Given that this post is about breast feeding, I thought it was appropriate to make it a two part series.
I have always thought of myself as an advocate of breastfeeding. If you can physically do it, I think you should. It’s economical, healthy for the baby and a special bonding time between mother and child.
But one day at a public event, I was sitting beside a woman whose child was straddling her lap and facing her breast, which was completely exposed. His little head bobbled back and forth as he aimed to latch on while she was turned talking to her friend. I tried to tell myself I was ok with it, repeating the buzzwords I’d heard in grad school; Economical, healthy, bonding. Economical, healthy, bonding.
But it was then that I had to admit that while I was a lactivist, my lacitivism had limits.
But I don’t have kids so what do I know, right? I wrote to my friend Kristie B, a self-proclaimed lactivist. She’s smart, feisty, and a breastfeeding mama so I asked her for her thoughts.
“Babies need to eat. All the time,” Kristie said. “Being able to breastfeed means no lugging around bottles, special water, formula – then worrying where to heat it. All you need is you.” So far, I’m with her. The whole process is pretty impressive. “As you know, I’m a huge lactavist, I support women breastfeeding anywhere, anytime, any way that works for them.” She then went on to outline common things she’s heard.
Women should breastfeed in bathrooms
I remember being 13 and sitting across the table from my annoying, much younger brother. I’d yell at him for various things, and my parents would say, “if you can’t stand him then go eat your dinner in the bathroom.” That would always stop the complaining.
Kristie and I agree that nobody should have to eat in the bathroom.
Breasts are sexual. Children and men shouldn’t be looking at them
“Children and men should learn that breasts have a purpose other than sexual fun bags,” Kristie said. It’s true, breasts are multi-faceted. I think that when God made them, He was saying, “now here’s something you’ll all really like”. But where I don’t agree with Kristie, is that just because breasts have an alternative function, does not negate that they are also sexual. Take a man exposing himself in public. His member is both functional and sexual but goodness knows, I don’t want to see it, especially if I’m just at the mall getting some frozen yogurt.
It makes me uncomfortable to see a woman’s breasts
Kristie states, “the world shouldn’t have to adjust to what makes you comfortable. If you don’t like it, don’t look”. I agree with her to some extent but doesn’t the same hold true for the extreme lactivists? Do the people not wanting to see exposed breasts just need to adjust? As for the “if you don’t like it don’t look” philosophy, I agree that I shouldn’t continue looking at an exposed breast, but there aren’t any flashing lights that say, “warning, don’t look, exposed breasts in 20 meters”. Once I look, I saw.
Women should pump and give in a bottle instead
Kristie raises a great point here, “Pumping is very time consuming, expensive and uncomfortable. Have you tried to heat a bottle with a hungry baby? Lifting your shirt and feeding your child takes seconds. No crying!” I don’t think women should have to do this if it doesn’t work for them.
But then here is where my friend and I differ.
Women should cover up
“Try something for me”, Kristie says, “pour yourself a glass of milk, lay down, cover your head with a blanket and try to drink. Is it comfortable?”
It’s true, we don’t eat like that but only because we can’t. Trust me, if I could, I probably wouldn’t get out of bed in the morning. Kristie goes on to say, “this comment is usually said by someone who has never tried feeding a squirmy baby under a cover. I’ll be honest, I tried multiple times to feed [my daughter] under a cover. Every time she would unlatch, pull the blanket away, cry…all while I was spraying milk everywhere soaking my shirt. It was a disaster.”
She’s right about that. I haven’t been in that situation with a screaming hungry baby who needs eye contact to eat. But is it necessary to have experienced something to have an opinion about it? If that was true how would we be able to discuss issues or concepts such as poverty or the future?
But then Kristie explained how she breastfeeds. Wearing a tank top under her shirt, she doesn’t lift her shirt until her daughter is in position. Onlookers can apparently only see the back of her daughter’s head. Kristie has tried to think of a compromise.
But the lady beside me at that event and others I’ve seen like her, I can’t help but think they’re using their baby to prove a point. I know that breastfeeding is an amazing thing. You feed another human being with your own BODY. I get it, it’s cool. But I still don’t need to see actual breasts in the process. When women act like it is necessary, I feel like they’re essentially giving us an F you. Or “the nipple”.
But what do you all think? Should Western society rethink how we look at breasts? Are we trumping individual freedoms by expecting women to cover up? Are lactating women disrespecting others when they don’t? I’d love to hear your thoughts.
Subscribe to this blog (also check out my contest page) and stay tuned for part 2 where I explore how long women breastfeed.