I know it’s time for a post on a topic when I start bending folk’s ears about it. Pacing up and down my friend’s kitchen yesterday, gesturing like I’m conducting an orchestra, words spilling out of my mouth all over her lino, it dawned on me. “Ah. Yes. I haven’t blogged about breastfeeding for tiiiiime!” Today’s topic? The importance of breastfeeding in public!
You know, a couple of weeks ago I was involved in a conversation on Facebook. I was defending the right for a woman to nurse her baby wherever she needs to. A mother had been nursing her baby in the reception area of her older child’s school and had been asked to move into the bathroom. That’s not reasonable, I argued, politely. In fact, I believe it is illegal. It wasn’t long before someone marched in and began to blame the world’s problems on “militant breastfeeders” like me.
I had to leave the conversation. I couldn’t respond to that. There is no conversation that can happen after one party has been labeled so harshly.
*cries a bit*
But it’s where we have come to, it seems.
The polarisation of infant nursing is so extreme- each end of the spectrum doesn’t have the ears to hear the other story any more.
“Some of my best friends are bottle feeders!”
It seems crazy to have to harness a phrase usually saved to defend a spell of racism or homophobia… But it’s true! I’ve seen the heartache of mothers who couldn’t nurse, I’ve witnessed the decision of mothers to opt for another way to feed their baby, I’ve known mothers only last a week due to pain or lack of support and I think they are all AWESOME! And I know they nurse their babies with love.
So when I defend a mother’s right to breastfeed where she wants I do it with absolutely NO attack on people who bottle feed.
Why does it have to be seen that way? Why is it even related?
You know what it IS an attack on?
A society that has sexualised breasts to the point that they should never make an appearance other than to titilate. Where nursing your baby is inappropriate because boobs are blatantly provocative.
It is the primary reason we have such a low breastfeeding rate and it is the main reason people get mad when they see a woman publicly, openly nursing her child.
We have got a behemothic issue with boobs, an inability to see them as a feeding tool. Teenagers I know are HORRIFIED at the thought of breastfeeding – that their alluring “lady lumps” might ever nurse a child.
People who speak out about breastfeeding, who post breastfeeding photos and who pressure authorities to support breastfeeding are not anti bottle feeding, we are anti the objectification of women’s bodies.
Please, please understand this thing. It matters to me…. because some of my best friends are bottlefeeders!
Words won’t do
Did you see the United Arab Emirates has passed a law requiring women to breastfeed for two years? (Lordy, so much to say, so little time.) It’s not the answer, is it? In fact, I thought it was an article for satirical site The Onion at first. It is such an oppressive response but I’d put money on the fact that breastfeeding mothers would stop getting harassed. Even shy mums would feel happier nursing in public if they knew the fuzz had their back.
So laws handed down from a dictatorship isn’t QUITE the answer … But we need more than our words. If we are labelled “Breastapo” before we’ve even drawn breath than we’ve already lost the argument; there is no enlightening debate going to happen there.
Save your breath, eh?
It’s handy that actions speak louder
There IS a place for sensible policies that support breastfeeding (such as prohibiting aggressive formula advertising throughout maternity services) and there IS a place for people who want to point out society’s hypocritical attitude towards mammary glands.
But more important than these things are the actions of every nursing mother.
Get them out, folks, and do your bit for normalising breastfeeding.
(If you want, that is. No pressure. Someone might get gnarly at you and I don’t want to get the blame if you bop them. But at least you’d legitimately deserve the label Aggressive Breastfeeder.)
Nurse in church, on the high street, in the cafe, on the beach, in the lounge, on Facebook, at work, on a hike, in the garden, on Instagram, in the playground, at the party and around the dinner table.
Nurse your child anywhere and nurse your child everywhere.
I was shy about it until I spent some time with more confident mums and realised that my big peachy breast is nothing to be ashamed of.
So now I don’t hide it.
I see that by responding to my baby’s need for hunger all over the place I am paving the way for other new breastfeeding mums.
Get your boobs out – breastfeeding in public leads to societal change
Over my years I have had macho males yell at me, imploring me to reveal my breasts. The time that made me feel so SO bad was just last year when I put the bin out in front of our house late at night. A couple of men were passing my front door and stopped to aggressively suggest I show them my boobs. Yeah. It was awful.
I can understand that nursing mothers feel conspicuous in such a climate.
But to only breastfeed behind closed doors or under one of those massive shawley things (I call them a bushel but I don’t think that is their official name) we are letting Murdoch and the Sun and all the leerers continue their claim on breasts.
So my boobs are out now, guys, but only with a baby guzzling there. (Or thinking about guzzling; my nine month old is at that stage where she is happy to just look at my nipple, or poke it, or squeeze it, oblivious to the fact that there is a whole debate raging around those glorious producers of sweet, sweet milk.)
By nursing in public I am doing my bit in shifting the framing of breasts back to feeding rather than sexing and it’s important enough to me to risk Death Stares and Facebook rants.
It’s not militant, it’s not aggressive, it’s no Gestapo-like boob army. It’s just a mother breastfeeding her baby when the baby needs it. It’s a natural, normal activity that has been done since time began and shouldn’t be hidden under a bushel.
Let your boobs shine. Let them shine, let them shine, let them shine.