A Recent Breastfeeding Irritation…

General — By on March 12, 2009 at 8:26 pm


(Library of Congress, Gottscho-Schleisner Collection July 1950)

At first glance this picture seems ridiculous to me. A husband and wife -separated by a partition so that the wife can nurse their baby. It’s as if seeing the nursing woman should somehow be un-wholesome. But really, what could be more wholesome, more loving?

I’d like to think things have changed since the 1950′s- but in some ways I don’t think they have. I often feel like the woman in this picture. Not in my own home- thank goodness! But whenever I’m out with our baby Molly, I am keenly aware of how long I have until she will want to nurse. And I scan whatever store, or park we are at to see if there is anywhere to go. I’ve nursed Molly while sitting in a dirty public toilet stall more than once. It’s a nightmare negotiating the door, and cramped corners all while trying not to let the baby touch anything- and trying to hunch over because there is nothing to lean against.

I’ve also tried nursing Molly discreetly under a blanket while sitting at a restaurant, or at a park. And I’ve noticed concerned glances. That has caused me to go a lot fewer places with Molly. I limit any long amount of time to basically just one mall nearby us. It offers a room for nursing moms- which is super. But more than providing a place for nursing moms, I wish that our society was more welcoming of moms that nurse in public.

(Molly at a week old, having a cuddle after nursing)

 

While my own sense of modesty probably wouldn’t lead me to breastfeed in public without a cover up, I do think that should be okay. I think it sends a terrible message not just to mothers who nurse, but to everyone when nursing moms are made to feel they are doing something wrong by feeding their children.

After all- there are Victoria’s Secret stores & Frederick’s of Hollywood stores in malls all over America! How is it okay that those stores have huge displays in the windows, full of half naked women in suggestive poses- but a mother nursing her baby is considered racy? I mean there are teenagers, and children that walk by those displays. The pictures in those windows show much more cleavage than a nursing mom is likely to show, even without a cover up.

I would hope that by the time my Molly is a mom, that perhaps society would have a change of heart- and be more welcoming of moms nursing wherever they are. And I hope she’ll never feel compelled to nurse in a public toilet stall. I hope instead she will feel free to nurse her baby wherever her baby is hungry, and that the only “looks” she’ll get from passers by- will be smiles :)

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    74 Comments

  • Holly Noelle @ Domestic Dork says:

    It warms my heart to see a mom who, though she chooses to cover, supports my right not to. THANK YOU SO MUCH. My MiniDork will NOT eat covered. Even if I wanted to I wouldn't be able to.

    Also, that photo from the Library of Congress is kind of depressing. Wow!

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  • Shaunells Hair says:

    AMen sister. Nursing is a wonderful time for mom and baby, and I think it's utterly (no pun intended) how our supposedly 'forward thinking' society still is in stone age about it. For a society that it's commonplace to see mostly naked women on tv daily, you'd think it would tolerate a natural wonderful event like nursing. But thanks for your thoughts and letting me vent! Happy SITS day to you!!!Nothing is more precious than being a mommy.

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  • Lynsey says:

    I think I became slightly agoraphobic when I started breastfeeding…it was too hard to get home in time so I didn't have to use a dirty restroom stall. And now even though I am not nursing I still feel the pull to stay home with the kids, which isn't healthy!!

    Thanks for such an honest and worthwhile post, and happy SITS day!

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  • Jen says:

    You make some very good points. Nursing a baby should not be seen as something dirty or wrong. People should not pervert it in that way. It is a beautiful things.

    Now on the same note, it is not for everyone but those ppl that didn't choose it should not look down on someone that did and visa versa.

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  • Alex Fitzpatrick aka Ma What's 4 Dinner says:

    I have to say, that I did not breastfeed…I wanted to but due to a breast reduction surgery in my 20's my kids were starving on the boob so I had to resort to formula. I wish I could have, but I had to endure constant critiques from everyone about how awful it was that I wasn't.

