Monday, August 12, 2013

Breastfeeding is normal and okay.

Since it is Breastfeeding Awareness Month, and I'm a huge breastfeeding advocate, I feel like it would be off for me if I didn't post a little something about it up on the blog this August.

However, with awareness in this case - sadly comes negative feedback.

It seems that no matter where I look on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or wherever - there always seems to be that one person making negative comments on posts or pictures of breastfeeding.  Whether the person is saying the mother needs to be more respectful and cover up, telling her that she's showing off on purpose, or saying something about nursing in public being gross or unacceptable, it's always there in some little way.

And I just can't keep my mouth shut on this one.

Breastfeeding is a normal, natural, biological thing, right?  I mean, think about it.  During your pregnancy as a mother's body changes, her breasts change as well.  My breasts gained several sizes during each pregnancy growing and preparing to meet the needs of my new little ones.  After my babies were born, they both instinctively crawled toward the breast while I held them, searching and seeking the sustenance and comfort that only I and my breasts could provide.  Even just a few days after having a baby, a woman's breasts become full of milk and frequently become uncomfortable - sometimes painful - and often leak.

As a mother, your breasts almost take a life of their own, doing exactly what they need to do in almost all cases to begin to nourish your child in body and mind.  I'm a huge proponent of trusting my body and what it needs to do, and by allowing our breastfeeding to follow that natural course it has benefitted both my children and myself.

But it seems that the concept of feeding my children when they need it where they need it, just as my body was intended to do, has become such a topic of concern for many people.  And the reasoning behind their arguments just shocks and angers me to my core.

I most recently saw a Facebook post in support of nursing in public where a man responded by saying that the article shared was inconsiderate, proposing an inappropriate attitude where women feel they "have the right" to nurse wherever they need to, and further stating that nursing in public is "helping men to stumble" and make mistakes in reference to lust and extramarital activity.  He then went on even further to say that it is "selfish to have your boob hanging out everywhere just because you can", and that women should be pumping their milk in order to feed their children in public.  But - don't worry - he finished up his diatribe by stating that he is completely FOR breastfeeding, just in case anyone was unclear.

Here's the thing though - as I've seen mentioned before on several of my friends' blogs -

If you're not for breastfeeding in public, 


Before we chat about our lovely friend's comments above, let's think on this scenario.  Picture yourself as this woman, just for a few moments even if you're able:

One morning soon after you have a baby, after your partner has returned to work and it is only you and your children alone, you realize you're out of something you need at the store.  Let's say you have an older child, who needs milk or a certain type of food, or maybe diapers or wipes for both children.  You realize you'll have to leave the house with both on your own for the first time.  

Because you haven't slept more than two hours at a time for days, haven't brushed your teeth for at least a day or two, haven't worn make-up for several days, and can't remember the last time you've had a shower - you pull yourself together as best as possible while you tend to both of your children.  Likely, though, this still means you're wearing pajamas or clothing that has been slept in at least once already.  

After feeding, changing diapers, and changing your children's clothing, you assemble their snacks/drinks/toys, pack them into the car, and snap everyone safely into their seats.  You drive to the store while singing lullabies to dissuade the tears and simultaneously rescuing sippy cups from the floor of the car all while you keep your hands on the wheel and eyes safely on the road. 


When you reach the store, you notice one child has already soiled their diaper in a not-so-lovely-smelling way.  You pack everyone into the cart, grab your diaper bag, and head into the bathroom.  While trying to wrangle your toddler and make sure no little hands end up all over a toilet stall or little bodies crawl into someone else's stall, you fumble through changing your new baby's diaper on a changing table that is likely already dirty and barely has enough room to fit your child, the diaper, your wipes, and the diaper bag.  

Finally, you finish the diaper change, put everyone back together, hope that you don't have any tears yet, try and wash your hands while holding one baby and chasing another at the same time - and then you're on your way, finally ready to pick up your milk, diapers, or whatever necessary item you'd need.  

You move through the store as quickly as possible, recognizing you have limited time before someone has an urgent need or meltdown, grabbing everything you need and trying to be a one-man-band of entertainment for your children at the same time.  

As you finally reach the checkout stand, there is a long line ahead of you.  Since you have to stop and stand still, your toddler begins to cry because they want you to push the cart.  Because your toddler begins to cry, it makes your small baby realize that they're also hungry and tired at this point, and they begin to cry as well.  

Standing in the long checkout line in your day old pajamas with your frumpled hair, kangaroo belly pouch left over from your recent birth, sagging and leaking breasts, and crying children - you realize there is nowhere to go.  You need these items.  And your only option is to meet your children's needs.  

A quick toss of your cell phone with a pre-loaded children's cartoon works for your toddler - but what your baby needs at the time is to eat, and the only way to do that is to expose a little skin while nursing your child, pushing your cart further, unloading your groceries, and paying your bill.  

As you hear your little one's cries begin to escalate from upset to angry, other store patrons begin to look and become agitated with you and your children.  

It takes a village, but apparently not this one.  

Doing the only thing you know will soothe your child, you try as hard as possible to expertly position your baby to your breast, with as much of your dirty t-shirt covering your skin as possible.  Your baby latches on, and happily begins to nurse away.  You do your best to proceed with entertaining your toddler, unloading your cart, and breastfeeding your child as quickly as possible - sweating, heart racing, and feeling very alone.  

And then someone makes a rude and hurtful comment, and any composure you thought you had is gone.

You feel isolated, shamed, embarrassed.  

For trying to feed your child.

You fight back the tears, try to keep composure for your children, but inside - you are crumbling.

Before you read on - just feel it for a moment.  Just feel what it is like to be that mother.

If any of you were wondering - yes.  That was me.  That moment was one I'll not soon forget, because it freed me.  It allowed me to realize that no matter my intent, people are going to think what they are going to think.  And I will never again allow other people's thoughts to influence when, where, and how I meet my children's needs.

Because in that moment, and in every other moment when I nurse my baby in public - I'm meeting their need.  I'm providing them the comfort that whatever god, whatever creator, whatever biology, whatever fate decided to give me in order to nourish, comfort, and show love to my child.  It has nothing - not one thing - to do with making a show of it, making a statement, or being sexually arousing to anyone.

{Because I promise you, if you see me out in my three day old hair, un-showered, with no make-up and in day old pajamas WITH MY CHILDREN - being sexy is just about the last thing on my mind.}

The thing is though - whether it's an extenuating circumstance like the situation I mentioned above or just an everyday occurrence - breastfeeding is normal.  It's okay.  It's just how things should be to see mothers nursing freely - wherever they need to do so.  And in this month of breastfeeding awareness, I implore you to learn to believe just that.

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1 comment:

  1. It breaks my heart so many people don't see breastfeeding for what it is: FEEDING YOUR BABY. No one gives a second glance (typically) to a mother who's bottle feeding, to a child eating, or anyone else...but it's different for breastfed babies and it shouldn't be.

    It is just a baby eating. Period.

    And I agree, if anyone says "I support breastfeeding, BUT..." then clearly they don't. When I nurse my baby in public, no one sees my boob but my baby. I'm not doing it to put on a show or get attention. I'm feeding my baby.


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