Lara Schwartz

Stuff I think

Lara Schwartz

Lara Schwartz
Washington, District of Columbia, USA
December 24
Personal Capacity
Lara Schwartz lives in Washington, DC. She has been a civil rights advocate and political writer for long enough to have two ulcers.

JUNE 16, 2010 12:03PM

In which I criticize breastfeeding and say "penis"

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There are some things that you simply don’t criticize.   These include:


A child’s musical performance;


Your partner’s penis;

Betty White; [1]


And Breastfeeding.


Today we break all of the rules.   Nothing is above reproach.


According to the Center for Statistics I Pulled out of My Ass, 87% of musicians below age 12 sound marginally better than dental equipment. 


Furthermore, I will boldly assert that at least four days per year, the weather in Jerusalem is drizzly and unpleasant. [2]


It is a fact of human existence that penises vary in size and, um, utility. 


[Did you know?  Mr. Adequate Parent is not the subject of my writing unless I say so explicitly (stay tuned for “Adequate Parent’s Guide to Throwing Shit Out”).]


Betty White is divine.  Silver hair and a potty mouth are a winning combination.    

Pandas are crappy neighbors.  I have been living near their plush, taxpayer-funded habitat for years and they have never stopped by with a Bundt cake.  For six months per year they draw tourists to our DC neighborhood.  The tourists clog the streets with their huge vehicles and block the sidewalks their bulk.  When I visit the pandas, they are most often lying completely immobile, pantomime cadavers in black and white.  On a good day, they offer a subtle ass scratch, or a serene chomp at your bamboo lunch.  Pandas: get over yourselves.

And then there is breast feeding. 

Is she going to do it?  Is she going to say Something Bad About Breastfeeding? The Adequate Parent has been on the New York Times “Slightly Notable Internet Personalities Nobody Really Hates” List for six weeks running.  Is she ready to throw it all away?


Breastfeeding sucks.

I think we have our answer. 

Breastfeeding is boring.   Even if it’s going well—as with the human vacuum that I whelped and suckled—it takes a long time.  Dozens of bone-crushingly tedious hours go by during which you could be doing something productive – making coal, for instance—and you just dispense fluid.  Though you can eventually grow skilled enough to breastfeed while eating or reading, you’re still nailed down to the same chair day after day. 

[Did you know?  Adequate Parent’s kid sucked on her nipples for close to a year before getting bored and giving it up on her own.] 


Where was I?  Oh, yes.  If you need to be away from your child for more than four hours, breastfeeding involves reenacting the “Machine” scene of the Princess Bride.  You get intimate with an expensive suction pump that wheezes loudly enough to alert neighbors, co-workers, mail carriers, and low-flying aircraft that your bra is off.

 Westley gets pumped

Though I didn’t realize it at first, my own fierce devotion to breastfeeding meant that I was alone on the night shift.  It meant that “baby needs food” = “baby needs me.”

Most importantly—and this fact is often overlooked in the current discourse about how to encourage and support breastfeeding—it involves a bald, incontinent human clumsily sucking on your breasts.  If house arrest does not appeal to you, it also means that 67% of DC Metro residents will eventually catch a fleeting glimpse at one or both of your nipples.  And you must be sober while all of this happens to you.  

When I was pregnant, I didn’t even consider not breastfeeding.[3]  In fact, I attacked the job with gusto, and I fought off the prospect of supplementing with formula – which to me was the same of failing—for as long as I could. 

It hurt to give up and crack open that first can of formula.  I remember that.

But I don’t remember why.  

I remember that breastfeeding is a healthier way of nourishing a newborn.  I remember that there is some kind of health benefits relating to colds and getting into MIT.  I don’t remember any health risks associated with getting some relief from the pump at around 8 months—because there probably aren’t any.[4]

I don’t remember where I got the idea that feeding my kid perfectly was so fucking important that it warranted pulling up my shirt and chaining myself to that machine in the middle of every workday.   At some point, my subconscious entertained this traitorous thought, though I tried to ignore it.

My first glimmer of understanding came when I was hand-expressing breast milk in my best friend’s dead boyfriend’s bathroom.   She needed to clean out her things because although our lives are fleeting, our music collections are forever. 

[Did you know?  Since the advent of MP3 players and digital downloads, average post-breakup/post-mortem move time has decreased by 78%.]


