Men always seem to have this innate desire to be one with nature. Camping, chopping wood, and yes, even peeing on a tree seems to top their list of liberating activities. And, while peeing on a tree should probably be reserved for certain times and places…breastfeeding should not! Nothing is as natural as a mother nursing her newborn baby. And, while I don’t endorse an exhibitionist lifestyle for men or women, sometimes a little boob is gonna show!
As a first time mom (to a preemie), and a first time breastfeeder I was determined to make it work. Nursing without any additional complications can be challenging enough. Add in a tiny mouth that needs a lot of help latching correctly, and what should seem natural becomes a production. At home, I had my routine…a zillion pillows in just the right positions, my Boppy angled at just the right degree, and my feet propped to just the right height. But, nursing in public was a whole different story! My daughter hated the nursing cover. Actually, she despised it. I tried to convince her that Petunia Pickle Bottom was all the rage for covers (only the best for her), but every time the cover went down her scream reached new heights. If I was finally able to clam her down, I then had the complicated job of getting her to correctly latch so that she would get milk without biting off my boob in the process. Trying to stay covered while getting a preemie to latch correctly is like playing Twister naked with only a towel for cover…good luck!
Since nursing with a cover always ended up with my baby (and me) in a meltdown, I resorted to finding “private” places to nurse such as bathrooms, designated nursing rooms, and the car. I quickly crossed bathrooms off of my list! Disgusting! I don’t ever eat in a bathroom…why should my baby have to? With limited options, and my frustration rising, I came to the conclusion that I just couldn’t leave the house, or if I wanted to leave I would have to pump and give her a bottle (pumping is no mother’s preference). My baby just wouldn’t breastfeed in public!
Looking back I now realize that my baby wasn’t the problem…my comfort level with openly nursing my daughter was the problem. If I had been willing to show a little boob, she would have nursed just fine. What was it that made me feel so uncomfortable breastfeeding without a cover? Was it my own sense of modesty? Was it my concern that I might offend someone or cause a vulnerable man to have “inappropriate” thoughts? Was it our culture that promotes larger than life Victoria’s Secret advertisements but is appalled by a breastfeeding mother showing any part of her breast? Honestly, probably all of the above.
Whether or not I will ever have another infant to breastfeed, I’m not sure; But, I’ve decided to change my opinion and my regard for what is currently, culturally acceptable and what I’m comfortable with. Most cultures around the world are comfortable with open breastfeeding. Many cultures rely upon breastfeeding as the safest source of nutrition for infants since clean water is scarce. Although the United States has established laws guaranteeing that nursing mothers can breastfeed in public, the fact that laws are necessary to ensure that a mother can feed her infant is disturbing. Isn’t it a little ironic that many developing countries are more advanced in their view of breastfeeding than those of us in the “first” world.
As women, our bodies were made to breastfeed. What could be more natural? Breastfeeding isn’t a sexual display or even a women’s lib movement. Instead, it is one of the best ways that a mother can nourish, protect, and bond with her infant. While I don’t think that nursing moms should walk around in public completely topless (although I’m all for it at home), I do think that breastfeeding moms should have the freedom to feed their babies where, when, and how it works best for their infant. If that means you need to plop down on a park bench with an exposed boob, so be it! If anyone has a problem with that…you can tell them to, “Go pee on a tree!”
P.S. For all of you mom’s who couldn’t or chose not to nurse, you are still amazing moms! Although I advocate for breastfeeding, every mom has to choose what works best for her and her infant.
From The Mom in Me, MD