Sorry for the delay--I had a very long post ready to send, but got called away from the computer, then someone closed my browser. D*mn!
Alrighty. There are a number of reasons why I'd say that I'm hesitant about advocacy in my community. Some for personal reasons and some for traditional reasons. Firstly, the personal. I'm the youngest in a family of 8--I've learned how to keep my mouth shut. I left the reservation 7 years ago to go to school and although I return at least once a month, I am no longer really a part of the community. Don't know if I ever truly was—I was a “good” girl—like school, wasn’t allowed out of the house to party, wasn’t allowed to 49 at pow-wows (I was a “camper” girl as my partner calls it—I had to stay at the camp with my gramma). So though I lived on the rez, and danced at pow-wows all my life, I spent most of my time with my family, and knew the pow-wow dancing/singing crowd, but did not interact with the party crowd, which is a lot of the rez. When I go home now and talk with friends who are having kids, I ask about breastfeeding and they firmly reply it isn’t anything they are interested in, or that they tried and it didn’t work. And from here, the traditional teachings come in—though traditional child rearing practices are far and few in between (with the exception of extended family involvement)—what is still traditional are the notions about telling people what to do. I have to dance around the concept of breastfeeding—I talk about myself and what a good experience it has been for me, trying to work in obesity/SIDs/diabetes factors when I can without sounding preachy. There have always been subtle insinuations that I thought I knew more than everyone else—even from my family—so to try to find a way to speak about breastfeeding and childrearing without getting those vibes is difficult. I am also a relative young person, though not a young mom by rez standards, LOL, at 24, and that also makes it hard.
I see advocacy folks around here in Madison as being out there, and at times, being in your face. And I cheer inside for them. But I couldn’t do that at home. I would be shunned as a no-it-all and dismissed as quick as can be. At this point all I feel like I can do is be an example, bf my 19mo old in public, carrying her in a sling and raving about it when people are curious. I also try to be a gentle parent, and be very patient and gentle with other kids when their parents are around.
At this point, I’m thinking of getting certified as a lactation consultant when I finish grad school, and that I’d do consultation work with tribes who request help. I’m in WI and we have the breastfeeding program through Great Lake Inter-Tribal Council, and that’s a good resource. However, as dedicated and wonderful as the woman who runs it is, she is non-Native and that does make a difference—sometimes good and sometimes bad. I’d like to be able to do hands-on work with Native women.
So, I’m comfortable with the thought of helping people who ask, but and uncomfortable with finding the means to actively advocate breastfeeding among the folks most unlikely to be willing to try (and who are most in need of help).
I feel like there have been 2 or 3 generations of non-breastfeeders, and the “geez, when my gramma didn’t breastfeed, why should I?” attitude is very strong. And on my rez, body image among women isn’t exactly strong—most of us still wear Tshirts and shorts to swim, and those who have bodies seem to showcase them only in sexual ways. I think breastfeeding freaks a lot of women out because breasts are seen as sexual in the mainstream and that’s it.
Ahhhh. Please excuse my ramblings. This is a hard one for me. I so strongly have the urge to advocate, but don’t know how to go about doing it. I’ve played around with switching my field of study from education to family studies so I can work with families. I’d love to work with elders who were raised in traditional ways and write down their narratives. My partner’s gramma is so supportive of what we’re doing, not because she understands it on an intellectual level, but because it was what she was taught. Most important thing for a mother to do is never let your infant cry. She told us that “those babies choose to come here and if they’re not happy, they’ll leave” and you have to work to make them comfortable and happy.
I think about that when I think of our astronomical SIDs rates. I thing I believe that basic (and advanced too) science and spirituality are one in the same—that the energy science talks about is a spiritual thing. And that part of who a spirit comes from who you are—and part of who you are depends on your genes. If those spirits are coming to us and they are a part of what came before, then they remember how spirits should be treated because it was only a few generations ago that we all raised babies in respectful ways. Maybe those spirits leave because they’re not getting what they expect. Does that make sense? It does to me, particularly when I think about the “scientific” facts that breastfeeding and cosleeping reduce the rates of SIDs.
Alrighty, that’s enough for now. I could go on and on and on. J Thanks Mommas.