As I’ve spoken about before on this blog, I had a really hard time breastfeeding my daughter. It hurt like hell for weeks, then just a little for months and months. On top of that I suffered from a little-talked-about condition where my hormonal response to milk let down was backwards, causing a wave of sadness to come over me every time I fed my baby – which is a massive downer when you’re feeding all day and night! But as the months passed I almost started Not hating it. By 10 months I almost even enjoyed it.
Now my daughter is 1 year old – the point where I was sure I would stop breastfeeding – and I’ve actually started to savour our feeds. She feeds far less and can happily skip a feed or take a bottle of plant-milk, so I am officially released from my ‘breastfeeding prison,’ and now, I can finally say that I understand why people are ‘into’ breastfeeding.
But along with that understanding comes an increased bafflement that any lactating human woman on Earth could possibly drink milk from a cow.
Boom. There it is. Cow milk lovers will no doubt click elsewhere at this point but I hope you don’t, as I don’t intend to attack. I am simply baffled. When one understands the hormones, the relationship, the science and the spirit of breastfeeding one’s child, how does someone willingly deprive another mother and child of that experience simply to sate a desire for cheese?
I want to mention at this point that this is not about breastfeeding vs formula. If there were decent plantmilk formulas available in NZ I ABSOLUTELY would have stopped breastfeeding prior to now. Without good alternatives, cow or goat milk formulas are often necessary. And I honestly have not an ounce of ‘see, I hung in there and it got easier’ smugness… only ‘thank Christ this isn’t awful anymore’ relief. This conversation is purely about seeing your own body create milk and then downing a big ol’ glass of breast milk from another species.
I do understand the cognitive dissonance people use daily to consume meat, to buy cheap clothes or throw plastic bags into the landfill, but when you’re a mother, particularly when breastfeeding, how do you mentally disconnect from the reality of what cow milk is and who it is really intended for?
I would go so far as to say that the consumption of dairy products is entirely anti-motherhood. The dairy industry exploits and destroys the mother-child biological bond, and, after personally experiencing pregnancy and breastfeeding, I can honestly say that being kept pregnant, having my babies taken from me, and being hooked up to a milk pump every day is literally my idea of the worst kind of hell.
Mothers Against Dairy expresses it well: “At its core, animal agriculture is based on sexual violation, reproductive subjugation and exploitation, and on the objectification and violent domination of vulnerable bodies. It is also based on the destruction of animal families.”
After almost 20 years of veganism, I have become exhausted and mostly private in my activism. I tend to promote vegan food and ‘set a good example’ these days because outrage, anger, aggression and debates can feel futile and even counter-productive. But this is one topic I have to discuss. It feels personal. It literally makes me feel sick in the stomach and heart.
So I’m asking the question: as women in the world, as people who can understand clearly what the modern dairy industry is and does, isn’t it our responsibility to bring attention to this topic? Is it not up to us – as the carers, as empathetic humans, as the lactating sex, and as the main shoppers in most households, to do everything we can personally do to stop this unnecessary cruelty? Even if that is through the very simple personal action of choosing plant milk at the supermarket.