Gender Bias in Custodial Rights
William Alan Hutchins
At the precise moment my first son was born, I realized that I would never do anything without considering first how it would impact him. With the birth of my second son, it was evident that the breakdown in my marriage could not be restored, and it was best for us both to file for divorce. In order to maintain consistency for my two sons, I did everything possible to ensure that changes to their lifestyle was minimal. We decided that I would leave and that the boys would stay with their mother. I took my clothing and hunting equipment, but everything in our home remained as it was. As rare as it may seem, my now ex-wife and I did not argue over the divorce because we both realized that our differences were irreconcilable.
There were no support issues since she had a higher income than me, and I thought that it was absurd to even discuss the idea that I would accept any kind of spousal support even though I had the option. As time went on and I began to get on with my life and become more stable, things began to change. I never would have guessed that getting on my feet and being capable of paying child support, while maintaining a stable environment for my children would ever become a reason for her to try to take away my parenting time. As I try to navigate the legal system and gather information on how to protect my rights as father of my two boys, I have realized that I am at the mercy of a great social injustice.
I am not the type of person who stands on a soapbox to start an uprising about inequality, but as I go through the helpless horror of slowly being deprived of my children, I cannot find another means to react to the injustice that I am facing. I believe that a gender bias exists to prohibit fathers from obtaining and maintaining their parental rights.
The media negatively portrays divorced fathers. There is a reinforced assumption that fathers have less involvement and will only serve as financial providers without having emotional connections with their children. Although his role has changed over recent years, a father is still viewed as unemotional and unable to nurture his children. The media portrays divorced fathers in a negative light, which causes even good dads to be stereotyped as ‘dead-beat Dads.’
In May 2009, Lifetime TV announced that they were going to launch a reality based television show , developed by Fox, called Deadbeat Dads. This show would highlight the hunting down of fathers who were in arrears in child support. The Washington Times reported that “more than 90 percent of fathers with joint custody paid the support due,” and “most so-called deadbeat dads actually are dead broke”(Sacks). The same article explains: “two-thirds of men who fail to make child-support payments earn poverty-level wages, according to the Federal Office of Child Support Enforcement.” This makes it nearly impossible to pay child support and pay monthly costs of living, much less afford a stable environment that is appropriate for visitation with their children.
The role of fathers has changed dramatically over the last few decades. Men have become more actively involved in nurturing their children and are not merely the breadwinners in the family. Melissa Froehle, policy and program director at the Minnesota Fathers & Families Network in St. Paul states, “now, fathers are more involved,” and “in some ways it’s a matter of the judicial system catching up with changes in society” (Carlyle).
Historically, the law has not favored an arrangement for shared custody because it was assumed that there would be instability with sending the children back and forth between parents. Today, research has shown that having both parents involved is more beneficial for the healthy development of children. Minnesota has shocking statistics about the detrimental effects that a fatherless home can cause to children. A website dedicated to the support of fathers has collected the following data from various reputable sources:
Children from fatherless homes account for:
– 63% of youth suicides. (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Bureau of the Census).
– 71% of pregnant teenagers (U.S. Department of Health & Human Services)
– 70% of juveniles in state-operated institutions come from fatherless homes. (U.S. Department of Justice, Special Report, September 1988).
– 85% of all children that exhibit behavioral disorders. (US Department of Health and Human Services Bureau of Census) (2006 Minnesota Lawyers.com)
As a concerned parent, seeing these heart-breaking statistics motivates me that much more to do all that I can to make sure that I play an extremely active role in the lives of my children. Laws protect mothers without considering that fathers love their children, too. Stereotypes of unemotional and detached fathers imply that dads do not care as much as mothers and are not as capable of caring for children. My boys and I share a bond that is equally as important as the bond they have with their mother, but how can love be measured and proven? I have had my children with me on a regular basis whenever I have not been at work or in school, and sometimes when schedules have collided, I have gone to school with my children in tow. Out of many months this year, my time has exceeded half of the month in entirety because I was able to accommodate this time within my schedule. Commonly, men are treated unfairly when trying to obtain information about their rights to custody. When I went to the child support office to find out about a court hearing that I was not notified about, I was treated like a criminal. I asked for information and was not given any direction as to find out where I was supposed to go or what my rights were. Anytime that I contacted the child support office about my custody hearing or child support payments, I was not given any answers and the caseworker was rude and accusatory. Each time I asked a question, I heard back: “That’s not my problem.” I have never been and will hopefully never be late paying my child support payments.
