You read about it once in a while in the papers, often highlighted by mommyboards: A woman breastfeeds her infant in a store, eatery or mall, and is either asked to remove herself and her baby from the scene (possibly a bathroom) or cover up. The local LLL and nursing mommies respond in a fury – HOW DARE THEY?! – and next thing you know, the offending institution is besieged by nursing mommies, all breastfeeding their babies in a form of protest called a ‘nurse-in’. Just to teach them benighted buggerers a lesson, y’know.
I can sort of understand when these sort of things happen in the Bible Belt. But when they happen in such enlightened places as Vancouver, British Columbia, it really makes me start to wonder. I don’t know the particulars of this one incident, and there are probably unenlightened people everywhere…but could it possibly be that in at least some of these cases, women may have had more, um, liberal ideas regarding modesty than the surrounding population?
Don’t get me wrong: I applaud the laws that enshrine a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere, any time. I’ve taken advantage of these laws as a nursing mother myself all over Israel, and parts of the USA and Canada…nursing on park benches, during university classes, at various eateries and one memorable, glorious loooong Sunday afternoon in a Barnes & Noble in Queens, NY*. That’s me up there in the picture, nursing my then 2-month-old daughter (this particular pic was taken in the privacy of my home, but I consider breastfeeding photos placed in public areas of the WWW to be NIP as well). Nobody ever said anything bad to me – on the contrary, I’ve gotten kudos from passersby in Israel on occasion, i.e, on those occasions when someone actually noticed what I was doing. Americans and Canadians, if they noticed, pretended not to. But I think many of my compatriots (even the female ones) would have something uncomplimentary to say about the type pf NIP espoused by Maggie Gyllenhaal. Some kind bubbes might even have donated their cloth napkins to cover the poor child’s head, yanno, so she won’t catch a cold. But my impression of what Maggie and her ilk are doing is most defnitely that of, “I’ve got my rights, and I’m going to do what I feel like doing…and screw the rest of you”.
Again, I know all about the laws. And you can’t legislate courtesy. But is it really so hard to at least try to be a goodwill ambassador for the Sacred Breastfeeding Cause when nursing in public? I mean, is the reason you NIP about normalizing the sight of exposed breasts everywhere, or is about keeping your baby fed?
I’m sure there will be lactofanatics who consider this idea – that many people don’t consider indecent NIP to be the best thing since sliced bread – to be nothing less than heresy. Let’s go over the common wails one hears from such people:
But breasts are for feeding babies! It’s only our screwy society that made them all about sex! I don’t know about you, but most women I know (let’s forget about the men for a moment) consider breasts to have more than one function. One lasts for a few years – unless you happen to be Veronika Robinson, that is; the other exists from puberty onward. One function doesn’t negate the other, but in many societies, including our own, breasts have a sexual function as well as providing nourishment for babies, and as such, have traditionally remained covered in public.
I don’t think it was society that put all that erogenous tissue in our nipples, frankly.
But look at all those teenage girls in skimpy tops and the buxom models on billboards! Nobody says anything about them! You might want to consider what the objective of wearing such revealing clothing is. Is your objective while NIP to get as many members of the male persuasion to ogle you?
If it is, your issues go far deeper than my ability to help you, I’m afraid. But if the idea is to feed the baby, well, she doesn’t need the whole breast exposed for that.
But look at all those primitive women in the Arab world! They breastfeed freely whenever and wherever!
I tend to think that’s an urban legend. Having seen more than a few religious Arab Muslim women breastfeeding here, more look like this than those tribal women with their breasts hanging out, as seen in National Geographic. Either way, you don’t live in that society, so who cares what they do? (The same objection about those wanton women in Europe who walk around topless will elicit that last response as well).
But the public must be taught a lesson! They really hate breastfeeding! Actually, they probably don’t, having “breast is best” drummed in to the public consciousness for so very long now. But many people feel embarrassed when others stick their exposed body parts in clear view, especially when they’re just trying to go about their business and not stare. If the real issue is that breastfeeding in public (or in general) is bad, well hell, drop me a line and call me to join the nurse-in (as my last nursling weaned 4 years ago, I’ll bring a life-like doll). Anyone who has a problem with the very concept of breastfeeding in public deserves to be chastised. But here’s a hint: When someone is offering you a blanket to cover up, or offers you a private place to nurse… it might be that you’re the one with an overexposure problem.
But my baby hates nursing under a blanket! It’s too hot and stifling! I’m willing to bet that most of the time, Mommy has never actually tried nursing under a blanket; she just figures that any compromise is tantamount to capitulation, and invoking the baby’s supposed dislike is merely a passive-aggressive way of saying “I don’t want to”.
But here’s the thing: even if it’s true, being a breastfeeding goodwill ambassador means that you go out prepared for nursing. You don’t have to drop $500 at Motherwear to do this, either: simply wear clothes that don’t necessitate complete or near-complete disrobement when it’s time to feed your baby. Wear a T-shirt that’s a little loose so the fabric drapes around you and your baby when your shirt’s up; if wearing a button-down shirt, unbutton it from the bottom, not the top. And please, please don’t pop your breast out the neckhole of a tank top…
If you’re a newbie at NIP, you might want to consider carrying a thin receiving blanket or cloth diaper to cover yourself up with until you get the hang of discreet NIP, or invest in/make a nursing cover.
Or if you really blow it and have to wear a tight dress that zips up the back (I plead guilty to having done this at least twice – once at a wedding, another time at a Bar Mitzvah) – suck up your pride and nurse in a private room, maybe even (gasp!) a bathroom. Mind you, the latter doesn’t mean you should nurse in a stall: many public bathrooms have a foyer with a large mirror and a sofa…not half bad for nursing and certainly not dirty.
So c’mon gals…I know you can do it. Spread the discreet NIP word in public, and maybe if we try to get along, rather than stand up for our ‘rights’ while trampling on everyone else’s, we can mitigate, if not eliminate entirely, the need for ‘nurse-ins’.
*Which was probably the closest I’ve gotten to heaven on Earth in my life, excluding matters best kept private 😉 .
Filed under: Breastfeeding |