like young children and my skills equip me to be the SAHP.

      *Using maternal here in the gender specific sense of women having a natural care giving role .

  36. chava says:

    I have pretty mixed feeling about LLLI in general. On the one hand, they’ve done some amazing work and support of women who choose to breastfeed. On the other, I’ve had a lot of friends burned by their gender essentialist attitude* and insistance that breast, regardless of maternal or family circumstance, is always best.

    It feels like in the beginning they were something of a countercultural movement, taking back women’s bodies from a medicalized, male dialogue. Now, though, it seems like they’ve entered into this reification of “womanhood” allied with breastmilk-as-liquid-vaccine together with the medical establishment.

    This…is a bit confused, but hopefully the point comes across.

    *things like insisting that “mothering” serves a specific role distinct from fathering, that the breast (perhaps as a representation of the woman herself?) is deeply tied to this act of mothering, bottles are naught but cold non-bonding substitutes, etc.

    • jemima101 says:

      I think these are all reasons LLL are simply not very big in Britain. There are groups, but they are seen very much as the old school, pro traditional families.

      I do wonder if some here, and Trevor himself might look at the NCT and see a more progressive model. Therefore I hope a link is ok, perhaps people need to look at starting something new?
      http://www.nct.org.uk/professional/research/feeding-babies/nct-baby-feeding-policy

    • GinnyC says:

      I think that when my mother was breastfeeding 20-plus years ago and involved with LLL they were seen as somewhat counter cultural. They promoted things like breastfeeding in public spaces and talking about breastfeeding in detail. “Good Southern Women” (read white upper-middle class) didn’t do either and certainly not in mixed company.

      • EG says:

        I know that when my mom was breastfeeding me 35 years ago, they were part of the counterculture. She had to go to LLL to find pediatricians who were OK with her nursing me at twelve months.

  37. Alison says:

    Jemima 101: You wrote “This is a large part of the reason I have stayed out of the mother/father innate roles idea. It is irrelevant to Trevor’s fight, he is not a Mother, he is a father who can breastfeed, LLL is not a birthing organisation but a breastfeeding organisation. The ability to breastfeed matters, not anything else.”

    I’ve read Trevor’s blog and LLLC’s two responses. I think LLL isn’t only a breastfeeding organisation. It is a mother to mother support organisation. Up until now LLL hasn’t looked at the issue of fathers breastfeeding, and they’ve stated that, and that they will look at it now and decide if anything needs to change.

    Trevor seems a totally awesome individual who would be a great counsellor. He comes across as a lovely person with a genuine desire to help others. But he does identify as a father. And here is where I’m feeling uncomfortable, as someone who identifies as a mother. There have been many times I’ve been discriminated against as a mother. Fatherhood is certainly the privileged role in the parenting game. You really notice if your child is sick in the hospital, or has a disability, or when you go to parent teacher meetings, there are differences in how you are treated as the mother versus the father of the child in these settings, and don’t get me started on mother blame. Part of the reason that breastfeeding is so difficult is about the patriarchy. Can you imagine if men and fathers routinely breastfed and then became our overlords in the breastfeeding domain? I’m not saying that letting one father become a La Leche league leader is going to open up the floodgates of that hell, but it is something to think about carefully.

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