My Take on Breastfeeding

If this topic feels too personal for some, I get it. Here’s your chance to opt out.

I am a public breastfeeder.

I’m not bringing this up to cause controversy, but because it’s been a significant part of my life for the past 4+ years.

A headline caught my eye yesterday: “The Voice Australia contestant Dallas James’ moment in the spotlight was dashed on Wednesday when the mother of his child breastfed on national TV during his live audition.” 

This sparked controversy in Australia, apparently, but mention was made to the facts that:

a) the clip NEVER would have been shown in the U.S.

b) it would have sparked exponentially more drama here.

I utterly (udderly?) do not understand what folks’ issues are with breastfeeding. I really don’t. How did we get to this place of judgement around something that women have been doing across the globe for millenia?

Here’s the deal. Plain and simple.

1. THE BOOB’S FUNCTION IS FOR BREASTFEEDING.

Literally.

That.Is.What.They’re.For.

2. Some women can’t breastfeed for multiple reasons.

3. Some women choose to breastfeed and some don’t. That choice is up to them, hopefully with appropriate support and education about the subject.

4. Some women are more comfortable breastfeeding in public than others. Great.

5. Some women use cover-ups, some don’t. Sounds OK to me.

6. Some women choose to breastfeed past 6 months. Or 1 year. Or 2 years. Or 3 years. Some don’t. Let’s support women’s choices instead of judging them.

7. Having lactation rooms available is AWESOME. And. Women still may choose to breastfeed in public and that’s OK.

8. Also, and I think this a point that gets lost sometimes, breastfeeding is HARD. It’s not easy and if a woman is choosing to do it, it’s a very conscious choice for the good of herself and her child.

OK, getting back to being a public breastfeeder.

I happen to be comfortable breastfeeding in public. That’s a personal choice for me. For the most part, I have felt extremely supported. And, that is certainly because the 2 places I’ve lived over the past 4 years have been Santa Cruz, CA and Ann Arbor, MI.

I am as discreet as possible, but it’s pretty obvious when someone is breastfeeding a child whether or not you can actually see what’s going on.

Part of the reason I don’t find a more private place is because:

1. There often really isn’t anywhere else to go.

2. Sometimes the only other option is a public restroom, which is gross to me.

3. I often don’t want to miss the conversation or event that’s happening!

4. Honestly, I want others to feel comfortable doing it, too.

One of the places I breastfeed often is at daycare. This is a supportive place and I don’t worry about it at all. What’s interesting is that I nurse Ash 2-3 days a week there and I have only witnessed 2 other moms doing the same in the almost 3 years we’ve been going there.

At the end of the school day all Ash wants is a little mama comfort. The other day another mom said to me, “You’re *still* nursing him?! How old is he?!” She wasn’t being mean at all. In fact, she was smiling and acting more curious than judgmental. It truly didn’t bother me that she asked because in some ways I LIKE being a person who is willing to show – in public – that breastfeeding a 22 month old is OK and normal.

We shouldn’t have to hide or cover up (unless we want to!)

I’ve only had one negative experience, a few years ago, when a waiter at a restaurant completely changed his tone and friendliness once he saw that I was nursing Austin at the table.

Mostly I’ve had good experiences. But I know a lot of women feel judged.

Please understand that feeding a child can be more than just nourishment. It can be comfort. It can help to avoid a meltdown. It can prevent tantrums. It can be healthy for the mama. It can provide a feeling of safety and love. And did I already mention it’s not easy?

Why am I writing this?

I guess I hope the people closest to me (and others) will feel comfortable challenging anyone who attempts to negatively judge a women who chooses to breastfeed in public.

Feel free to comment on this one. I’m completely open to your thoughts!

 

 

 

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7 thoughts on “My Take on Breastfeeding

  1. I agree with every point you have made. There was a time that I questioned breast feeding beyond two years old, but now I totally support the practice.
    You are correct – breast feeding can be a comfort for both mom and child. I think lots of folks don’t think about that.
    I wish I had had more supportive people when I tried to breast feed. You are right – it is hard! And I eventually gave it up.
    Thank you for your thoughts! Happy Mother’s Day, sweetie.
    Love, Mom and Nana

  2. Love this post Joy! I loved breastfeeding and I think it’s a huge blessing to do so! With our society being so sexualized it’s hard for people to think of breasts as anything other than for pleasure during sex instead of life-giving, bond-inducing, and comforting for our children. It is a symbol of pure natural love to me to see mamas breastfeeding their children. Breasts are amazing and I’m so grateful that I am a woman and I was able to do the very hard and sacrificial job of feeding my children.

  3. Totally agree! I have so often been able to go on shopping, having a meal with a friend, or any number of things becuase all Tima needed was a little boob comfort. I also breastfeed when I pick Tima up sometimes and it almost always is a great way to debrief with the teachers and reconnect with Tima. The ONLY place I avoid nursing is in front of my students. It’s awkward for both of us. There are a few who babysit that I breastfeed in front of, but then, you’re in my home, on our turf, and we’re gonna do our thing. I only had one “funny” experience in a restaurant where the waiter was just really uncomfortable, but not mean. But on a more visceral level, as a mama who has never produced enough to exclusively breastfeed, there was a lot of grief and trauma at first trying to figure out what was going on, trying to get my supply to come in (nothing worked), so the fact that Tima still wants to have what little milk I produce, and then nurse for comfort, it is so, so deeply healing for both of us. I will do it as long as it works for both of us!

  4. This is wonderful, Joy, and I agree that we need to speak out and push back. I saw the video clip from the Australian show that you mentioned, and the woman was alone in a green room feeding her child when a camera cut to her. It felt like an ambush, and then the spin started to happen. I breastfed Noa until she was 2, and only stopped because she no longer wanted/needed it. It was a very intense and powerful way to show her that I was present for her and I would stop and focus on her needs and comfort her. I also had the skewed perception of parenting in Berkeley and Ann Arbor, so there was a great deal of built in support, so I never understand why some people freak out.

    You are so right–this is what boobs are for, and I wonder whether people freak out because breastfeeding is an ultimate act of women rejecting the dominant narrative about their bodies and tapping into their power, not only to give life but to sustain it. Money is made when we feel badly about ourselves, not when we are empowered and writing our own stories.

  5. The Joy of Breastfeeding. As a mother who nursed both my daughter and son past the age of 2, hip, hip, hooray. For many it’s difficult, if not impossible, to separate sexuality from the breast. How disappointing. Get over it people. It’s just a boob to you but to our babies it’s the lifeline that forms a bond that can never be broken. I once responded to the question of “How long will you be Breastfeeding him?” With “I’m pretty sure he’ll be done before he graduates from High School”.

  6. Joy! love it. I totally get it. I think it is less of a stigma here (Vancouver) because most women are off for a full year on maternity leave with their babies But I think your voice and others like you (in the states especially) is so important. I also really appreciate how you point out that it can be hard. You’d think if we have been doing it forever that it would be a bit more “natural” and easy to figure out, but it can be tricky and challenging. Thanks for your post!

  7. Hi Joy! Didn’t know you had a blog! I’m gonna keep reading. 🙂 Hope you and your beautiful family are well! Lovely post! (still nursing Daisy at 2.5+ and going strong!) Santa Cruz misses you!!!!!

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