Monday, August 2, 2010

Trying not to be a milk nazi here, but REALLY.

So have we all heard about the whole Kim Kardashian / breastfeeding / Twitter thing? Apparently, she saw a mother nursing without a cover up (gasp!) and felt compelled to broadcast her disgust via Twitter.

Total fame-whoring, right? Being controversial for the sake of being talked about. Google image search her and EVERY photo that comes up shows more far breast than I do when I've got Rhys latched on. She's a moron, but she isn't the point.

What I'm really disturbed by are the comments I've seen floating around the internet from people who agree with her. People who think that a mother shouldn't nurse her baby in public. Or people who think a mother who nurses without a cover up is being "rude". I'll give the general public this much: breastfeeding has been out of fashion for several generations and, as such, people who haven't done it themselves or watched someone close to them do it probably wouldn't know all the reasons a mother couldn't necessarily "just use a bottle" or cover up. People are ignorant. I'll give them the benefit of the doubt and not blame them directly for their ignorance; we can't be expected to know the workings of something society has eschewed for decades.

Let's start with bottles. Why couldn't a mother "just bottle feed" when away from home? Breastfeeding is a symbiotic relationship. A mother needs her baby to empty her breasts just as much as her baby needs her milk. If a mother were to skip a feeding in favor of using a bottle she'd become engorged. Her breasts would become hard, uncomfortable, hot, leaking . Frequent engorgement leads to painful infections, mastitis, plugged and blocked ducts.

Some breastfed babies refuse to take bottles. As I type this my husband is trying, unsuccessfully, to feed Rhys a bottle of milk I pumped earlier. Even babies who will take bottles often won't take them from their mothers, meaning if mother were out with baby on her own she'd be SIL on the "just bring a bottle" front.

There's also the issue of what goes in the bottle. I really don't want to delve into the complicated, tension-fraught issue of breastmilk vs. formula but let it suffice to say as a breastfeeding mom there is No. Way. In. Fuck. I'd give my baby formula for the sole purpose of appeasing people who happen to be out in public with me.

As for why a mother might not be able to "just feed the baby before leaving home", let me assure you most mothers do. A breastfed baby eats every 2-3 hours; most outings simply last longer. A newborn breastfed baby eats more or less constantly. As a new mom there was nothing more beneficial to my mental health than getting out of the house every once in a while, and I couldn't have accomplished even the simplest outing without breastfeeding in public.

On to coverups! When I first started feeding him out in public Rhys would eat with a blanket over his head, no problem. Now, at three months old, he's far too interested in the world to submit to having his view of it blocked while eating. He's also developed the dexterity to rip off offending blankets and nursing wraps (pretty darn surprising to me the first time he did it!).

Wearing nursing tanks, v neck tops or loose t shirts I can breastfeed while showing far less skin than you'd see on the cover of most fashion magazines. There is the possibility that during latch on, or when Rhys pauses mid-meal to pull off and smile at me, someone might catch a tiny flash of nipple. They'd have to be hovering over me staring though and, really, who'd be the "rude" one in that situation?

And even if someone DID catch that flash of nipple . . . in the context of feeding a baby, I think there is nothing whatsoever inappropriate about that. However much society has sexualized a woman's breasts, breastfeeding is not a sexual act. A breastfeeding mom can't be held responsible for the misguided impressions of ignorant observers.

Knowing all the above, anyone left who still thinks women shouldn't breastfeed in public probably doesn't belong out in public themselves (*ahem*kimkardashian*cough*).