In September, I sent a check to pay my child support two months in advance, yet my wages were garnished anyway and I ended up paying double what I owed. This meant that I was four months ahead on my child support and I was left without money to pay my immediate costs of living. This was later rectified and as a result, I received a check in the mail to reimburse the mistake, but in the meantime, I was late paying bills and stressed beyond my capacity. “There are no studies that document if fathers are actually being treated unfairly in court. The State’s only data shows that joint physical custody increased from 6 percent in 1986 to 23 percent in 1999” (Carlyle).
Most working fathers, in the middle of this recession, do not have the means to attack a system that is suppressing their paternal rights unless they are wealthy. It is almost impossible to fund legal representation, continue to pay support, and pay for a personal cost of living at the same time. Financial obligations are necessary when meeting the needs of the children, but while a family would typically work together to find a solution if the couple is married, this responsibility rests solely on the father. Currently, I pay child support that is beyond my means, and month to month, I struggle to afford what I can until a reassessment can be made to reflect my current financial situation. Based on what my ex-wife has reported to the court without my input, I am paying in excess of what I should be; but, if I did not afford this amount each month, I would surely end up incarcerated. It is ridiculous that a country that claims to care about the wellbeing of children would assume that fathers are only good for financial support and should be taken away from their children and sent to prison if they cannot provide this. If anything was to happen to me or to my job, I do not want to imagine what the devastating circumstances could be for both me and my boys. “The Bradley Amendment” was intended to protect mothers against fathers who fled their responsibilities to avoid being accountable for their children after a divorce and were absolved of any accumulated back-owing debt of unpaid child support from a judge who was compassionate to their situation (Wikipedia). This law “forbids any reduction of arrearage or retroactive reduction for any reason, ever” and “the approach that inability to pay is no excuse” (Wikipedia). This includes and is not limited to the following excuses for not being able to pay, even if the father was:
– In a coma
– A captive of Saddam Hussein during the first Gulf War
– In jail
– Medically incapacitated
– Lost his job but were confident of another so did nothing until it was too late
– Did not know he could not ask for retroactive adjustments and waited too long
– Cannot afford a lawyer to seek adjustment when adjustment was warranted
– Wouldn’t use the legal system even if he could, feeling it alien from his world, so don’t ask for a reduction when the legal establishment expects them to (Wikipedia).
When the law is set up to protect all mothers and to punish fathers after a divorce, what can be done about the wives who are dragging out a lengthy court process in spiteful revenge to get revenge on their ex-husband? While it is hopeful to think that parents actually do have the best interests of their children at heart, divorces do not usually happen without some emotional strain to each party. Parents who divorce have not been able to reconcile their relationship for various reasons, and unlike the beginning of a relationship, endings can be typically turbulent. How can a father be protected from a disgruntled ex-wife if she is angry about their divorce? Two obvious avenues of punishment by on ex-wife are: By exhausting his finances and/or by using the children to hurt him. In fact, a new study names a syndrome explaining the motivation for and the follow through of this kind of manipulative behavior. “Malicious Mother Syndrome” is defined under four main criteria:
1. A mother who unjustifiably punishes her divorcing or divorced
– Attempting to alienate their mutual child(ren) from the father
– Involving others in malicious actions against the father
– Engaging in excessive litigation
2. The mother specifically attempts to deny her child(ren):
– Regular uninterrupted visitation with the father
– Uninhibited telephone access to the father
– Paternal participation in the child(ren)’s school life and extra-curricular activities
3. Tile pattern is pervasive and includes malicious acts towards the husband including:
– Lying to the children
– Lying to others
– Violations of law
4. The disorder is not specifically due to another mental disorder although a separate mental disorder may co-exist. (Turkat 1995)
Most of the criteria can be executed in ways that do not violate the law, and some of the tactics that were explained by this new study have happened to me personally. Since I have obtained a lawyer, my ex-wife will not allow my children to see me as frequently as before and there is nothing that I can do to change this until a court order states otherwise. I am given short notice of pick up and drop off times, and communication about my visitation with our children is restricted to when she wants to discuss it. She has deliberately withheld information from me so that I would not appear at a hearing and has given false information to the child support office by not correcting what she knows to be truth in order to make sure that I would suffer financially. I have had medical and dental insurance for both of my sons through my employment, and she did not give this information to the child support office, so incorporated into my support payments is state health and dental coverage that are unnecessary.
