Thursday, May 15, 2014

Breastfeeding, Bathrooms and Bullshit

I promised myself I wasn't going to get ranty today, but here we are.

I'm about to touch (okay, make out a little with) one of the third rails of the internets, so stand back and watch as all hell breaks loose.

Seriously, I don't know what it is about this topic that makes people crazy.

I'm going to be dealing with all the wonders of breastfeeding shaming again here in a few months, but the awesome thing about me is that I just don't give a rat's ass. I've nursed four kids for years already (yes, years...for each one even). I've breastfed on airplanes and in restaurants and at school functions or basically anywhere that I was with my kids when they were little and still nursing.

Anyone who has had the pleasure of visiting me in my home while I was actively nursing has, almost certainly, seen my boobs. I really could care less. Anyone who comes to visit me between September of this year and some point in the indefinite future (that likely includes the following several years), will probably get a boob shot.

It's life.

When I'm out in public, I am discreet about it. Most people don't actually realize I'm nursing unless they get all up in there or try to talk to the kid or something. I don't use covers or put a blanket over their heads because...well, do you eat in the dark? Do you routinely put a blanket over your head when you eat?

Didn't think so.

I actually tried to do that a few times when I was a new paranoid mother who was afraid of what strangers would think. I tried it with the oldest and he'd fight me, ripping the blanket off his head. In the process, I'd flash way more sideboob than I ever would if not for the whole blanket fiasco. So, no. No covers.

And. Also. I don't apologize for not using a cover...but I'll get to that in a second.

I'm not one to go whip out a boob for the world to see. (And trust me, I've been around the moms that were...including the one that took off her shirt and bra to nurse entirely. It takes a LOT to make me say wow.) I am very well informed of my legal right to nurse wherever I have a legal right to be, and I would LOVE to see someone try to tell me I can't. That would be fun.

Laughs maniacal laugh.

Ironically, the only time that anyone has ever said anything out loud to me about the fact that my feeding my child was inappropriate was in the mother's room at a Nordstrom. You know, the place that they actually designed expressly for the purpose of feeding and changing babies. Eyeroll.

Clearly, I interrupted the feeding to placate this old grumpy woman. NOT.

Okay, so here are some things you should know about me.

1) I am a doula.

2) I am a breastfeeding advocate.

3) I help women all the time with issues related to nursing.

4) I don't love formula company marketing.

5) I don't love that most pediatricians aren't highly educated about nursing and the differences between it and formula feeding.

6) I am an extended breastfeeder and nursed the last two of my kids until they were 3 and self weaned. I really don't care what you think about that.

7) I supplemented with formula with my last for health reasons. I have no issues with formula.

8) I have no reservations with however mothers choose to feed their children, there is no judgment coming from me about the issue.

9) It is entirely possible to be an advocate for something without being an asshole.

10) This pisses me off.

This picture is part of an ad campaign project done by college students at the University of North Texas. Texas is one of the few remaining states that allows nursing mothers to be shamed publicly. The vast majority of states have laws protecting the right of a mother to feed her child in any location she has a legal right to be present in. Texas, shockingly, is behind the times.

The text beneath the pictures in the series asks the question, Would You Eat Here?

Well, would you?

Plenty of people don't seem to have a problem telling nursing mothers to go do this. Too disgusted by the fact that they might get an occasional glance of sideboob or god forbid nipple, they want to banish all hungry babies to the bathroom.

The last time this subject came up around here, a few people actually suggested bathroom feeding, not seeing any problem with it at all, because it offended them to see anyone nursing in public.

Oh, the chronically offended. Seriously. It's not about you.

How many people routinely take their lunch breaks in the bathroom, feast it up while sitting on the shitter? Not anyone I know...

How many mothers have ever tried nursing in a bathroom stall, trying to perch precariously on the seat meant for pooping, not just sitting, while simultaneously trying to make sure that both you and the baby don't touch anything? I have, and it's not pretty. It happened exactly once. I promised myself I'd never be shamed into the bathroom again.

Just for fun, all of you should take your lunch into the bathroom today. Sit on the toilet fully clothed, making sure that you have perfect posture because you can't lean back against anything because other people have peed and pooed there and because people are gross and because it's nasty. Then sit there for 20 whole minutes. And eat. Without touching anything. Without being completely disgusted. Hopefully someone doesn't come drop a deuce in the stall next to you mid-meal because that would suck.

Then and only then, I dare you to tell a nursing mother to feed her child that way.

Our society is so ass backwards sometimes that I have to wonder how we got to be this way. Women are routinely objectified, boobs are all the rage, implants are increasingly common, push up bras are sold to girls just entering puberty these days...but the second that those breasts that we celebrate every other time are used for the purpose nature intended them, they become disgusting and offensive.

What the hell?

What bothers me the most about it is that those most critical of nursing mothers are usually other mothers. Men, unsurprisingly, don't seem bothered by nursing nearly as much as women. Maybe because any chance of sideboob is a good thing....

It's usually the women who get upset. That, and super conservative religious types of both genders that think bodies are shameful.

The mothers who nurse aren't doing it to rub anything in anyone else's face. We aren't doing it to show off or claim superiority or put another notch on the mommy wars scoreboard. We're just feeding our kids. It's not a contest.

We aren't showcasing our breasts intentionally, we aren't putting on a show. We aren't doing a striptease for you. We aren't hoping you'll watch us like a stifled voyeur. We hope you'll ignore us and go on with your day. We're just feeding our kids. It's not about you.

Breasts are a body part. They are not dirty or disgusting. They are actually pretty freaking amazing for all the things that they do. (Plus, BOOBS)

You have to wonder about a society that can't wrap it's head around the truth that they serve two separate and distinct purposes. Breasts are sexual objects. Breasts are food delivery devices. When they are operating as one, they are not operating as the other.

Breastfeeding is not sexual. It is not dirty. It is not something that women should ever be shamed for doing, told to go hide in the bathroom.

If we don't flinch when a mother feeds her child with a bottle, we shouldn't flinch when she nurses either. Period.

The insightful words of my son, The Oldest, who has been around the block more than a few times when it comes to this issue,

Why do people have a hard time with breastfeeding? 
Most people drink milk.
From cows. 
How can they not see that as way more gross? 
At least babies get their milk from the same species.

Like, seriously...who looked at a cow one
day and thought that was a good idea? 

The kid has a point.


  1. I nursed three of my children back in the day and had to always find someplace to do it, of course nursing mothers didn't get out of the house as much as today's mothers...I was 80 a few days ago. Times have changed and I'm glad !

  2. Thank you, Kelly. This has been my beef for a long time.

  3. "6) I am an extended breastfeeder and nursed the last two of my kids until they were 3 and self weaned. I really don't care what you think about that"

    Mama Pants loves you for this last line.

    A most excellent post, my friend.

  4. Public restrooms are so gross. I can't even imagine feeding a baby in any of the restrooms I have been in lately.

    Your son is so smart...and also pretty funny!

  5. Couldn't agree with you more!

  6. I admit that I did the bathroom thing- 19 years ago and I lived in a place that I didn't feel comfortable breastfeeding in public -- not sure if "I" didn't feel comfortable (I was shy) or I just didn't want to deal with anyone saying anything! I would be completely different now, that is for sure!

    I LOVE your #9 and love your blog!


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