Sunday, 25 April 2010

Programming the future

My friend came back from England yesterday.  I picked up her daughter in the early hours and we drove to the airport together to meet her mum. Her daughter is in year 12. Studying is her major activity. The sunrise was stunning. Intensely pink and orange light filled the sky over Sydney as we made our way towards the airport. We chatted about her studies and what she hoped to do in the future. I was impressed with her clarity and vision.

Next week, as part of her family and children studies, all her group are being given a 'baby' to take home. The students all have to pretend it is a real baby and do all the things that mothers do when they have a new baby.  As many new mothers have never even held  a baby until they give birth to their own, this initiative is an effective way to help address that deficit in embodied knowledge.

I asked about feeding the baby. "oh, I have to give it a bottle and make up the formula" was the answer.

The conversation that followed explored the damaging message that this very creative and innovative exercise was unwittingly sending about how babies are fed.

The well intentioned, but ill advised, baby care education promotes bottle feeding as 'normal'. Young girls get that message early, for example, when given a baby doll complete with bottle as a gift for their birthday or Christmas. Have you noticed how those dolls all have bottles?

I went to the NSW Department of Education's website and looked up the curriculum for the "Exploring Early Childhood" program. 

The syllabus is very comprehensive.

Infant feeding, including a thorough section on breastfeeding is there, but no mention about how these subjects are taught. The practical application of knowledge to behaviour by providing a baby model for each student to take care of and feed is excellent. However, teachers need to ensure that students are able to 'breastfeed' the 'baby' as a matter of course.

Then young adults will get the right message: that breastfeeding is 'normal'.

As we pulled into the airport car park, my friend's daughter said she was grateful for the conversation, because she 'hadn't thought of it like that'. 

Neither would she.

Why would she? 

People don't know something until they know there is something to know!  When all society's clues and subliminal messages point to bottle feeding as 'normal', for a counter truth to have traction, you need other experiences or input, perhaps from a breastfeeding aunt, friend, neighbour or mother to enable you to think differently to the crowd, to be able to challenge the 'status quo'.

 La Leche Materna

After the event is a terrible time to learn the truth about what you can do to give your baby the optimal start in life. 


Leanne said...

Absolutely on the money. It is so true, They don't know, until they are told or had this explained. Well done you

Carolyn Hastie said...

Thanks for your comment Leanne! I feel for young women and their partners, they are not brought up knowing babies (generally speaking) and certainly, breastfeeding is not 'normal'. I've enjoyed working in other cultures where everyone is completely relaxed about breastfeeding. Even in Saudi, women could breastfeed in public without being 'seen' - the behaviour was so normal it didn't trigger anyone's radar. And that in a country where women have to cover their faces, their hands and their ankles! Breasts are a non event. Culture creates reality!