This is a request for you to breastfeed your baby in public. Not on those hectic newborn days when you feel like you're fumbling around and both you and baby may be teary-eyed. But that passes (I promise) and you'll be more confident.
Then, nurse in public. Don't use a nursing cover (but feel free to use a nursing tank, button up shirt, or whatever – just don't cover your baby). Nurse in a t-shirt pulled up. Nurse by lowering your neckline. Nurse in your bathing suit (whatever style you've picked). And if you happen to be in public in your PJ's, nurse in those, too.
Nurse your in-arms baby. Nurse your mobile baby. Nurse the baby who keeps fighting you to pull your shirt up. Nurse your toddler. Maybe you should consider tandem nursing, nursing a preschooler… but even if you don't do that, nurse those long, lanky toddlers.
Babies are Meant to Breastfeed
Babies are meant to breastfed. Regardless of how many babies need bottles, for whatever reason (and there are reasons), babies are designed for breasts, and breasts are designed for babies.
I'm all for your lover enjoying your breasts in private, but that does not change that breasts are fundamentally created to nourish babies, and that feeding a baby has never been a “private” matter.
Milk flows from breasts. Our modern culture alone has forgotten that. But that doesn't change biological reality, mammalian design, or the needs of babies (and uncomfortably full mothers).
The Modesty Issue
I'm a super-modest person. I wear skirts when I leave the house (though I do wear pants for barn chores, and I've been known to don Daisy Dukes for my hubby's benefit). But going out in public? Yeah, I'm no bikini girl and you'll never see a skirt go above my knees.
But I've come to change my view about “modesty” and breastfeeding in public. It bothers me immensely that women throughout history have had the freedom to breastfeed their babies with breast bared, but we get accused of being indecent.
Think about it. You see women in burqas and other full modest, religious clothing with breast fully exposed to feed their child. In public. God designed breasts to feed babies, after all.
Take a look at this vintage picture. These guys are really getting excited over the breast… erm, or not:
It's a total non-issue to them that this mom is feeding her baby. She's not “baring her breast.” She's feeding her (obviously older) baby.
What About the Children? What About the Teenagers?
Oh, we also get scolded to “think of the children!” What little child have you ever met who does more than bat an eye when told “she's feeding her baby.”
Why would 12-year old boys get shocked when a baby pulls up Mama's shirt while nursing? Could it be because those young men have grown up thinking that breasts are for sex and sex only? That the female breast is something taboo? That's not reality. It's perception.
I have no doubt that a 12-year-old boy who has grown up seeing nursing women is not going to bat much of an eye at a motherbaby nursing in public. I also feel completely confident that when that boy turns into a man, he'll enjoy his wife's breasts with no problem and no lingering trauma from seeing a mother feed her baby. Let's give our young men credit. And let's help them see that breasts are not just forbidden fruit – they're a normal part of feeding a baby.
Maybe the little fellow in front is sad it's not his turn yet? (the title of this painting, by the way, is Christian Charity.)
These kids seem really scandalized… the husband mortified… oh, wait – or not.
Moving Towards Normalization
The only way to to remove shame and shock from the “public breastfeeding” equation is to normalize nursing in public. So again, breastfeed your baby in public. No matter what you're wearing. Over the neckline, under the bottom hemline… it doesn't matter. Just nurse your baby in public. Please – for my five sons, for my three daughters, and for the children everywhere who deserve to know that breasts are made for feeding babies. And for the hungry babies, who deserve the best no matter where they are.
I'll leave you with an anonymous breastfeeding poem and a few more historical nursing pictures 🙂
Dr. Seuss for Nursing Moms
Would you nurse her in the park?
Would you nurse him in the dark?
Would you nurse him with a Boppy?
And when your boobs are feeling floppy?
I would nurse him in the park,
I would nurse her in the dark.
I’d nurse with or without a Boppy.
Floppy boobs will never stop me.
Can you nurse with your seat belt on?
Can you nurse from dusk till dawn?
Though she may pinch me, bite me, pull,
I will nurse her `till she’s full!
Can you nurse and make some soup?
Can you nurse and feed the group?
It makes her healthy strong and smart,
Mommy’s milk is the best start!
Would you nurse him at the game?
Would you nurse her in the rain?
In front of those who dare complain?
I would nurse him at the game.
I would nurse her in the rain.
As for those who protest lactation,
I have the perfect explanation.
Mommy’s milk is tailor made
It’s the perfect food, you need no aid.
Some may scoff and some may wriggle,
Avert their eyes or even giggle.
To those who can be cruel and rude,
Remind them breast’s the perfect food!
I would never scoff or giggle,
Roll my eyes or even wiggle!
I would not be so crass or crude,
I KNOW that this milk’s the perfect food!
We make the amount we need
The perfect temp for every feed.
There’s no compare to milk from breast-
The perfect food, above the rest.
Those sweet nursing smiles are oh so sweet,
Mommy’s milk is such a treat.
Human milk just can’t be beat.
I will nurse, in any case,
On the street or in your face.
I will not let my baby cry,
I’ll meet her needs, I’ll always try.
It’s not about what’s good for you,
It’s best for babies, through and through.
I will nurse her in my home,
I will nurse her when I roam.
Leave me be lads and ma’am.
I will nurse her, Mom I am.
Author unknown (emphasis mine)
Dedicated to her faith – dedicated to her baby.
Those pesky toddlers!
Bare bum and bare breast! Do you wonder what the world is coming to? I think “Breastfeeding and EC'ing – sounds environmentally friendly to me!”
This? This is not scandal. This is beauty. It's every child's birthright to have. And it's every child's birthright to see public breastfeeding as completely normal.
Historical portraits courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Photo courtesy of BuzzFeed – check out all 25 awesome breastfeeding pics.