August 21, 2013

Public Breastfeeding Day

Public Breastfeeding- NBD.
Last week, I was fortunate enough to attend a public breastfeeding day of action.

I know, that sounds a little ridiculous. But here me out-

Women are shamed constantly for how they feed their babies. If they feed their babies formula, if they nurse, if they supplement, if they pump, if they use donated milk...

But, people as a whole love to eat. Really, nearly every single person in the world enjoys filling up their belly with delicious food. I don't think I've ever met anybody who didn't love a good meal.

If you put the two of those things together, you get a very skewed picture of womanhood and babyhood. It's a picture that says, first of all, that our society is only okay with SOME people eating (which is a line I'm sure everyone in congress abolishing food stamps can get behind), and that breast milk isn't food.

Many American adults look at a woman breastfeeding in public the way Jonathan Ke Quan looked at the dinner in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom.

And yes, it looks just as ridiculous on them as it does on a melodramatic kid.

Breast milk is food. And it's not just food for an obscure culture, we're not talking about American's aversion to eating cats or dogs or nutria. With very few exceptions every baby, all over the world, eats breast milk. Given the opportunity, of course.

She would be mortified if you saw her ankle
(That said- there's nothing wrong with choosing to formula feed your baby either. Just so long as you're not doing it with cholera tainted water or anything.)

So, do we need a day of action for breastfeeding?

Yes, we do.

Because new mothers all over the United States have a big problem- and it's isolation. I've written a lot about the isolation of new motherhood, and this is a huge part of it. When you feed your baby breastmilk, with your breasts (stop clutching your pearls already), it can be daunting to leave the house. Wherever you go, will you be able to feed your hungry baby? It matters, it matters a lot, and normalizing breastfeeding in public is important.

We've only recently forgotten, as a culture, how normal breastfeeding is. Think back to one of the stuffiest times in human history, as far as ideals of propriety and social correctness are concerned. Let's say, Victorian England.

Did you know that breastfeeding photos were a huge fad back then? Really.

Breastfeeding was pretty huge throughout all of human history. Because without it, babies died, pure and simple.

But here we are, post-Puritans, post-sexual revolution, and we've got the worst of both when it comes to breastfeeding. A cultural repulsion to seeing skin, paired the inability to see it as anything other than sexual.

Nursing Madonna-16th Century
Really, I think that somebody would have
been burned at the stake for painting
this if breast milk was like urine.
People compare breast milk to urine, or even semen. They say it's "gross," or inappropriate. And new mothers, already overwhelmed by the stunning responsibility of caring for a new, entirely helpless person, face ostracism for fulfilling that tiny person's most fundamental need. It's a horrific Catch 22.

So The Bump is stepping up. They've begun an annual breastfeeding event, a public nurse in, if you will. It's not so much an act of protest as it is an act of outreach.

The Bump is pairing with local businesses across the country that support breastfeeding to offer women a safe public space. In Chicago, a fabulous shop called Urbababy hosted a breastfeeding event, and The Bump brought in sponsors- like Boppy- to give away nursing aids to the women who came.

One of the most important things we can do for women who want to nurse is provide them with
education, and The Bump is on it. Every few Tuesdays they have guest lactation consultants on their website to answer breastfeeding questions.

It's a wonderful resource.

The other most important thing we can do for new mothers is support their feeding choices- whatever they might be. And that means that when you see a lady with her boob in a baby's mouth (or even, gasp, a toddler's!), you don't scowl at her. You don't leer. You don't tell her to cover up, or ask her to stop, or tell her she's "bothering people."

You either look the other way, or go get yourself a sandwich.

Because a full belly generally means a better attitude.

It's something you and the baby can both agree on.


  1. i think that in the age of gay marriage and medical marijuana breast feeding shouldnt even be an issue

  2. I only wish I had breastfed in public MORE when I was still nursing! I looked like Pamela Anderson with my BIG, perky milky boobs! Now I sport the empty sac look and will never go topless again. Ladies, hang the boobs out and show them what you've got!

  3. Breastfed in a public place, I feel so uneasy. But I know many mothers are feel easy to breastfed their babies in the public place. By the way, thanks for sharing this.



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