MEN AND BREASTS

A recent episode of The Office featured a scene with a male lactation consultant (forgive me for not getting into details – I’ve never actually seen an episode of The Office). The online community, it seems, is a buzz with talk over this controversial idea. (a MAAAAAAN providing lactation consulting? Really?)

It has also become public that a chef wrote in his blog about using his wife’s breastmilk to create a human-milk cheese.  This was even featured on Today (with Kathie Lee and Hoda) – and wow, the responses on their facebook page have been both swift and brutally emotional to both ends of the spectrum.

This really leads me to this question…why is breastfeeding so controversial? When it comes to a male lactation consultant, that causes such a controversy and yet very few people even think once (more yet twice) about having a male obstetrician or a male gynecologist – and I promise you, that is MUCH more personal than a lactation consultant gets!! I am often asked how many children I have when I’m being interviewed as a midwife and it makes me wonder if they asked their doctor that same question. Nobody asks an oncologist if he’s had cancer – and I can guarantee (even without polling them) that there’s not a male obstetrician in this entire country (world?) that has EVER delivered a baby. Doesn’t make them any less effective as a physician! And while yes, it’s true, a male lactation consultant doesn’t have breasts and has never personally experienced breastfeeding…why does that make him any less effective as a consultant??

In Mesa, AZ (where I live) there is a breastfeeding supply store called Baby, Mother, and More – GREAT store, I send lots of people there! The owner of the store (and who you will see behind the counter if you visit there) is a wonderful man named Chuck. Chuck has been in the business for at LEAST 10 years that *I* have known him – and yet it comes as no surprised to him to hear that some women are initially a little “taken aback” when they walk into the store and see him behind the counter. I also know that he has gotten the question frequently “are you gay?”

*laugh* Okay…so his choice to help women feed their babies might be tied into his sexual orientation?? That makes no sense!! (why is it seemingly impossible for people to separate “breasts” and “sex”??) Not only that, but people act as if him being gay somehow makes ‘sense’ or makes it ‘better’ – HUH? So him not personally having breasts somehow brings to question his credibility, but if he were gay and therefore NEVER having ANY personal experiences with breasts EVER – well, THAT makes perfect sense? (edited to add: for the record as if it makes a difference – Chuck is not gay, just a super nice very smart man who happens to know a buttload about breastfeeding!)

Our breasts are such a sacred thing that not only is it more controversial for a man for see/touch those than it is for a man to see/touch a woman’s vagina – it’s so sacred a thing that even knowing that you are touching something that AT ONE TIME touched (or was inside) the breast makes people want to run away screaming and waving their hands over their heads. AAAAHHHHHHHHHH…..you made me THINK of a BREEEAAASSSSTTT!!!! After all, we can eat cheese made from the udders of cows, sheep, goats…..but even looking at cheese made from human milk is “gross”, “disgusting”, “yuck” and worth gagging over. Why? I’m not sure and would welcome someone’s attempt at explaining it to me. To experience how completely breast-phobic our society is, try this experiment: take an item (if it’s from an actual breast pump you get bonus points) – hand it to someone and ask them to guess what it is…when you tell them it was from your breastpump, try and catch it before they drop it to the floor and take rapid steps back away from you as if you are going to bite them. After all, it might have TOUCHED your breast at some point! (and people wonder why more women don’t do self breast exams….doesn’t that involved TOUCHING them?)

Or try this…take a cup of cows milk and tell someone as you sip on it, “This is left over breastmilk I had frozen and didn’t want to see wasted.” As they turn green and gag and threaten to report you to SOMEONE who can come and lock you up to protect society from you – smile and say, “I’m just kidding….it’s just milk squeezed from a cows udder.”

Phew….they will be relieved to hear that!

So I ask you, whoever may be reading my blog…what do you think of a male lactation consultant? (and while we’re at it: what about male doulas? Male midwives?) What about breastmilk cheese? (although knowing my readers we will probably see comments with recipes to other products breastmilk is good for!) What do YOU think?

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