Banis bilong susu- baskets of milk

Tits, boobs, puppies, girls, hooters, fun-bags, bazookas, boozies and norks. For the next few minutes, we’re peeking into bras, bedrooms and beliefs as we discover how marvellous and multi-faceted our breasts can be.

What’s in a name?

Plenty, it would seem. Is there any other organ which so visibly embodies what it means to be Woman? Have you noticed that names given to breasts sit on the continuum of love and affection which ultimately becomes derision and misogyny?

And what on earth is a ‘banis bilong susu’ Well, it’s Papuan Pidgin-English for bra. Literal translations include ‘baskets of milk’ and ‘walls for breasts’. Susu can be either breast, or milk. What could be simpler?

Letting the puppies off the leash

Burning the bra; early feminists may have been onto something. What was once a sociopolitical act of defiance may be conducive to breast health. The stagnation and extra heat generated during hours of fashionable, cultural constraint mightn’t be such a good idea.

Why not take you bra off? Right now?

Feeling uncomfortable about that?


Let us know. Leave a comment.

Exercise; getting enough of it on a regular basis is consistently advised. The incidence of breast cancer is unfortunately, higher in obese women. Similarly, women recovering from breast cancer treatment are known to do better if they can undertake regular, supervised exercise.

Including upper body exercise and movement in our exercise routines will promote the movement of qi, blood and fluids through our chests and breasts.

The nipple-brain connection

No, this isn’t about our intimate partner’s occasional inability to think logically when presented with a bare nipple or two. It’s all about the love.

Intense nipple stimulation such as sucking causes the pituitary gland in the brain to release the hormone oxytocin. This stimulates the let-down response, and milk begins to flow.

Also released during labour, this hormone causes the uterus to contract during and after delivery and is believed to promote bonding between mother and baby. Both women and men are said to release oxytocin during orgasm; it’s quite possibly the body’s own love drug.

Blood, milk and tears    

The first few weeks of lactation can be traumatic as the balance between supply and demand is achieved. Our milk is either insufficient, banking up, or constantly drenching our clothes, and flooding and choking our babies.

Traditional Chinese medicine says that milk is a by-product of abundant, healthy blood. Efficient emptying of the breasts is thought to guide the milk back up to them, which in turn promotes further milk production.

Acupuncture, certain foods-as-medicine, herbal remedies, and some all-natural topically applied substances can help women manage the physical struggles of the first weeks of lactation.  Cracked, bleeding and blistered nipples, painful engorgement, the dreaded mastitis and insufficient milk supply can all be treated naturally.

Just be sure to consult an appropriately qualified and experienced health professional. It’s vital that you don’t self-medicate with herbal or other ‘natural’ supplements whilst lactating. What’s good for you, may not be good for your baby. Let the health professionals guide you.

Lumps and bumps

We’ve heard it, we know it, but let’s remind ourselves again. We must perform breast self-examinations each month. It’s simple, it’s easy, and it could save our breasts, and our lives.

If you’ve been worried about your breasts, or have forgotten how to self-examine, please see your family doctor for your ‘Well Woman’ health check.

© Margi Macdonald


Cautions & Care The information provided here is for your interest, and is not a substitute for face-to-face care and attention provided by your Family Doctor, and other appropriately qualified health professionals. If you have a concern about your physical or emotional health, you must consult an appropriately qualified and experienced health practitioner.

The images The sculptural breasts are features of ancient works found in Cambodia and Vietnam. These images belong to Margi Macdonald.

The painting Madonna and Child C.1609 is by Artemesia Gentileschi who “was one of the first women artists to achieve recognition in the male-dominated world of post-Renaissance art.”

The words Banis Bilong Susu was first published in the magazine Honestly Woman

18 thoughts on “Banis bilong susu- baskets of milk

Add yours

  1. Thank you for pointing me in this direction! I’m working towards Leadership accreditation for La Leche League.

    Breastmilk saved my husband’s life! When I was pregnant with our last child, he was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, and spent 1 1/2 years, fighting for his life, 8 mo. of that he was bedridden as he was so weak and unable to move.

    When our daughter was born, breastmilk was the one thing he could keep down. I know this kept him from dying following an emergency surgery following complications due to a colonoscopy. They assured me he more than likely would die due to infection. Guess how many infections he had? NONE!

    Turns out that breastmilk also kills cancer, and he got the good stuff with lots of colostrum too =)

    Yay BOOBIES!

    1. And so too, your family’s experience reminds us of the true value of breasts and our milk…. life-affirming love drugs !!

  2. Awesome article!
    I work as a nurse in a busy emergency department…and it breaks my heart seeing the never ending parade of young women who wean their babies after a mee week or so of breast feeding…or never even attempt it!
    It has such a HUGE impact on their babies health!
    I feel like a mad hippie apsotle preaching to the great bottle feeding world at times….(and my collegues actually see me that way!)

    1. Hi Ambrosia
      I’m so glad you came by!
      I too notice young women in large numbers are still being seduced by the so-called convenience of the bottle.
      I also sense that a steady diet of visually dishonest, air-brushed images of ‘perfect female bodies’ has created a belief that breasts must forever be pert, firm, and shapely.
      The more things change, the more they stay the same. Or so it seems.

