*This blog post is in response to another blogger's question, Is It Really That Hard to Cover Up? It is also an open letter to anyone who has called me (or any other nursing mother)
What is the big controversy about breastfeeding in public?
I’ll admit, I’m on the other side of this, and I’m asking the same question.
I understand; you don’t want to see it. And, believe it or not, I respect your wish, and there’s a simple answer to it: don’t look. Ask your husband not to look. Teach your preschool son to look away. There are plenty of things I see on a daily basis that I'd rather not see, but I generally look away rather than gawk.
I don’t see what’s so offensive about expecting someone who doesn’t want to see it to look away.
For me, it is that hard to cover up. Honestly, my son will make more of a spectacle of nursing if he’s fussing and fighting off a cover, instead of me simply allowing him to latch and still see the world around him. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve been nursing my son in public and had someone come to look at him, only to jump in shock – after bursting my personal space bubble – at the fact that he’s attached to my *gasp* nipple.
I am a Bologna Barb, but when my son is nursing, there is no areola to be seen, unless you get super close and look on purpose. I seriously wore more revealing tops (plus push-up bras) when I was a teen/early 20's that revealed just as much "naked breast" (if not more) than I show while nursing my son.
And if you’re getting that close, then it’s your issue, not mine.
I agree, there are many breastfeeders who look down on those who don’t. Gladly, I am not one of them, and neither are any of the breastfeeding mothers I’m friends with. If you're not comfortable with nursing without a cover, that's okay, too! If you'd rather cover/pump/go someplace private for YOUR OWN comfort, that's great! If you'd rather give formula because you don't feel comfortable with your child touching your breasts, or because you are unable to breastfeed for ANY other reason, awesome!! You're still making sure your child is well nourished, whichever way. What it boils down to is that YOU are comfortable, and that YOU are feeding YOUR baby. Nobody, and I mean NOBODY, has any right to say anything about how you do it. I'll be caught dead before I'll say anything negative about how another woman feeds her child, unless she's not feeding them at all.
I will not stand for anyone to be made to feel superior over anyone else because of the way they choose to feed their child. I will support anyone who has a desire to breastfeed, but is scared to because of how others might view them, or because they’re afraid of being immodest, or have to overcome any number of physical or mental hurdles.
You contradict yourself when you say there’s no stigma in 2015, yet you’re begging other nursing mothers to cover. It’s sad that, in our day and age, we’re still having to fight for a woman’s right to not be sexualized. Incredibly, in my state, it’s perfectly legal for a woman to be topless anywhere it’s legal for a man to be topless. That’s not even with a baby attached to a boob.
You may not be sexualizing breastfeeding, but you are perpetuating the cultural belief that breasts are sexual things. I think it is possible to break the cycle of breasts (or any other part of a human body) being seen as purely sexual. If we teach our children what they are actually for and refuse to sexualize them ourselves, they will be much less likely to sexualize breasts when they're older. However, if you want to keep sexual things private, I will need to cover my lips, neck, ears, back, legs, feet, hands… well, pretty much every part of me. Because any and all can be sexual, in the right context. Just because a part of a body can be utilized in a sexual fashion does NOT make it sexual in all cases.
Yes, my vagina helped make my baby, but my breasts did not. They did not start their job until after my baby came out of my womb. So comparing my breasts to my vagina is comparing apples to oranges. I say this as politely as possible; that argument is invalid.
I believe that every person has a right to his or her own opinion and version of modesty. I also believe that the only person’s version of modesty I need to live up to is my own. By the same token, the only one you should feel the need to live up to is your own.
I choose to not subscribe to the cultural norm. It’s not that I believe that I’m better than it, just that I don’t think that cultural norm = morally right. If you choose to follow the cultural norm, that is your choice and I’m not going to down you for it, or try to force my personal view down your throat. But I will ask you, what made this view a cultural norm, and why do you choose to subscribe to it? Simply because it is? Is the fact that it just is a reasonable justification for following it?
If you don’t want your husband ogling other women while they breastfeed, ask him not to look. I don’t ask, because it doesn’t bother me. The only thing my husband thinks (we discussed this the other night) when he sees a breastfeeding mother is, "that baby is eating good!"
If you don’t want your preschool son looking at a breastfeeding mother, teach him to look away. Personally, I hope to raise my son (and any other children I have) to not objectify women (or other human beings in general), so that even if he sees a completely topless woman (totally normal and acceptable in many parts of the world, including many places in the UK, not just 3rd world countries) he will simply see her as a human being, not a thing to ogle or think lustful thoughts about.
Also, I hope you ask them to look away from anyone not wearing enough clothes for your liking, and that you keep extra blankets with you to throw over their heads when you're in public, or to throw over said under-dressed people.
I believe the true issue isn’t nursing in public, or doing so covered/uncovered, but rather personal views of modesty.
100 years ago (give or take), it was not considered immodest to nurse a hungry baby, but it was immodest – especially for a woman of “breeding” – to show her ankle. Thanks to the controversial flappers of the 1920’s, who dared not only to show their ankles but their knees, women have continued to have more and more freedom with the way they dress. So, think of me as a flapper, if you will. Maybe, because of women like myself, breasts will no longer be sexual in the next 100 years. I may be a revolutionary, but it is the turn of the century.
Maybe it’s me. Maybe I’m beating a dead horse. Maybe there will always be two sides, with a select few yelling back and forth at each other, while the rest of us just want to live in peace.
Keep being the awesome mom I’m certain you are, in the best way you know how to mom, and I’ll keep trying my best to do the same.
I don’t hate anyone for not wanting to see a specific part of my anatomy. Please don’t hate me for asking you to look away.
A fellow mama
Mama Bear of one Baby Bear, Bean, who both love Papa Bear, and live in a crafty, gluten-free cozy den.