Breastfeeding and Classrooms

As some of you know, I am going to school to be a biology teacher. This, of course, entails classes about teaching. This semester I am taking an “Intro to Education” class. We had a discussion in my class on Thursday about what we expect kids to learn in school. Within this discussion was a lot of homeschool bashing (which is an entirely different post) which was very bothersome to me, but even more so was this (paraphrased) comment a girl made.

My major is physical education and my minor is health. It really bothers me that I’m going to have to teach kids about sex. I mean, isn’t that something that their parents should be teaching them?

She poses an interesting question that is definitely one with strong feelings on either side, but that’s not what I’m talking about today. I’m talking about the fact that it bothers her that she’ll have to teach kids about sex.

Really? I understand that it will be a difficult subject to teach. I understand that a lot of health teachers have to tip-toe around parents possibly getting upset versus actually giving the kids adequate information. I know that it’s awkward to talk to kids about sex. But really? You’re going to school to be a health teacher.

As you can see, this comment really pushed some buttons with me right off the bat, but it took a few hours for it to really hit me what this means for breastfeeding—this woman will be teaching your children about breastfeeding and she’s not even comfortable discussing sex objectively. Learning about sexual reproduction seems to me like the perfect time to learn about breastfeeding because I see breastfeeding as an extension of pregnancy. This could be a wonderful opportunity to show young people that breastfeeding is biologically normal and the best thing for a baby. Of course, this won’t happen.

If breastfeeding is actually covered beyond a couple of sentences about the function of breasts, it will probably still be a small amount of information. There will be no pictures shown because that could upset the parents. The benefits of breastfeeding probably won’t even be mentioned. This girl who has probably never even seen a breastfeeding woman will be teaching these things and will likely have obvious bias.

Biases are taught. This girl probably didn’t think that sex was gross when she was young. She probably wouldn’t have given a breastfeeding mom a second glace. These children could have that same bias prevented if they were taught about breastfeeding correctly. They could grow up without the notion that breastfeeding is gross (or that sex is gross for that matter).

That’s if breastfeeding is taught at all. Earlier this year I wrote a Letter to the Editor about breastfeeding being taught in schools. There were parents in the county next to mine saying that breastfeeding (among some other things) should not be taught in health classes. It’s hard to even wrap my mind around that. What is so offensive about feeding your child? If you’re not teaching that breasts are for breastfeeding, what are you teaching that they’re for? Looking pretty? Your pancreas produces insulin, your small intestine is for digesting, and your breasts… hrm… they’re just there.

Really, what is our country coming to when we can’t talk about such biologically normal acts? Why is sex gross and awkward? Why would a health teacher get in trouble for showing photos of women breastfeeding? How did we possibly get into a mindset where these things are considered bad?

I don’t know about you guys, but contemplating about these things for long enough makes me want to slam my head against the wall. I just have to keep reminding myself that I’m doing the best I can to change these notions. I breastfeed in front of young people to show them it’s normal, I write this blog to help moms, and I word-vomit information out to everyone I find out is pregnant. And if I ever get the chance, I will talk about breastfeeding to my biology classes. Hopefully, that will make a difference.

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10 thoughts on “Breastfeeding and Classrooms

  1. I hope ‘she’ finds a new path in school. That’s absurd. Thankfully there are people like you to spread the biological word. WORD!

  2. Great post on many levels. As a board certified lactation consultant in private practice (and gasp…a homeschooling mom), I see the daily struggles of breastfeeding moms that are often a result of exactly what good health education could prevent. So many moms never grow up seeing breastfeeding or being familiar with their own breasts that by the time their baby is here breastfeeding can feel awkward at best, unsupported and challenging at worst. Medical and anatomical mother/baby issues aside, many future breastfeeding experiences could be improved just by teacher and society teaching that lactation is exactly what those mammary glands are for…after all they are so important to our survival that our whole species is classified as mammals. Wouldn’t it be nice to see that factoid expanded upon in biology 101?

