Monday, October 11, 2010
Nursing in Public: It's Not About Modesty
Last night we celebrated a family birthday, and my sister in law took pics of everyone. Of course, when she came around to me, the baby was nursing. Since I've been nursing at least one little one for the last 6 and a half years, no one was surprised. She posted the pics on Facebook later, and what did surprise me was that the first comment was from a sweet friend of hers who was concerned that I would be upset.
Bless her heart. I am sure that her motives are the best. She wasn't expressing outrage or offense or anything like that. But it really reminded me that in our society, for many people, it has nothing to do with modesty--merely the *act* of breastfeeding makes them uncomfortable.
In the interests of full-disclosure (sorry, lousy pun), I fully support a woman's right to be topless, if she desires. I bristle just a little when I hear people go on and on about nursing "discreetly". Who gets to decide if the woman is discreet enough, if not her? The Taliban? What if the baby wriggles while latching or unlatching and spectators catch a glimpse of *gasp* nipple?! There might be innocent children present! Besides the nursling, of course. We must reserve public display of breasts to advertising cars, perfume and other things--that is what they are designed for, after all. Oh. Wait...
However, like the other breastfeeding moms I know, when it comes to real-life nursing in public, it is just normal life for us. Where I go, my baby goes. If we are there for any length of time, she is likely to get hungry. When she is hungry, she nurses. That is it. I don't try to draw attention to what we are doing, any more than a bottle-feeding mom would stand on a table to proclaim her intentions. It is just what we do.
In the picture that provoked the lady's concern, there was no skin showing. I was actually looking over at our son who was goofing around and making faces. Yet because I was breastfeeding there was concern that it should be private (despite the fact that the photo was taken in a restaurant).
We have a very long way to go in our society. Many moms choose not to breastfeed, in part because of the misconception that they would have to remain housebound in order to feed the baby. Boobies and babies are both portable, and much easier than bottles (not to mention there is less clean up involved!). My state, and most others, have laws asserting that a woman has the right to breastfeed anywhere she can legally go. It can't become "normal" in our culture unless it is normal for us.