Tuesday, November 22, 2011

I Show My Boobs In Public! (Why I refuse to cover up while breastfeeding in public no matter how much other women want me to!)

 Fun-bags.     Boobies.     Jugs.     Tig Ole Bitties.     Knockers.     Dirty pillows.

Whatever you call them, they're definitely a big (and sometimes just-a-handful sized) deal.
Whether you're being poked in the face with naughty magazine spreads, watching a Lady Gaga video, walking for breast cancer, chillin' at the club, or sitting in a high school classroom... BOOBS ARE EVERYWHERE!

Americans love boobs more than we love Apple Pie, Baseball, and Jesus all combined!  And why wouldn't we?  They're fun to touch, fun to look at, and fun to jiggle.

But much to the dismay of the average American, they're also for feeding babies.  

In America, the sight of a woman (or teenage girl) walking down the street with her lady lumps hanging out for everyone to see is a fairly normal, and fairly celebrated, occurance.  But when those breasts are feeding a baby in public it's a whole new ballgame.

When my son was born, I said I would nurse in public, under the protection of a nursing cover or blanket.  I, for one, was going to have no problem with nursing in public.  If people didn't like it, I would simply point towards the blanket as a silent explanation of decency.

After the first two times I breastfed my son in public, under that soft yet awkward baby blanket, I just gave up.  I quit.  I was not dealing with that blanket anymore.  So I did what made the most sense to me.

I switched to formula?  No.
I switched to expressed milk in bottles?  NO.
I hid away in bathrooms and changing stations?  NO!!!

I simply sat down in a comfortable location, pulled out one of the twins (who I have affectionately named Daisy and Duke), and stuck it in my sons mouth.

That's it.  Cumbersome blanket problem solved.  

I breastfed in my local WIC office, not too big of a deal since there were posters of mothers breastfeeding on the wall.  I breastfed at the bank, also not a huge thing.  I breastfed at the playground, no one really noticed.  I breastfed at the Children's Museum, other mothers smiled, as did some of the younger kids.

And then I breastfed in Target.  We were shopping for teething rings and nose suckers when my son, uncomfortable from his runny nose and sore gums, wanted to be fed.  And he wanted to be fed NOW!  So I pulled down the strap of my tank top and my bra and quickly pulled him in to latch on.  My arm was around his neck and shoulders and my sweater covered a lot.  But, as I was walking around and not sitting somewhere quietly, I was noticed.  And...

I was laughed at.  

Yes, laughed at.  Three women coming in to the store took one look at me and all began laughing and not-quite-whispering to each other.  My first instinct was to make a comment about how they wouldn't be laughing when their children were sick, clutching their formula bottles with germ filled hands.  But I took the high road.  Which, by the way, is very hard for me.  I choked down the snarky comments that were rising into the back of my throat and I simply shot them my biggest, brightest, megawatt smile.  And I felt great.  No shame, no embarrassment, no blushing.  I was feeding my baby and I didn't care what they thought.

I felt very empowered after this incident and knew I would have no problem breastfeeding in public from then on.  

And then I went to the Mall of America.  My family, my best friend, and I went to Sealife USA at the Mall of America for my 29th birthday.  Because I am a child at heart.  Also, we're pretty broke at the moment and we have a membership (bought for my future marine veterinarian daughter for her birthday last year), so it was free.  We went to Lush (pretty much my favorite store at MOA) and then went to Build-A-Bear (pretty much my daughters favorite store EVER).  

While my daughter was combing through the racks of lilliputian stuffed animal clothing, my son began to cue that it was time to eat.  So, my best friend, Taylor, and I made our way out to the comfy couch-like sitting area just outside of the store.  I sat down on the farthest edge of one of the cushions.  Even though I have no problem breastfeeding in public, I still don't want to shove the girls in peoples faces- other than my sons- (and, in other ways, my fiances) so I usually try to find a spot that isn't right smack next to other people.  Apparently my courtesy went unnoticed, but my breasts didn't.

Even though I was turned away from her, the woman sitting next to me made a big showy deal of turning around so she couldn't see me.  Which really didn't make sense as she turned around every few seconds to look at me.  She began "whispering" to her friend about how disgusting it was that I was nursing my son in *Gasp* public!  According to Taylor, they continued to "whisper" and to look over at me with disgusted, smirky faces the entire time I was feeding my son.


In my admittedly short experience breastfeeding in public (my son is at the ripe old age of eleven weeks), I've noticed that it is usually women of childbearing age that are the most offended, shocked, and disgusted by a woman breastfeeding her baby.  

:: Older women and men smile or nod at me.

:: Men in their 20s, 30s, and 40s usually smile or don't respond at all.

:: Teenage girls just want to look at my baby because he's "sooooo (insert squeal) cute!"

