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breastfeeding and waldorf

post #1 of 50
Thread Starter 
Sometimes, somewhere, someone, raises a concern about waldorf education and breastfeeding or Steiner and breastfeeding or anthroposophy and breastfeeding. Just want to clear up some confusions.

The Anthroposophical Society doesn't have an official position on the subject.

Steiner's statements, at most, discourage extended breastfeeding.

I worked for the Anthroposophical Society in America (not North America, Canada and Mexico have their own, completely independent Anthroposophical Societies) for 6 1/2 years. The ASA has NO authority over waldorf schools. None. Nada. Furthermore, the ASA is completely legally separate from the Association of Waldorf Schools in North America. AWSNA has faint power over waldorf schools, due to owning the name waldorf. Someone at AWSNA may, sometimes, even speak out against extended breastfeeding. No one has to listen.

At the Chicago Waldorf School (where I worked for 3 years), the wife of one of the teachers used to sit around the school offices breastfeeding her little one who was well over a year old. The teachers would be wandering in and out, as would be the parents, the children and the administrative staff. Right there in the core of this well-established school which had many long-term waldorf teachers, many of whom were (gasp) MEMBERS of the Anthroposophical Society in America. The only comment was about how cute the little girl was. Breastfeeding was common in many locales at the school and there were no "police" going around checking to see if the children were too old to still be nursing. Never happened.

Waldorf teachers and anthroposophists are pretty free and easy about disregarding what Steiner "said." Especially about something like breastfeeding.

Deborah
post #2 of 50
Hi Apwannabe. This is in response to your questions in the safe haven thread, but I'm replying here to ensure that thread doesn't start debating, as it is support only.

I'm new to homeschooling and Waldorf as well, you can read my experience in some of the recent posts in the safe haven thread.

Oak Meadow has been termed mainstream education with a Waldorf flavor by many, rather than being doggedly Steiner, so I don't think you have to worry at all about using Oak Meadow in terms of their support for breastfeeding. They don't claim to be pure Waldorf, rather they say they are Waldorf- inspired.

That said, I think most Waldorf communities kind of ignore or downplay Steiner's original statements about extended breastfeeding because the type of people attracted to Waldorf these days tend to be pro-breastfeeding and extended bfing. Not saying that there aren't some Waldorf folks out there that take everything Steiner said as gold, and this can cause serious problems in some schools, but for the most part I think extended breastfeeding is accepted nowadays. If you were considering a Waldorf school this is something you would definately want to verify before you enrolled, but since you are homeschooling, you don't have to worry about that as much. Although if you plan on joining any Waldorf homeschool co-ops or whatnot you would want to inquire about their philosophies and how strictly they interpret Steiner's works, of course.

I think the majority of homeschooling parents, myself included, don't want to associate 100% with ALL of Steiners ideals (many of which are clear products of the culture of his time), but find that many of his ideals were revolutionary, inspiring, and useful. I see it this way, you have to take the inner truth from his works and adapt it to fit today's cultures and attitudes (especially easy to do if you are homeschooling). I'm speaking mainly of the attitudes towards race and breastfeeding which were much different in the 1920s than they are today.

Here is an interesting article that I just ran across on the Waldorf Without Walls website:

Anthroposophical Medicine, Breastfeeding and Weaning

Okay, well enough of my ramblings......
post #3 of 50
I just posted another response on the other thread, I guess I should have done it here...
post #4 of 50
DD and I are currently in a waldorf parent child class. Most of the mamas (including me) breastfeed. Our babies are all pretty little but I wouldn't be surprised if I wasn't the only mom who plans to do ebf. Its never been discussed in class because it simply isn't an issue. Breastfeeding is a given, totally taken for granted. Regardless of what Stiener's take on bfing was, my waldorf experience with bfing has been positive and supportive.

A nice bfing memory from a recent class:At the end of class we sing a lullaby. This week, I looked around the room during the lullaby and most of us were nursing our babes. It was a special moment. Peaceful and warm.
post #5 of 50
What? Neither the ASA nor AWSNA issue dictates about how "true anthroposophists" are to behave.

