Monday, February 26, 2007

It’s Only Breastfeeding in Public, People, Not a Wet T-Shirt Contest

(The Nursing Moms Not Gone Wild, Part 1)

Today I was hoping to write a scholarly defense of breastfeeding in public, with or without covering up the wet bar. A hopefully intellectual argument in favor of nursing mothers asserting their state right (yes! I live in nursing friendly Calfornia!) to breastfeed wherever they want, whenever they want, in public or in private.

However, (no) thanks to spiking flu-related fevers and defiant diapered nappers, ample time for this overly opinionated mama to coherently blog/vlog is now irrelevant. As irrelevant as the recent ill-educated, overly sexualized opinions of several male YouTube vloggers who are repulsed practically to the point of upchucking at the sight of a lactating pair of bare breasts aimed into the hungry mouths of babes.

So, given that I could be interrupted by kiddie complaints at any second, I’ll simply share with you my personal experiences nursing my three children. (Funny – Right here is ironically where I had to stop writing and coerce screaming Pigtails back to sleep before she started a domino wake-up effect with her brothers. Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy!).

I can’t think of a place I haven’t nursed -- sometimes in hiding in seedy restrooms, from behind a downy wedding gown skirt collapsed in a heap on a dressing room floor, in full, naked chest view of shocked, ogling strangers waiting for the train in Paris and every place in between.

Hey, I’ve even nursed at Starbucks, a place where nursing used to be about as welcome as a branded to-go cup of joe from the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf.

I’ve even nursed uncovered and bare chested in front of my father-in-law. Ew. Maybe even double ew. (Now that I’ve used a pair of back-to-back “ews,” I can kiss any hopes of coming off scholarly goodbye, right?)

Where was I? So, I decided to breastfeed because I really respected my sister for doing it. Also, the American Academy of Pediatrics book my obstetrician gave me highly recommended it (and I lived by that book as an insecure new mom the first year of my son’s life.)

My mother chose not to breastfeed me. “That just wasn’t the thing to do at the time,” she tells me. Really? I was born in 1975, a supposedly nature-happy time when breastfeeding was making a major post-advent of formula comeback. Chalk her choice up to personal preference, something that is entirely her right.

I suppose which nourishing liquids sustained me in my first days doesn’t matter in the long run. I turned out healthy and thriving having fed only on a factory-made mimic of nature’s best first food.

When I was a happily bottle-fed baby my mother and her French-Canadian friends and sisters nicknamed me “grosse poule,” which means “chubby chicken” or “fat chicken,” so it’s not as though I starved without mother’s milk. Later, in my tall, lanky teens, I looked more like an emaciated, starved chicken than a portly one. Now, well, I think I’m once again leaning towards the title of chubby chicken.

Let’s go back six years past, when I had my first son in the hospital, where I sloppily, feebly attempted to breastfeed him seconds after he took his first amazing breaths. Well, that is as soon as he was squeaky cleaned, suctioned and pricked by the eager nurses as well as inspected head-to-toe by my protective husband. (Why does he always get to hold our babies first? I’ll never know because, trust me, I’m soooo done having babies.)

Experts backed by tomes of lab research say infants have a better chance of learning to breastfeed if they latch on directly after birth. At the time of my first pregnancy (an emotional, touch-and-go, bed-rest mired nine months) I steeped myself in how-to first-time-mom books. Armed with facts, figures and the resolve to succeed, I wasn’t about let myself "fail" at breastfeeding. (Now I understand that there is no failing at such an act. Only trying your best and going from there.)

I was determined to avoid formula, even if it meant cracked, sore nipples and sleepless sour milk nights. As a result, I endured all three for weeks.

Have you heard of the term “breastfeeding Nazi”? Well, that was me. Breast is best and all the rest. Totally convinced that breastfeeding was a gift all mothers should and must give their deserving babies. It was judgment city for my formula feeding friends and family. Like everything else, I admit it. I was a bitch about breastfeeding. Sometimes I still am.

Flashback again to when my first son was a nursing infant .. When visitors came to have a peek at our new bundle of boy, I shyly retreated to my bedroom in the far end of the apartment when it was time to feed him. Rarely did I nurse in front of guests, outside of my mom and mother-in-law. Both were at “that end” when their first grandson crowned, so I figured they’d already seen it all. What difference would a nipple or two make? My mother-in-law nursed both of her sons and even helped me with a few pointers when I asked.

My first few attempts at “undercover” nursing my first-born son using a fancy, expensive felt breastfeeding bib manufactured by some trendy baby product company didn’t fly. It was like trying to drive in traffic with a blindfold on. Sweaty and stressful. My little muffled below baby breathed labored, gasping breaths. It almost sounded like he was suffocating. I hated it and he seemed to too. Later, I switched to lighter swaddling blankets and eventually got the hang of it without sending him into a fit of frustration.

