Saturday, August 6, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week: It's not always what you say

Ok, I'm a middle of the road kind of gal. I am pro breastfeeding but I am not as out there promoting it as I  am babywearing and attachment parenting. It isn't that I am scared of cans with worms in them. You know that's not the case because I talk about spanking. I think my issue is modesty.  You never expect to hear that from someone who has breastfed in public for the last 6+ years. 

Yes, I breastfeed in public, without a cover, but I don't undress to do so.  Breastfeeding moms do not enjoy flashing you, we are not closet strippers, and many of us have stretch marks we'd much prefer stay under wraps.  We try to be as modest as possible  We do it because a baby has to eat, a lot, it's just not feasible for anyone to expect a baby to be able to wait. They have tiny tummies, hunger is a new sensation that they can't differentiate completely from a "pain".  Developmentally they have NO concept of time.  It is also unrealistic to expect a mom to be able to stay in her house for 2 years (the minimum amount of time the World Health Organization recommends babies breastfeed).

Yes, I also attend Le Leche League meetings. We talk about breasts, breast issues, and we nurse. That is the topic at hand, in a room full of other nursing (or formerly or some to be nursing) women. We help each other, we support each other. It's almost a necessity.  My personality just doesn't feel comfortable talking about breasts (nursing), sex (birth control), or penises (circumcision) to any stranger or acquaintance out there. If it's not something I would show in public, I don't feel like it's something I should be talking to the world about.  That doesn't mean I don't talk about nursing. As I said, I do at La Leche League meetings. Having nursed more than a few kids I also get asked a lot of questions, I never hesitate to answer.

My lactivism is silent but powerful, it's nursing.  Why do I feel that's so powerful? Because it was for me. When my 2nd was born (my oldest was only part time nursed a week) I was new to breastfeeding. I had just gotten the confidence with my latch and feeding at home. I couldn't stay in the house forever, I had a 3 year old.  Every time we went somewhere I fed the baby first. We took E to dance class. It was only an hour and the car was nearby for nursing. Our second week there another nursing mom sat right in the lobby and nursed, uncovered.  Noone noticed, noone said anything. When B was hungry I tried it, covered. All the  nearby kids wanted to know why the baby was hiding in the blanket. We went to storytime. Another nursing mom nursed her baby. Soon B was hungry. I could do this, that mom was. I nursed B, uncovered, right there in the library.  Noone cared, noone noticed, noone said a word. The next week at dance I tried uncovered. Not a word was said that time. Soon I was nursing at the restaurant while we waited for our food, the zoo, the museum, through the ballet, the park, even in the sling as I shopped the mall.  Noone said anything, noone cared.

I do not know how long it would have taken me to get up my courage without seeing other nursing moms. I do not know how long I would have been able to sustain car nursing only. I do not know if I would have kept on nursing without the ease of doing so where ever I had to go. Moms nursing in public was a huge  support to me nursing my daughter. 

In over 11 years and 5 nurslings I have only had 5 comments (I recall) to me nursing in public. The 1st was  the kids wanting to know why baby was hiding. The 2nd was a surprised man when he peeked into my sling to see baby before I was able to stop him, she was nursing and he wasn't bothered, he only apologized. The 5th was the same thing only a woman. The 3rd was a woman who commented how wonderful it was, she had nursed all her kids. The 4th was the closest I got to a negative. An employee at a children's museum offered me an office to use "for privacy".  Since she was older and easily distracted I took it so I am not sure anything bad would have happened had I politely declined.  Now it doesn't even matter because the state I live in has laws protecting a mom's right to nurse in public.

The hurtful nursing in public stories make the news all the time.  They go viral among breastfeeding advocacy forums. The stories of people who nurse all the time in public, and noone takes a 2nd glance, are left untold.  No wonder moms are nervous. I am hear to share, that isn't always the "norm". 

I hope that the mom who sat down to breastfeed (covered) after asking if I minded, (minutes after I finished nursing) grew more and more at ease. I hope the mom who nursed her daughter (covered) in the row in front of me, right after I finished, was assured that it's OK because noone even noticed. I hope the nervous new mom who sat down next to me to nurse her new baby, while I nursed mine, ended up having a long and successful breastfeeding relationship. Most of all, I wish I could go back and thank those moms who, unknowingly, helped me. And I hope that maybe I have reassured even just 1 mom, when they saw me. Or maybe I put the idea of breastfeeding into 1 future moms mind. Silence can be powerful.

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