Tuesday, August 2, 2011

World Breastfeeding Week

It's World Breastfeeding Week!

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.


Call Me Cate said...

I love the idea of deciding to be okay with it even if it does make us a bit uncomfortable. That applies to so many things, not just breastfeeding. How we feed our children is a decision every family should be able to make on their own, hopefully after a bit of thought, to determine what they feel is best for their situation. Many factors play into that, but being afraid that someone else might be uncomfortable with it shouldn't be one of them.

Mellodee said...

When MtG was born, my daughter NEEDED to breastfeed her. A preemie really needs her mother's milk. Nevertheess MtG just never got the hang of it, I don't know why. Preemie have all sorts of issues most babies don't have. So Ratchlet pumped and it was physically hard for her, but she did it anyway because it was best for the baby.

Both of us totally support moms who choose to breastfeed. We also are very grateful for those women who DONATE breast milk. It is truly a life-giving thing to do to help those babies and moms who, for whatever reason, cannot breastfeed.

OK, all of that said, I'm from an earlier generation, and I do feel slightly uncomfortable seeing a woman breast feed in public. Although I realize it is my problem, not theirs! Still I appreciate a little (ok, a lot) of discretion.

(What a paradox we humans can be!)

Tales of Cheerios and Sleepless Nights said...

Such a great post! I was so awkward with nursing at first that it was a big frustration for me and Anna. But as we both got the hang of it, breast feeding became a real bonding activity for us. I was working full time (and pumping....in a supply closet...for a bunch of men who snickered every time they walked past) but the night/early morning feedings were about both the nutrients AND the closeness for us. I actually miss it sometimes.

Anonymous said...

I hate that you see more of a woman's body in the grocery store checkout line magazine racks than you do of a woman discreetly breastfeeding her baby, and yet the nursing mother is the one people have issues with. That's just wrong!

Btw I don't believe that picture of you was taken shortly after giving birth... You look amazing!

J Cosmo Newbery said...

Natural's good.

enthusiastically, dawn said...

I breastfed my Katherine until 22-24 months- not sure it was a blur! When she began trying flips while nursing I thought that might be the sign to wean! I treasured my time of nursing my girl...our society wants us to rush, rush, rush everything we do whether nursing our babies or feeding our families and ourselves! Nourishing our own bodies (and our babies bodies) is a great way to slow down, relax, receive...what a gift. Celebrate, yes!

Dave said...

I'm glad to see posts like this.

Congrats on being comfortable with the natural functions of your body.

Bodies in general are sexualized in America. For being founded on religious freedoms, we sure are puritan at heart!

I want to see more people comfortable with who and what they are.

Great post!