    I have NO problem with anyone whipping out the boob wherever they are in order to feed their child. Do what you have to do. When an infant is hungry and they are wailing what else would one do? I have a slight issue with the 2 year olds standing up and attached to their mom's boobs in the middle of a mommy and me class. At 2, I'm pretty sure your kid can hold out long enough to make it through this 45 minute class without a snack. Bring a sippy cup.

    But really, to each his own…everyone needs to make their own decisions on this subjects and stay out of each others nursing bras. Especially Men! :)

    Sorry for venting. Happy SITS.

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  • Angelia (Texas) says:

    I remember those days when I nursed my daughter. Truly is difficult! Maybe someone should come up with vent/tent type shirt (baby doll style) that would make it virtually unnoticeable! Some mesh for the baby to breath over a thin layer of cotton. A stick inside to tent it up. Hmmmmmmm, any designers out there?

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  • Katy and Ross says:

    I think as long as you're covered somehow, nobody should say anything! It is completely natural. Unfortunately, I think that people who just let it all hang out in very public places, like a restaurant, are the ones who have made it hard for you. Hopefully it will be better soon!

    Happy SITS day :)

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  • Sara says:

    AMEN! I will say that I got a lot more :ahem: adventurous with my second daughter. I didn't have time to worry about what strangers were thinking because I also had a two year old to wrangle. I do hope that when my girls are mothers, attitudes will have changed.
    Happy SITS Day again!

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  • Cristina says:

    HAPPY SITS!

    That picture of you and Molly is absolutely adorable. She is perfect!

    Who cares what other people think. I breastfed for 18 months. YEP! Brought my pump into work after 6 months and pumped every day. The looks and snickers when I said I had to pump – made me feel badly at first, you know, as if I were stealing time. They were lucky I was there! If I couldn't pump I wouldn't work. Anyhow, off the topic. Breastfeed! You're fine. It's the women with the 7 year olds in places like Grand Central station breastfeeding – Oh Yeah, I saw it – that are a problem!

    xx

    Cristina

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  • Confessions From A Working Mom says:

    Happy SITS day!!!

    I love this post– RIGHT ON. I just weaned my daughter last week after 14 months, and during that time, I got a lot of frowns, a lot of "sighs", and a lot of exasperated looks, even from fellow moms! I was always discreet and rarely nursed in public, but the overwhelming *fear* some people had that I would whip my boob out in the middle of a restaurant or store just terrified people.

    My daughter made it 14 months on the breast, and during that time, she only had one minor health episode. I think my milk had a lot to do with that! I think people could learn a lot from nursing moms like us :)

    CONGRATS!

    ~Elizabeth
    http://confessionsfromaworkingmom.blogspot.com

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  • Working Mommy says:

    I couldn't agree with you more. I think boobs – specifically – are seen as something taboo in the US…which is definitely a shame when they are being used as a source of food.

    Unfortunately I wasn't able to nurse, because the babe just couldn't latch, but I get the same stare when I try to bottle feed her in public…its garbage!

    PS – The picture of Molly is absolutely precious! You are a lucky momma!!

    Happy SITS Day!!

    ~Working Mommy

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  • Victoria D. says:

    Happy SITS!

    Im not a mom, but lately I've been hearing about this issue from a lot of my friends who are new moms. I feel like hey, moms do what you have to do. It's just life. It's natural.

    -Victoria

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  • Midday Escapades says:

    Valid point, Shannon. I hope you do get your wish for Molly.

    Happy SITS day!

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  • Helen McGinn says:

    Oh so true! I must admit to being of the "I know I'm discreet and I have a hungry baby so stare all you like, mate" brigade… ;O) I think the more we do it, the more people will have no choice to get used to it. I find it weird that some people find it weird, you know? In saying that, people are entitled to an opinion but, like most opinions (not generally based on facts… ;O) they are best kept to oneself. Laughing at myself for even saying such a thing…as if I'd ever keep my opinion to myself…*L*
    Lovely to meet you. x

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  • Kim says:

    I nursed all five of my children and ended up in some interesting places. It was well worth whatever inconvenience I had.
    @cheapchichome.blogspot.com

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  • Katherine says:

    i have not had a child, but totally get the mommy big whenever i see a mom nursing in public. i am fortunate to live in a town that is very liberal and totally supports mom's nursing in public. it's so beautiful and natural! i hope when molly's a mom our culture will get more laid back!

