Sunday, March 05, 2006

Kerre Woodham: Netballer scores point for mums

Good on Janine Ilitch for sticking to her guns and insisting she be allowed to express milk during the Commonwealth Games. The Aussie netballer had wanted to continue breastfeeding her baby and although she couldn't have him with her during the Games, by expressing she'd be able to resume breastfeeding once they were over.

Aussie coach, Norma Plummer, was most unenthusiastic about the prospect. She said she hadn't seen the layout of the athletes' accommodation and besides, there were other people to consider.

It's not surprising that Plummer was so grudging and obstructive. Old Vinegar Tits does not appear to have the milk of human kindness flowing through her veins, so couldn't imagine accommodating someone who does.

Netball Australia was quick to squash Plummer, especially in light of the critical emails that inundated the association's offices.

"We absolutely support Janine's right to breastfeed," said the chief exec, in PR overdrive. "We are an organisation here to champion women and we're very happy to support her in her breastfeeding."

Now I'm not a woman who insists that breastfeeding is the only option. Breast is best, where possible, but a happy, rested, relaxed and well-fed mother and baby are more important than persisting in breastfeeding when it causes only misery and pain.

When my daughter was tiny and I went back to work for a short stint, I expressed and sent the milk back in a cab on the odd occasion. It's not easy. You disappear with your breast pump into vacant offices, tearooms and, on the odd desperate occasion, the office loos, but then nobody said becoming a parent was easy. It meant I could breastfeed for a few months longer.

Ilitch is delighted she can continue to offer her best as a parent and an athlete, and has promised her expressing won't interfere with her training or performance in the Games.

Good on Netball Australia for overriding Plummer's negativity - and go the Silver Ferns. The Commonwealth gold has your name on it.

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