So, hey – hi – I’m a mammal. And if you're reading this, chances are you’re a mammal, too. If you remember back to grade school, two characteristics mammals share are 1-they have hair, and 2-they feed their young milk obtained through mammary glands.
I checked -- I have both. How about you?
As mammals, we are further divided into three groups. Unsure about what type of mammal you are? This might help:
No matter what category you fit in as a mammal, you are biologically programmed to nurse your offspring (if you are female). While some mammals may not feel comfortable watching other mammals feed their young via mammary glands, it is an essential part of our make-up: Mammal young are fed milk from their mothers.
Why is it distressing for some to observe this normal act of feeding? In his classic, 1967 book, The Naked Ape, Desmond Morris writes:
So there he stands, our vertical, hunting, weapon-toting, territorial, neotenous, brainy, Naked Ape, a primate by ancestry and a carnivore by adoption, ready to conquer the world....For him, the main troubles will stem from the fact that his culturally operated advances will race ahead of any further genetic ones. His genes will lag behind, and he will be constantly reminded that, for all his environment-moulding achievements, he is still at heart a naked ape (48).
Meredith Small furthers this nature versus nurture argument in What's Love Got to Do With It? The Evolution of Human Mating: "Although our American and European culture has highlighted breasts as something sexual, the reaction...may be more culturally molded than based on a biological urge" (28).
You (general "you") see, as mammals, there is no need to be offended by the sight of a nursing baby -- it's just your (general "your") cultural beliefs and personal biases leading you (general "you") to feel how you (general "you") feel. I have learned, when it comes to communication and problem solving, when conflict arises, one examines who owns the conflict. Let's break it down:
Who has the problem? Not the Mammal or her Baby. So if you (general "you") are bothered by the sight of a baby feeding, YOU (oh, this is getting tiring! General "you") own the problem -- it's your (yes, still general -- but I'm about to get specific!) problem. Furthermore, our government in the US has provided protective laws in the case a baby may need to eat outside the home. This means, it is illegal to ask a mother to stop, go someplace more private, or leave an establishment if her baby is eating -- yes, even if it is bothering someone (show them this diagram and help them own their issues, to add to the rest of their baggage, I would guess).
So it is plain to see, if we need to normalize breastfeeding, we must also normalize hair, single-bone lower jaw, nucleus-less red blood cells, diaphragmatic separation of the abdominal and thoracic cavities -- and the list actually goes on. As we like to say (sing) in our family: "It's natural, it's nature, it's part of nature's natural process..." By virtue of just being a mammal, these characteristics and abilities are inherent to our design -- they're built-in -- so let's not waste another second asking people to accept what is already basic biology.
But you know who really needs to normalize breastfeeding? Birds. Think about it – they have neither hair nor mammary glands. As such, birds do not produce milk, nor do they feed milk to their babies. How will birds wanting to step out of the biological dictates of their class move past these cruel obstructions? How can they break through evolution's glass ceiling? I mean, they can already fly, and beaks are pretty sharp, but they still need our help.
We must work for change. Every bird should be free to move toward choosing to nurse her young -- through time (I don't know how much time, I am not a biologist), birds might become the missing link between traditional mammals (specifically prototheria) and avian (and if we really came from reptiles, there is a connection between birds and snakes, right? I've seen Jurassic Park, after all).
I BELIEVE WE CAN MAKE THIS HAPPEN!
Sign the petition contained within the "comments" section below. Let's make that robin's red breast into something more than just poetic decoration. And if you think this is a futile battle, watch this propaganda video for the cause.
Happy World Breastfeeding Week. Next year let's hope our feathered friends can join as well.
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If It Didn't Come from My Head, It Came from Here:
♥ four young boys and a boy dog (offspring)