When I was pregnant, I didn’t have strong feelings about breastfeeding… I went into it thinking “I will try it, if it works, great– if it doesn’t, it is ok.”
Well, it did work. My very small breasts, which I had never really been fond of, were able to produce enough milk that I was able to breast feed my soon exclusively for six months… And then nine… And then 12. In the end, I breastfed my son for 15 months. (The weaning process took about three months.)
As I mentioned earlier, I had never really been fond of my breasts, but when I was able to breastfeed my son for that long, I discovered that I had it wrong all along. I had wanted nice “boobs” because I wanted to look nice in clothes… But the real purpose of breasts is to feed children– so my breasts, small and all, had fulfilled their mission in life.
When a friend shared Mama Bean’s article “Breastfeeding: Do We Really Need to See It?” with me, about why it’s important to breast feed everywhere and anywhere, my immediate reaction was to say “Yeah! It needs to be mainstream!” Then I calmed down and thought about it more calmly… I wondered if I would breastfeed anywhere if I had to do it again.
Before I was a mom, I didn’t want to share pictures of my naked belly, and I certainly didn’t want anyone around (aside from my husband and maybe my mom) when I was breastfeeding… Part of it is was due to my perception of my own breasts, but part of it is cultural… growing up I never saw naked bodies, so I was never comfortable with nakedness.
Breastfeeding in Public: My Experience
I’d said I’d never breastfeed in public– and it worked– until I was shopping at Macy’s with a hungry baby. When your baby is hungry– all bets are off. So the first time I had to breastfeed my hungry child in public I went to a corner of the 7th floor kids’ section and did it as discreetly as I could.
I soon realized that if I wanted to have somewhat of a normal life, and not stay home all the time, I would have to breastfeed in public.
I still made an effort to cover up and was pretty successful at it. Truthfully, I avoided breastfeeding in public when possible. When I did do it—people did look. The weirdest place I breastfed was probably on the ferry on my way to the IKEA in Brooklyn. People whispered… like it was a novelty. I’m not sure why. Perhaps curiosity? Was it the fact that I was doing it on a ferry? Or the fact that Enzo wasn’t a teeny tiny baby? (He was about 9 months.) Was it judgment? Or admiration? (That’s what I tell myself… admiration.)
Culturally, it’s ok to see half naked women on tv, magazines, movies– but a mother breast feeding on a park bench is “weird” and “indecent.” Why? Because as a society where women are objectified and where motherhood is seen as an illness or hindrance, anything that goes with it is equally a hindrance. Mothers, givers of life, should be venerated… instead they are called “indecent” for doing the one thing that their breasts were meant to do.
Mama Bean is right. We need to put it out there because the real purpose of “boobs” is to feed kids, not to fulfill men’s sexual fantasies or arouse their pleasure.
So, in support of Mama Bean and so that future moms aren’t judged for breastfeeding and in order create a culture change around breastfeeding, here is a picture of ME breastfeeding… this is the only picture I have, and now I’m sharing it with you… because, like Mama Bean said, “We really do need to see it.”