Nursing does not diminish the beauty of a woman’s breasts; it enhances their charm by making them look lived in and happy.
Robert Heinlein, Time Enough For Love
So. I’m a nursing mom. The geeklet will wean at some point in the next year and I will, with that small sigh reserved for the mothers of small children demonstrating a milestone, pack away the nursing bras (okay, toss ’em–they are stretched out and, frankly, do not support me in the manner to which I’d like to be accustomed) and move on. But until then, we will continue happily on our way, me acquiescing gracefully to brief requests for “nay nay”. How can I deny this, a cuddle combined with the absolutely best thing ever ever ever for him to ingest, at a time in his life when he is likely to exist on a handful of cashews all day long if I don’t walk him through each meal and snacktime? (Okay, now eat a bite of cracker… mm hmm, so we’re off to the moon tonight? We need to pack–no no, we’ll pack after lunch, one more bite of hummus, sweetie–no, I don’t think they have hummus on the moon… what? Yes, I know it’s very cold, I’ll bring a sweater. Yes, you can bring your green sweater, though you might need another hat–Wait! You still need to eat some carrots! One! Just one! Yes, I see that you are big and can get out of your booster and down to the floor all by yourself…)
It is not illegal to breastfeed in public in many places. In fact, happily it is generally protected in many states. However, just because it is not illegal does not mean that
nitwits people refrain from chastising nursing mothers. It does not mean that these mothers do not face public dressing-downs varying from snide comments to being kicked off of airplanes. It bothers me that representatives have to a) be sympathetic and b) in a position to c) draft legislation meant to underline the fact that women breastfeed and should be allowed to do it anywhere. Anywhere. Good grief.
I find it just a wee bit incomprehensible that we have to protect women who are breastfeeding their babies from arrest. From lawsuits. From scorn. They are feeding their children. We are all here because for thousands of years our ancestors were fed by their mothers in this exact same way. You can bet your ahem that a few thousand years ago, no one tried to arrest your great-great-etc.-grandma for nursing her child while she sat on a rock somewhere. However. We are so civilized, are we not?
I came across this brilliant post a few days ago. I give you the following, borrowed with many thanks from Mama C-ta:
Nursing in public (NIP), a phenomenon here in the US causes quite a stir as its popularity increases. To help ease the transition into normalizing breastfeeding, we’ve put together a list of commonly asked questions regarding NIP and its necessary usage in the public eye.
Can’t you feed your baby before you leave the house?
Oh my gosh, that is such a great idea! This entire time I’ve just assumed I needed to leave the house without making sure my kid’s needs are met because I really rather do everything out of the comfort of my own home to make my life more complicated. This makes so much more sense! I bet I could even change his diaper before we leave too, that might cut down on the need to use those nasty public changing tables.
But here is the thing. Most nursing moms, especially new ones, will nurse before they leave the house. In fact, they probably take 3 hours just trying to get out of the house making sure everything is taken care of and they are prepared for any possible situation that may arrive. When I first started nursing there were many pillows involved, tears, soaking breast pads – believe me, I nursed before I left the house hoping I would not have to nurse on the go. But because we should be feeding on demand and some babies want to nurse every 2 hours, some every hour and then there are those days when you will be nursing every damn 10 minutes. It’s hard to even get in your car before your kid wants to eat again. There aren’t too many trips that can be accomplished between an infant’s feedings and we have to ruin everyone’s lives by nursing on the go.
Then shouldn’t you stay home if your kid is that needy and focus on taking care of him instead of dragging them around?
You know that mom you see assuming she’s out gallivanting, dragging her miserable kid all over the place just so she can have some fun? Well maybe she’s not out having fun. Maybe being out is the last thing she wants to do because she hasn’t slept in weeks, she hasn’t showered in days and her kid won’t stop crying. But damn, she ran out of diapers and has no choice but to leave the house. Or maybe her kid needed to go to his well-baby appointment and she decided that it’s the best time to pick up a few groceries so she can eat because once she’s home she won’t want to go out again for another month.
Maybe she’s so frigin’ lonely, she’s starting to go insane and for her mental health, she just wanted to make one trip to know that in fact the outside world does still exist and there are other humans she can interact with that aren’t spitting up all over themselves.
Maybe she does just want to be out for fun because she hasn’t had any fun for the last 3 months. That’s her right.
Can’t you feed your baby in the bathroom? Or at least go to a private spot?
