Friday, November 19, 2010

Reprise: Confronting the breastmilk taboo

My, how things can change in a week. I've been using Fridays of NaBloPoMo (and possibly on other days) to re-run posts that originally published on the now-defunct DCMetroMoms before they disappear from the internets forever. We've now learned that there is now a specific timeframe for the extinction of that site so I'll be re-running them every Friday until I've re-run them all. This post originally ran on March 9, 2010.


I'm on maternity leave right now, which means three things: I live in pajama pants, I watch way too much daytime TV, and I'm sustaining my son with my body. He's a breastmilk boy and I'm incredibly proud of that. He's the only of our three kids for whom I've been able to produce enough milk to avoid the siren song of Similac. And if I'm going to live this life wired in to DDD bras, the mammaries owe it to me to fulfill their biological function, don't you think?

It also means, let's go for full disclosure, that sometimes I'm a bit of a drippy mess. It gets everywhere, especially at the end of a pumping session. But the growing golden bags in the freezer fill me with a tangible sense of accomplishment. As I labeled another bag for storage last night my husband complimented the fruits of my labor, and how happy this will make the baby in the coming months. I tossed an offhanded remark back about how of course it'll make him happy - the stuff is sweet and delicious. The husband stopped what he was doing and looked at me with surprise: "you've tasted it?" I hadn't thought anything of it. Breastmilk gets all over me. It's been on my fingertips and the backs of my hands. Yeah, I've tasted it. (And if you've nursed or pumped, haven't you?)

This morning I was watching the fourth hour of The Today Show and in Hoda and Kathy Lee's opening segment they had a plate of Chef Daniel Angerer's breastmilk cheese before them. (To see the clip, go here. The cheese discussion starts at about 7:28.) The chef's description of his food philosophies says that he leans toward natural, sustainable food. When he and his wife found themselves in possession of more breastmilk than freezer space, cheesemaking was a solution that they agreed upon that falls in line with their food philosophies and avoids "wasting gold."

I have no problem with the cheese. I have no particular interest in practicing any culinary arts with my own supply, but I understand the space limits of a New York City apartment, having spent some time living in one myself.

I have a problem with Hoda and Kathy Lee.
And with the entire Today Show staff on set.

The hosts were scandalized at the idea of tasting the breastmilk cheese. They sought volunteers from the set to try it and only succeeded in corralling one because the volunteer hadn't heard what he'd be tasting. And the derision when he bit into the cheese was unanimous. The collective disbelief that anyone would eat food made from breastmilk was offensive, and that its message carried on for more than two minutes of air time was excessive.

Why is breastmilk such a taboo?

I eat honey. I eat eggs, and have you ever thought about what part of a chicken the egg falls out? I drink milk from cows and I eat cheese from goats and I rub lanolin on my skin, which is essentially sheep sweat. None of those animal byproducts seem to upset the populace.

Here's the point I would like to make: I have milked a cow, and I have milked myself. I think I have an edge on the cows. For one thing, I shower several times a week. For another, I never defecate while expressing my milk. This is not to stage some PETA-like argument against drinking cow's milk. Rather, it's to provide some perspective. I have no personal interest in utilizing my own stream of liquid gold for anything other than my newborn's health and pleasure. But the milk my body makes for him is remarkable. If it's good enough for him, why wouldn't it be good enough for everybody? I don't want to share with you, but why should you be horrified if I did?

Hoda and Kathy Lee, you let me down today.

When Robin isn't flashing her body parts across the internet, she manages to embarrass her family in other ways at The Not-Ever-Still Life.
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