Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Whipping it out in public

**Editing note: After many responses, some not so positive, I have to explain that this post is not criticizing breastfeeding moms, moms who breastfeed in public, and definitely not saying that women should not be allowed to breastfeed in public. All I did was share what I saw with you all in cyberspace. I wasn't making judgments. I wasn't trying to sway anyone to my point of view. I was simply posting about seeing a woman breastfeeding in public while walking around. I didn't say she was a twit, or that she was a bad mom, or that she shouldn't be doing that. If anything, I said I was neither offended nor shocked. I just felt very weird because it was so different from my own experience. I would feel the same way if, even though I attend church every Sunday, I saw a person screaming out about Jesus in a public square. I share the Gospel of Jesus but that type of behavior is very different from what I usually engage myself in, and is also quite out of my comfort zone.

So, go ahead and read this post but please if you're offended just go ahead and click somewhere else.**

What do you think when you see a mom breastfeeding in public?

IN THEORY, all mothers probably believe "Oh it's so natural! It's a woman's right!"

IN PRACTICE, I can only speak for myself, but it always causes me an internal conflict, much like a car accident: I know I should look away, but I am drawn to the visual. I try to avert my eyes, but I keep looking... keep trying to catch a small glimpse of what's going on... You see, I had some issues breastfeeding half of my 4 children. I had no problems with kids #2 and #4, but I had problems galore with kids #1 and #3. So, I'm often intrigued when I watch a mom breastfeeding - how is she covering herself up? How is that kid staying latched on for so long without wiggling and moving and kicking and squiggling? Can she breastfeed with one arm or does it take her both arms to do the job? How long does the breastfeeding take her? How old is that baby? Even though I feel like I "got it right" with 2 of my kids, I am always interested in watching what other people do with their own kids and how they do it. Kinda like being a fly on the wall. And, just so you know, I do the same thing when I see a kid being naughty and the kid's mom is about to discipline him/her. I want to see how the parent handles it and if it affects the kid. Must... not... stare.... Wait! Don't talk so quiet!! Don't put your back to me - I can't see!!!

Anyhoo, I was going to tell you a story about whipping it out in public. Okay, here goes:

So, the other day I took baby Sally to the pumpkin patch. It was so cute. Here's a picture to show you:
We went to the pumpkin patch with my mom's group. We met up at 10:30 on a Friday, so you know the only folks there are homeschoolers or moms with kids preschool age or younger. I should expect mom-type of behaviors there, right? So, I don't know why I was so surprised when I saw a mom walking around while breastfeeding her newborn. Yes, she was walking around. And she wasn't even trying to cover up with a blanket or anything. Or even her jacket! Now, I'm not squeamish, but I really didn't want to see a flash of her boobies. I tried to just stay on the other side of the field, by the little tiny apple-sized baby pumpkins. But I don't know why I felt what I felt. Was it shock? Was I offended? Really, I think I was just weirded out. When my kids were newborn, I pretty much had to have complete silence and it had to be the right temperature in the room and I had to have the exactly same chair with the same number and placement of pillows if I expected the breastfeeding sitch to work. Any variations of the plan and I would be sunk. So to see a mom walking around a pumpkin patch letting her child suck away on the nip, well, I just couldn't handle it.

Once, when Charlie Brown was a baby, (that was 2 states ago), the whole family went to eat at Chi-Chi's restaurant in Appleton, Wisconsin (long since closed now). I had never nursed in public, but I gave it a shot. We were in a corner booth, and I was squashed up against the table. I think I even bent down a little bit so that Charlie Brown could have a comfortable placement against my chest (even though I was cramping up in my back). It looked like I was shoving him under the table while trying to investigate a tiny particle on the tabletop. Anyway, I was SO desperately afraid someone would see me or I that I would subject them to seeing one tiny inch of my breast. Texan Papa even sat next to me and held out his flannel shirt like a curtain. The whole performance was quite embarrassing, to say the least. Now, though, I'm an old pro and watching a woman breastfeed should be no big deal right? I mean, we see women's appendages all the time in R-rated movies, right?

Maybe I just need to grow up. Sheesh.


binks said...

