What's that, you say? They serve a bigger, grander purpose? Nourish our young? NEVER! If that was the case, nursing mothers wouldn't be shunned and forced to feed their babies in their cars or the public restrooms. They could walk into any establishment, discretely cover themselves and feed away without the horrified, judgmental glares from the same group of guys who just ogled and drooled over the 20-something that sauntered her way through the bar with the extremely low cut halter top leaving little to the imagination.
It is true that there are some women who prefer to retreat to a dark corner, bathroom stall or their car for some privacy. I can't help but wonder if it is simply the desire for some alone time with their little bundle of joy or if they feel that way due to the stigma attached to breastfeeding in public. I have to be honest when I say I like to talk the big talk and believe that I would whip it out whenever/wherever my 5 month old needs it. Screw you all, I'm using my breasticles the way God intended. Leave if you don't like it!
Truth be told, it really depends on where I am. For example, I took the 6 and 8 year olds bowling recently. Against my better judgement, I nursed the 5 month old and left the house without a bottle thinking "She'll be fine. We'll be home before she needs feeding again." Famous last words. Half way through our first game she started getting restless and fussy, sucking on her pacifier and then spitting it out in frustration when she realized nothing was coming out. Crap. Now what? So I left the other two with my brother and went in search of a quiet, out of the way spot to feed her.
I pulled a chair over to the corner of the wall where all the lockers are. Out of the way, fairly quiet. Surely no one will be bothered by me here. I drape my nursing cover over my neck and proceed to get the baby into position. Already I'm starting to sweat. As if having an 18 lb heater attached to me isn't enough, there is no air flow beneath this privacy shield I've put up. Anyway, she latches on and I'm thinking "hey, this isn't so bad". Then it happens. People start to spot me. Trying to figure out why I'm sitting off in the corner and doing double-takes to determine if they're really seeing what they think they are. Add to that the teenage boy who works behind the counter sneaking sideways glances each time he walks by. I'm not sure if he was trying to figure out what I was doing or hoping for some sort of wardrobe malfunction so that he could sneak a peak of a real life nip.
Regardless, I found myself tucked away in a corner but feeling like I had the town crier who announced the recent royal birth red-faced and screaming; "BOOBS! THIS WOMAN IS NOURISHING HER BABY! EVERYBODY LOOK AND PROCEED WITH YOUR DISAPPROVING SCOWLS AND DEMEANING COMMENTS!" Sweat glands in overdrive and extremely uncomfortable, I took some deep breaths and gave myself a little pep talk about how I was doing the most natural thing a mother can do and to ignore all those critics judging me.
I'm not suggesting we should let it all hang out while we get into feeding position. Obviously some level of discretion is called for as it can make others uncomfortable, and let's face it, no one wants to be uncomfortable while trying to enjoy a nice steak dinner. But in the same respect, no one wants to be uncomfortable while feeding their baby either. For those of us who choose to breastfeed, why must we be made to feel like social outcasts? Why do we make women who are trying to give their babies the best nutritional start to life that they think they can feel embarrassed, or shameful? Why is it okay to subject our young to sexually charged images of breasts but shy away from explaining how the lady in the corner of the room is feeding her infant? Why must we be made to feel like we have to pump into a bottle, or supplement with formula, or worse, not leave the house for however long we choose to breastfeed? I think Hollie McNish said it perfectly in her video addressing this very subject.
Whether one chooses to breastfeed or formula feed, as women and mothers, we should stand together and be supportive of each other. Add to that our partners and other family members and we have a pretty solid support system. Maybe if we start there the rest of the world will see that there is nothing wrong with either choice. Those of us who choose to breastfeed should be just as comfortable doing so in public as those who choose to bottle feed. We're all trying to make the most of this crazy life and should be more accepting of each other - boobs and all.