While I’m on the subject of breastfeeding, I’m flummoxed over why this can be a polarizing issue. Is controversy over breastfeeding really a thing? I don’t get it. When it comes to breastfeeding vs formula and breastfeeding in public, what exactly is there to argue over?
Breastfeeding vs Formula Feeding
Perhaps one issue is that some women feel pressured or judged for their decisions, and I understand that. I don’t support telling a woman what she should do and no woman should feel bullied or attacked for her decision. But stating a fact is not an attack. And the fact is that breast is best. There will always be an exception, but for the vast majority of babies, breast milk is unmatched and the best nutrition they can receive. If wishing every baby could be a breastfed baby makes me a “lactivist” then I’m fine with that! But know, too, that I am a lactivist whose children have also had plenty of formula. So I’m not here to judge any woman for formula-feeding or to make her feel bad about that choice. How could I, when I’ve made that same choice? And that’s exactly why I am such a passionate advocate for breastfeeding, because I’ve been on both sides and have experienced the ups and downs of each.
My particular push for advocacy is specifically for the woman that comes to the conclusion that nursing is not for her without first having a clear understanding of breastfeeding basics. There are certainly things I know now that I didn’t as a first time mom. I have had many myths and preconceived notions dispelled with all that I have learned about breastfeeding along the way. So many women, particularly some young and/or first time moms, mistakenly believe that they really can’t breastfeed, that they don’t make enough milk, that it hurts, that it’s scary, or any other number of common myths. You just can’t know everything there is to know about breastfeeding from reading a manual; it would be information overload and most of it wouldn’t even apply to you.
I want to share with women who are new to this that there are some things about breastfeeding that you just won’t be able to grasp until you are experiencing it, but all you really need to remember is that whatever issue you face, know that it’s happened to someone else and there is almost always a solution or fix! You can check reputable online sources such as http://www.kellymom.com or http://www.llli.org to search only for your specific issue, meet with a lactation consultant, or visit a local breastfeeding mothers group for help. With my first baby, if I had known then the wealth of free information, advice, and guidance I could have received when I encountered issues, I may have made a more concerted effort to continue breastfeeding longer. And then again, maybe I wouldn’t have, who knows, but at least I would have had the knowledge of what was true/wasn’t true, and known what I could have done differently and what may have worked for me. If at all possible, seek the answers, try the tips and suggestions, and at least give it a chance to work for you before bringing your breastfeeding journey to a close.
Breastfeeding in Public
This is an issue for some women, and understandably so. Prior to motherhood, most women aren’t in the habit of randomly whipping out their breasts in public. Truthfully, the exposure can feel a little odd at first. With my first child, even when at home, I would cover up if there were male relatives around. As with all things, comfort and ease come with time. I quickly got over the shyness in front of family, although I continued to cover up in public well into nursing my second child. I was over my own personal discomfort of being uncovered at this time. I guess I just continued to cover up because it felt like that’s what I was supposed to do. Especially after reading so many horror stories online about the looks of disgust women receive and random people chastising them for being obscene and demanding they cover up. I just wanted to feed my child and didn’t want to have to go through all of that drama, so I simply didn’t bother. It wasn’t until this third child that I finally had to ask myself why.
After weeks of being shut-in following a rough C-section recovery, I was so ready to venture out of the house. Our very first outing was just to a local park but it was a beautiful day and we stayed for several hours so of course baby eventually needed to eat. I found a bench, put on my cover, and attempted to feed but he was having none of it. He hated the cover. And it was hot. We just couldn’t get comfortable so finally I just took the damn thing off. In an instant, we were cooled off and he was eating. No one said a word to me or even looked my way. The sky didn’t fall. Birds chirped. Kids played. Life went on. And I’ve never worn that cover again.
I’ve nursed uncovered a lot in public since then and I have to say, it’s a really freeing experience and I’ve not received any negative feedback. I haven’t had anyone stare at me disapprovingly or hurl any scathing remarks my way. Quite the opposite, I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of smiles I’ve received and people who have openly approached me and commended me for nursing, including a man who struck up a conversation with me about the travails of his newly breastfeeding wife! I credit that encouragement and kindness from strangers as the reason why I have become more confident and emboldened with my public nursing and posted social media pictures. I’ve nursed openly in restaurants and have nursed sandwiched in the middle seat of a crowded airplane between two burly men. I’ve nursed in front of children and other women’s husbands and am pleased to report that I’ve succeeded in neither scarring the kids for life nor seducing the men away from their wives.
Honestly, all the positive feedback I have received (and I also count the overwhelming disinterest or outright ignoring of me and baby from the vast majority of the public as positive!) has me wondering if maybe this idea that ‘nursing in public is scary’ has been a little overblown, perhaps (unknowingly) even by moms ourselves, kind of like when you walk into a party alone and think “oh my god everyone is staring at me” when truthfully, they’re really not.
But even if negative feedback is imagined, it’s not hard to understand why women would still perceive the situation as such. No matter if you receive a thousand compliments, it’s always going to stick with you more the one derisive comment from the troll who declares you are being offensive. And it sure doesn’t help when Instagram and other social media platforms routinely delete breastfeeding pictures because they go ‘against the community guidelines’. *Sigh*. That anyone can look at a child being nourished and see nudity, pornography, and perversion is simply sad. But my feeling is that these small-minded and misguided people are in the minority, and that their negative mindsets may soon be nonexistent with the movement to #normalizebreastfeeding. I will do my part by continuing to nourish my child whenever and wherever we have the need, and by supporting all women to feel safe and empowered to do the same, should they so choose.