I don’t even like to shit in a public restroom, do you think I want to nurse my baby there? I’ll pee my pants before using a public bathroom, I’m not about to cram me and my baby into a dirty stall with toilet paper on the ground, pee on the seat, clogged toilets when there is a perfectly good bench right here which happens to be in front of a few strangers. And even if there isn’t a bench, then sometimes the floor is still better than a shit-stained stall. But if you ever want to meet me for lunch someday in the nearest public restroom, I’m all for it!
Some people just whip them out without thinking, can’t you be discreet and cover yourself with a blanket?
Yes some people do “whip them out” without thinking and I’m extremely jealous of those women. I’m not sure if you noticed but most infants do not quietly say “dear mother, I’m feeling a bit hungry. When it’s convenient, would you mind feeding me? No need to rush though, I’ll be quietly waiting.” Noooo, they scream at the top of their itty bitty lungs usually without much warning. To most new moms, the sound and sight of their baby screaming is very upsetting and they will do whatever they need to do to comfort their child. I know, it’s crazy that a mom would immediately think first of their child then the random people they will probably never see again.
And the blanket thing is good in theory but when Cricket was small, I left the house with a lot of shit. Adding a blanket into the mix was the last thing I wanted to do. On those days I did happen to have one, you should have seen me trying to juggle a poorly latching baby, my leaky boobs and a blanket that I was getting us both tangled up in. If that wasn’t gonna get everyones attention…And then there are some babies that may actually not like a blanket over their head while they are eating. Last time I tried to eat my dinner while covered with a blanket, I got pretty darn hot and found it difficult to finish my food. So now you have a baby swatting at the blanket, screaming and popping off because, “WTF Mom, why are you trying to suffocate me??” Next time I see a mom feeding her baby with a bottle under a blanket, I’m gonna crawl under there and tell her there is nothing to be ashamed of, she’s just trying to feed her baby and if someone can’t handle the site of a bottle then they should be the ones walking around with a blanket over their head. My bottles happen to be attached to my chest.
Nobody wants to see your boobies, why can’t you bring a bottle?
What a coincidence! I don’t want anyone seeing my boobies either! I don’t even like to look at the sad sacks myself. But honestly, what you are seeing is probably the back of my baby’s head and my post-partum gut hanging out. You might assume I’m squirting my nipple in your face but you may have just caught a glimpse of a little flesh but see! It’s all gone now, we can go on!
People often assume that babies will nurse naturally without problems right from the start. Many have learned the hard way this isn’t true. But what is probably even more incorrect is the assumption that all babies will take a bottle. Cricket? Yeah, not a fan of the bottle as proven by the 800 different brands, types, styles, nipples in my attic that we tried to get him to take. Especially on those days when I just needed 5 minutes to myself and my nipples were raw but wouldn’t you know it? He didn’t care and really had no interest in a plastic substitution.
Would you please not breastfeed in front of my husband or son?
Let me start off by apologizing. I’m very sorry that you had the misfortune to get stuck marrying an immature moron with an overactive sex drive. Sometimes who I happen to nurse in front of is beyond my control and I much rather not nurse in front of your husband especially since it sounds like he can’t turn off that nagging voice yelling “Booby! Booby! I see booby!” coming from his gonads. What I suggest is you politely take him by the hand and lead him away from the scene. The hand holding is very important since he won’t be able to avert his eyes – we don’t want him walking into walls or anything. You might need to smack him a couple times to get his attention but once you have it, explain to him that I am not dancing around in pasties looking for tips. It’s not about trying to turn him on, and in fact, it’s not about him at all and he needs to learn to control himself and go on with life as though nothing out of the ordinary is happening because nothing out of the ordinary is happening. You might need to take him home, sounds like he could use a good boinking.
If your husband is actually scared/turned-off by the sight of a breast, then you might have bigger issues.
As far as your son, well, he is a young boy/teen. He may gawk and laugh because that is what silly boys do and hopefully it’s something they’ll outgrow but sounds like hereditary is working against him. This might be a good time to explain what is happening and it could even start off a good conversation about respecting women and the whole birds and bees thing about where babies come from and how they eat.
You’re just being selfish and only thinking about yourself. You should not want to make others feel uncomfortable – you’re just trying to prove a point.
Actually, I’m thinking about my baby as they rely on us to do. I’m not trying to prove a point, I’m just trying to feed my kid. You’re making yourself entirely more important than you are.
Many thanks to Mama C-ta for her eloquence. I couldn’t have said it better.