It's a complete mistake to believe that either organization serves in some role as fundamentalist purist watchdogs forcing people to conform to everything "Steiner said". Not that these sorts of "fundies" don't exist anywhere, but criminy...it's not like this is in any sense desirable within the ASA or AWSNA.

There is no *party line* against extended breast feeding. Where this resistance persists is just habit and tradition, not dogma. Anthroposophical doctors have regular medical degrees, and mainstream medicine has been kind of backwards toward extended breast feeding too, but thankfully, attitudes among both are changing with the times.

Here's an interesting discussion by Risë Smythe-Freed, who is an RN as well as an anthroposophical nurse. She's widely respected by "true anthroposophists" in both Waldorf education and anthroposophical medicine, at least by all appearances.

Extended breast feeding article
post #6 of 50
Deborah

Do you know, does AWSNA have much relationship to early childhood educational centers? I was under the impression that AWSNA handled the elementary and high schools, while another organization, WECAN, concentrated on the early childhood education. Is WECAN a part of AWSNA?

Linda
post #7 of 50
Yeah, I've heard this go round and round in several contexts, but don't think there's much truth to it. In fact, I don't think Steiner ever said anything explicitly about nursing that I've been able to locate.

My good friend is in Waldorf parent tot classes with her 2.5 yo and when she got fussy, the teacher noticed that the child was saying "nana, nana" and encouraged my friend to take a break in a rocking chair and nurse her. In the middle of the classroom. Definately not a discouraging action on the part of the teacher.

Not everyone in the Waldorf community subscribes to all of Steiners athroposophical philosophy. I.e., there are families who watch TV (a lot of it!) and still send their kids to Waldorf schools.
post #8 of 50
Our children's Kindergarten teacher who is Waldorf trained breastfed both her babes until around 4. Lots of slings and breastfed babes at our school.
post #9 of 50
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by LindaCl
Deborah

Do you know, does AWSNA have much relationship to early childhood educational centers? I was under the impression that AWSNA handled the elementary and high schools, while another organization, WECAN, concentrated on the early childhood education. Is WECAN a part of AWSNA?

Linda
No, WECAN is a separate organization.
Deborah
post #10 of 50
Thread Starter 
Wisdomkeeper wrote:
Quote:
I think the majority of homeschooling parents, myself included, don't want to associate 100% with ALL of Steiners ideals (many of which are clear products of the culture of his time), but find that many of his ideals were revolutionary, inspiring, and useful. I see it this way, you have to take the inner truth from his works and adapt it to fit today's cultures and attitudes (especially easy to do if you are homeschooling). I'm speaking mainly of the attitudes towards race and breastfeeding which were much different in the 1920s than they are today.
Yes, this is my approach to Steiner too. I've been a member of the ASA since 1978. I wouldn't have remained a member if I had to affirm agreement with everything Steiner ever said. Among other things, it is an impossibility as his complete works run to about 350 volumes, much of it still not translated from German (which I don't read).

It is up to individual anthroposophists to decide what, if anything, they want to affirm or turn away from. I've known anthroposophists who didn't want to have their children in a waldorf school, for example; others who weren't interested in anthroposophically extended medicine; huge numbers who disregard Steiner's dietary suggestions; some who can't stand reading his philosophical works; others who only like his philosophical works and find his more occult writings and lectures hard to deal with.

We are actually a diverse and fairly argumentative lot.

To give one example. When I was living in Chicago I was active in the local branch of the ASA. This branch owned a building, which had a lot of space. One influential member argued that the rental portion of the building should not be rented to an anthroposophical initiative of any sort because that might imply endorsement. Further, he argued that window displays promoting waldorf education, or biodynamic farming or anthroposophic medicine or any other related movement were inappropriate. Why? Because the Branch should not appear to endorse anything within Anthroposophy beyond offering people the opportunity to read works by Steiner. Going beyond that stance might confuse newcomers and make them think that anthroposophy was a package deal and had to be swallowed whole or not at all.

He didn't convince everyone, but his thoughts were taken seriously. They certainly made me reconsider my attitude towards the daughter movements of anthroposophy.

