Hi, friends! This post is my contribution to Week 5 of the Breastfeeding Blog Hop, hosted by Life With Levi (@LifeWithLevi.) When you’re done reading, please visit the rest of the blogs on the link list and share the BF love! I can’t host the linky myself for technical reasons, but you can find it, along with the instructions for the hop, by clicking on the button here:
So there I was, in the mall on a snowy day in January, with a rambunctious 14-month-old who would not hold my hand or allow me to carry him. He wanted to run, and he let me know it. Rather than completely “abort mission,” I called my husband to come pick him up so I could finish my errands.
“I’ll be there in a half an hour.”
I figured I could kill that much time, but I was exhausted, and my son was getting hungry. Then, he pinched my nose – a sure sign he wanted to nurse. Now.
So, the answer was obvious. Just sit down and nurse him, right? It would give me the chance to sit and relax, while reigning in the hungry monster and undoubtedly replacing his defiant mood with a much happier one. (I’m always amazed at the magical effects a few minutes at the breast can have.)
Except that our mall doesn’t have a nursing room, and I haven’t nursed in public in a loooong time. It just doesn’t come up that often for us anymore, and this is no docile, cooing infant.
I’m now nursing a toddler, which is a whole different ballgame.
Because a toddler doesn’t just lay there in your lap and nurse like an infant does. Not in my experience, anyway. My son can start out being cradled in my arms, then turn in the complete opposite direction, get down off my lap, stand on the floor, grab a toy, and crawl back up on me, all without unlatching! And he does it often.
He also has a tendency to get my milk to let down, and then unlatch to yell “Dada!” or grab a cracker, leaving me spraying the room.
Or, he twiddles, or pats my breast, which he insists be bare. The very idea of a nursing cover is downright laughable at this point. When I nursed him as an infant, nobody even knew. But things are much different now….
None of this bodes well for a “discreet” nursing-in-public experience. But the question I asked myself that day myself was, why do I even feel like I need to be discreet?
It’s no secret that many people have a problem with women nursing in public. I see it on the social media sites I frequent, I hear it in the news, I feel it out in public. I experience it firsthand from people who know me personally and tell me that nursing my son is “disgusting.” (Notice I don’t refer to them as my friends.) When people aren’t telling you it’s downright weird to nurse your child, they’re usually telling you that they don’t mind what you do, as long as you’re discreet.
…as if giving you their conditional permission.
First off, “discreet” is a totally relative term, and frankly, I have to look at offensive indiscretions all the time (Hello butt-crack dude, I’m talking to you!) In my opinion, a statement like the one above does nothing but negate itself and cause nursing moms to know, without a doubt, that they are being judged.
Plus, I’ve noticed a huge change in public perception since I’ve been nursing a toddler.
Some many people get more than rude when they find out you’re nursing a child over a few months old. I guess maybe it comes down to the inability to separate the sexual breast from the nourishing breast, but they think it’s just downright WRONG, and they are not afraid to speak their minds.
Now, I’m not a timid person, and I’m known to speak my mind when I don’t agree with the masses, which is often. But when it came time to nurse my son in public because he was acting out and obviously hungry, I couldn’t help but think about the anti-BFing hatred I’ve seen spewed on Twitter, and those moms I see in the news who are thrown out of public places for nursing. I will freely admit that there was a part of me that felt intimidated and scared without the safety of my home around me. But then I thought of the many other groups who feel that way when they leave the house, those who are told, “I don’t care what you do in the privacy of your home, as long as nobody has to see it …” as if that remotely resembles acceptance.
….the same-sex couples who fear holding hands in public
…the interracial couples who have to stand up to disapproving glares in public
…those who do not fit traditional dichotomous gender roles who have to put on an armor of defenses just to step out into public
…It even reminded me of the young boy from my local area who recently walked 11 miles in the rain, and stepped out in front of a truck to end his life because he was sick of being scared and bullied every day.
Because that’s exactly what it is when you infringe upon someone’s legal rights, and belittle them or attack them or harass them because what they’re doing doesn’t fit your personal idea of what “should” be. It’s bullying. And it’s wrong.
Let me be clear before you think I’m the most dramatic woman on the planet: I wasn’t terrified of nursing my boy in public. It just really, really bothered me that such a simple thing made me so uneasy, and stirred up so much emotion in me. It bothered me that our culture, as a whole, has made the climate such that I had to even think twice about meeting my son’s needs. So, when I was faced with the question – To NIP or not to NIP – I thought about the kind of person I want my son to see when he looks at his mother. So I found a bench, and I put my walking, talking, mouth-full-of-teeth, “old enough to ask for it” toddler son to my breast, and I did it for everyone who ever felt singled out, discriminated against, judged, or harassed. I did it for the one young mama-to-be who might walk by and feel inspired. I did it for the children who need to see breastfeeding mothers in the mall more than they need to see 10-ft. Victoria’s Secret posters.
I did it for my son’s sons and daughters.
And I’ll do it again.
Thanks for sticking it out through my novel-length post. Have you ever nursed a toddler in public? I’d love to hear about it!