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Moms Talk: The Naked Truth

Why do people care so much about public breastfeeding?

So last month, boobs exploded on the Internet. And not just in the normal way.

From the controversy caused by a Time magazine cover of a mom breastfeeding her 3-year-old son, to a Facebook kerfuffle over a photo of two military moms breastfeeding in uniform, the virtual world is up in arms about the public use of breasts for their intended purpose.

I’d say we have bigger things to worry about, but I was a 38-J when I was breastfeeding, so there were few bigger issues.

Public breastfeeding is a very divisive parenting question. Like many, it is a debate that new moms walk into without warning. And people will expect you to pick a side in the war on day one. If you breastfeed, you will have to decide where and how, and how much trouble you will take to hide what you’re doing.

I was stunned with joy when I first breastfed my daughter. My mom remembers receiving a hysterical phone call from me that went something like, “I made food for her! Out of my body!”

Then I realized that I was going to have to leave my house someday.

I dealt with it in the beginning by being incredibly body shy. I hid my child’s attachment point by feeding under something called, hilariously enough, a “Hooter Hider.” The name was almost funny enough to overcome the clumsy frustration of trying to set a pup tent up around myself every time my child wanted to eat—which was about every 15 minutes. And even so, she would shift, or kick, or grab the cloth and move it around. Sooner or later in every feeding session, I was flashing something.

Eventually, I had to face the fact that either someone would at some point see my nipple, or I would have to stay home until I stopped breastfeeding. And as my husband and I were both children of the '70s, and had each breastfed until we could ask for it in full sentences, I intended to do the same. My plan was to go at least two years, which is the World Health Organization’s recommendation.

That’s a long time to stay at home.

So I lost my shyness. I would whip them out whenever I needed to, from quieting her on an airplane, to a full feeding during an Eastside Mothers Club meeting. 

Reactions varied from none to smiles to glares to a polite request that I please use the breastfeeding room at my gym—a lovely, quiet, private room, down a long dark hall, that’s a pain in the butt to get to, and has nothing in it to keep me from clawing my eyes out with boredom while my child feeds for an unpredictable amount of time.

Pardon me if I prefer the café.

My daughter called her own halt to the breast long before I was ready by weaning herself at the age of 14 months. I didn’t have to face the challenges of choosing to breastfeed past when our society is comfortable. 

But, to be honest, society is just plain uncomfortable with the whole idea that breasts have two uses. If any public showing of this natural occurrence is offensive to some people, then no individual moment of their outrage can make much of an impact, no matter how dramatic the picture.

Show yours off or hide them or bottle feed. Use the breast for six months, or 14, or three years.  No matter what choice you make, you’ll be annoying someone, so you might as well make the choice that works for you.

Silvia Dillon June 01, 2012 at 05:24 PM
Such a good point here! Can I add that nobody seems offended when a woman wears clothes that barely cover their breast in public? In those cases (if the breast is nice), nobody complains and ask the lady to cover her breast with modesty. Nope. Bring it out dear! Show us! Maybe people forget what breast are really for (don't get me wrong, I know they also are there for a bit of fun and mating) I breastfed for 9 months only even if I wanted to go on longer but my daughter had other plans. I was in Ireland (Europe) for all of those 9 months and there I never had issues feeding her in public. I had never seen one of those "tent" to cover the baby in Ireland. There are places where you can breastfeed almost everywhere you go (yes, some are very boring!) and never I got a stare if I had to breastfeed her in a cafe. The only glances I would get would be from other mums, smiling. It was a very pleasant experience that I wish people could have here in the US too.

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