    • I’m itching to teach human biology because I know anatomy will be covered and I can get on my soapbox. 😛

  3. I never even knew breastfeeding was an option until I was pregnant. I wish they covered that stuff in school. It’s briefly mentioned in biology, but I think if they spent as much time discussing breasts as they did penises then newer generations would feel better about making the decision.

  4. Is it telling that the I actually blinked in surprise when I read “this woman will be teaching your children about breastfeeding…” My mind thought “What? Breastfeeding? In a Public School? No way she’ll be teaching that!”

    Yeah, as I think about it (and read the rest of the post) I think you’re right when you said “if breastfeeding is actually covered beyond a couple of sentences about the function of breasts” If I remember correctly, I was told about breastfeeding during our maturity talk, and it was just a few sentences about function; nothing else. That is so tragic. Good for you for writing a letter to the editor!

    • Yeah, it seems almost weird to me too. It’s just the mentality coming back to us. We were taught in school with the same biases, but have overcome them. Nevertheless, they will always come back to haunt us.

  5. I didn’t have Sex Ed in school (god forbid, in a catholic country?!?). What we had is a good biology teacher and a good education program. We were taught about human body, piece by piece. ‘This is a leg, it’s for walking and this is how it works. This is a lung, it’s for breathing and this is how it works. This is a breast (cue sniggers, we were round 12 at the time, of course we sniggered), it’s for feeding a child and this is how it works’.It was treated as one of the FACTS of life. I never even knew there was any other way! And the same goes for the whole generation in my country born in the 80s.
    Now, I live in a different country than I was brought up in. When I fell pregnant every woman, without a fail, would ask me ‘Are you thinking of breastfeeding?’ with fear in her eyes. This question wasn’t asked ONCE when visiting my friends and family back home. This question being asked baffled me as i never realised it was a woman’s choice! And it shouldn’t be a choice!
    The source of this evenement of unnaturalisation of breastfeeding has one source only. The formula companies. Formulas were developed to aid in the nutrition of infants who were otherwise unable to breastfeed, due to medical issues, those of the mother or the child. Then someone though ‘Hey why don’t we make a tonne of money on this’ and presto!
    There is a long and hard road to recovery from this tragic money-making scam and drastic measures should be put in place to make it happen.
    -delegalisation of formula advertising (it’s slowly happening in many countries in Europe, including the one I live in presently)
    -formula should be available on prescription only (only medical causes deem a mother to be unable to breastfeed for christ sake)
    -health professionals must be better educated in this area (I had an actual midwife yelp out in suprise (!) when my 2 week old daughter latched on perfectly as soon as her lips touched my breast)
    -media campaigns treating breastfeeding as not the best choice (‘Breast is Best’) but the only way and educating women on pregnancy and breastfeeding at the same time, making no differentiation between the two.
    And that’s to start with.
    I do my bid, by spreading the word, NIP-ing, but there is only some much one can do. And I am still seen as the hippy mom (in an negative meaning) who baby-wears, breastfeeds, talks constantly to her child, uses cloth nappies and doesn’t wash her hands everytime before she picks up her baby or disinfects every surface the baby could touch.
    I am a mother to a happy and healthy little girl and I wish she will get to grow up among equally happy and healthy children.
    Sorry for the long post. Rant is over. 🙂

  6. She won’t be teaching my children, they’re homeschooled and know all about breastfeeding. 😉 They also know French, English and are studying Latin, Greek, and Spanish. My 11 year old daughter has already written about breastfeeding.

    I wish we could understand as a culture the great disservice we do to women and girls by not adequately educating them and their male counterparts about the female bodies, the functions their bodies can perform and the empowerment that comes from being secure in knowing your body beyond it’s sex appeal.

    • I entirely agree! And I love that your children are so linguistic! How do you teach them so many languages? Do you know them all yourself?

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