:: Teenage boys don't really pay any attention, although I have caught a couple stealing a second glimpse, probably not of the baby, but not in a gross or obvious way.

:: Children don't seem to notice and the very rare ones that do smile at me.  Perhaps because they miss their nursing days themselves?

::  One security guard looked confused, like he wasn't sure what to do, or if what I was doing was allowed, but he didn't say anything.

:: My fiance (who fathered both of my children in case anyone is wondering), who is normally very shy and easily embarrassed, isn't bothered by it.

::  My son, who loves his Momma Milk, smiles and his whole face lights up whenever I pull one of the girls out.

But women, WOMEN have the problem.  Childbearing aged women.  These are the people who are the most likely to be right next to me, nursing their own children.  But instead they make comments, whisper, and act shocked and disgusted.  What's wrong with this picture?  

I can't help but wonder, if I were to take a survey of the women who have reacted negatively, how many of them bottle fed and feel guilty about it? (I personally fed my daughter formula and have no regrets or issues with bottle feeding, so please don't think that I'm trying to start a breastfeeding mafia war.  I am definitely not.)  

I wonder how many of them are fighting the little green monster, not having their own children yet?  I wonder if they don't have children yet because they scare away every man they meet with their negative, snarky attitudes and obviously low self esteem.

And, I'm sure, due to America's view that the breasts are purely sexual toys and objects of gratification, some of the women feel dirty even thinking about using their own breasts for such purposes.  

I wonder how many would react that way if I were a small chested woman?  Perhaps the fact that I have E cups and not A cups makes my nursing my son in public pornographic?    Or maybe they just want my bra size.  Either way, this is a factor I'm definitely interested in investigating.

Most of the people who have witnessed me nursing my son have not commented or reacted in any way.  Even though they might be thinking certain negative thoughts, they don't speak them or show them on their faces.  But these women made comments and attempted, unsuccessfully, to make me feel embarrassed and shamed.  Why must women constantly tear each other down?  

We should all be supporting a woman's right to use her body to feed her child anywhere that she pleases.  Women were given breasts (by God, by evolution, by whomever or whatever you personally choose to believe in) for two little reasons, and one big one.

:: For sexual pleasure.
:: To look great in clothes.

And the biggie, the most important, functional reason of all...

::  To feed their young.

Humans are mammals and mammals produce milk to feed their young.  While we may be the only mammals to derive sexual pleasure from our breasts, we are still mammals and our breasts were given to us to feed our offspring.

When my cat, Penny, had kittens, she not only breastfed her babies, she breastfeed them in public (well, our living room), she breastfed in front of the other cats and people without feeling embarrassed, and she breastfed for an extended period of time. (Have you ever seen a cat nursing a kitten that is almost the same size as her?  I have.  I will admit, it was a little weird... imagine breastfeeding your 16 year old.)  She didn't whip out little kitten sized bottles and mix up a can of Enfakitty or Simmeowlac.  She didn't hide under the bed (though she did give birth there) while she nursed.  She didn't crawl under a blanket to nurse in private.  She did what nature intended and NURSED her babies, out in the open, no matter who was watching.

I will be like my cat, Penny.  I will nurse when I want, where I want, when my child says it's time.  I won't put off feeding him, hide away in a dirty bathroom stall, hide under a blanket (which seems to draw more attention anyway), or lug around bottles of formula or expressed milk.  

I will pull out my Dirty Pillows (I love you, Stephen King), offer them to my child, and let him eat the food nature intended.  And I will be proud of my breasts.  They nourish my son, they are a comfortable place for my daughter to rest her head when she's upset, and they keep me warm on a Minnesota winter night.  

I'm not saying all women should breastfeed in public.  Some just won't feel comfortable, and that's ok.  I'm saying we should be able to do what we want with our own breasts (within the confines of the law of course- most states have laws in place protecting breastfeeding in public) and feed our children anytime and anywhere we want.

So if you and your child feel so inclined, show your boobs in public, and be proud!

I adore my readers and hope you feel the same way about me.  

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Faylyn Jean Hillier said...

Please feel free to share your own stories of nursing in public as well as any concerns or tips you have.

Anonymous said...

Simmeowlac...hahaha, I am still laughing at that one.

Fortunately, I have not had any real negative experiences with breastfeeding in public. But if I had been out with you when that woman was sniggering on the couch, I would have opened my mouth. And I don't normally open my mouth (I prefer to let me feelings fester and then blog about them later, haha). That made me so upset for you.

I have noticed in general, when people complain about being judged for NIP, it is normally, as you said, women of childbearing age. Its crazy. Why can't we all just be mommies, why do we have to be so nasty to each other?

Anonymous said...

I just read that again and realized it seemed like I was saying your friend should have said something. That is not what I meant at all, just that in that obvious a situation I would have actually said something. Hope that didn't come off the wrong way!

CrunchyMoms said...

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