Saturday, September 6, 2014

Boobs and Being Seen (Another Rant).

I don't have kids yet, but I am planning on breastfeeding if I do.  If I can't, I will still feed and care for my baby to the best of my ability.  I know women who chose not to breastfeed who loved and raised their kids just as well as any breastfeeding mothers.  I'm already tired of "mommy wars," and I'm not even a part of them yet!  The point is, it's a very personal and often difficult decision whether or not to breastfeed, and some women don't even get that choice due to previous health problems, surgeries, etc.  I firmly believe that most moms know if they're making the best choices for their circumstances and that people, for the most part, know when they succeed, when they fail, and when they make mistakes.  We should certainly give everyone all the facts and encourage each other to make good decisions, but good decisions aren't the same for everyone.

Breastfeeding moms are simultaneously told that they're making a good decision and told that they can't breastfeed much of the time.  Bottle-feeding moms are harassed for everything from "not giving their baby adequate nutrition" to "feeding their baby poison."  What is wrong with people?  I want to live in a world where breastfeeding and bottle-feeding are both respected, rather than a world where bottle-feeding mothers are constantly put down and breastfeeding mothers desperately try to find private nooks and maneuver into uncomfortable positions (for themselves and their babies) that won't offend anyone.  Yes, breast milk has, according to many sources, the best combination of nutrients for newborns, infants, and toddlers. Many organizations, parenting classes, doctors and midwives strongly support breastfeeding.  That doesn't mean that babies who don't receive breast milk will turn out unhealthy, unhappy, or anything of the sort.  There are more factors in a child's development.  I would, however, like society to stop stigmatizing breastfeeding in public and making it more difficult in practice than bottle-feeding, especially if they're going to hypocritically sing its praises in general.

What do you mean you were feeding your baby?
You could have been seen!

When people notice* a breastfeeding mother in public, there is inevitably a storm of questions and often even a media frenzy.  It's ridiculous. 

Does she know we can see her?
Why can't she do that in the bathroom?
Why didn't she pump?
Shouldn't this be private?
Why can't she do that at home?  
Does she know people can see her boob?
Why can't she use a sheet?
Can't she supplement with formula?
Aren't boobs for sex?
Does she know she's making me uncomfortable?

Let me answer those questions with some questions of my own.

Do other people exist?
Do you regularly take your meals into public bathrooms to enjoy them? 
Have you ever desperately tried to extract toothpaste from a nearly-empty tube and failed, giving up because you have other things to do?
Do you shut yourself in a closet to eat?
Do you like getting out of the house?  Do you sometimes go places that aren't close by your house?
Isn't the baby's head in the way of your view, or are you trying to watch?
(Seriously, can you even see anything in most of these pictures?)
Do you sometimes get hot, sticky and sweaty under blankets?
Do you have certain foods that you avoid for health reasons or because they upset your stomach?
Do you understand basic biology and anatomy?
Do you know why you're so uncomfortable?

My opinion is that it should only be "rude" or "inappropriate" to breastfeed when it would also be "rude" or "inappropriate" to bottle-feed... in other words, at places or events which you shouldn't bring kids to in the first place.  At your company's fancy holiday dinner party. At someone's "adults only" wedding. At a venue that has age restrictions.  If you want to go to a nice restaurant, but you know it's usually full of couples on romantic nights out, and you've rarely seen a kid under the age of 12, much less a baby, perhaps then it would more considerate to others to go elsewhere or stay in.

But it isn't practical or possible for women to stay home all the time, even stay-at-home moms. You never hear about people telling a bottle-feeding mom that she should have stayed home when she starts feeding her wailing baby in a casual restaurant. They see a hungry baby and a mother who quickly attends to the baby's needs. Ironically, they would probably complain if the baby kept crying because he/she was hungry and the mom couldn't breastfeed at that time.  People can be irrational jerks like that.

Personally, I wouldn't sit down shoulder-to-shoulder with a stranger or even very close to another person and start breastfeeding, but that's because I don't like sitting shoulder-to-shoulder with anyone and think it's important to respect personal space. Growing up with social anxiety and a touch of claustrophobia, I'd hate to put others in positions that would make me uncomfortable were I in their place.  But I'd like to be able to go out for coffee, and if my baby starts getting cranky, I'd like to be able to feed him/her in a timely fashion without fear of public shaming.  Is that too much to ask?

*I am almost 100% sure that there have been moms who have breastfed in public without anyone even noticing, much less making a big deal out of it.  It's as if people who protest are actively looking for reasons to be offended.

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