Say Hello to My (Not So Little) Friends

Nursing at 2 Days Old

Nursing at 2 Days Old

With less than eight weeks to go, I’m gearing up to start breastfeeding again. I have to say I am thrilled and nervous at the same time. I miss breastfeeding and I know it will be an amazing experience to share with my daughter. This time I’m not worried about my ability to breastfeed, but I am nervous about how my son will react to the amount of attention Syd will receive when nursing. I’ve taken the opportunity to attend some La Leche League (LLL) meetings to discuss this issue, and all in all I’m feeling good about it.

Of course, my whole family knows to expect me to breastfeed Sydney, so I shouldn’t have been surprised when the subject came up in conversation with my mother. Now I’d like to say that my mother recognizes how amazing my son is and attributes it to my less than conventional parenting style, but sadly, she realizes he is amazing but obviously thinks it is a total fluke. However, nothing prepared me for her announcement that my Dad and brother would appreciate me not breastfeeding openly around them.

I am not what you might call a timid person, but I was so surprised that I didn’t know what to say. Apparently two years of openly breastfeeding my son had no affect on any of them. Breastfeeding is still immodest and uncomfortable in their eyes.

At first I thought I would make a nursing cover. In fact, I had previously bought material to make a nursing cover, thinking there would be occasions when I might actually use a good one. But as my anger over this grew, I suddenly didn’t want to make one anymore. In fact, I don’t really want to take the baby to their house anymore. You see, I’m a firm believer that breastfeeding should be about what makes mom and baby comfortable. The most important aspect of the nursing relationship is mom and baby’s ability to bond and nurse easily. That’s a little hard to do with a blanket covering one of us up. The only persons who should have a say in how, when, and where breastfeeding occurs is mom and baby. If someone who is not part of that relationship is uncomfortable, let them leave.

Now I’m not going to stage a nurse-in at my parents’ house. I’m respectful of the fact that this is their home and not a public place, and I’ll be respectful of any of my friends and family who don’t want me to breastfeed at their homes. I just won’t bother to visit their homes. It’s really the only way to respect the privacy of their home lives and my own convictions.

But what really grinds my gears is the whole “breastfeeding makes me uncomfortable” thing. There are few more pointless things in the world to get worked up over. Modesty may be the most ridiculous of all human evolutions. Does anyone bother to throw a Hooter Hider over a new litter of nursing puppies? Does the zoo draw a curtain in the primate exhibit when a new mama monkey is nursing her baby? (They don’t – I have pictures) So why for goodness sake have we allowed ourselves to get so bent out of shape about women breastfeeding?

For a long time I thought it was because breastfeeding had been perverted into something sexual. After all, we’re told all the time to cover up for modesty’s sake. But, you know, there’s less brouhaha over a celebrity in a string bikini at the beach than a photo of a celebrity nursing in public – guess which celebrity has more clothes on in this scenario? It’s not because breastfeeding is sexual that people are uncomfortable, it’s the opposite.

Breastfeeding is distinctly unsexy. It is natural, instinctive, and maternal. It reminds us of the purpose of our breasts. It reminds our husbands. And if those who are made uncomfortable at the site of a breastfeeding mom really stopped to think about why they were uncomfortable, could it be that they have been trained to view breasts sexually that their own natural impulse to view this as a normal, biological event is so in conflict that they don’t know how? Or simply don’t want to? As though a 19-year-old, catching a glimpse of his sister’s breast will somehow ruin his enjoyment of a Victoria’s Secret ad. Moms and average women should be modest so that breasts can remain sexy in television, movies, and photo spreads.

It’s time we get over it. We get over modesty and fear of our own bodies. We need to admit that we have bodies that perform a series of biological functions – sex, lactation, flatulence – you get the idea. If we want to raise children with healthy attitudes toward their bodies and themselves, if we want women to feel comfortable breastfeeding, and if we want to change the dominant attitudes toward sex and child rearing in this country, than we need everyone to say hello to our little, medium, and large friends – our breasts – without fear of recrimination or judgment but with pride.

Author’s note: I’m happy to report that Sydney is a happy and healthy 7 month-old at the time of this republishing.  She has nursed all over town, even in the living room at my parents’ house.

This post was originally published on Connected Mom.

Photo Credit: Author

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Jennifer Albin is a write-at-home mom to a precocious three year-old and a bubbly seven month old. She holds advanced degrees in Literature and Women’s Studies and spends most of her time advocating for natural parenting and cesarean awareness. She is the founder and editor of Connected Mom.

5 Responses to Say Hello to My (Not So Little) Friends

  1. Melissa  

    A great post, and you raise some excellent points. The more I deal with the nursing openly issue, the more I see that those who take offense do so less because they see breasts as sexual and can’t wrap their minds around the breast’s other functions and more because they’d simply rather not. Apparently we nursing women take all the fun out of it!

  2. Dagmar ~ Dagmar's momsense  

    Jenn, I love the whole post, but this the most:

    “The most important aspect of the nursing relationship is mom and baby’s ability to bond and nurse easily. That’s a little hard to do with a blanket covering one of us up. The only persons who should have a say in how, when, and where breastfeeding occurs is mom and baby. If someone who is not part of that relationship is uncomfortable, let them leave.”

    I’ve said the same thing.

    I have always nursed in public without a cover. Most people never realized I was. As an outspoken and passionate breastfeeding supporter, I wanted to be that mom who people see nursing her child, because we don’t see that enough. My son just turned 4 and is still nursing at home :)

    Excellent post, you will encourage a lot of other moms to nurse in public!

    Dagmar
    Dagmar’s momsense

  3. Juliette

    Oh that was my first reaction too. “Then don’t go to their house.” I’m sorry to say my mother has had a similar reaction – not to that extent but she expressed her opinion that I should not breastfeed my son as long as I did my daughter (3.5 years – my mother was aghast).

    And I completely agree with your assessment that it doesn’t have as much to do with sex as it does with other things. I agree – I think people are uncomfortable because it reminds them that we are animals – different than those out in the jungle and the field and the zoo… but not as different as they’d like to think…

  4. MomAgain@40  

    This is such a beautiful post! I get as upset when somebody tells me not to breastfeed! We cover up here in South Africa, and people are also uncomfortable about that. I have found that by not announcing it, but by just carrying on, nobody even notices. But unfortunately we are far here from openly nursing… (I am still BF at two-years old, and it gets more special every day!)

  5. Momma Jorje

    Great points! I would have done the same thing, too. I make it clear to my extended family: accept my family as we are or not at all. It has worked for me so far.

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