As I wrote on Facebook, "Happy World Breastfeeding week (Aug. 1-7, 2011) to...every breastfeeding mom (past or present); all dads who have supported their partners who nursed; anyone who's ever seen a mother breastfeeding in public and smiled encouragingly; and each adult who encourages the children in their lives to see breastfeeding as a normal activity, and to see breasts as vessels of nutrition!"
This isn't going to be a "Formula is EVIL!" post. Formula isn't evil, and how we feed babies shouldn't be a competition between moms! Instead, I'd like to focus on an aspect of breastfeeding that I feel passionately about.
Breasts should be seen, as I wrote above, as vessels of nutrition. In American society, breasts have been so sexualized that people have all sorts of hangups about breastfeeding. Some women feel weird having a child suckle at their breast, since most images of breasts we see are sensual images. Many people feel awkward seeing a woman breastfeeding in public, as if breasts themselves were somehow vulgar.
Of course, breasts are sexual. I have no problem with that. (In fact, I think it's pretty great!) But that's really not their primary purpose. It's so important to me that my kids grow up seeing breastfeeding as a normal thing. And to see it as normal...they need to see it!
If my kids accidentally see a glimpse of nipple while a woman is feeding her child...good! That will just remind them that long before bottle nipples were invented, breast nipples were "invented" so that babies could use them to eat! It's a beautiful thing to see those human nipples being put to such good use!
If you feel weird seeing a woman breastfeeding in public, that's okay. Depending on your upbringing and your adult experience, it may not be something you see often, and that may (very understandably) make you feel uncomfortable.
What I'd like, though, is for us to just decide that breastfeeding is normal, and that we're okay with seeing women doing it in public...just as we're okay with women using bottles in public. Then, despite any awkward emotions, we can choose to support nursing mothers. In other words, we can act according to our values, not our emotions.
Chickie nursed until she was almost 2 1/2, and I nursed Zoodle for over 18 months. Yep...that's a long time. Yep...it's kinda weird in our society (especially since for three months, I was nursing both of them!) But, for us anyway, it was normal. It was just right.
Breastfeeding is such a personal thing, between each mother and her child. So let's support nursing moms, whether they nurse for three weeks or three years. Let's consider all of that to be not only normal, but good and beautiful....something to be celebrated, not hidden.
Nursing Zoodle for the first time, shortly after his birth.