By now you’ve probably seen or heard about the infamous Time cover featuring a woman breastfeeding her three-year-old son.
People don’t like it. Putting aside the problems folks have with the age of the nursing child pictured, some people are just flat out uncomfortable with seeing a woman feeding her child in a way that is so natural, so organic and so right that her body was made to do it that way.
I breastfed both of my children. My daughter nursed for over a year, but my son had health problems and could only nurse for a few months before we had to put him on a special formula. I mention this lest you assume I’m a pro-breastfeeding nazi who looks down on bottle-feeding mothers.
Let me assure you - I’ve been on both sides of the fence.
That being said, I loved nursing my children. It was an incredible bonding experience, and one that I will always treasure.
Breastfeeding is healthy, natural and free. But, unless you plan on staying in your house until your child is weaned, or you plan ahead and have bottles of pumped breast milk ready, safely stored and at the perfect temperature for trips outside your home, it’s inevitable. You’re going to have to nurse your baby in public.
Go ahead and develop a thick skin and a steel backbone. You’re gonna need it.
I spent a lovely afternoon strolling hand-in-hand with my husband, listening to music, sampling food and reveling in compliments being lavished on my brand new baby girl, who was cuddled up in a sling across my belly.
A few hours into the festival, it was time for her to nurse. I was a very young, new mother, and while I was very comfortable with breastfeeding, both the idea and the practice, this would be my first public nursing session.
I found a shady tree in an uncrowded corner of the church lawn, and I draped a light blanket over my baby and myself. It was obvious what I was doing, but the whole operation was under wraps, quite literally.
A few minutes later a group walked by. A woman stared at me.
A hard, hateful stare.
Then, she literally “tsked” me and said, “Really? And at a church?”
I was shocked. I teared up and turned away.*
Not only did she hurt my feelings, but she implied that me feeding my child in the way nature intended I feed her was somehow dirty and wrong.
Why in the world is breastfeeding such a controversial, charged issue? Why is it even an issue at all? It’s one of the most natural things in the world.
I think I know why. It’s because it involves breasts, and therefore it’s become sexualized.
I’m constantly saddened and astonished by stories I hear about breastfeeding mothers being asked to hide in corners and tales of nursing moms forced to leave public places and having to feed their children in public restrooms.
I read a story this morning about Katie Buhler, a nursing mother from Salt Lake City, Utah. Buhler was discreetly feeding her infant son under a blanket at a Salt Lake water park and was approached by a female lifeguard who told her to stop feeding her baby or leave the park.
Buhler contacted a park manager, and she was told that the park has a no breastfeeding policy.
“She told me that it’s their policy, and I said why, and she said this is a family friendly environment and we want to keep it that way,” Buhler said.
To me, this place sounds like the polar opposite of “family friendly.”
Why are mothers who choose to breastfeed their children treated so poorly? Have you had an experience where you were shamed for nursing your baby? Are you bothered by public breastfeeding? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.
*The author would like to contribute that, thirteen years of mothering later, that nosy, close-minded busybody would have been given tit for tat and sent on her way. Probably in tears.