I still remember, quite vividly, the day when my family doctor handed me literature at my firstborn’s 9-month checkup. It was a photocopied group of papers dated in the 70’s, and it was about breastfeeding. What is said about breastfeeding, was that if my child was still nursing by the time she was a year, then I was doing her psychological harm. Oh, yes.
I found a new doctor (after pointing out the problems with that literature, supported by today’s current research, of course), and then left the facility completely when a different doctor told me that I was not allowed to get any more vaccinations for my children until I started bringing them for well-child visits again. (Oh, ok, sure, Doc, I’ll get right on that!)
Then there was my husband at the time. I had to always cover the baby entirely with a blanket or something else while nursing in public. It was terrible. My baby was sweating, I couldn’t see what was going on…sometimes, he was so uncomfortable that I had to leave the room while nursing our baby. He wasn’t the only one, though. There were times when I would be nursing my beautiful baby in public (well, if you consider a comfortable chair tucked into a semi-private room in a department store “public”) and a passerby would “politely” let me know that there was a restroom a little further down the hallway.
And then (oh no!), my daughter kept nursing after she was a year old! The audacity of me, right? You would think that this was a disgusting, abnormal, non-human practice the way that some people spoke to me about it. And you know what? I sometimes adapted the “it’s my business, not yours, so don’t talk to me about it” attitude. After all, it’s not anyone else’s business but my own, and it’s not worth my time or effort to defend myself to everyone. I can nurse my child until any age I please. I can even do it without a blanket over her head.
But what if, instead of daring people to look our way while breastfeeding in public, we invited it? I’m not saying that we flash the girls at anyone. I’m not saying that we shouldn’t be respectful of our bodies and other people’s eyes when out in public. I’m not saying that we should force our breastfeeding ways upon anyone.
|Woman nursing her child while talking to the president of Venezuala|
What I am saying, is that if we want breastfeeding in public to be considered normal, we should treat it like it is normal. We should not go into any separate areas unless that helps us our babies nurse. We should not be so concerned about keeping our nipples from showing that we will cover our babies heads, hold blankets up with our teeth, and make our older children stand in front of us to create a human wall. Who says our breasts can’t be both beautiful and functional? And anyone who looks at my breasts and finds them sexual while my baby is latched on has bigger problems than I am causing.
We need to be willing to discuss why we do what we do, and to not feel intimidated by those who “dare” speak to us about it. Greet them with gladness, because you are making a gigantic step in “normalizing” public breastfeeding to that person. Just think of all of the horrible fashions that have come out in the last few years. Interestingly, with enough exposure to them, most of us will start thinking those “horrible” fashions aren’t so bad any more, and will often even start liking them! It’s a fact of social psychology: when we are exposed to something new and told it’s “normal,” with time, we will accept it as “normal”.
Stop the attitudes about breastfeeding. We don’t need to picket, have “nurse-ins”, and so on and so forth. We don’t need to pass out breastfeeding symbol pins, or have designated breastfeeding areas. We just need to treat it like it’s normal, because, well, breastfeeding is normal. And nursing in public is normal, too.