Sorry, this is probably more than anybody wanted to know.
Deborah
post #11 of 50
It just proves they are human too. I have often found, that getting people to come to a consensus at our Waldorf school is like herding cats. Everyone is stepping all over themselves so as not to offend anyone. It can be difficult if you are used to a work situation where decisions have to be made.
post #12 of 50
My twelve month old and I just finished our parent/toddler class. It was very common and natural to see the other mothers breastfeeding their toddlers. I believe on one occasion the tearcher actually put a blanket on us so we were more comfortable. If anything, I believe the school was one of the most comfortable and nurturing environments I have bf'd in public.
post #13 of 50
Quote:
Originally Posted by Deborah
No, WECAN is a separate organization.
Deborah
I thought so. I can't imagine why this subject of extended breast feeding would come up at AWSNA. It's not an issue that grade or high school educators would have any role to play.

It would probably be cool to start a thread to talk about AWSNA and the role they play in Waldorf education. It might help clear up a lot of questions and misunderstandings about what they do and don't do.

Linda
post #14 of 50
I don't have much experience with Waldorf, since we will be starting in the fall.

But as part of our interview process, the teachers sat down with me and asked all kinds of questions, wanting to get an idea of my son's personality and needs. They asked all about his birth experience and how he was as a newborn. When I told them about how he was premature, had trouble latching on and how I had to pump for 6 weeks while working non-stop on his latch .. they both smiled, gave me pats on the back and said what dedication that took. I found them very supportive of breastfeeding. I have no idea how they feel about extended bf'ing since my son is weaned, but I have the feeling it would not be an issue at all.
post #15 of 50
Thread Starter 
Thanks, Candace. What a nice story.
Deborah
post #16 of 50
This is an interesting thread, even though I didn't see where it came from and I just stopped in to see what the forum was like, having never visitied it before. I just wanted to mention that my DD was in a Waldorf parent/tot program last year (transitioning to waldorf preschool this summer with one day a week with parents and one day without) and all but one of the 5 mothers with children over the age of 2 in that program were still nursing thier children. Two of us are tandem nursing. I never heard any critisim from the teacher or staff about extended nursing, in fact most were openly very supportive of the bennifits of extended breastfeeding.
post #17 of 50

Again, depends on the individual teacher...

It was suggested at my dd's interview for 3 day nursery to start weaning my dd over the summer so she could transition into school well. I stopped the teacher short of finishing her sentence. I asked them to stay out of my breastfeeding choices and that dd (almost 4 at the time) would wean when she was ready and only then. We had attended playgroup and dd would ask to nurse when she saw any other baby/child nursing, I never denied or redirected, I feed on demand at any age.

Most of the teachers at our school are cool with extended nursing but a few have a problem with it as do some very pro breastfeeding moms. It's the extended breastfeeding that some folks have a problem with because they are under the impression that it interferes with independence after xx age.
post #18 of 50
Sounds like you handled it quite well cuqui. I think it does have more to do with individual teacher feelings on the subject. My friend's 4 year old still nurses and the Kindergarten teacher hasn't mentioned it once.
post #19 of 50
Thread Starter 
I'd like to remark in passing that most of the folks I encounter seem to be doubtful about extended breastfeeding, even here in Vermont where bf is very common. I've never seen anyone bf in public a child over say 18 months and even that is exceedingly rare.

From the comments on this discussion and my own experiences of waldorf, I'd say that it is actually one of the more bf friendly environments in the U.S. Interesting.

Deborah
post #20 of 50

I totally agree Deborah!

I have been at our local Waldorf school for 5 yrs now, my oldest is going into 2nd grade. I have never been surrounded by so many slinging, co-sleeping, extended nursing mamas with babes in cloth diapers, lol! Out of 16 kids in dd's class, 10 were breastfed at least a yr, 2 were nursed over 4 yrs. 2 were HB, one a HBAC, one dad is an ND, 2 doula moms, 1 reiki practitioner, I could go on and on.

I know 5 LLL leaders in the school.

When I visit other Waldorf schools, I always see toddlers breastfeeding and many slings.
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