The woman who stated that she would “never withhold my children from me because I am a good father,” now explains that she never intended me to see them at all in the first place. I assume that she never predicted that I would put up a fight in order to maintain this connection with my children either, but sometimes I feel as though I am fighting a losing battle. Week to week I wonder when I will be able to see them and wonder what they must be thinking in the meantime. I am desperately hopeful that this missed time will not impact our relationship, and that they will remember that I am a dedicated and loving father. My boys are far too young to understand what is going on between their parents; they can only understand what they live day to day.
I wish that there was some way that they could know the anguish I feel every minute that they are separated from me, and how hard I am trying to change this injustice despite my limited means. Each time I see them, they express how much they miss me and, at one point, I have had to counsel my oldest son over the telephone after dropping him off with his mother. It is heartbreaking to hear the sound of my child who only wants to come home to me, his father, but cannot because his mother will not allow it. Times between our visits after this incident have become longer and longer, and when I object to the time that I feel cheated out of, I am threatened by my ex-wife that I should take what time I can get or I will not be permitted any visitation.
As I face this mountain that will consume my life for the next year or more, I find myself wondering how I will endure the emotional and financial anguish that it will encompass. I hope that by the time I can make myself heard by the justice system that my ex-wife will not have erased me from my children’s life forever. It is more clear to me why many fathers are absent and how so many are incarcerated for defaulting to pay their court ordered child support. For me, it has never been and will never be about the money. I will work as much as it is physically possible if it means that I can afford to pay the legal fees and see my children. My bottom line, much like many fathers out there, is that I love my children and as their father, I deserve to watch them grow. I deserve to be an integral part in their healthy development and I merit the opportunity to influence them in becoming responsible, goodhearted, and respectable men. Until the law finally catches up, which will likely be long after my children are grown, good fathers like me can expect to continue to be exploited for what little money they have, only to be continuously viewed and treated like dead-beats by our country’s legal systems.
“Bradley Amendment.” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. 25 Sep. 2011. Web. 19 Oct. 2011.
Carlyle, Erin. (February 4, 2009). “New Laws Could Make Fathers’ Rights Come Smoother.” City Pages News: Minneapolis, Minnesota. 4 Feb. 2009 Web. 15 Oct. 2011.
“Father’s Rights Center.” Minnesota Lawyers.com. 2011. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.
Sacks, Glen. “Washington Times Editorial Slams Lifetime’s ‘Deadbeat Dads’.” Fathers And Families. 18 May 2009 Web. 16 Oct. 2011.
Turkat, Daniel. “Divorce Related Malicious Mother Syndrome.” Journal of Family Violence 10.3(1995): 253-264. Web. 15 Oct. 2011.
