I never expected to be a lactivist. Or a breastfeeding enthusiast. Or even a big fan of breastfeeding.
I saw woman breastfeeding in public, and I rolled my eyes and shook my head. “At least cover up!” I would think. Pump and bring your baby a bottle. Nurse before you go out with your baby. Go to another room. Stay home.
I was annoyed at best, contemptuous at worst.
I was disgusted when I saw women feeding children who were 2, 3, or even 4. It seemed unnatural. Abnormal.
When I got pregnant, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about breastfeeding. I knew I was going to nurse because it’s the best food for babies. I’d read enough about formula and baby food — or even just conventionally produced “adult” foods — to know that it was loaded with shit, and I didn’t want to feed my baby shit. The words “vegetable medley” or “mix of vitamins and minerals” might as well be replaced by the words “chemical shit storm” because that’s really what it is. Sure, there are a lot of reasons why a woman might choose to formula feed — or might have to formula feed — and I’m not getting into a debate about “should”s and I’m not passing judgment. But there is no denying that breast milk is the best thing you can feed your baby — no matter what formula companies want to sell you otherwise.
Despite knowing that I would breastfeed, I wasn’t sure for how long and I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. I WAS sure that I would be covering up in public and that I would not be breastfeeding in front of other people.
All that changed when I had my baby. Everything I thought about breastfeeding before — the annoyance, the contempt, the discomfort –changed once I experienced it for myself. It wasn’t so much that I had a grand epiphany about the wonder and beauty of breastfeeding. I just got over it.
I got over feeling weird and insecure about my body — or really about the bodies of any breastfeeding women. Breasts didn’t seem like sexual objects anymore. They didn’t even seem private anymore. They were functional for the first time in my life. They didn’t just feed my baby — they comforted her. They calmed her when she was upset. They helped her to sleep when she couldn’t. They reassured her when she was scared.
I pulled out my breasts so many times in the first few months of her life that I just stopped feeling the need to ever put them away. My shirt was pulled up half the time, and my bra was unlatched pretty much all of the time. I nursed in front of whoever happened to be around. I nursed at weddings. I nursed at parties. I nursed at lunches and dinners with friends. I nursed at the movies.
At first, I wore a cover. But soon the cover just became a nuisance, and trying to keep it on her took more effort than pretending to care. Even with the cover, I ended up flashing strangers more times than I can count. Now it’s easier just to pull down my shirt and cover up with my baby and be done with it. The whole thing takes less time and attracts less attention.
I no longer think it “weird” that older children still nurse. I don’t think it strange to see women nursing wherever they are. And I understand how much of a pain in the ass it can be to pump and pack a bottle and prepare that bottle when you’re out in public. I understand how few facilities are available to nurse in private when you are out in public. And I understand that it’s also no big fucking deal.
It would be easier on mothers everywhere — and the population in general — if we all just got over it. Our babies would be healthier, our mothers would be happier, and our society would be far less repressed.