Monday, August 30, 2010
This past weekend I attended a "nurse-in", a demonstration to raise awareness for the laws surrounding breastfeeding in public after a mom was asked to leave a store for nursing her baby.
It was more than that to me and so many of the people who attended. It is about raising the bar when it comes to normalizing breastfeeding. It is about making it a beautiful thing in the eyes of the general public and it is about transitioning from the mentality that a woman needs to cover up to being celebrated and looked upon with awe and admiration.
There are so many reasons why I believe nursing in public is necessary and important, but the most significant to me is a reason I have heard against doing it.
Actually, there are many arguments against it:
That it is an intimate thing- sure, sometimes it is. So is kissing my husband as we walk through the park following our son. I don't know about you, but when I witness moments like these, it makes me feel all warm inside because I know I am witnessing the best part of humanity. And sometimes, nursing is just about filling an empty belly.
That is is disgusting- um, NO. And it taste pretty sweet actually.
But the one that always triggers something in me is:
That children might see it- I sure hope so!
Children NEED to see breastfeeding because they learn through example. So many of the children in my preschool (both boys and girls) would pretend nurse their dolls because they had seen mothers doing so. We did not have any play bottles in the doll area which was a conscious decision on my part. They get enough of that in the media and on the street, but because of the mentality of needing to cover up, they don't see nursing quite as often, especially if their own mother is unwilling or unable to nurse.
I think this needs to change. If it changed, mothers would not get complained about and asked to leave stores for making others feel "uncomfortable", dads would not be embarrassed or ashamed to have their wives nurse in public, and more babies would receive this perfect food to nourish their tiny bodies.
I once read an article about the country of Mongolia where breastfeeding is celebrated. It is seen as such a good thing, shop owners will put chairs out in front of their stores for nursing mothers because they believe they will get more business, people feel free to kiss a nursing baby on the cheek during the act, and the others are often verbally praised for the act.
When a mother is able to breastfeed, gets through all the bumps in the road to continue to nourish her baby with the best food possible, and then gets over the American mentality that it is somehow gross to do so in public, I want her to be cherished, not just simply tolerated.
Other than actually giving my son my milk, one of the benefits of nursing my baby has been my niece and nephew witnessing their cousin being fed. Before I began nursing, I am pretty sure neither of them knew it was even possible to feed a baby this way. My niece even asked me what I was doing the first time she witnessed it. She now nurses her dolls often my sister tells me and the thought makes me all teary eyed. I hope one day, she will be feel just a slight bit more confidant about her ability to nurse her babies and she will see it as a wonderful, irreplaceable gift.
I know I do. So go out and nurse your babies and don't cover up!
Another fabulous take on children witnessing Breastfeeding.