Resistance Training: Building a Better Body
Resistance training is a method of increasing the size and strength of skeletal muscles through the act of preforming a specific action against an opposing force. A resistance training regimen can incorporate exercises such as water aerobics, weight lifting, or resistance bands. It has long been thought that through a long term resistance training regimen, one may able to not only improve their overall well-being, but also slow or even halt the progression of diseases that appear as one reaches old age, such as osteoporosis and muscular atrophy. There are those that believe that the negative effects attributed to resistance training far outweigh the positive. These people believe that the lack of the proper understanding of resistance training may lead to severe injury. Although resistance training may include some risks, the health benefits that come from long term resistance training far offset the associated negative effects.
It is believed that as one reaches old age, the deterioration of things such as bone density (more commonly called osteoporosis) or decrease in muscle size and strength (muscular atrophy) are an inevitabilities. According to Dr. Sreekumran Nair, an endocrinologist, at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN the loss of skeletal muscle density and strength can begin as early as 30 and continue to rapidly deteriorate into one’s mid-sixties (Kuenzer 54-5). Another health problem linked with the aging process is the decline of blood flow, especially in the lower extremities, such as in the legs and feet. This problem is a common occurrence, especially in elderly females. Based on a study conducted by three researchers at Trinity College of Dublin, Ireland, resistance training has the ability to improve blood flow. The results showed that after a twelve week program, the subjects’ blood flow had increased by upwards of 31% (Egana, Reilly, and Green 763-72). It is a known fact that many injuries that the elderly experience can be attributed to falling or stumbling. Researchers have determined that subjecting elderly subjects to a specifically crafted resistance training regime may improve the bodily mechanisms that affect balance and balance recovery (Granacher et al. 377-400). By consistently practicing carefully constructed resistance training, elderly people have the ability to live long and fulfilling lives.
Resistance training is not only beneficial to the elderly, it also has the ability to improve anyone’s overall health. Long term resistance training causes the individual skeletal muscle fibers located in the body’s muscles to grow larger. In order to support the larger muscles, the body compensates by increasing bone strength and density. Having a higher bone density allows one to be less prone to injuries. Another side effect of the enlargement of muscles is that the body has the ability burn a larger amount of calories. The body is continually involuntarily contracting and flexing muscles in order to maintain and prevent sudden changes of the body’s position; this process is more commonly known as muscle tone. As muscles become larger, the body must use greater amounts of calories in order to maintain muscle tone. In fact, the only way to lose weight permanently is through muscle gain. During resistance training, the body’s fat deposits are gradually replaced by lean muscle mass. The loss of fat and the increase of lean muscle tissue will give the body a much more lean and healthy appearance. Resistance training is an extremely effective method of maintaining good health.
There are those that think although resistance training has some positive benefits, the negative risks far outweigh the potential reward. These people believe that without a proper understanding of the basic methods and techniques of resistance training, severe injury may be imminent. Most of these injuries are caused by the more extreme resistance training exercise such as the squat, bench press, power clean, or dead lift. For instance, someone attempting to squat a particularly heavy amount of weight without the use of spotter is a danger. After they finish their reps, they attempt to re-rack the weights, but they lose their balance fall backwards, potentially injuring themselves and others as well. In addition, an injury from poor technique may not even be immediately apparent; it may take some time before the injury becomes obvious. For example, someone is using the incorrect technique while bench pressing. At first there may no problem, but one day while bench pressing, one of their rotator cups could give out and a 300 pound barbell could be dropped and land on their chest or neck; at that point there is lot more to worry about than an injured rotator cup. Resistance training has its benefits, but if the exercises are done incorrectly or unsafely, it can become extremely dangerous.
