Add to My MSN

Breastfeeding Across Cultures

8/11/2009 8:25:52 AM

Tags: Politics, international, breastfeeding, lactivism, Mongolia

Breastfeeding Baby

Breastfeeding is a natural act, but in the United States in recent years, it has often turned into a political one: Breastfeeding mothers have been kicked off planes, intimidated by restaurant managers, even singled out by Barbara Walters as an affront to decency. The response from the pro-breastfeeding community—call them “lactivists” if you must—to such snubs has often been swift and vigorous, and some moms have even organized public “nurse-ins” to publicize their right to feed their babies.

So it was refreshing to read “Breastfeeding in the Land of Genghis Khan” in the July-August issue of Mothering, in which Canadian-born Ruth Kamnitzer writes about Mongolians’ distinctly different attitude toward the practice. Living in Mongolia while nursing her son, she soon learned she didn’t have to take pains to be discreet:

In Mongolia, instead of relegating me to a “Mothers Only” section, breastfeeding in public brought me firmly to center stage. Their universal practice of breastfeeding anywhere, anytime, and the close quarters at which most Mongolians live, mean that everyone is pretty familiar with the sight of a working boob.

Kamnitzer still felt a bit out of step with cultural norms—but this time, roles were reversed. She had to learn to become comfortable with much looser standards about who should be drinking breastmilk:

If weaning means never drinking breastmilk again, then Mongolians are never truly weaned—and here’s what surprised me most about breastfeeding in Mongolia. If a mother’s breasts are engorged and her baby is not at hand, she will simply go around and ask a family member, of any age or sex, if they’d like a drink. Often a woman will express a bowlful for her husband as a treat, or leave some in the fridge for anyone to help themselves.

Sources: Huffington Post, Blisstree, New York Times, Mothering (article not available online)

Image by maessive, licensed under Creative Commons.



Related Content

Media Conference: Legislation 2.0

Legislation 2.0 is shedding light on the machinations of Congress and opening the legislative proces...

Potter Power

One of the worst schools in Great Britain has transformed itself into one of the best using a Harry ...

The Politics of Tenure

The tumult surrounding Arab American anthropologist Nadia Abu El-Haj's tenure candidacy at Barnard C...

Don't Glorify My Breast Milk

With breastfeeding advocacy at a fever pitch, some mothers genuinely believe formula compromises a b...

Content Tools




Post a comment below.

 

Rob Jones_1
10/3/2009 7:55:45 PM
I believe nurturing a baby is a natural act and breastfeeding mothers should not have to hide or coverup. Many other countries have no problem with this, why should we.






Pay Now & Save $5!
First Name: *
Last Name: *
Address: *
City: *
State/Province: *
Zip/Postal Code:*
Country:
Email:*
(* indicates a required item)
Canadian subs: 1 year, (includes postage & GST). Foreign subs: 1 year, . U.S. funds.
Canadian Subscribers - Click Here
Non US and Canadian Subscribers - Click Here

Want to gain a fresh perspective? Read stories that matter? Feel optimistic about the future? It's all here! Utne Reader offers provocative writing from diverse perspectives, insightful analysis of art and media, down-to-earth news and in-depth coverage of eye-opening issues that affect your life.

Save Even More Money By Paying NOW!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our earth-friendly automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5 and get 4 issues of Utne Reader for only $31.00 (USA only).

Or Bill Me Later and pay just $36 for 4 issues of Utne Reader!