Posts Tagged ‘nursing in public’

Beyond the First Year

September 12, 2010

As I type this, my lovely child is cuddling with me on the couch, with her head resting on my left arm and one of her legs slung over my right arm. She’s blinking sleepily as she nurses, idly stroking my belly with one small hand.

I love these moments. Now that she’s a curious, active, loud, and joyful toddler, these kinds of nursing sessions are becoming much less frequent. In the beginning, when she was a newborn, all of them were like this. It was just me and her; my milk would make her sleepy and content, and the surge of hormones I got when letting down did the same to me. We dozed together, held hands, played with each others fingers and gazed into each other’s eyes.

Now the usual nursing break is full of acrobatics. When she’s feeling particularly silly, she likes to nurse upside-down with her bum pointed towards my face. She pulls on my shirt, slaps my chest, yanks on my free nipple, sticks her fingers in my mouth. She blows raspberries into my breast, bites my nipple (thankfully rare), slurps instead of sucks, hums loudly.

I used to be able to nurse in public very discretely, with the hem of my shirt hiding my breast. She doesn’t allow that anymore, presumably because she doesn’t like having my shirt in her face, so she pulls it upward, exposing my boob to…well, everyone. We still nurse in public – it’s our legally protected right! But “discrete” is frequently left out of the equation and I’m pretty okay with that.

I don’t mind the acrobatics. Sometimes it gets on my nerves, but mostly she just makes me laugh. But I do miss the stillness of these moments, which only comes every few days rather than several times every day.

Now that Eve is over a year old, I’ve been getting more questions. People have told me, “She needs full fat cow’s milk.” They go silent when I tell them that breastmilk has a higher fat content than cow’s milk. My coworkers have noticed that I’m still pumping twice a day at work, still taking home my little bags of liquid gold to freeze. My mother complains about the fact that Eve isn’t getting more of her nutrients from “real” food; she talks about my milk as if it were merely a refreshment rather than a critical source of nourishment.

People keep telling me, “It’s time to stop,” and every time I have replied, “No. It is not.”

I don’t know how long that Eve and I will be doing this. It might be another year and a half. It might be another three years. Every child is different. Every nursing dyad is different. The thought of nursing a preschooler doesn’t bother me; it’s the inevitable social discipline and shaming that makes me nervous. The modern American ideal of a proper nursing relationship is just so ridiculously and drastically skewed from what we as large mammals are biologically geared for; and any deviations from that ideal are ridiculed and demonized – which is ironic (and sad)  considering the fact that just as recently as a century ago, the vast majority of American children were nursed until three or four years of age.

I have no intention living the modern ideal, and I’m more than okay with that.

I’m loving it, in fact. I’m just living in the now, enjoying this warm little body snoring softly against mine.

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Dear Mama

August 27, 2010

[Image description: A screenshot of a tweet from user @Matervan that says, “Totally inappropriate some lady #Breastfeeding her kid at #Starkbucks. I called her out and embarrassed her. This needs to stop!”]

I don’t know who you are. 

I don’t know if you’re black, or gay, or trans, or have a disability, or are poor. I don’t know if you breastfeed your child because you would feel guilty* if you didn’t, or because you like to do it, or because you can’t afford not to do it (or all three!). I don’t know if the nursing relationship that you share with your child came easily or if you had to struggle to achieve it. I don’t know if your friends and family have given you the support that you need in order to maintain that relationship.

I don’t know if your decision to nurse in public was made with trepidation. I don’t know if you only did it because your baby was hungry and you felt you had no other choice. I don’t know if you do it all the time because you already know that there’s nothing shameful in it.

And I don’t know what this asshole said to you to embarrass you. But whatever it was, I wish I could tell you in person that he is wrong. Breastfeeding your child in a Starbucks is not inappropriate. Breastfeeding your child in public does not need to stop. Your relationship with your child is sacred and should be respected as such. You do not need to hide your breasts, your milk, or your nursing relationship for anyone.

It’s breastfeeding awareness month. Thank you for nursing in public. I’m sorry that it has cost you to do so.

*I really hope that guilt is not the reason. Making women feel guilty over the decisions they make with their bodies is such a popular method of controlling them, even in so-called progressive and women-friendly movements like lactivism.

Hat-tip to Elita of Blacktating for bringing this tweet to my attention.

Vulnerable

August 8, 2010

So I had no intention of taking a break from blogging while we were on vacation, but the place we’re staying charges $5 per day per machine for internet access. Since I’m not made of money, we’ll have very limited access. I may have the chance to put up a post tomorrow morning before my services expires, but if not, I’ll likely disappear for the rest of the week. I may pay for one more day sometime in the middle of the week, but possibly not. The sheer expense is mindblowing!

Since I’ve had Eve, one of the things I always do when traveling is to look up the state laws pertaining to breastfeeding. I’m lucky to live in a state that explicitly defends a woman’s right to nurse in public, and until now we’ve always stayed in states with similar laws.

This time, however, I have no such protection. While there is a law in place that will prevent me from being charged with a sex crime for nursing my daughter (the very fact that such a law has to exist makes me ragey), there is nothing in place that will prevent a private establishment from kicking me out if I need to feed my baby straight from the tap.

This has me feeling…uneasy, to say the least. For the past year I’ve been very, very lucky to have never been confronted aggressively or negatively for nursing Eve in public. For the next week, every time I unbutton my bra and cradle her close to my breast, I’m going to have to wonder whether we are going to be targeted, humiliated, harassed, shamed, or shown the door. I am afraid to feed my daughter. And I am realizing for the first time the extent to which I had taken the laws of my home state for granted; without them I feel naked, unprotected. The women who live here and nurse their children have to deal with this all the time. I found a website for the state in which parents have compiled a list of nursing-friendly businesses, a resource that is just not necessary in my home state (as well as 43 other states!) because all businesses are legally mandated to allow me to nurse.

It’s just a week. I know I can do it, and that even if we get kicked out of a pizza place or arcade, at least the law is on my side enough such that I won’t be put on a sex offender registry for having the indecency to feed my hungry baby while on vacation. I guess that’s a silver lining?