Once I felt he was portable, which was a ridiculously long time thanks to new mom paranoia and a serious case of post partum depression, I carefully toted my son around neighborhood parks and beaches in an Over the Shoulder Baby Holder.

(I wonder if the folks who named that contraption were puffing something wacky and skunked when they named it. Hmmmm. Dorky name or not, my Over the Shoulder Baby Holder worked.) Now I could easily nurse my hungry sapphire-eyed guy in public by simply pulling a pinch of fabric over his vacuum suctioned face. No onlookers were the wiser. At least I didn't think they were.

Baby number two was a completely different story. He was nearly attached to the breast 24/7. I was a ‘round-the-clock feeding machine, and it didn’t matter where I was. He had to have it. I learned to walk and nurse. Even run after his 2-year-old big brother at the park and nurse.

The mini-troopers are restless and unruly. Sick of staring at the back of my blogging head. Part two will hopefully come as soon as I time-out them into submission!

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15 Comments:

At 4:58 PM, Blogger Sarah said...

I cant wait to read part deux of your breastfeeding perils/experiences. My first nursed All.the.time. for 18 full months. Im really glad she was my first because I had no idea it wasn't the 'norm' for a baby to nurse 45 minutes at a shot every 2 hours the first year of their life.
Ugh...makes me tired and hungry just thinking about it.
I will never fully understand the 'horror' of a breastfeeding mom and baby. Seriously, I've seen more nipple at the gym I go to than at a mama nursing in public.

Im in Connecticut which has been pretty breastfeeding friendly in my experience. Either that or my 'lactivist' look has scared all the onlookers away...that or the slurping.
hope your littles feel better.

 
At 5:30 PM, Blogger Heather said...

Well, you know me, so you obviously know I nursed Ian for 18 months. I was very lucky to have my sister and sister-in-law come before me both as teachers and advocates. Most importantly, they laid the groundwork for allowing me to comfortably nurse in front of anyone. Everyone who knows my sister saw her breasts at some point in the four years she nursed her two girls, and my sister-in-law successfully tandem nursed twins, quite openly. For anyone who knows anything about nursing two, you just can't cover up. By the time my son came around, I never tried covering him. I always felt like he was suffocating too and I just didn't care.

Looking forward to part 2.

 
At 6:51 PM, Blogger BlogWhore said...

don't mind me. i love bf post because it allows me to comment with the following....

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or...

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At 9:40 PM, Blogger Loralee Choate said...

Due to medical issues I could never nurse longer than 3 months. I do think nursing is best, but I was really made to feel like complete crap because my baby was on formula.

Again, another example of how mothers tend to tear each other to ribbons when they of all people should be each other's biggest supporters if for no other reason than realizing how hard it is to do without adding a ton of judgement (Either way)

 
At 7:10 AM, Blogger Oh, The Joys said...

I liked to refer to my "girls" as "The Tupperware" during the time of nursing.

BTW - getting your comment pop up to pop up took like HOURS. WTF? Could explain if you don't get a ton...

 
At 9:08 AM, Blogger Nikki said...

Yay! Finally someone else who is called a "breastfeeding Nazi" I loved this post! Thank you! Thank you! Thank you! I am a 1975 baby myself (nonbreastfed as well). I have a post on something we went through this last year, please check it out! http://notyourgrandmasgreyhair.blogspot.com/2006/06/friends-but-not-when-it-comes-to.html#links

 
At 3:24 PM, Blogger jeanie said...

lol - my mother was exceptionally proud that she went against the grain and actually breastfed my brother for 6 weeks after he was born - due to medical issues (in really olden golden times she would have been a statistic with both my sister and myself) I didn't get even 6 weeks.

Its funny, its not a particularly open state where I live, but I fed my daughter all over the place - possibly I copped a couple of looks (I took no notice) but only once did I get a comment - from a woman - who suggested I feed my daughter in the toilets. I suggested she eat her dinner in the toilets!

 
At 12:01 AM, Anonymous karenkt said...

I really admire moms like you who have difficulties nursing and still persist. I think i'n in the minority to have had zero complications and minimal pain. Never used the lanolin cream or whatever it is.
Breast is best, but I hate it that formula moms are made to feel crappy. My formula fed god daughter is way quicker on developmental stuff than my kid, so I think that dispells any bad feelings. I just hope my kid continues to reap the brain/lipids & immunity benefits for years to come.

 
At 6:16 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember breastfeeding my new born daughter in the foyer of the Birmingham Museum of Fine Art. I got looks but no one has ever sayed anything to me about my completely open style of breastfeeding. Probably because of my calculated 'I will gently put this baby down and whoop your ass' stare. I would estimate that around 50% of America has seen my boobies. Who the hell cares? Rock on Slackstress!!!

 
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