Our Daily Green hasn't really discussed our opinions on breastfeeding previously. Mostly because there are so many young moms already doing a fabulous job of it and our breast feeding days ended over 12 years ago. To be clear, we strongly advocate it for any mother who can do it. We encourage it for multiple reasons and stand behind the right of any woman to nurse her child anywhere. A national news magazine cover has sparked a huge discussion. We will not mention the name of the magazine, nor will we post the picture, because they've already generated enough publicity for themselves.
If you are unfamiliar with the subject matter, click here.
The magazine accomplished one thing, we're talking about it. The subject of breastfeeding is part of our conversation this week. Maybe not for the right reasons, though. In a time when half naked lingerie models strut across our airwaves and into our mailboxes, we also find mothers asked to leave stores and public places for "indecent exposure" while nursing.
My children are over 16 and 14, so it's been a long time since I nursed them. They both nursed almost exclusively for a year and were weaned by about 18 months. We didn't necessarily have a time table, it just was the about the age they found food more interesting and didn't care to nurse anymore. With our first child, I was a little shy about it, not to mention quite clumsy. The first month or so, I basically had to strip to the waist as I tried to position her little mouth the right way. I had enough milk to feed most of our county, I think, stuffing my nursing bra with baby washcloths to keep the leaking at bay. It felt like I had two fountains attached to my chest and all I needed was to hear a baby crying in public and my breasts were instant geysers. Yet, I persisted. Our baby was born 5 weeks premature, and frankly, we hadn't bought bottles yet. I wasn't so much an advocate for breastfeeding as I was trying to save myself the work of washing, drying and mixing formula. I didn't nurse much in public though because I just was quite awkward.
Enter child #2. By then, we had gotten involved in story time at the library, mommy & me classes at our church, and other assorted activities. The days of sitting around the house topless waiting for the next feeding were gone. We were a family on the go and there was no way I was going back to being sequestered at home. So I fed #2 when she was hungry, wherever she was hungry. I had invested in nursing clothes and bras by then and could manage feedings with discretion. I nursed in restaurants, the library, church, even a sold out baseball stadium (we had great seats and the game went into extra innings... I didn't want to miss it!). I never made a production of it but when it was time to eat, it was time to eat. I arranged myself comfortably and fed her. If anyone was uncomfortable, they never said anything and I probably would have ripped their head off if they had. By then I had researched the benefits of nursing and knew why it was how I chose to feed our children, besides trying to save myself having to wash bottles, or spend money on formula. My kids never had ear infections and are very healthy overall. They rarely miss more than a day or two of school a year, some years they've had perfect attendance.
Breastfeeding worked well for us and I'm glad we could do it. I do however resent sensationalizing such a natural part of parenting or chastising the moms it doesn't work for as well. We are so busy trying to judge our sisters and it rankles me. Yes, breastfeeding was my choice for my family and it worked well. I'm glad we did it and I would encourage every new mother to do her best to breast feed. I also know that society does not help by making a woman feel like a pariah or by posting sexually suggestive photos of a mother nursing a three year old male child.
We also are a different sort of society today, without the village it takes to raise a child in many places. We can be isolated and without good advice and we just are trying to figure it out. Little girls don't play with baby dolls that nurse, they have bottles. They aren't socialized thinking breastfeeding is natural, but rather that it's immodest. It can be very uncomfortable for someone who has been raised with extreme modesty, and especially when we forget what our breasts are REALLY for, which is to nourish a child, not attract someone sexually. My choices don't make me super mom or wonder woman. They make me a mom trying to do my best, like every other mother out there.
Magazines that exploit the choices we make and try to stir up a debate between mothers anger me. That is why I won't post their photo or name the magazine. But shame on them! And shame on us for taking the bait.