  3. Excellent article Margi! I don’t particularly care for the way society has defined a woman’s breasts. It is disturbing to read how more woman than not think a breast is for a man’s pleasure before it is to feed a child. I don’t like how going braless is frowned upon. I think more woman need to embrace the beauty of their bodies and not be so defined by the media and society.

    1. I’ve been yearning for non-constraining undergarments which are whipsers of silk and cotton; am weary of binding my chest each day!
      I still find it bizarre that lactation and nourishing children has become – in the minds of many – some kind of publically offensive act.
      Spread the word Michelle! Glad you stopped by.

  4. I love this article, but must take issue with the following paragraph:

    “Also released during labour, this hormone causes the uterus to contract during and after delivery and is believed to promote bonding between mother and baby. Both women and men are said to release oxytocin during orgasm; it’s quite possibly the body’s own love drug.”

    In ancient times, the Greeks *believed* that the uterus (“hustera”) wandered around the body, giving rise to symptoms of “hysteria” [].

    In 2010 there is adequate research on oxytocin that we actually *know* that oxytocin is the hormone that plays the largest role in bonding and attachment (including through its role in breastfeeding), as well as in pair-bonding through sex and intimacy. It also plays a significant role in digestion (hence, we enjoy dinner parties because oxytocin stimulates both digestive functioning and social engagement), and is now being found to play a role in autism by its relative absence. Wikipedia has quite a long page on oxytocin and Kirsten Uvnas-Moberg has written more than 40 research articles and a book on oxytocin as the hormone of love, calming, and connection.

    It is now starting to look as though Pitocin binding to the oxytocin receptors during birth reduces the success of breastfeeding. The next frontier is the possibility that replacing natural oxytocin with Pitocin in labor may permanently affect the oxytocin system of the baby and affect such things as digestion and social functioning in the long-term.

    For this piece, you could say that it is still speculative.

    1. Hello Claire
      thank-you so much for your valuable contributions there.
      I do wonder how much of the natural labour-birth-delivery-bonding-lactation-feeding biochemical cascade is impeded or disrupted – in both the parents and the baby – due to the varied medical interventions which are so common these days.
      I hadn’t known about oxytocin and its role in digestion.
      My knowledge stops with serotinin in the gut, and ideas of ‘gut feeling’ and ‘insinct’, and that neurotransmitters might be invloved there.
      I had also heard – anecdotally – that oxytocin is released when folks are involved in group activities which involve chanting – such as mantras.
      I’m also having a little chuckle about the ‘wandering uterus’, as it is a concept which has circuited my brain on-and-off for years, and will inevitably trigger an article – at some stage…
      Am glad you dropped by!

  5. Great article Margi. I am one of those ladies who, like you, would love to go out into the world bra-less but don’t on most occasions. However, sometimes when I go out early in the morning for a walk I do so, which on occasion attracts some uncomfortable looks. Tough! I say, it is not my problem. Also, guess what I take off first when I come home after a long day – shoes or bra? Bra of course

  6. This is a beautiful and important article- a real service to women. I knew when I was pregnant with my first child that I would nurse- it wasn’t even a question, but many people were shocked by my decision.
    Around 20 years ago I attended a rather formal party with my baby daughter- she got hungry- I went to the Ladies’ Room to nurse- there was a little antechamber with a comfortable chair. The attendant ordered me to stop nursing- I was doing something unspeakable and dirty in HER Ladies’ Room. She insisted- told me she would have me arrested. I told her to go right ahead and call the police- I was going to sue. She backed down, of course.
    This was in New York City.
    We need to celebrate our ability to FEED and nurture. Good work, Margi!

    1. Hi Lynn
      I’m saddened you had those experiences.
      20 yrs ago we were more relaxed about nursing here in Australia, yet to this day, women here – especially very young mothers – feel the pressure NOT to nurse.
      Havind said that, I know niches of middle class society here, would not have coped 20 yrs ago, if I’d popped my breast out at the dinner table, to give my babies the same thing we would all have been enjoying – good food and companionship :)
      I was prompted to post this, as in recent weeks, one of the major social media sites has cracked down on images of nursing mothers posted by the group “If breast feeding offends you, put a blanket over YOUR head”.
      Moderators of that group – and any thinking person – have noted that it’s okay by that social media site to run advertsing which uses women’s bodies to sell all kinds of sh#t, but that images of nursing infants and their Mums are somehow considered ‘obscene’.
      And you know what?
      In the height of our stinking hot, humid summers, I would really love not to wear a bra all day, yet know that beautiful boobs moving freely beneath one’s blouse whilst ‘in public’ and at work, are still considered some kind of ultimate taboo.
      We haven’t come very far, have we?
      Spread the word!

  7. Nice article! Do you have any information about herbs to use for breast health? Specifically tenderness caused by both PMS or impending menopause? I’m trying Dandelion tea right now.

    1. Hello there Sheryl!
      Gald you like the article.
      In Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine we have several tried and true formulae which can help, along with acupuncture.
      As our medicine is all about caring for individuals, it’s never possible to say which herbs and acupuncture points are going to be best, without meeting and examining each person.
      I’m hoping you have a trusted and effective herbalist- acupuncturist in your area!
      You might also like to think about finding a practitioner of breast and lymphatic-drainage massage.
      Naturopaths can also be helpful, with carefully prescribed herbal and other natural supplements and remedies.
      Good luck, hope this helps.

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