French President, Nicolas Sarkozy, appears to have stuck his foot in his mouth over what his new baby daughter Giulia has in her mouth — Carla Bruni-Sarkozy’s breast.
“Carla is feeding the baby. I think it’s much better for protecting against allergies and illnesses. But the woman, it’s both a joy and a kind of slavery. However it does free men of blame because we don’t have the problem of bottle-feeding. You don’t have to get up at night, although out of solidarity, I do open one eye…But you know, she is worried about not having enough milk,” he said.
There’s been a bit of an outcry over his comments. You know, comparing breastfeeding to slavery, for one. But should there be? After all, isn’t breastfeeding kind of like slavery?
Yes, you can get caught up in his misuse of the word “slavery,” but really only if you’ve never used it. As in, I’m a slave to fashion. Or I’m a slave to my BlackBerry. It’s a word most of us have used at one point, and not necessarily in reference to actual slaves. It’s just a figure of speech.
I love breastfeeding my daughter. But more specifically, I love that I breastfeed my daughter. Do I always love doing it? No, of course not. Sometimes it’s inconvenient. Sometimes she wants to eat more than I’m in the mood to feed her. But I do it out of love.
Am I a slave to breastfeeding? It’s a strong word, but I understand, recognize and agree (to a degree) with the sentiment. Since my daughter gets an average of one bottle a week of pumped breast milk, I am essentially a voluntary slave to breastfeeding (she needs to eat and this is how I’ve chosen to feed her). It’s an oxymoronic thing to say, but you know what I mean.
The fact of the matter is, it’s not unusual for a man to feel resentful or left out when his wife is breastfeeding their child. Marriages change when a new baby is introduced, and when the wife/mother breastfeeds, many men feel like a third wheel. They can’t help, and they don’t get the same attention they once did. Some men take it in stride, others are upset at the relationship shift.
I have a friend whose husband was hurt when she spent a year breastfeeding their daughter. She never pumped — her baby was exclusively on the breast. Their marriage was damaged by her attention to the baby. You can call him callous or a jerk, but it was their reality. It took them a long time in therapy to recover from it, and now they’re almost certain they won’t have another baby as a result.
Breastfeeding exclusively and producing enough milk (or at least worrying about it initially) are tremendously stressful. Throw in a seemingly blasé or unsupportive husband or partner and a woman can be an emotional wreck. Is President Sarkozy more unsupportive than most other men? Only his wife can answer that. What everyone else thinks based on his few words is pretty much irrelevant.
Did Nicolas Sarkozy say anything that many other men (and women) haven’t said or felt? Or is he just being more honest — and are his remarks just heard louder than your husband’s or mine because he’s the president of France?
Was what he said irresponsible because it could discourage other women to breastfeed? Only if you really think a woman will opt not to because of what one quasi-informed man had to say, and then you have to wonder how committed she was to the idea in the first place.
Are you surprised by what President Sarkozy said, or are you surprised that people are acting surprised about what he said?
Learn more about the breastfeeding option in Babble’s Baby Feeding Guide!