Most of the benefits that are associated with resistance training are well-known, but there are some other positive side effects of a long term resistance training program that are not so well-known. A recent study conducted by Dr. Joseph Ciccolo, an assistant professor of behavioral and social sciences at Brown University, tried to prove that participating in a long term resistance training program while trying to quit smoking will greatly improve the chances of quitting. The results showed that participating in a resistance training regimen did in fact improve the chances of quitting smoking; the subjects that were on a resistance training program were twice as likely to quit smoking than their non-exercising counterpart (“The Butt” 64). Besides smoking cessation, another study completed by the Navy showed that certain types of resistance training may be beneficial to pregnant women. The study has shown that some of the benefits may include things such as improved blood flow and blood pressure, and decreased levels of glucose. Not only are there health benefits, but after resistance training program the women experienced higher levels of self-esteem (“Exercise is”). Another unexpected result of a long term resistance training regimen is a generally more positive mood and improved self-confidence. As one exercises the body will release chemicals called endorphins; when the endorphins are released the feels sense of happiness or joy. As one continues to work out, fat deposits are replaced by muscle mass, which gives the body a more healthy appearance. Because the exerciser has a more healthy appearance, he or she will be able to build more self-confidence, thereby elevating mood. Resistance training has many obvious benefits, but there are also many unexpected positive side effects that come with resistance training.
Although resistance training may be potentially dangerous if done incorrectly, it is well worth the risk to experience all the benefits. Resistance training is especially beneficial to the elderly. It has the ability to reduce the impact of diseases that commonly affect the elderly, can improve blood flow especially in elderly women, and improve balance. Resistance training is also beneficial to anyone looking to improve overall health. Resistance training has the ability to increase bone density, increase the amount of calories the body burns, and by replacing fat deposits with lean muscle mass, gives one a more healthy appearance. Although resistance training has positive effects, it can be dangerous if done incorrectly. Doing an exercise without proper understanding of technique or lifting a large amount of weight without the help of spotter may lead to grave injury. Mostly, though, participating in resistance training programs results in unexpected benefits. Quitting smoking may be easier while on a resistance training regimen, certain exercises are extremely beneficial to pregnant women, and partaking in resistance training may make one feel more happy or give increased feeling of self-confidence. The health benefits that come from long-term resistance training far outweigh the potential negative effects associated with resistance training.
“The Butt Stops Here.” Shape. 31.4 (2011): 64. GALE. Web. 29 April 2012.
Egna, Reilly, and Green. “Effect of Elastic-Band-Based Resistance Training on Leg Blood Flow on Elderly Women.” Applied Physiology, Nutrition & Metabolism. 35.6 (2010): 763-72. EBSCO. Web. 29 April 2012.
“Exercise is Good for Pregnant Women, Navy Study Finds.” Fitness Business Pro. (2009). GALE. Web. 29 April 2012.
Granacher, Muehlbuar, Zhaner, Gollhofer, Kressig. “Comparison of Traditional and Recent Approaches in the Promotion of Balance and Strength in Older Adults.” Sports Medicine. 41.5 (2011): 377-400. EBSCO. Web. 29 April 2012.
Kuenzer, Kathy. “Importance of Resistance Training for Aging Adults.” American Fitness. 30.2 (2012): 54-5. EBSCO. Web. 29 April 2012.
Facebook: Is It Taking Over Your Life?
Facebook has become a very prominent social network to people of all ages. The number of users increases daily; statistics state that there roughly 800 million people on Facebook, half of whom visit the site on a daily basis. It has been said that Facebook is responsible for many couples parting ways and causes other relationship issues as well. As its number of users grows, should we be concerned? Consider especially the amount of time we spend on the site. According to psychologist K. Young, young adults are more likely to become addicted to Facebook because of the number of social activities available on this site that have addictive tendencies. Young refers to this as ‘Facebook Addiction Disorder’, and people who utilize Facebook beyond the proper limits may experience problems in their personal lives, as well as some physical and mental instability (Kuss and Griffiths 68). While Facebook may be harmless to some people who use the site appropriately, it can be utterly destructive to ones who abuse it.
Facebook is a social networking site that has become extremely popular and useful to many people who utilize its services. Facebook allows for people to search and/ or find friends from the past, present, and future. It is possible to find almost anyone on this site as long as they are a member, too. Facebook is a great way to keep in touch with friends and family on a daily basis, and it is a convenient way for people to pass along information to more than one person at a time. There are many things a person can do on Facebook, from chatting with a friend or family member to playing all sorts of fun games. Individuals can share pictures and life events with one another. It is a useful way to have a conversation with people when experiencing good and troubling times in personal lives. If used in an appropriate manner, Facebook can be a wonderful site to utilize.