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  • Iris McWilliams says:

    I couldnt agree with you more Shannon! Im lucky, the community I grew up in is very open minded, but the world is definitley NOT respectful. It bothers me too, for the same reasons. I think people need to get their priorities straight. Im glad Mom's today are taking breastfeeding back into the public!! Good luck to you! You have my support.

    Iris :)
    http://www.tilldeathdousart.blogspot.com

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  • Karen MEG says:

    I nursed both kids, and to be honest, with my boy (over 9 years ago) I was initially a bit shy, but when he was hungry, he was hungry – I'd just throw a blanket over my shoulder wherever I was. I think after giving birth I found it was hard to be shy about any part of my body anymore!

    With the girlie, there was a little more awareness, so most malls have really nice nursing rooms – although unfortunately still located in or near the washroom, lovely … but I would tend to nurse wherever, I guess getting even less shy in my old age.

    But BFing is so not sexual, I wish people would get over it … moms are feeding their babies, for crying out loud!

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  • Katie says:

    I totally agree that society has not matured in regards to nursing mothers. I often nursed my kids in public, but I'm a pretty oblivious person when out and about, and I (thankfully!) never noticed the stares! (…of which I'm sure there were many!)

    Happy SITS Day!

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  • Kari @ p.s. love.love. says:

    Good for you! As if we've created some weird wacko way to feed our kids. Um, people, it's how our bodies function when we have kids. The milk is there for a reason – 2000 years ago they didn't have Nestle formula!!!
    I'm on my second kid of exclusive nursing and I've seen my fair share of glares and concerned looks – and then watch the same people stare and smile perversely at the half naked girl walking by!
    Love it -from one nursing mom to another!

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  • Cheryl says:

    Yeah for you saying something. I totally agree.

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  • When did I become my Mom says:

    That surprises me so much…

    There is so much suggestive imagery all around us – overt and distasteful. And unsolicited. Parents who've had to turn their children's face away when they unexpectedly encounter the in-your-face suggestiveness that society deems ok understand what I mean.

    Why is it that breastfeeding mothers are being depicted as craze-driven, or loopy?

    If we're to allow freedom of choice, then one choice shouldn't be less than the other.

    And the benefits of breastfeeding are so plentiful, how can you blame a mother for wanting to choose this?

    I feel very passionately about this, and I hate that mothers have to nurse in dirty sick bays or toilets.

    We keep saying the family is the cornerstone of society and yet anything family-focused seems to be in for more than its fair share of ridicule.

    I breastfed my first 2 kids for 3mths and my last is now being breastfed for over a year. Initially I thought I'd stop when she turned 1. Now she's still eating meals with the family, but at nap-times when I'm around she'd prefer to nurse (if I'm not around she takes a bottle). I'm going to let her wean at her pace.

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  • Kerri says:

    Oh honey. Don't you EVER nurse that precious child in a public toilet stall again! I was unable to nurse my son because of my health, but I certainly wish I could have. I am modest too, and would be as discreet as possible, but you are SO right. Americans are SO backward when it comes to stuff like this! It's okay to have half naked women as objects of lust, but THE most natural thing on earth, a wonderful purpose that only a woman can serve, to feed her child…THAT gets looked down on? God help us all.

    You nurse that little one WHEREVER you want to, missy. People can just DEAL with it!

    Happy SITS day!

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  • Baby Sweetness says:

    I have this great wrap that let's me feel really pretty reasonably comfortable nursing anywhere (and I'm often a bit on the prudish side). I haven't noticed any stares – but then again, I can be oblivious… The one amusing time was when buying our car – once the finance manager realized what I was doing, he totally stopped making eye contact with me or talking to me!

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