At least throw a towel, sweater, blankie or something over yourself to "try" and be discreet. Breatfeeding an over 2 year old in public - not so much.

Mandy said...

I once nursed my son in an airport bathroom, sitting on the toilet that automatically flushed just about the entire time. That was great.

I wish I was better at nursing in public.

Mandy said...

oh...my kids are 3 and 2 now and I haven't nursed since #2 was 4 months old.

Jodie said...

Yeah, discretion is better. Just becuase she's comfortable with her boob out, doesn't mean everyone else is.

I remember trying to feed my boy in a theatre when he was about 5 weeks old. I basically just kept shooting him in the face with milk. We both ended up soaked and I'm not sure he got anything in his tummy.

Pinky said...

eh, it's no big deal to me. I nursed mine in public all the time, up to one year. BUT, I'd do it discreetly. If I were the mom bfeeeding the newborn, I'd do it just like she was, maybe toss a tiny cloth diaper over my shoulder, or a swaddling blanket. However, when you use a blanket to cover the baby, they sometimes pull off b/c the blanket is a distraction. That's why mom's don't use blankets. Walking with the baby actually serves as motion, like a rocking chair, and keeps the baby nursing.
Just a little bit of info. ;-)

The Nice One said...

Well, with Boy Child, we struggled to nurse, so I always tried to find a secluded place to do it. With the Ice Princess, I'd do it anywhere. But, I had the coverage thing down. She was born in the fall, so I'd be covered with a jacket, vest, or even in the sling.
It totally doesn't phase me to see a mom nursing, it makes me smile, actually!

Baby Favorite said...

I'm much like you. I remember doing it ONCE in public in a restaurant very discreetly. I doubt anyone even saw, but I was paranoid the entire time.

I don't think everyone has to be psychotic about covering up, the way I was, but a little discretion is always nice. There's no need to put the boobies on display for the whole world to see. A light receiving blanket placed over the shoulder would suffice!

MichelleSG said...

I'm not sure if it's because of where I was raised or what but I have no problem at all with the boobs being out in public. Nurse where ever, doesn't bother or distract me. The only reason I wasn't able to do it with my kid is because my body couldn't produce worth a darn so I kind of had to concentrate on relaxing. More of a personal issue I suppose, didn't have anything to do with my hang ups with exposing myself in public. I grew up in So Cal, we always took of our tops to avoid tan lines at the beach. Public nudity was nothing compared to tans lines!

Lori - Queen of Dirty Laundry said...

Since my girls are adopted, I've never nursed a baby. Fairly certain I wouldn't have been comfortable doing it in public, though. That's just me.

And yes, I am TERRIBLY distracted by flashing bosoms. It's like the car wreck analogy you used.

And one final, maybe unpopular thought - just because it's "natural" doesn't mean it's polite to do it right out in the middle of everyone. After all, going to the restroom is natural, and we go to a nicely equipped, private room to do it, don't we?

earthmama said...

"Yes, she was walking around. And she wasn't even trying to cover up with a blanket or anything."

Have you seen women walk around bottle feeding? Shouldn't nursing moms be entitled to the same privileges?

Also, I think the reference to breasts in R rated movies is the root of all this discrimination. A woman's breasts are biologically meant to feed their babies. They are NOT merely sexual objects.

Breastfeeding isn't a "performance" act. It's a right. Or at least, should be.

When a baby is hungry, you feed it. Why should we hide in a bathroom stall or behind blankets as if what we are doing is shameful? Why should I feel the need to be discrete (what does that mean?)? For whom am I hiding this blessed act or covering up for? As women, we should be supportive of each other.

This is NOT support.

Women should not be made to feel like they have to 'ride on the back of the bus' for nourishing their children!

Your post offended me and I imagine, many other women who are trying to create a less hostile environment around feeding their babies, in every form. So what, you have to get a little 'National Geographic' and walk around the pumpkin patch while nursing? At least you don't have to miss it altogether or have an anxiety attack over someone catching you nursing.

I have nursed 4 babies on demand with an interesting mix of responses. Many women DO stare, or at least, hold their gaze at times. Often they will say encouraging things to me about their own experiences-- good or bad while nursing. Many people tell me what a beautiful thing it is.