However, with the rapid growth of Facebook came an increase in the number of relationship confrontations. Facebook has become a problem for many couples, whether married or dating. It has been the cause of many breakups and arguments among couples. Trust issues are also on the rise, and if an individual feels his or her partner is cheating, more than likely someone on Facebook is aware of it and with whom it is occurring. Some studies have shown that yes, Facebook is associated with many troubles in people’s relationships. (“Facebook”). A cheater is more likely to be caught by their partner, their partner’s friends, or family members because on Facebook people post just about every detail of their lives. So is this good or bad for the person who is being cheated on? Some will say it is good because it informs them on an issue that would be harder for them to find out, but it also allows everyone else to be in an individual’s personal business and is more likely to cause more problems and could become quite embarrassing for those involved. It is bad enough for one to be cheated on, but having everyone know about it is such a horrible feeling in itself. As Facebook continues to grow ,there is a good chance that relationship problems affected by Facebook will grow as well.
Young adults are also affected by the havoc occurring on Facebook. Many young adults attack one another on Facebook and feel no remorse. They may use vulgar language, such as cuss words and too often, even speak in a sexual nature. They are often more focused with the events taking place on Facebook than they are on school. School may become much harder for young adults if they are not able to focus directly on what’s going on in their classrooms, resulting in lower grades and even worse, failing. So how can parents put a stop to such behavior? We know that there is internet access just about everywhere, making it even easier for kids to open the door to such problems. Parents should have an open relationship with their children and be actively involved. It does not help to keep children locked away from the rest of the world; one must teach their child between right and wrong, good and bad. Parents should teach their children the negative influences that Facebook can have on them to avoid the unhealthy consequences.
Facebook users can easily become addicted if they are not careful. Many men, women, and children are at risk in becoming a social network addict. According to behavioral and cognitive psychotherapists, E. Echeburua and P. de Corral, people addicted to social networking sites, like Facebook are likely to suffer some of the same symptoms like people who suffer from addictions to substances such as alcohol or illegal drugs (Kuss and Griffiths 69). Many people lose interest in normal everyday tasks because they cannot focus on anything other than Facebook. Some become so addicted to the games on Facebook that they lose their jobs, become less focused on school and sometimes drop out, and the life they once had may now be left in the past. Being addicted to Facebook can cause physical, mental, and psychological challenges in people’s lives. People who participate in Facebook activities should be aware of the negativities that are associated with an excessive use.
Facebook is a big part of today’s society, and when used in moderation can be a great site to participate in, but does the bad outweigh the good? From relationship problems to addictions, Facebook is a major cause of problems. People have less face-to-face contact with one another and may find themselves becoming anti-social to the outside world. Everyone is sticking their nose in everyone else’s business; there is no privacy. Of course one can block another from their page, but does that really help? There is many other ways to get around a person blocking another person. People’s lives can become quite hectic if they allow themselves to get too involved in the everyday craziness associated with Facebook. If one chooses to be a part of Facebook, they should be cautious of their actions as well as others’. For Facebook users who realize it might be taking over their life, take a step back face the problem head on and right away. If needed, take a break from the site and focus on more important things in life, such as family, friends, and especially one’s own life. Don’t let Facebook take over your life or the lives of loved ones
“Facebook: a Relationship Buster?” International Business Times 29 Aug. 2011: 1. EBSCO MegaFILE. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
Kuss, Daria J., Griffiths, Mark D. “Excessive Online Social Networking: Can Adolescents Become Addicted to Facebook?” Education & Health 29.4 (2011): 68-71. CINAHL Plus with Full Text. Web. 27 Apr. 2012.
