I've been reading a lot of articles lately about women outraged for being told to stop nursing in public, including a recent story that happened in my own hometown, and it always amazes me that things like this keep on happening. It was over a decade ago, in a subway car in NYC, when I was handed the Metro newspaper, which I read religiously during my 30 minute train ride to work, and read that NYC mayor Michael Bloomberg fully supports breastfeeding. In this story a woman was breastfeeding her baby in a restaurant when she was asked to stop by a waiter. The waiter suggested she move to a more private area of the restaurant, specifically the bathroom. Mayor Bloomberg happened to be a diner in this restaurant and overheard this exchange. He approached the waiter and informed him that in NYC women were allowed to breastfeed anywhere in public and were not required to cover up. He turned to the mother and supported her decision to breastfeed her child and wished her a pleasant meal.
Obviously this story sparked a lot of debate in the "Letters to the Editor" section. The debate went on for several weeks with one side saying they support the mothers (or were mothers themselves who had encountered such situations) and the other side saying it was disgusting and inappropriate. Then the debate died down and I honestly didn't think much about the subject after that.
I am a breastfeeding mother. My 4 week old son has consumed nothing but the milk produced by my own boob. I plan to keep it that way until at least 8 months. I made the decision to breastfeed because it's healthy for him (and for me) and much cheaper than formula. I will also tell you that it has been a bit of a struggle thanks to my tiny nipples and his fiery personality. He lacks the patience to latch on and I frustrate easily myself. But we have been working through it. But as a result the moment that baby wants to eat, I let him. If we wait until I can get somewhere "more private" then we'd all have to deal with one of his epic "OMG, woman, can't you see I'm starving!" meltdowns. So when he's ready, the boob comes out. And, frankly, I don't care who's around. His big head covers most of the goods, anyway. Plus, it was over a DECADE ago that I realized, along with that waiter in NYC, that breastfeeding in public was my right and fully supported by many, many politicians.
So why is it that women today are still encountering what this woman encountered? Well, it's because 10 years isn't a very long time to be changing minds, and some minds will never be changed. Yes, I'm going to go as far as comparing this subject to racism and gay marriage. Not nearly as horrible or on-going, of course. I don't believe anyone has ever, or will ever, be killed for choosing to breastfeed. And we already ahve great laws that protect us, but kind of the same sentiments. Racism will always always exist, unfortunately. Gay marriage has gained many strides even in the past couple of months, but will always face its adversaries. Just like many in the past have dealt with horrifying ordeals surrounding their decision to breastfeed.
My aunt tells of how, 45 years ago when she had her first child, how the nurses came in after the birth of her son with a needle. When she asked what the injection was for they informed her it was to stop the production of her milk. When she refused, saying she planned to breastfeed, she was told only poor people still did that, and it wasn't what she should do. When she continued to refuse they called in several doctors and even a security guard and she feared they would hold her down and give it to her, or call the cops on her and have her baby taken away over it. Luckily, in 45 years, a lot has changed, but it's still considered to many to be "inapproriate".
The right for woman to feed their child in the best way possible without the action being sexualized is far from no longer being controversial.
And I'm OK with that.
Listen, I don't care what you think. My boob stopped being a sexual item the day he was born. When my milk came in you better believe my husband's attention was turned FAR away from them and it will likely be a long time before I allow him anywhere near there. Breastfeeding boobs hurt! It's not pleasant and I don't want him around them. These boobs are now for my son, only. To provide him with the food he needs to grow, be healthy, and not throw so many hissy fits. So if you have an issue with my boob sort of kind of maybe being seen for a second in public, well, that's your issue. If you are so uncomfortable with the idea of a boob, that's something you need to deal with, not me.
"Cover up". That's the recommendation many of these who oppose NIP (nursing in public) suggest. It's a "happy medium for everyone", they say. Only, it's not.
Allow my explain with even more information about my boobs.
I had DD cups BEFORE my milk came in. Those are big 'ole boobies! Now that my milk has come in I cannot even begin to tell you what size they are. Let's just go with "jumbo". Or "can't buy bras in stores anymore" size. But, I still have small nipples. Do you know what the combination of small nipples + big boobs means? A little tiny head smashed into a big squishy boob. The ONE time I tried to nurse in public and cover myself (and, yes, I did try that) it ended up with my 2.5 week old gasping for air because my boob was suffocating him. I tried to hold it back under the nursing cover I was using, but I couldn't see him, or his nose, to see what exactly was going on in there. Talk about being beyond scared. It caused more of a scene than just feeding him without the cover would have That was the last time I covered him while nursing. And the only time I will, for now.
Perhaps someday when he has more head control this won't be an issue. But I long since decided that I am more comfortable not covering myself when I nurse him. I'm sure many people will have issues with this, and I'm sure I will get my fair share of dirty looks.
You know what? I don't care.