I’ll Nurse Him Here, I’ll Nurse Him There, I’ll Nurse My Baby Anywhere!

Get your own cards to hand out to nursing moms at http://breastmilkcounts.com/public-breastfeeding-law.php!

LOVE these cards!

Hey!  Did you know that today is National Public Display of Breastfeeding Day?  I just found out this morning, but that’s not gonna stop me from writing a timely blog post about it!  It has been sad and maddening for me to hear about incidents where women were harassed or kicked out of places for feeding their babies.  This is truly messed up and I don’t think I can rant about it any better than this guy.  But I’m happy to say that nothing like that has ever happened to me.  Once I was asked to cover up, and I didn’t, and nothing else came of it.  And I nurse everywhere.  Seriously.  The post office, the grocery store, the swimming pool, restaurants, the office I used to work in.  Without a cover.  I guess Austin, Texas is just awesome like that.

But I still meet women all the time who are not comfortable nursing in public.  The other day, a poor momma was searching desperately for a cover or scarf so that she could feed her baby, and she was in a room with just other moms and kids!  A new mom pulled out a bottle of pumped milk at a meetup once, saying she wasn’t comfortable enough yet to nurse in public.  ”Just hang out with us a little longer,” my friend Laura said.  ”You’ll be able to nurse anywhere.”  I was so proud to see that same mom effortlessly nursing in her carrier the other day, and it made me realize the importance of nursing in public.

Clearly, the most important reason for nursing in public is to simply feed our babies.  We can’t always know when our babies will be hungry, or plan events around nursing sessions, or leave what we’re doing to sit in a corner alone to feed our babies.  And it’s important that breastfeeding remain as or more convenient than formula feeding, or else breastfeeding rates decline, which adversely effects the health of our children and our society, increases our medical costs and the costs of raising a child.  It’s no bueno.

But I nurse in public for more than just me.  I nurse in public because more people need to see it, particularly new moms, women who will be moms, people who will support their nursing wives and friends one day, and people who will serve and interact with nursing mothers in their lifetime.  So, pretty much everybody.  Everybody needs to see nursing more.  If you see a nursing mother, and you’re uncomfortable, the cure is to see more nursing mothers.  The more you see it, the less uncomfortable you become, and that is a good thing for mommas and babies everywhere.

And the mommas themselves who are uncomfortable nursing in public  they get over it mighty fast if they see other women doing it all the time.  And then they’re no longer afraid to leave their house without bottles of pumped milk which must be kept at particular temperatures, they no longer huddle in bathroom stalls, and they’re less likely to switch their babies to formula before they want to, just to avoid the hassle and embarrassment.

The disturbing thing to me is that I myself used to feel uncomfortable around breastfeeding.  I supported it, but it still made me feel a little awkward, because I hadn’t been around it much before.  I saw breasts all the time, in ads, in tiny tank tops, in the locker room, in the mirror.  Besides, most breastfeeding moms show little to no breast for more than a few seconds.  It wasn’t the breasts that made me uncomfortable.  It was the fact that there was a baby sucking on a breast.  To the uninitiated, it seems sort of indecent and pornographic, because we’re only used to thinking about mouths on boobs as sexual.  This is absurd to me now, but that is the natural response of someone who has never seen breastfeeding, living in a society that sexualizes breasts as ours does.

We need to get over it.  Breasts are not sexual.  I know what you’re thinking: of course they are!  But they’re not.  They are not a sexual organ.  They may be sexy, they may turn you on.  But so can legs or hands, and that doesn’t mean that we can’t run in public or do dishes in mixed company.  It’s perfectly ok for body parts to have a utilitarian function and also be sexy.  This is the practical purpose of breasts, to feed babies.  It’s what they’re for.  And if we saw them doing it all the damn time, we wouldn’t think anything of it.

So, if you’re on the fence about using an annoying cover, or sheltering away in your car, or the bathroom, to nurse your baby, DON’T.  Just don’t.  And if it makes someone uncomfortable, take pride in that.  You have just brought that person a little closer to no longer feeling uncomfortable around it.  You have helped them get over a bit of their lactophobia, and made it easier for the next nursing mom they encounter.  Be proud of that.  You are making the world better, nursing momma.  And I thank you.

2 comments

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Kaston (1455 days ago)

I have no shame in admitting that the first few day seeing you breastfeeding did make me squirm on the inside but it was wonderful for me because I was able to conquer that feeling. Now your boobs are just as visually familiar to me as my own.

It also was an opportunity for me to walk in the shoes of the many “students” I have while I talk about the equally uncomfortable topics of human anatomy, sexual health, and sexual pleasure.

I do have to point out one incorrect statement you made about boobs not being a sexual organ. They are very much a sex organ and not just to the people interacting with breasts of another person; some women have nipples connected directly to their clitoris (sensation wise)!

In fact, 1% of women can achieve climax from breast stimulation alone and around three-quarters of women enjoy breast or nipple stimulation during sex.

One might argue that “okay breasts are sexual but stop being so while a woman is breastfeeding” but they would be wrong since a third to half of breastfeeding woman can get sexually excited from their babies breastfeeding. When you hear stories of women orgasming from giving birth it doesn’t sound so far fetched. = )

    Analytical Momma (1441 days ago)

    Sorry I’ve been so bad at responding to comments! It’s so hard to get computer time in momma world. But yes, that’s exactly what it’s about. Most of us are uncomfortable at first with breastfeeding, when we’re not used to it. But when we are used to it, it’s no big thing, and that’s why nursing in public can create positive change!

    And I stand by my statement that breasts are not a sexual organ. They are sexual and erogenous, but so are ears and necks and feet, which are still not genitals, and still ok to use in public for their practical purposes.

    Where do you get that statistic on women getting sexually excited breastfeeding? I have not heard that, and it does not correspond to my experience.

    Orgasms during labor and birth are more common, but it’s a different sort of experience. Most of these women say they are not “turned on” during labor in the slightest, but in the middle of all that intense pressure comes rushes of ecstasy that in some ways bear similarity to sexual orgasm, but in many ways does not. Most women don’t call it orgasm or think of it as orgasm. But orgasms, birth and breastfeeding involve high levels of oxytocin, the love hormone, so there are certainly similarities.

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