Monday, April 18, 2016

Breastfeeding: do we really need to see it?

Breastfeeding. Many mothers choose to breastfeed, for many different reasons. But do we need to see it? Is breastfeeding an intimate act that should be restricted to only baby and mom? Is it okay to do in public?

I don't think I have all the answers, and I can't speak for all moms, but I feel that breastfeeding is a natural activity. I feel no shame breastfeeding Reuben in public. I will say that it was something I had to learn to do, through. When Ruby was hours old, I didn't know what I was doing, much less how to do it in public. I mean, during the first few weeks I wasn't able to feed myself (or even walk without peeing, I do not miss those days) and I was so sleep deprived I didn't have any brain matter left to think about feeding Reuben in front of someone who wasn't a family member.

But when the survival days were over and I began to feel like myself, the question did arise. What was I to do in public? Reuben was exclusively breastfed until 6 months. Should I stay home 24/7 since my child seemed to desire to feed from me about every 1-2 hours? Should I buy a pump and try to figure that out and risk nipple confusion? Should I wear a cover? Should I remove myself to the car or the bathroom (ew) to feed my son when he was hungry? Or should I just feed him where I was, and continue on with business as usual?

I tried a cover, and we both hated it. I couldn't see his latch or adjust his mouth when he popped on or off when he was under a cover. And he was born in July. It was hot. Who wants to cover an already hot baby? The whole process felt quite silly to me. That is not to say that others can't use covers. I just felt they were unnecessary and cumbersome to drag around for me personally. I know that every woman probably feels quite different about their own breastfeeding journey.

I also no longer feel comfortable being shuffled aside into another room or, heaven forbid, bathroom to feed my child. It just feels wrong. Breastfeeding is a natural part of life for many moms, not something to be shamefully done in the corner. Not to mention if I have to stop what I am doing (eating dinner out, shopping, attending church, get the idea) it's going to take up a lot of time. And make my food cold. I want to eat my food when it's warm, thank you very much, no matter what else happens to be going on at the same time. I have so little free time as a mom-- being able to breastfeed while shopping at target is awesome.

At 8 months I have breastfed everywhere. On dates with daddy, at target, in the pews at the park, in my own living room...even in my car while Brian ran into Walmart or some other store and I didn't feel like going in. I breastfed all over Atlanta, Ga, even in the stands of a Va Tech game. I did move away from the stadium eventually because the noise of the game kept making Reuben pop on and off and cry, and he needed to eat. I don't make a big deal about it, I don't even have any pictures of me breastfeeding outside of my home--I'm too busy feeding my kid to worry about what I look like or documenting the moment. Also, have you tried to take a selfie while supporting a hungry infant? It's not easy. (Thank you daddy for these pictures of me nursing in my nursing tank top and pajamas!)

I just want to have a normal life, like any other American. No special service or shame needed. No different treatment required. Like every other mom, regardless of breast or bottle, I only want to feed my son when he's hungry. No matter where I am, or what I am doing.

But you wouldn't have sex in public, you say. Of course I wouldn't have sex in public. Sex is in no way related to breastfeeding. Yes, both can involve breasts but that's about as far as the similarities go. You don't need sex to survive. Both parties can consent to sex. Sex is between adults. My child cannot speak. When he is hungry he's hungry. He can't understand "wait" or "not right now" and, before 6 months of age breast milk was his only food. You would eat a sandwich in public, wouldn't you? But of course you wouldn't have sex in public. Can't you see the two are not related?

But I might see your nipple! Nipples and boobs are sexual objects. It's obscene! Yes, breasts can be used when participating in coitus. But they can be also used for feeding babies. Me using my breasts to feed my child is not sexual. Breasts can have a wide variety of uses, I am so sorry your upbringing taught you there was only one purpose for mammory glands. Also, if you aren't familiar with breastfeeding, my nipple is not even visible. Even if he lets go, his head still covers everything. About the only thing you can see when I feed Ruby is the top of my breast, and if I was wearing a bathing suit or even a low cut dress this would show anyway. So what's the difference?