All right, it’s time to do some unpacking.
When a woman first has a child, if she chooses (and is able) to breastfeed, she’ll likely feed her child for 20+ minutes, every 2 hours. Here’s what that doesn’t mean:
Start breastfeeding at 1, feed til 1:30, take a nice break and breastfeed again at 3:30.
We’re talking 2 hours from the start of the nursing session. So:
Start at 1, feed til 1:30, change baby, rock baby to sleep, eat a snack, start feeding again at 3 while trying not to fall asleep or cry on her.
Anyway, my point is you’re feeding your newborn constantly! I get it, they have tiny, marble-sized stomachs. But it’s intense, neverending.
As hard as it is to believe in those first few days, at some point after giving birth you’re going to want to leave the house. And here’s where the anxiety sets in: breastfeeding in public! Dun dun duuuuuun!
As much as we hear “Breast is Best” from our doctor and get 12 pamphlets per visit preaching this, we have all heard stories of exhausted new mothers being harassed, bullied, or shamed while nursing in public.
What is this about? On one side, there is the deeply engrained American Puritanism. Nudity (especially female nudity) = sex = sin. Then on the other side there’s our predominantly male culture’s objectification and possessiveness of the female body. “Boobs are for men to look at and that is all.” It goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that nursing in public has nothing to do with sex or men or really anything else but mom feeding her hungry infant to keep her alive!
Mix those two skewed beliefs together and add one more: MOM.
Mom is perfect. Mom is your protector. Mom knows how to save the day. You know all those movies where a fight breaks out right after someone says Don’t you say anything about my mother!
“Good” moms are above criticism. They don’t swear. They don’t pass gas. They have Pinterest boards, but they certainly don’t expose their breast in public.
But of course they should breastfeed. Because that’s good. Just… don’t let anyone see it. Because that’s confusing.
Good moms don’t fuck. Sure, if you’re a mom, you’re reading this saying “Hey! I’m a mom and I like a good fuck every now and then.” OK, but now think about your mom having a good— No thank you very much? Exactly. Your good mom doesn’t have sex.
Good moms take care and give of themselves. Nursing is giving. “But wait, boobs are for sex. So if I see you keeping your child alive with your biological magic (good) but also I can see your boob (sex) that… does not…compute. Are you a good mom or a bad mom!? Are you a mom or a sex object!? Wait am I objectifying a mom? Gah!”
“Ya know what, let me just throw a blanket over you so I don’t have to hold multiple ideas of you at the same time. Or better yet, do you wanna go into the bathroom? Moms don’t care about stinky, germ-ridden places right? Never mind, just go home. Yeah. That’s better. Moms are happiest at home.”
And that’s how moms become isolated, depressed, and anxious.
“Oh. But moms don’t suffer from depression because that would be less than perfect so… why don’t you go pin some developmentally appropriate activities, Mom? Your board always looks like your life is really together!”
News flash. Your mom isn’t perfect. No mom is. And here’s part two. You’re an asshole for expecting her to be.
Your mom fails. Your mom is selfish sometimes. She probably has sex and she definitely shits. Your mom is a perfectly imperfect, flawed and flailing human being just like every other human on this planet and you should let her be one. And so is my mom. And so am I.
I was asked to participate in a video for BuzzFeed about normalizing breastfeeding. Check it out: