Tag Archives: breastfeeding in public

Thank You, Kindergarten Teacher, for Breastfeeding

Looking back, I have to wonder where I got my desire and my determination to breastfeed my children. I did not get it from my family.

Don’t get me wrong, my family is wonderful!  But they were misinformed. My mother was told by her doctor that formula was better and she wanted to do what was better. I never saw a baby breastfed until I was a teenager and a lady a few rows in front of me at church nursed her baby during the sermon. I remember being slightly horrified that she was half undressed in church of all places. At the same time, fascinated. I am so glad that I saw that and saw that no one blinked an eye at it, that it was an acceptable thing to do. The first I time I breastfed in public, I thought of her.  But that was not my first introduction to breastfeeding.

I remember clearly being six years old and having a new baby brother. My grandfather took me daily to the hospital to visit my mother and new brother. Then one day, after visiting the hospital, he took me shopping with him. We had to get ready for my mom and the baby to come home. As we were buying bottles I thought I’d amaze him with my intelligence by reciting the fact that mommies didn’t need bottles to feed babies, they can make their own milk! I was proud of my knowledge. I was confused by his reaction, which was to tell me not to worry, I would never have to do that as long as he was alive!

I loved my grandfather and I could tell that he felt strongly about this and that he thought he was protecting and taking care of me, reassuring me with that statement. He obviously thought it was something that no woman would want to do, should have to do. I’m sure he was in the majority of his generation with that thinking. So the question remains: where did I get that knowledge? Where did I learn that breastfeeding was possible and desirable? I honestly can’t remember. For years this was a mystery to me. I remember silently knowing that he was wrong, but I didn’t want to say so. Someone somewhere obviously gave me a different perspective. But who? And when?

Then one day I remember my kindergarten teacher. No, I don’t remember her talking about breastfeeding, but I remember that she was pregnant and I vaguely remember that she talked to us frankly about it and answered all our questions.  I remember the substitute coming by to meet us prior to her maternity leave. We liked her, she made us popcorn. I remember our teacher stopping by with the new baby, I remember gathering around and looking at the baby.

While I can’t say for sure it was her, I suspect it was. I can’t imagine where else, who else it could have been. I was so very young that the specifics of any given conversation have long been forgotten. I can’t even remember her name.  And yet, that seed was planted and for that, I am eternally grateful.  Someday, when my children are old enough to understand the incredible gift that breastfeeding is, they too will be grateful.

I have often wondered if I would have even thought to breastfeed my children without having had the idea introduced to me, in a positive way, somewhere. Had I had only examples of people who viewed it in a negative light, would I have even thought to question it? That is why it is so incredibly important to me to be open about it, to be an advocate for it and to be visible with it. Just in case there is a little girl somewhere watching or listening who needs that introduction.

Breastfeeding in Public

Oh no, run for the hills, she’s gonna talk about boobs! Seriously, I do not understand our national discomfort, disdain and downright hostility towards breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers. One of myFacebook friends posted a link to a blog where a mother posted her thoughts about breastfeeding, along with (gasp) pictures!

And now while I realize that a blog is posted publicly, you still don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. Seriously, if breastfeeding is so offensive to someone, then just avoid it I guess. But I truly don’t get it.

Breastfeeding is the best thing you can do to feed your baby. It is the most nutritious thing to give a baby, it is full of antibodies to help them stay well and healthy, it promotes the best oral motor development as well as developing the part of the brain that tells us when we are full/hungry. One could make the argument that a primary cause of overeating is being forced to finish the bottle or clean the plate when full or denied food when hungry due to some arbitrary schedule, we train babies not to trust themselves to know when to eat or not eat. And then there is bonding and attachment and comfort that all come from the breastfeeding bond. Where, in all of this, is there something wrong or bad to find?

Yet people find it. The evil, horrible dark side to breastfeeding (according the American public in general) is that someone might see a glimpse of a breast! Shocking I know. Forget that fact that every bathing suit at the beach or the pool, half the advertisements that you see and even just the day to day fashions that are in style now ALL show more breast than you generally can see during a feeding session. Somehow people are horrified, offended and outraged at the sight of a breastfeeding mother because a man or a child might see some breast. My response to that is pretty much, so what? If a child sees a mother breastfeeding her baby, what idea might they get? That breasts are for feeding babies?

There is truly nothing sexual about feeding babies and the only reason I can find that people get so uncomfortable about it, that they find it so offensive, is that, in their minds, they link the breast to sex and only sex. And that is their issue, not the issue of the infant or the mother. Why should mothers and babies be held hostage to someone elses misguided and wrongheaded thinking? Why should mothers be forced to hide what they doing, like it’s some dirty secret? Why should babies be deprived of something that is so good for them, to make some grown adult who should know better, more comfortable?

Babies are innocent, helpless and unable to add their voices to the debate and as seems to always be the case, the weak get run over by the strong. Might makes right. Babies have no voice and mothers can often be bullied and harassed into complying with what’ s “socially acceptable” at the expense of what is biologically appropriate for their child. Not all mothers can overcome such strong persecution and hostility. They need support, information, education and the knowledge that they are not the only ones.

Which brings me to the other upside of breastfeeding in public: letting the world see that this is normal, making it become a commonplace sight. Bringing widespread acceptance to it requires visibility and requires making some people uncomfortable. We all have times when we have to confront things that make us uncomfortable and question ourselves about WHY it makes it feel that way and hopefully be able to see all sides of the situation and overcome our own prejudices.