So off we went to the house where they had made many great memories, and where he had died.  When you’ve loved someone for a decade, you show up for the dead boyfriend duties regardless of how engorged your breasts are.  You can look it up.

In my haste to leave home that sad morning I forgot the tubes that attach my Medela Torquemada breast pump to its “Like a Virgin” nipple cones.  When my forlorn lowing failed to bring a passing dairy farmer to my rescue, I had to take matters into my own hands, and hand-squeeze those girls straight into the storage bottles.  My friend got the best laugh of her day when she caught me doing that.  After five months of exposing my nipples to the masses, finally someone had the courage to laugh at me.

Even then I understood that retrieving that milk wasn’t the most crucial thing I did that day.   Sitting with my best friend at the Blue Moon Diner while she cried into her hash browns was. 

Today, I feel certain that this friendship is more significant than breastfeeding my daughter at all.  Not just to me, who hated the Torquemada and the exhibitionism.  It’s more valuable to my child, the intended recipient of the breastfeeding enterprise.

Being a parent takes more than breasts (in fact it doesn’t require them), and I came to the parenting table with little of the required equipment.  There is no way that without this friendship that both spans and spawned my adult life, I could parent this child.  Nor could I be open enough to commence and sustain my marriage, nor self-aware enough to know when to shut up and rest.   I wouldn’t have the strength to ask what I’m doing wrong, nor the humility to accept and fix it. 

It’s all about you, Adequate Parent.  How delightful that your girl time trumps your sweet baby’s needs.

Maybe. I admit that I wouldn’t be capable of fulfilling said sweet baby’s needs without the grownup humans who love me. Nor could I be happy.  My kid is cute but she doesn’t know any more about the world than the fucking pandas, and is less likely to survive in it on her own.  

Only through adults can I learn what to say when my daughter comes to me in distress about the one-eyed dog she met (“how does he see? Where are his cones and rods, mom?”). 

She is not a baby anymore.  Her life is about people, as mine is.   It’s about friends, teachers, relatives, and even me.  As a person, not a dispenser.  If I could only give her one thing—breast milk or a true friend—it’s not even close. 

After all—she might have to cry into her hash browns someday.  I don’t want her to do it alone.

[1] As a recipient of several Lifetime Achievement Awards ™, Betty White may criticize any penis she wants.

[2] How many feminist girls does it take to screw in a light bulb?  It’s women and that’s not funny!!!!!.  

[3] And I agree that if you can manage it, it’s the right thing to do for a baby.  There are clear health benefits.  But it still sucks.

[4] Before anyone gets their pump tubes in a knot: in prep to write this, I asked two OBs and my pediatrician whether there had been a study on the diminishing returns of unsupplemented breastfeeding after six months, or one that found health disparities between those nursed to 12 months per AAP guidelines and those who stopped or supplemented after 6 but before 12 months.  As of now, there haven’t been studies on this topic.  Ergo, my fear of supplementing was emotional, not scientific.

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politics, health, feminism, family, comedy

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I'm just asking. Do you live in my head? That could have been me, chained to that stupid pump for two solid years. I learned to type and read email in the pumping-room-with-door. I took a lot of client phone calls in the pumping-room-with-door. My favorite comment? "Wow, you have a really loud printer!"

Why yes I do.

My daughter plays the violin now. Badly. My son wrecks bicycles, skateboards, and walls.

Did breastfeeding help?

Who the fuck knows. Mostly it helped my fragile little mom-guilt-ego when they were babies because I had to go to work.
I have to say...this cracked me up. Like beyond cracking up. And I must applaud your words on Betty White, she is a goddess in an otherwise...well I was going to say godless but frankly that just doesn't hit the mark. Let's just put it that she's one of those few diamonds you find that make you laugh. Yes I said it, diamonds can make you laugh if you draw amusing faces on them and such. Maybe a wig would help too. :)
ha! I'm glad I was able to do it for a few weeks, getting them off to a good start with the advertised benefits...but when I caught myself mooing to myself, I knew it was time to whip out the bottle of Similac. They still had the thinnest charts in the pediatrician's office. One page each, listing shots and the required checkups to start school and camp. Was it the breast feeding? Who the hell knows? I can say keeping them out of the doc's office kept them healthy because every time we had to go in there, they had a bug two days later. Conclusion: there may be more to apple sauce than breast milk (apple a day and all that!)
Hilarious! And so true. Thanks.