This video has been making the rounds, and it’s fantastic. It says a lot about the double standard we have created for the baring of breasts in public: OK for advertising but taboo for breastfeeding. OK for titillation but taboo for nourishment. It also speaks to the politicization of formula feeding and the healthcare ramifications that has:
“And as I desperately try to take all of this in, I hold her head up. I can’t get my head round the anger towards us and not to the sound of lorries offloading formula milk into countries where water runs dripping in filth — in towns where breasts are oases of life now dried up by two-for-one offers, enticed by labels and logos and gold-standard rights claiming breast milk is healthier powdered and white, packaged and branded and sold at a price so that nothing is free in this money-fueled life. Which is fine. If you need it. Or prefer to use bottles — where water is clean and bacteria boiled, but in towns where they drown in pollution and sewage, bottled kids die and they know that they do it.
In towns where pennies are savored like sweets we’re now paying for one thing that’s always been free. In towns empty of hospital beds babies die diarrhea-fueled that breast milk would end. So no more will I sit on these cold toilet lids — no matter how embarrassed I feel as she sips. Cause in this country of billboards covered in tits, I think we should try to get used to this.”
It’s a powerful video and one that touches on conversations that need to be taking place to make breastfeeding a more normalized part of our society. It’s the best thing for our babies, and it’s the best thing for mothers. So why isn’t it more widely accepted?
My own journey with breastfeeding has been a bit tenuous.
I wasn’t sure if I was even going to be able to breastfeed — let alone whether I would be breastfeeding in public. In fact, before I had a child, I was one of the people who would talk about how women needed to cover up if they were out in public and breastfeeding. I said all the tired things you have heard before: You can pump before you leave the house and feed your baby a bottle. You can go home. You can go somewhere private. You can cover up.
Looking back, it’s embarrassing to think that I ever said any of those things.
The reality is that when you are dealing with a baby, there is no fucking planning. You leave the house and you are bound to face at least one shitstorm before you come home. But you aren’t going to stay in the house — because why. Because having your ass tethered to the couch all day when your baby just wants to eat and eat and sleep and eat some more is absolutely miserable. Yes, a new baby is wonderful and joyous and amazing, and breastfeeding is beautiful and special. Yes, spending those long hours in your house — alone — with a baby — while you can’t even get up to go to the bathroom without a full-on tactical plan can be life-draining. So you go out. To do ANYTHING. To go to Target just to look around. To go buy groceries. To do anything at all. But you know you aren’t going to be long because something will happen — a blowout, a meltdown (yours or the baby’s), or just general exhaustion from such an exciting outing — will cause you to return home. Yet even in that short time, your baby is going to need to eat.
What do you do?
You sure as shit don’t say no. Hell hath no fury like a baby denied the breast.
As far as pumping? It’s miserable and tedious and the worst fucking thing I ever had to do. Besides the fact that I hated pumping, there was never any time for it. Quinn was always attached to the breast, and when she wasn’t, it was because she had drained it dry. The only time I was able to pump is when I was working in those early days — and all that milk went to supply her the next day when I was gone and working again. There was rarely extra.
But even if I could pump extra? Fuck that. Who wants to pump extra when you don’t have to? And just to make someone else more comfortable when you are finally on a much needed outing and are racing the clock to enjoy what you can of it before some inevitable emergency sends you rushing back home? Fuck that some more.
Covering up was feasible for awhile. And it’s what I did because I felt comfortable. But after Quinn was about 6 months old, that stopped being feasible. Quinn threw the cover off and struggled with me if I tried to keep it on her. What’s more distracting? A bit of boob flesh that you see in a cleavage shirt anyway or the equivalent of me wrestling an ornery monkey while trying to keep my shirt down? Thought so.
Now I just pull my shirt up without hesitation if I need to nurse her, no matter where we are. The only time I don’t is when I’m in the company of male friends — and, again, it’s because I still don’t feel comfortable doing it.
All that is to say: It took having a baby and being a nursing mother to get it. It’s not always feasible to care for your child and to try to make other people comfortable. And it’s not even necessary, really.
It doesn’t matter if random people become uncomfortable when they see a woman nursing in public. What matters is the consequences of those people saying something to those women nursing in public. Because this culture of hostility we’ve created toward mothers doing nothing more than caring for their children can have devastating consequences. Women who choose to use formula should do so. But women who choose to breastfeed should be offered the support to do so, as well, and that includes not shaming them when they aren’t treating it like a dirty little secret that has to be relegated to the back room.