Google+ Authentic Parenting: White Woman Breastfeeding

Thursday, July 29, 2010

White Woman Breastfeeding

This post was written as a submission for the World Breastfeeding Week Carnival, hosted by The Leaky Boob. The theme is "Perspectives: Breastfeeding from every Angle." Submissions are due by July 30th.

I am really, really blessed to be able to live in a country where you cannot drive a mile without seeing a woman nurse her child. Just like that, by the side of the road, no worries, no hesitations. A country where, if a woman would leave her child to cry while he is strapped to her back, she would instantly be corrected by some bystander and told that she has to feed that child.

However, I remain an outsider in a strange culture. I am a white woman in a black world, and there are lots and lots of assumptions that go along with that simple fact.

For one, every time I go to my doctor with my two year old daughter, I am greeted by disbelief that she is still breastfeeding. I had enough of that one day so I asked him if he knew about the WHO recomendations. He told me yes, but that he was just so astonished to see a white women still breastfeed her child at that age, that 'we' don't do that.
Here, women generally breastfeed until their child is 18 months old, but these high breastfeeding numbers are lowering, as the higher classes switch to bottles in pursuit of the European ideal, and of course they set the trends for other women in the country.

When I nurse in public, people see this as a sign that I have integrated, that I accept their culture, and it is not uncommon for someone to stop and express their happiness about this. For them it is something different to see white people adapt to their ways, instead of the other way around.
As we've now passed the Ivorian average weaning age (my daughter is two and two months), we do get some comments about her continued nursing, but we shut those up with a joke like: "you're just jealous". After all, this is a country where the expression goes: "I"m going to nurse at my mother's breast" (Je vais tĂȘter chez maman) when people visit their mother, even after they've grown.


Image: babasteve on Flickr


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