When a mother is told ” Your milk is not good enough.” Capitalism is born. For the USA it started in 1950. Milk companies taught mothers to be ashamed of their bodies and to doubt the integrity of nourishing their babies with their own breast milk.
I was born in 1953. My mother feed me with Carnation milk and Karo Syrup. Quite nourishing- growing babies on milkshakes- no vitamins-no antibodies- nothing except sugar and milk.
In 1978 I had my first child. My mother marching up my front porch steps had a very big box in her hands. It was a dozen glass baby bottles.
Looking at her struggle with the container I smiled and said, ” Mom, I don’t need these.”
She didn’t understand. We didn’t talk about female issues: menstrual periods, sex or having babies. That topic was more like underground conversations- polite people didn’t utter such words. Pregnancy came and babies were born- that simple. Her face wrinkled into a frown and then she looked up at me and said, ” Is the baby ok?” I assisted her to sit the box on the porch floor and opened the front door. We settled at the kitchen table. The kitchen table was the hearth of conversations and relationships. It was annointed with glasses of sweet tea with sour lemons.
My due date was only a couple of months away. It was her intention to supply me with glass bottles and cloth diapers. She sat in the chair and settled into a cigarette.
” No bottles?” How are you going to feed a baby? Are you crazy?”
” I’m going to breast feed, mother?”
” How?” she asked.
” I guess I can do it. Mothers have fed their babies for thousands of years.”
” It’s just risky, she said. You have to depend on your own milk and most women can’t do it.” She puffed and took a big hit off her Viceroy cigarette. The kitchen filled with smoke and confusion.
I noticed her hands. Brown and callused. Her hair was thinning. Her wrinkles not ready to display her face of worries quite yet. She was only forty nine. Her menopause had been quiet and tormenting. She never said a word. I was too wrapped up in my own hormones to notice.
” When I had you women were told to be ashamed, to cover their breasts that only poor women fed their babies ‘ that way.’ ”
” Well, I think I can ask my grandmothers. They fed you and dad. It was only your generation that started having this ” no-breast-baby-generation.”
Years passed. I had two babies. I breast fed them both. I could have done better but I had to go to work and still it was unacceptable to feed babies after the age of one.
My daughter has fed her daughter by breast feeding. Both are happy, healthy and bonded.
The world didn’t pollute them. Capitalism was killed in that connection. Mothers learn that they are capable of feeding their babies without a milk company. Women are powerful. We cannot lose our power and self appreciation.