s and i are just back from our aba breastfeeding class. i have mixed feelings about how it went.

the good:

  • the group size was kept small, so it there were plenty of opportunities to ask questions, and it wasn’t too scary to do so.
  • we were given some good information about the breastfeeding process, how babies and boobs behave when breastfeeding, the composition of breastmilk, how babies digestion works etc. some of this was doubled up from the prenatal class s and i attended a few weeks ago, but they weren’t to know that, and it was good to have some of the information reiterated and expanded upon. 
  • they had several nursing mothers, with babies of various ages, come to demonstrate how they feed. it was interesting to see their different techniques, and how babies change their feeding patterns as they grow. amusingly, one of the demo-mamas was our close friend s and her 10wk old. she also brought her 5yo along, and she was happy to cuddle with her fairy godmothers while her mama wrangled the baby
the less good:
  • questions to do with expressing and bottle feeding (i.e. not formula feeding, but bottle-feeding breastmilk) were not adressed satisfactorily. there was one couple who explained that the birth parent was going to be at home with the baby for the first four months, and then she was going back to work and the non-birth parent was going to be taking time off work to be the primary carer. they wanted to ask about how they could best manage the logistics of keeping their baby on breastmilk through that process, and their questions were largely dismissed. i was really frustrated by that, because as a feminist i feel that families who want to share the child-rearing/breadwinning duties more equally should be encouraged and supported. having the birth mother return to work shouldn’t mean that the baby has to go without breastmilk, and making a birth mother feel that she’s not doing the best she can by her baby by choosing not to stay at home for the full 12, 18, 24, or however many months she chooses to feed her baby breastmilk, is not on.
  • we were shown a video that outlined the details of a (single) study done in the 90s that found that babies who had no intervention (i.e. pain medication etc.) in their births were more likely to engage their stepping reflex to crawl up over the mother’s abdomen and latch onto the breast unassisted for their first feed. they then showed footage of a baby whose mother HAD chosen pain relief failing to do this spontaneously. there was a very strong message that mothers who choose pain relief or caesarian sections are interfering with their baby’s ability to feed, and that they should have a natural birth if they want to feed properly. i was completely outraged by this, and very frustrated that it took my prompting for the class presenters to acknowledge that perfectly normal breastfeeding can be established after any kind of birth.   
  • there wasn’t a lot of specific information about how to establish good attachment, and what good attachment looks and feels like. this was kind of surprising, because it was what i expected the class would mostly be about.
  • given that the aba is a relatively crunchy organisation, we were very surprised to find that the presenters referred to parents almost exclusively as “mothers and fathers”. given that we all introduced ourselves at the beginning of the class, and it was very clear that they had at least one visibly same-sex couple in the group i was disappointed that they didn’t refer to non-birth parents as “partners” instead of “fathers” or “dads”. it’s not that big an adjustment to make, and it goes a long way to making queer couples feel included and engaged. 
i’m not sorry we went, because i did learn some useful things, but i came away feeling like my family wasn’t really acknowledged, and some of my choices weren’t really considered valid. i realise that the aba is an organisation with it’s own agenda, but i was surprised by some of the ways in which that agenda was pushed.