Public Display of Lactation
The sound of a screaming baby fills a public room. People try to drown out the noise, but that sound one that is not easily ignored by anybody. Maybe the inability to drown out the sound of a baby crying is evolutional and preprogrammed in us all… who knows? Most parents have been in the embarrassing situation where no toy, no cooing, no amount of rocking and bouncing will calm a screaming hungry baby. Bottles and formula have made these situations more tolerable. However, making up a bottle is a semi-convenient, unbelievably shameless, and an unnatural way to feed our babies. The ‘Breast is Best’ campaign is a well-known yet still unsupported fact. I am mother who struggled to breast freed my own children, and I am an overall general supporter of breastfeeding. There needs to be a lot more education and change in public attitude to better support nursing from the moment of birth. Additionally, better education of how the breast is best, legalities right protecting nursing moms, and more support public support is still needed.
Many people are uncomfortable with seeing babies fed from the breast in public. Very little of the skin is exposed when nursing, but since the breast is seen as a sex symbol, some people feel it is offensive to expose such nudity in public (Hunt). Additionally, other opponents people feel that a few mothers seek out the most public place to nurse just to deliberately offend other people (McNichol). Breastfeeding takes an inordinate amount of commitment and time, but women today do not have time to commit to this. We hear that children who were breast fed are healthier, smarter, and have other benefits, but there is no hard evidence of that. If looked into deep enough there is no actual proof of this; some studies show the outcome of breast is best, but just as many show no difference between the kids that were breastfed verses the ones there were not. Woman own their bodies, and if they wish to not have the downward sucking motion mixed with gravity sag their breasts after breastfeeding, they have that right. People also have the right to comfortably wander around public places themselves and with their children without exposure to uncomfortable situations. Exposing children to breastfeeding takes away the parent’s right to decide when to teach children about the birds and the bees, and what exactly the function of the breast is. A child’s exposure can lead to inappropriate play with other children. Additionally, People have an uncontrollable urge to stare at breasts, especially men. When in public this can be disruptive, and can cause tension in other people’s relationships. Breastfeeding is fine if the mother wants to fed her baby that way, but it should be done in a private location…or so some believe.
Mothering is something that our culture does not value enough to support. The non-support for breastfeeding begins the second our babies are born. Babies get sore throats from getting suctioned too soon and rapidly. Babies are whisked away to the nursery, or even forced to feed too soon when they are still struggling just to breathe on their own, making them uninterested and the mother frustrated. Lactation consultants are not included as a part of most health insurance reimbursement plans, and because of this, many mothers do not seek their advice. Many hospitals still routinely feed formula to infants, as well as send mothers home with free formula sample. Formula is a life-saving intervention. It is also a substitute for when there is a medical condition that the mother, for safety of herself or the baby, cannot breast feed. The problem is that formula should never have come to be used so commonly for convenient purposes. The lack of support continues after mothers leave the hospital. Mothers that choose to breastfeed their babies often feel homebound because the babies need to eat so often. Breast feeding at a friend or relative’s home, or even when breastfeeding in front of company at home can cause this feeling of being stuck. Mothers are often forced into a bedroom, missing out on conversations and feeling secluded. Maternity leave is only three months long, and the recommended exclusive breastfed time is six months. Many work places do not have lactation room, and if they do, babies are not allowed inside. This forcing of nursing mothers away from the public and into specialized rooms only further pushes the issue that breastfeeding is an unacceptable act in public (McNichol). Many breastfeeding mothers are forced into a germ-filled bathroom. Hormones rage though a woman’s body during postpartum, and depression is common. To not support a mother’s wish to give her baby what’s best exacerbates the postpartum depression. There needs to be changes everywhere. The workplace, hospitals, and the public really need to support breastfeeding.