I always share a knowing look with nursing moms and often ask if I can bring them some water, or help their other little ones while they nurse, to make it easier. Lets not forget, she isn't nursing her baby to offend you or anyone else for that matter. Her baby is hungry.

We need each other.

Let's stop judging one another by picking apart our choices on baby feeding and just appreciate the differences. The perception here of nursing moms is sad to me. Here I thought it was men that kept us back...


earthmama said...

Also, equating a car accident with nursing is just wrong.

Lisa@verybusymomwith4 said...

I don't know how many times I've NIP--maybe a thousand? My first baby had severe colic and pretty much screamed unless she was nursing so if I wanted ever leave the house, I had to nurse, pretty much everywhere.

I also can't tell you how many people have come to me and thanked for making breast feeding a normal thing and not taboo. I might be out of the majority, but I'd much rather see a woman nursing in public than hear a baby screaming ;)

Heather said...

My kiddo was adopted, so I never had to deal with the "to breastfeed or not to breastfeed in public" issue. (Well, there are moms through adoption who do breastfeed, but I didn't try that myself...) I personally have never been offended by seeing a nursing mom in public, though I'd agree with those who believe that discretion is always appropriate. I've seen moms nursing a baby in a sling carrier (which I never could figure out myself - the baby bjorn even was on the complicated side for me, LOL!) where you can't even tell the baby is feeding until the mom would switch sides. That takes some talent!

That being said, there was a girl in my kiddo's gymboree class who used to breastfeed whenever she wanted - up through her third birthday, when we left the class, she STILL would breastfeed on demand. She'd walk up to her mom, say "boobie" and pull her mother's shirt up. Her mom would sit or lay down on the floor and the kid would take a drink. That, somehow, struck me as more wrong than an infant - the three year old who is potty training still nursing like that. Her mom said it was a "comfort" thing. I'm not trying to pass judgement on them or anyone else, just saying it struck me as somehow more inappropriate when it was a 3.5 year old than when it is a baby.

Sabrina said...

With all 4 of my babies I have gone from nursing on the toilet to nursing in public. I have come to appreciate the art of nursing and the idea that breasts are for feeding and not for sexual thoughts. I once was approached by a women at the mall while nursing my 2nd born on a bench, covered up, "I can't believe you are doing that right there!" I responded, if your grandmothers and great grandmothers did not do this right where they were, you would not be here. With that she walked away. Now with the 4th breastfeeding experience I was approached by a man, with this I am not covered, nor can you see any skin. This man commended me for what I was doing and told me more women should be comfortable with nursing and should not feel as though they should hide. He then went on to tell me that his wife nursed 6 babies and never felt comfortable until the last. How sad. But like you said, everyone has a different idea and if more women are encouarge, more women see other women nursing in public, we all will become more comfortable with the idea of nursing. Thank you for being open with your feelings and also thank you for excepting that others will have a different opinion than yours:-)

Angie @ KEEP BELIEVING said...

Sorry you feel the need to defend yourself. It's your blog. YOu can write what you want. Earthmama should have kept on truckin'. There are MANY a post that offend me. Eh. Whatever. Free country. Entitled to opinions.

About your topic - it makes me uncomfortable. I wish it didn't, but it does. To witness it, that is. The same way I don't like to see other women naked in the locker room at the gym or the pool - not my thing. Makes me uncomfortable, although I know it is perfectly natural to clean up and dress prior to and after swimming or working out. I just feel a need to look away.


Pinky said...

Angie's right. It's your blog. Nobody's forced to read. I'm offended by political blogs on both sides of the spectrum, and know what? I click on to another locale.

But folks, I gotta say, comparing nursing to peeing in public is just...dense. And one more thing...I'd MUCH rather have a mommy nurse her baby next to me in public than listen to that same baby scream in hunger for x amount of minutes. Ei yi yi!!

It's all good.
Everybody just smile and chill a little bit.

stephanie (bad mom) said...

There was nothing in your tone that seemed offensive to me.

I get being uncomfortable when faced with certain situations - you were not confronting the woman or even talking about her.

When I nursed my kids, I felt it was a private situation for the two of us; if we were in public, I made it as private as possible. But that's me, you're you, and other people choose as they wish.

The end. :)