Let's just be honest and put it right out there that I'm not going to win any friends with this post.
No, that's not right. Maybe I will. Maybe there are some of you out there just like me and you are too scared to come forward. Well, I'm taking it upon myself to end the silence.
I am a proud breastfeeding mother.
I think that breastfeeding is an awesome way to feed your child and I think that everyone should at least try it for a few weeks. (After a few weeks if it still isn't your thing, move on. I support you in doing so, I promise.)
But, unlike many of those proud breastfeeding mothers out there - I do not feel that it is my God-given right to hoist my boob out of my shirt in front of strangers to feed my child.
Okay, now that I've lost 4 of my 12 readers, I'll go on...
Sure, there are laws in place which allow breastfeeding in public. Thank goodness they're there. Because, Lord knows the only thing worse than a half naked woman in a public is a hungry screaming baby. In fact, I can tell you that the only time Little Mister Grunts A Lot really gets his scream on is when he's gotten to the point of starvation (a starvation that will not allow him to even consider taking a bottle.) But, even in those instances, I've utilized my handy hooter hider (mine is also handmade because I have a cousin who is AWESOME) AND also have found a quiet, private place in which to feed him.
I had several mothers tell me that I wouldn't care once I was actually doing it (another one of those "just you wait" conversations I have come despise), but I'm sorry to say - they were wrong. Having a baby and deciding to breastfeed him didn't magically render me completely immodest. Actually, it might have made me even more modest. Because now, in addition to me having to break my "never be naked in public" rule, I also have to do something which can be quite difficult in front of a bunch of strangers. This is why I often compare breastfeeding in public to that "showing up naked in high school and didn't study for the test" dream.
Unfortunately, I feel like it is expected that in order for me to be a breast feeding mother, I must also be some hardcore "lactivist" and demand equal opportunity feeding. I just...can't do it.
I don't agree that breast feeding in public is as offensive as someone taking a poo in public. I mean, breast feeding doesn't have a smell and you can't accidentally step in breast milk that someone left on the ground (LMGAL will make sure of that...no drop is spared.) But, I do think it makes other people feel uncomfortable. And when you're at a restaurant or a mall or a graduation party - it's not nice to make people feel uncomfortable.
I used to work at a heinously trendy clothing store (it was a dark time) and I remember we had a woman who dropped trough in the middle of the store (she was wearing a leotard underneath her clothes) and tried on a couple of things instead of waiting in line for a dressing room. She actually fully refused to use a dressing room. She wasn't really hurting anyone and she wasn't technically naked, but it was making other patrons feel uncomfortable. Several of those patrons complained and eventually our manager asked the woman to leave the store.
A few weeks later, a woman sat down outside of the dressing rooms on a bench and started to breast feed her baby in the middle of the store. She certainly wasn't really hurting anyone and again she wasn't technically naked (she was being pretty discreet) - but sure enough, other patrons felt uncomfortable and eventually complained. But, in this case we couldn't ask that woman to leave the store because she was protected by laws that allowed her to do exactly what she was doing. So, instead we had uncomfortable, pissed off patrons, who eventually left the store.
I'm not at all condoning the behavior of any of the parties involved in this instance. Even at the time (before I had or even wanted kids), I knew that there was no reason to be outraged at the woman trying to feed her baby the only way she could. But, you should know, we were in a mall that actually has a family restroom with a nursing lounge. (By the way, have you seen these? They're seriously made of awesomeness. In our mall they are small [but not too small] curtained stalls with large cushy chairs and lots of copies of People and Us Weekly. I'm in love.) I do feel for the mother who thought she had no other choice but to plop down in the middle of a loud, crowded, hot clothing store to feed her baby, but loud, crowded, hot places aren't the best place for babies anyway, are they? (Not to mention, who can fit in those tiny, skanky clothes a few months after having babies? Not me.)
Looking back on that day, I'm reminded of a quote from the book So, That's What They're For! which has been my go-to resource for breast feeding. The author quotes the laws which protect breast feeding mothers and points out that these laws state that mothers are allowed to feed their babies in public, but she makes the distinction that the law does not say that mothers have the right to breast feed their babies publicly. I can tell you that the mother in the aforementioned situation did her best to be discreet, but, to this day, I find it strange that she didn't exercise the options available to her (going to a store that wasn't loud and noisy and crowded with non-mothers, using the awesome nursing lounges, etc.) I don't think that she should be trapped in her house for the entire 12 months that she breast feeds her child, AND I don't think that gives her the right to clear a store of patrons either.
Finally, I can tell you that one of the reasons I almost didn't breast feed was because of what I thought was expected of me and I knew it was an expectation I couldn't live up to. I'm never going to think it is "okay" to expose myself in front of a bunch of people. And, as it turns out no one really thinks I should do that anyway (and those that do have their own issues to work through.) For myself, I'm careful about how I talk about breast feeding with other moms and especially with moms-to-be. Breast feeding doesn't work for everyone, but I know that more moms would be willing to try it if they weren't so intimidated by crazy "lactivist" mothers. The ones who think it is natural to whip out your boobs for the world to see and that you're a bad person for thinking otherwise or worse, who make other mothers feel like crap for formula feeding when and if breast feeding just doesn't work out.
Listen, as long as you're not trying to feed a 3 month old a cheeseburger, I think you're doing a good job. And, at the end of