Monday, June 25, 2012

breastfeeding faux pas?

Yesterday, the family and I were at a going away party cookout for a dear friend who will soon be deployed (again) to Iraq. Friends of ours who were also at the party welcomed their first child into the world this past Father's Day. I am so glad that our friends have decided to join the party and start having kids! Now we won't be the only ones having to stop for "potty" breaks, diaper changes, to clean spit up, and (perhaps most importantly) BREASTFEED! I was seriously stoked to have a breastfeeding buddy at the cookout.

Momma in her cover breastfeeds her little boy at a picnic

So, there I was in my cover; a slice of pizza in one hand, my son's head cradled in another, while I chatted with friends about Beer Week (which I unfortunately couldn't participate in) that went on in our city last week. A little girl, presumably my army friend's cousin, came up into my personal space and looked at me curiously. She had to be at least seven years old. She pointed to my son's feet, poking out from under my nursing cover.

"Is that your baby?" she asked.

"Yep!" I smiled.

"And his head is there?" she pointed to the cover.

"Yes, I'm feeding him." I smiled again.

She looked confused. "You are feeding him under there?"


"Wait, what do you mean you are feeding him under there?" Every seemed to fall silent. Crickets.

I opened my mouth to answer but before I could say anything, someone chimed in, "Go ask your mother!"

The girl ran to her mother and hollered, "What does that girl mean she is feeding her baby under there?"

"It's okay. Remember your aunt so-and-so had one."

The girl persisted, "But what does she mean? How is she feeding him under there?"

"Don't worry about it!" The mother finally snapped.

I was horrified. Here was an awesome teachable moment about a perfectly beautiful and natural aspect of mothering that this mother was shaming. What a waste! It made me so sad. I can't help but think about how her daughter will grow to feel about breastfeeding her own children, how she may grow to feel about her own breasts. It was my understanding that this girl had 2 younger brothers. Could she really not have any inkling about what breastfeeding was? Are there people out there really completely sheltering their children from this practice? That seems depressing.

Meanwhile, my 2-year-old breastfeeds her baby dolls. (She even burps them and then switches sides - it's adorable!) When I was pregnant, we talked about what babies ate and where the milk came from, watched the movie Babies and talked about the breastfeeding scenes, we talked about where my breasts were and where hers were and why mine were larger than hers. While at a family Christmas party, a friend was BFing her daughter and I asked if my daughter could see. Now, when I BF Elliott, Lydia loves to come over to place on her hand on the top of my breast to "help feed baby brother".

Look, I know not every woman is able to breastfeed. I guess I just assumed that most women were still teaching their daughters (and sons) that breastfeeding is best and, oh by the way, this is what breastfeeding is. If we continue to act like breastfeeding is private and secret, it will seem somehow dirty and wrong. That doesn't seem fair.

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