Warning: If the subject of breastfeeding or breastfeeding terminology bothers you, do not read!
The Target nurse-in has been hotly debated these past couple of days. Today I’ve been reading through the comments on various posts and articles to get an idea of the different opinions that are out there. It’s no surprise that people are on all sides of the fence. Here are a few that generally represent the differing viewpoints:
“I just don’t get it, no-one seems to care if a woman shows her breasts in a low cut shirt or halter top, but some people get upset over woman breastfeeding? What’s the difference? I don’t have kids but if I see another woman breastfeeding, it doesn’t bother me.”
“Decently covered nursing in public is ok in my book. Yes it is natural and shouldn’t be frowned upon but there is no reason to nurse with a full breast exposed because regardless of how natural it is people can still see your nude breast and that is unnecessary.”
“If ALL these mothers are concerned with is feeding their children, what is wrong with seeking a little privacy to do so? A fitting room or other area is perfectly acceptable.”
Before I had a baby, I was of the mindset that breastfeeding should be done in private or under a blanket. “How indecent to expose yourself” I thought. After all, we need to be modest. It seemed so simple!
Then I had a baby. Oh.
My baby will not nurse unless things are just so. She will not nurse unless I am on my feet, bouncing vigorously or dancing around the room. She will not nurse unless my full breast is exposed because otherwise she looses her latch. She will not nurse under a cover, even a light one. She did not take a bottle (of breastmilk) until recently, and even now she doesn’t take it well enough to get a full meal. On top of all that, she gets hungry every hour most days.
To sum it up: I can’t leave the house to so much as grocery shop without my baby getting hungry. Not nursing in public is not an option. Covers, bottles, and sitting anywhere, including in a car, are not an option. So unless there is a clean, quiet room with a closed door to nurse my baby in, I’m out of options.
Now please don’t misunderstand me! I try very hard to be sensitive to those around me, particularly men. I always try to be as modest and “decent” as possible. When I’m in other people’s homes, I nurse my baby in a bedroom with the door closed. When at a store, I use a dressing room if one is available. When at church, I go into the nursing mother’s room, where I stand in a corner and practically do squats, completely uncovered, desperately praying to God that my baby quiets down and nurses while all the other women sit quietly, covered up, and listen to the sermon!
But sometimes there is nowhere to go. Sometimes there is no bedroom, dressing room, or nursing mother’s room. Something that you don’t realize until you have a nursing baby is: our culture is not built for nursing babies.
One Sunday this past summer, our church held a service in the park. My baby got hungry in the middle of the service and started crying. The people behind us were obviously irritated at the noise, I could not get her to take a bottle, there were people everywhere and no-where to hide so I left and went home.
More often than not, I find myself at a store with nothing but a nasty public bathroom. Or I’m outside walking somewhere because my husband is at work with the car. When my baby needs to eat, she needs to eat. So yes. I have nursed uncovered in public and walking down the road.
Before I had a baby, I did not understand the power of a mother’s protective instinct. When my baby is screaming with hunger, all I can think about is feeding her. There is nothing that will stop me from tending to her cries. I can’t and won’t carry my screaming baby two miles down the road to wait until I get home. I try to tuck a blanket around her to hide as much as possible from view, but that’s about the best I can do sometimes.
For those who have calm nursers, I can totally understand how it would be easy to say “there is no reason to nurse with a full breast exposed.” But try to imagine what it would be like to nurse my baby in public.
Besides, I find it highly ironic that in a culture where it is acceptable for women to wear bikinis that expose almost the full breast, it is considered indecent to breastfeed a baby uncovered. In fact, it should be the other way around. It should be indecent to prance around in a bikini, trying to get men to look at your body in a sexual way. It should be acceptable and normal to nurse a child. This is a classic example of good being called evil and evil being called good.
Breastfeeding is not easy. It’s one of the more mentally and physically exhausting things I’ve done. And in a culture where breastfeeding is looked at as sexual and/or indecent it can feel overwhelming to keep at it. Add to the mix that industrial waste is packaged in colorful cans and touted as a healthy alternative to breastmilk and it’s no wonder why so many women switch to formula.
The bottom line is that breastfeeding women need encouragement and need it badly. Your average breastfeeding mom is just trying to feed her baby, often in what can feel like a hostile environment.
So as for the Target nurse-in, I support it 100%!
I do realize that some women have had very positive breastfeeding experiences and that is wonderful! This is just one woman’s experience and opinion.