Nicola Vincent-Abnett

Nicola Vincent-Abnett
"Savant" for Solaris, Wild's End, Further Associates of Sherlock Holms, more Wild's End

Saturday 21 September 2013

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby! part ii

 or Sex Ed for the More Advanced

After yesterday’s blog, I didn’t think for a moment that I’d be writing about sex or sex education again quite so soon, and then I saw this article, and I just couldn’t help myself.

For those of you who didn’t click on the link, it’s about a young woman who gave birth to a baby with two tiny little front teeth in its lower jaw. This happens for about one in 3,000 births. The woman, who clearly has some experience of children since she works with them, decided that as a consequence of the teeth she wouldn’t breast feed her baby, despite having planned to.

Colour me utterly, unbearably baffled.

Talk about biting the hand that feeds you!

My own experience of sex is, of course, specific and limited, so I’m just going to throw this wide open and say, hands up any adult, sexually active woman who’s had her breast in a mouth full of teeth! And I’m going to say, hands up any adult, sexually active lover of women whose had his or her mouth (I’m guessing complete with a full set of gnashers)  clamped around a breast!

Of course, in the modern age, not all children are conceived sexually, but supposing that this child was, I’m also supposing that this woman might, at some point in her sex life, have had her breast in her lover’s mouth.

What on Earth is she afraid of?

If she planned to breast feed her child if it had been born toothless, how long does she suppose it would have been before her baby grew teeth? Teething children chew everything. Their carers give them hard, cool objects to chew, expressly to relieve the pain of teething. The victorians gave their babies ivory rings or lumps of coral to chew on to soothe away their teething troubles. Plenty of women breastfeed their teething babies, and I did too, but I was never bitten.

Here comes the lesson.

Most babies begin to teeth around the six month mark, although it can vary widely, and most babies begin by teething those two front teeth in the bottom jaw. Most babies have a full set of twenty milk teeth by the age of three years.

The World Health Organisation recommends that a child is entirely breast fed for the first six months of its life, and continues to be breast fed for up to two years and beyond. The average length of time that a child is breast fed, worldwide, is 4.2 years, although that’s rare in the first World.

A newborn’s instinct is to suck, and all the time that I breast fed my babies, fifteen months for my older daughter and a year for my young daughter, I was never bitten once, despite both babies having plenty of teeth by the time they were ready to stop feeding.

“Breast is best” has been a slogan used to promote breast feeding for years, but the message still isn’t getting through to some people, and clearly a great many of the practicalities of breast feeding are being left unexplained. It’s about time that ignorance in this as in all areas of sex education ended, once and for all.

The woman in this article is missing out on giving her child a great start in life and in potentially protecting it and herself from both short and longterm ills, including increased risks of obesity for the child, and breast cancer for herself, and all because she’s fearful that her baby might bite her. She’s also missing out on a wonderful bonding experience, a closeness with her child that I don’t believe can be achieved in any other way.

I realise that not all women are able to breast feed, but I also know that the numbers of women who can’t be helped to manage some successful breast feeding are small. Not to begin at all seems a terrible shame.

I was lucky, I had a mother who talked to me, and a sister, who physically helped me to breast feed my first child on the day that I gave birth to her, when I found it difficult and emotional, and my child was becoming distressed. You can’t teach that in a classroom, and reading it in a pamphlet might not be enough, but there are resources, and they should be available.

Let’s begin at home and in school, and, for goodness sake, let’s do better than this.

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