Thursday, June 09, 2005


Well, here we go. Another issue that’s gotten me worked up enough to blog about. Yeah, I know, I’m not the only one talking about this (obviously), but it’s worth ten minutes to rant about so I can move on with my day.

NIP. “Nursing in public.” Barbara Walters bravely admitted on national television that being around a nursing mother on an airplane made her uncomfortable. Brava, Barbara. The first step in overcoming any discomfort or disease (such as your reaction to breastfeeding) is to acknowledge it. Now get the f&*# over it already.

I am so sick of this freaking debate. Why are we even still having this conversation? Why is “nursing in public” even a phrase – because I promise you, it can be a scary one, for moms and observers alike. After my intense struggle with the initiation of nursing (milk not coming in for what felt like months after Duckie was born – it was actually two or three weeks), you might have thought I’d go dancing in the streets, my nursing baby and lactating breasts proudly displayed. That didn’t happen. The first time I went to the mall, I was so nervous I’m surprised the milk let down at all. I was afraid someone was going to say something or look at me like I was grossing them out, like I was doing something wrong.

So I invite Ms. Walters to examine the source of her discomfort. What’s the matter – do you feel like you’re intruding into a private moment? That’s the way I used to feel. Get over it. It’s not like it’s some PDA between a mom and her baby – it’s not like someone is having sex in front of you. Do you get uncomfortable when a mom is 100% into bottle-feeding her baby, when they’re all googly-eyed for each other and you might as well not even exist, mom and baby are so into each other? No? That’s cool to see, right? Right. (At the other end of the spectrum, I get profoundly uncomfortable watching a mom prop a bottle – totally unnerves me to see a mom disconnected from her child.)

Is it the sight of a real live breast that bothers you? Get over it. We’re bombarded with boobs every day, and most of them aren’t real. The sight of my own breasts after a year of nursing is uncomfortable to me, unless I hike them up in a pretty bra and suck my gut in. But a glimpse of a full lactating breast before a baby latches on doesn’t bother me in the slightest – it actually makes me feel like maybe there’s some hope for this species after all. It makes me feel like I’m part of a kind of saggy-breasted sisterhood.

Is it the strange process of lactation that bothers you? Maybe the breast milk itself? Get over it. I have a very good friend who has a gruesome fascination with gross things, and this is one of those things that grosses her out. I used to threaten to squirt her when I was nursing – it was lots of fun to gross her out, and still is. She acknowledges that pregnancy and nursing is not something she’d ever be into, and I understand why. But I never got the impression that my nursing (or anyone else’s for that matter) bothered her or made her uncomfortable.

Would it make you feel better if the woman was covered up? Get over it. Because, let me tell you, as much as some of us try to cover up, sometimes those babies like to see the world when they’re having lunch and don’t appreciate the blanket. Sometimes they do – and you can happily cuddle them up in a soft wrap or throw your shirt over their little heads. But around six months, Duckie refused to put up with it and would gleefully grab the blanket and throw it, whether we were in the mall, in the grocery store, whatever.

Or – and be honest, Babs – would the presence of a blanket not have made a difference? Once you knew what was happening, was it the act of nursing itself that bothered you, or was it the actual breast exposure? Or did you try to nurse once and were unable to? Did you choose not to nurse and now wish you had? Heck, I see nursing mothers now and get all weepy and wistful - I suppose you could call that a kind of discomfort. Whatever the cause, I say again, GET THE F*&$ OVER IT!

Lots of things to consider, Babs… and if you’re going to make a statement like that, might as well go all-out and get yourself a little public therapy to get over it. Maybe we can all benefit.

I hope my daughter is never uncomfortable about nursing, whether it’s around her family, friends, or perfect strangers. I hope Brian and I manage to have another child, and that she gets to see that child nursing, too. I hope that if she ever chooses to have children, she makes the decision to nurse, and that she has no discomfort at all about it. I hope it’s as natural and comfortable to her as talking, walking, and breathing. So may it be for all our daughters. Goddess knows we’ve got too damn much to do as moms to have to hide somewhere for however long it takes our babies to get a snack.


EB said...

Here here. What a strange combination of perversion/prudishness our culture is.

Jennifer Campbell said...

One thing we have going for us in North Carolina is a state law. If it is legal for you and your child to be there it is legal for you to breastfeed and if anyone tries to get you to leave or put it under wraps, tell them to GO TO HELL or you will SUE. I don't eat my lunch in a dingy bathroom or dressing room and my child won't either.

"James" said...

WELL SAID!!! There is 100% NOTHING WRONG with breastfeeding in publica and in fact there is everything RIGHT with it. It is a beautiful, natural act that should be celebrated. I'm happy to hear that you would allow any future children to see you breastfeed as well. It is good for children to know that is not something to be ashamed of. Again, well said.