I have a confession to make.
This post isn’t really about boobs. While the topic is directly related to boobs, it’s actually about breastfeeding. What with World Breastfeeding Week having just ended and it currently being National Breastfeeding Month, it seemed appropriate to address a topic that is, both figuratively and literally, close to my heart. I just thought “Let’s Talk About Boobs” was a catchier title than “I’m Finally Going to Talk About Breastfeeding on my Blog.”
I have another confession to make.
Breastfeeding used to weird me out.
I know this probably comes as a shock to anyone who knows me now, what with me whipping my breasts out whapsh (that’s the sound they make when I whip them out) every time my baby is hungry regardless of where we happen to be, but the truth is it used to make me squeamish.
Although I grew up on a farm with a dad who was a science teacher and a mom who was a nurse and eventually even a lactation educator, as a child I don’t remember much exposure to breastfeeding. I know that my mother breastfed all three of her children. Unfortunately, a few weeks after she gave birth to my brother she became extremely ill and had to be hospitalized for a couple weeks. Although she wanted to continue to breastfeed him, they told her she couldn’t because of the risk to him and so she was forced to formula feed. Or rather, someone else was since she was busy trying not to die.
All this means that even though I was seven when he was born, I do not remember her nursing him. And since our society, for a time, forgot what breasts were originally for, I didn’t see other mothers nursing either. They may well have been nursing around me, but they were all wearing blankets over their heads, or at least over their baby’s heads, so I’m sure I just assumed they were all really cold, which is especially odd considering I’ve lived in Texas nearly all my life.
I never really thought about nursing. I knew it existed. I knew my mom helped teach women about it. I knew mammals fed their children milk. I even knew that in theory some moms breastfed. But because I wasn’t exposed to it, the day to day realities of being a breastfeeding mom were foreign to me. Actually, I should say the day to day realities of being a mom period were foreign to me. I think that’s probably true of anyone who’s not a mother, or at least anyone who is not intimately involved in the life of a mother.
One, and only one, particular incident sticks out in my mind. I was waiting tables so I must have been in college at this point, and it embarrasses me to relay this story because it only goes to show the depth of my lack of knowledge and understanding.
Waiting tables at the restaurant one afternoon, it was brought to my attention by another server that a mom was having the audacity to nurse her child while eating at our restaurant. I remember being somewhat aghast at her boldness, her nerve. I mean, yeah, breastfeeding is great and all but couldn’t she cover up? Wasn’t she uncomfortable that other people could see what she was doing? Maybe we should ask her to throw a napkin over her boob or nurse in the restroom.
By the grace of God, all we did was talk amongst ourselves, although there’s probably a decent chance she noticed we were doing so. Regardless, she finished feeding her child, who by the way fell asleep and never disturbed anyone, and then enjoyed the rest of her meal, fortunately unaccosted by us.
As a mother myself, and as a lactivist (a trendy word for breastfeeding advocate), I now see how foolish my assumptions were. When a child is hungry, you feed them, and there is nothing shameful in the act. Not all kids will nurse under a cover (mine included). The bathroom is not a sanitary place for anyone to eat. And if moms didn’t nurse when they’re out in public, they’d never get to leave the house. My horror at seeing someone actually use their breasts the way God designed and intended them was simply a byproduct of a culture that has become so obsessed with sex it cannot fathom another purpose for the female body. And because breastfeeding is a complex biological process involving two people, the only two people who should dictate how it goes should be the mother and the child involved.
This is why I nurse in public – at the grocery store, at the park, at our local coffee shop, even at church. It took less than a generation for breastfeeding to cease to be the norm and if women breastfeed in public, it will take less than a generation to reverse it.
Well, that’s the second reason I nurse in public. The first, and most important reason is that my child is hungry.
Thank you to BellaGrace Photography for these beautiful pictures, to the Wichita Falls Parks Department for such lovely outdoor spaces, to the 8th Street Coffee House for such delicious caffeinated beverages and snacks, and to Leilani Rogers for starting the Public Breastfeeding Awareness Program which we were proud to participate in.