Thursday, August 1, 2013

breastfeeding in public :: would you eat an apple?

{Photo taken by me on Instagram}

You might be wondering...what kind of a question is that?! If you aren't wondering, you might be thinking that I'm going to talk about the health benefits of breastfeeding. Nope. I'm not. We all know what those are, and if we don't, there are better places to find out about those types of things {browse the Best for Babes website for resources}. 

What I'm referring to is the infamous breastfeeding in public debate. I've been pondering on the topic for awhile now, wondering what the right answer is. It's a fuzz more tricky than the advocates let on. We jump up and down when we catch glimpses of celebrities breastfeeding their children in public, and we get really mad when a mother is asked {or told} to stop or to leave an establishment because she is breastfeeding.

I say we because I am indeed an advocate. I'm pretty sure that no matter where I am, if I see a woman breastfeeding, I will likely smile. If she looks like she needs assistance, I will try to help. If she looks shy, I will give her space. If she is my friend, I probably won't stop talking. I've squeezed my brain trying to come up with an instance where I would be offended or bothered by a woman breastfeeding...or a place. I can't think of one. The closest I come, is when I imagine that something else is also happening. Something else like some strange crude act that's inappropriate, or if something is inappropriate or harming the child whilst also being breastfed. In such a case, it wouldn't be the breastfeeding still, but the strange something else {I'm thinking like...porn}. These are those outer limits of my mind that I simply can't conceive as being real possibilities. But okay, what if? Then it would be weird and I might be offended...again, not really by the breastfeeding, but by the whole ordeal. 

Alright, now that that bit of ridiculousness is out there, you know where I stand. I'm all for women breastfeeding in public and it's irritating that not everyone feels the same way. I also couldn't care less if she were covered up or 100% topless...that's just me. 

Okay, well here's the other side. With all the press from advocates about the okayness of breastfeeding in public, and with it actually bordering on pressure to do so, how do I feel about breastfeeding my children in public? In all honesty, the most comfortable and preferred place for me {and them} was always in their room. I breastfed in public when I needed to; sometimes covered up and sometimes not. I've breastfed in bathrooms, under stairwells, in restaurants, in bookstores, and I've spent a lot of time breastfeeding in cars. The best place was always in their room.

The reasons for my covering up while breastfeeding would depend on my comfort, my child's comfort, and the comfort of those around me. As okay as I am with women breastfeeding around me, I do do my best to respect the comfort of others. That said, I will do what makes the most sense for my child and I regardless of the comfort of others. But, if I can make everyone happy I will. 

Luckily, I have never ever been harassed while breastfeeding. I have never heard any discouraging words, nor have I gotten any discouraging looks {that I've noticed!}. I have been really lucky, and if all of it were based on my experiences, one would assume that breastfeeding is normal to all. When I think about what the right answer is regarding breastfeeding in public, I have to remember that it's not based on my experience alone. Many women are harassed while breastfeeding, and many people are offended by being in the presence of a breastfeeding woman.

So, with what I know about our society, and with being as much a product of it as anyone else, here's the question I'd pose to myself when trying to determine the appropriateness of breastfeeding in public...

Would I eat an apple right now?

If the answer is yes, then that means that I am: a} comfortable enough to breastfeed and b} in a place or situation where breastfeeding will/should be accepted. Sound crazy? Well, I wouldn't eat an apple in a courtroom for fear of bothering someone or being a distraction. So, I'd probably remove myself to feed my child. {Again, I wouldn't blink an eye at a woman breastfeeding in a courtroom. But, this is about my comfort level while being the one breastfeeding.} 

I would eat an apple in a park, on a bus, in a restaurant, on a street bench, and really darn near anywhere. But, if I were nervous for some reason, I might not eat an apple at all. The same is true about breastfeeding. 

Both of my kids were very easily distracted while breastfeeding. True popped off the moment someone entered the room or walked by my car on the sidewalk. Elle West would get angry and cry if I spoke at all while she was eating...as if it were too loud or the vibrations in my chest bothered her. Breastfeeding is about nourishing our babies to me. Which entails the feeding part, but also involves respect for the child and attentiveness. Accomplishing all of those things were very difficult for me when I breastfed in public. That's why I did it when I needed to. Then, at least the feeding part of their nourishment needs were taken care of, but I usually felt less than satisfied with the respect and attentiveness variables that matter to me.

If it is okay for an adult to eat, then it should be okay for a baby to eat...simple as that. If it's not okay for an adult to eat, then it still may be okay for a baby to eat...but, maybe a little less so for a toddler. Maybe if it's not okay for an adult to eat, it makes sense to try to breastfeed elsewhere. 

I found this post interesting. I read it last week, when I'd already planned to write this one. I'd never thought about the jury duty side of things. It is a too typical response of our masculine society, and it's maddening. 

But, I'm okay with the apple question...that's what makes the most sense to me. It's the only answer I've come to that seems fair for everyone. If everyone could see it the same way, I think breastfeeding would be viewed as normal...'cause eating an apple is pretty darn normal. But, there are also times that it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to eat an apple. 

Do you have plans for World Breastfeeding Month? The theme this year is Breastfeeding Support: Close to Mothers...how do you interpret the theme, and how do you plan on helping?

<3, JL  

2 comments:

  1. I had another thought ... it is kind of funny when people {in my experience it is usually women} tell me, "oh, it's totally fine if you breastfeed here" or "you can breastfeed here, if you need to" ... it somehow implies that it requires permission from them or their approval for me to feed my baby. I think it comes from a good place - wanting me to feel comfortable and know I can feed John, but it goes back to this societal thing where there is this implication that breastfeeding at a family members'/friend's home may not be okay because they may not want you to BF in front of them. Am I making sense?

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    1. Chloe, you totally are, and I agree that it has to be societal. The thing I feel like it can most be compared to is, well, getting a drink of water or using the restroom at someone's house. If I know them well, I would just do it without saying anything, and they wouldn't think anything of it. If I didn't know them super well, but was a guest in their home, I would ask where the restroom was or where I could find a glass...not really for permission, but how can I get what I need. So it's almost like you might expect the hostess not to say anything, because she will assume {or not think about it at all} that you will take care of feeding John how and when you need to.

      If it were a complete stranger, you likely wouldn't be in their house! OR, the stranger could see you trying to feed him in the rain and say, "You can come in here and feed him!" Or, you knocking on a stranger's door to ask such a thing...I imagine it's more that way in some of those other countries. They might not say anything at all, but bring you a pillow or glass of water while you are breastfeeding in their home. That's what I imagine breastfeeding being "normal" to look like. But, I do wonder, too. Thanks for commenting :)

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