It’s not that we don’t know breast is best. That message is clearly stated frequently. Besides the redundant statement of breast milk making a baby healthier, happier, and smarter, breast milk changes based on the baby’s needs. Fresh out of the womb, the baby gets an antibody and nutrient rich substance called colostrum. Colostrum primes the gut and immune system for life outside the womb. Women who give birth prematurely actually produce more colostrum for a longer period of time. The antibodies within the milk actually change depending on the pathogens the mother is exposed to, and the milk acts like a “liquid vaccine”. The milk itself is specially composed, with the first part of the milk being more hydrating than the creamy, more filling milk after. With these facts, there are still many people who choose not to breast feed, which shows the strong hold society has on people’s actions. Studies show that people have a difficult time going against what is accepted in society. This reflects on public breastfeeding and the attitude society has against it. Another study states that the infections caused by bottle feeding kills a few thousands babies a year, and that over a million babies die from complications of not being breastfed (Hunt). Breastfeeding is not against the law, so clearly, its society’s lack of acceptance as to why so many babies go un-breast fed.
People get angry when their own civil rights are questioned, like an unwarranted search by police or the right to bear arms. However, when something so natural such as feeding a baby by breast in public happens – which is a mother’s civil right – it’s unacceptable. Mothers are made to feel uncomfortable and even sometimes are asked to leave public places. Breastfeeding is legal. Nearly all the states have specific laws stating women have the right to feed their babies anywhere. Acceptable breastfeeding areas and locations are common subjects in the Senate. This often leads to discussions to support nursing mothers, and to keep them from being asked to leave from where they are nursing, thereby protecting their civil rights (McNichol). A little over half of the states specifically state that breastfeeding does not count as indecent exposure. There are laws regarding breastfeeding and the workplace. One fourth of the states actually have laws exempting breastfeeding mothers from jury duty, although only five states actively implement and encourage the development of a breastfeeding awareness education campaign. Many other states have even more specific laws regarding breastfeeding. Included in the specific laws are the allowance of breastfeeding on any property owned by the state, and some states, including Puerto Rico, have laws that require public places to have a clean and accessible area for breastfeeding that is not a bathroom stall. A few states have laws requiring licensed child care facilities to have a designated area for breastfeeding and pumping, and to offer a fridge reserved for collection of breast milk. Child care staff of these states also have to be trained in breastfeeding education and handling of human milk. One state requires the Department of Public Health to have training courses and polices for hospitals. Hospitals are to promote exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life, taking care to emphasize the importance of it to lower socioeconomic parents. There is even a law that exempts sales tax on anything tangible sold for breastfeeding. A Breastfeeding Mothers Bill of Rights has been developed in certain states and is required to be posted in health care buildings. The states that hold such a Bill of Rights also have laws that if a mother goes to prison and has a child that is under one year of age, the child can go with her so that she may continue breastfeeding. There are such laws semi-supporting breastfeeding, but still many mothers choose not to.
More education and changes in the public view are needed to support mothering, specifically the tolerance of breastfeeding in public. The breast often is seen as a sex symbol instead of for what its real function is. People need to move past the sex symbol image of the breast and support mothers who are nursing. People do not say anything to women wearing low cut tops or bikinis that show off far more than a nursing mother, so why should mothers have to change when and where they go due to the sole fact they choose to breastfeed? Why should they lose out on communication with others because they are breastfeeding? There may not be hard evidence of how much breast milk is better for babies, but even if it’s slight, we should be giving our babies what is best. Yes it’s hard, and yes it’s inconvenient, but this is good parenting! There are laws protecting mothers’ rights to breastfeed, and such laws are needed because of society’s unwillingness to step beyond comfort zone and support breastfeeding mothers and their babies. Get over it. As biologically functioning as your own body is to processing food, so are women’s breasts to feed babies. Thank you to the mothers who fight for their rights. Go ahead and feed your babies when they need feeding. They know you are doing the right thing!
Hunt, Felicity. “Breast Feeding and Society.” Pediatric Nursing 18.8(2006): 56-64. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.
McNichol, Dunstan. “Senate Panel Opposes Allowing Breastfeeding Areas in Public.” Trenton Bureau, The Record 19 Nov 1996. Academic Search Premier. Web. 25 Feb. 2012.