Friday, March 13, 2009
We are all part of a society. Everyone is different and that is a good thing. Repeat to yourself and repeat to your children, "everyone is different and that's okay."
I'm perplexed and saddened when I hear about people that think breastfeeding in public is gross. They will all have different definitions of what is okay and what is not okay. Some say it is okay to breastfeed in public as long as you use a cover. Some say it is okay as long as you are "discreet" (by whose definition though...). Some say you should never breastfeed in front of other people no matter what. Women should hide in the bedroom to feed their children. They should not go out unless they are sure they can fit in that quick errand between feedings or unless they pump and take a bottle with them. If they do get stuck somewhere and it becomes necessary to breastfeed, they should use the bathroom.
I think these are stupid ideas. I really do. I reluctantly accept the fact that they are entitled to their opinion.
How do I show my respect for their opinion? I do try not to "let it all hang out". I don't use a nursing cover because I think it sends the message that breastfeeding is something to be hidden. However, I understand that some people do not want to see my breasts and I try to breastfeed discreetly. That means that I do not show more skin when breastfeeding than would be acceptable for anyone else that is not breastfeeding to show in that same environment. So please, don't have a hissy fit if you see 1 inch of my flesh when your wife is wearing a shirt that shows at least 3 times as much of her breasts. Being discreet isn't always easy if you have a wiggly baby and are trying to keep tabs on a toddler at the same time. But I try. I make that effort. Not for me, but for you.
But people tell me, "I don't want my children to see THAT. I might have to explain it to them and it isn't up to you to decide when I will teach my children about breasts". This is incomprehensible to me. I would think every parent would welcome the opportunity to explain to their child what breasts are really meant for before their child gets exposed to sexualized breasts. But, there are families that formula fed, that think breastfeeding is disgusting, and that regard breasts as sexual only. They don't want their children to see me breastfeeding in public because they think they then have to have a conversation about sex with their kids. All you need to do is to say "some babies drink from bottles, some babies drink from breasts". Period. This is not about sex. It is about feeding babies.
I've had this conversation many times it seems. But most recently on Nina's blog Blog It Out Bitch on her initial post on breastfeeding in public and her recap post the next day. In response to her second post I put up this comment:
I don’t agree with everything in your response, but I think it is really well written and you make a lot of great points.
The one thing that I will still stick on from yesterday’s conversation is the thought around whether it is okay to breastfeed around other people’s children. You said yesterday and again today that it should be up to the parents to decide when they are going to teach their kids what breasts are for and what breastfeeding is. I want to make a few follow-on points to that:
1) The problem is that many parents won’t. They gave formula. They will never talk to their kids about breasts or breastfeeding. Their kids first exposure to breasts will be when their buddy brings a dirty magazine to school or when they start popping out of their own chest. They will learn ONLY about the sexualization of breasts and will go on to be one of those people who think that breastfeeding is sexual or gross or something to be hidden.
2) My kids ask me a LOT of questions. They ask me why that person has a different skin colour from us. They ask me why that person drives a truck. They ask me why that bush has flowers and the other one doesn’t. They ask me why cows poo on the ground and we use a toilet. They ask me why? why? why? all the time. I think that is a good thing because it gives me the opportunity to be the one to provide an explanation to my kids or for us to explore the answer together. It is normal for kids to ask questions about things and I don’t think any kid would think there is anything weird about breastfeeding unless their parents give them a reason to think so. Just say “she is feeding her baby. Some babies drink from bottles and some babies drink from breasts”. Is it really that hard? (this last question is not aimed at you Nina, but at those that suggest that they don’t want their kids to see it).
There were a variety of responses to this, including Mary saying "Annie, as much as you might want it to be, it is NOT your job to teach other peoples’ children about such things" followed by some not so nice words that I don't like to repeat. Nina, whose blog it is, finished off that thread of the conversation by replying to me with:
I happen to agree with you. I don’t think it so hard to simply explain to a curious child what breastfeeding is. But I respect a parent’s right to choose when and how. And though I don’t see the big deal, I can UNDERSTAND if there’s a moment of annoyance when confronted with that while out to dinner.
The conversation there went in many different directions and I was busy with work, family and keeping up with comments on my other post on when to quit breastfeeding, so I didn't have a chance to continue the conversation there. But I keep mulling it over and over and over again. No, it is not my job to teach other people's children about such things, but it is also not their job to tell me when, where and how to feed my baby.
Here is what it comes down to:
- I want to go out to dinner with my family. I want to feed my kids at the restaurant. This means the baby will be breastfeeding. I do not want to put a blanket over my child's head.
- You want to go out to dinner with your family. You want to feed your kids at the restaurant. You do not want to explain to them why my baby is drinking from my breasts. You do not want to put a blanket over your child's head.
You don't want your child to see me feeding my child. Why is that my problem? Why should I stay home while you go to the restaurant? Why should your kids eat at the table, while my kid eats in the bathroom? Why should my child have to have a blanket over her head instead of you putting a blanket over your child's head?
If you don't want to see me breastfeed, it is YOUR problem, not MY problem. Period.