Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Nursing in Public - my belief system

I've been thinking a lot about breastfeeding in public for the last few months.
I have another post entitled: Facebook: God created breasts for breastfeeding

One, it is extremely hard to do with any modesty if you are large breasted within the first 5/6 months.  But it does get better and easier the more head control the baby has.   I breastfeed in public very easily now at 8 months.  However, a small part of my breast tissue will show because I am large breasted, but no more than any woman who shows cleavage or breast tissue in their everyday wear.

If a woman asks me to cover up, and I know that she shows cleavage or breast tissue in her everyday wear, I am first going to be thinking "hypocrite" in my head, but basically I am just going to say, "I'm sorry but I choose not to do that."  However, if a woman who I know is modest in her everyday wear, and is a sweet type of woman, and if I see that she is a bit distressed, then I will be more willing to put a small cloth over the exposed breast tissue.

I will never put a blanket over my child's head because I do not want him breathing reverberated air (carbon monoxide).  I do have a nursing cover with a hole on top, and if the baby isn't squirmy (ie yanking it off) I will use it in auditorium type of situation where there are just a lot of people.  I will not use it for most situations however, because my child truly believes it is a toy, and will draw all types of attention to us because he is kicking it and yanking it and basically pulling it off.

Women who have problems with breastfeeding women exposing breast tissue in public, but expose their own breast tissue in their everyday wear or in their choice of swimsuits - well, I don't understand it.  Personally I believe they must have a problem with the actual act of breastfeeding - that they have a hard time separating the act of nursing the baby with a sexual type of act.  I wonder if most women who think that way have had issues with their own breastfeeding, or just chose not to breastfeed at all.

Here is a post I wrote after a friend's husband put in his status "Be discreet, cover your teet," plus a lot of hurtful joking about breastfeeding women in public in the comments following.

There are usually four reasons why you might see more than you want to when a woman nurses in public:
1) She's a new mom and she's just figuring it out - there is quite a learning curve, and it really is hard to learn.  One of the reasons why the USA's breastfeeding rate is so abysmally low (and in consequence our infant mortality rate so abysmally high) is that women are afraid of juvenile reactions from men who should know better.
2) Her baby thinks the cover is a toy - completely squirmy,
completely distracted baby makes momma give up the cover quickly.  Some babies have no problems with covers, some do.  Also, there is a concern with breathing in too much carbon dioxide.
3) Don't suggest using a bottle.  Some breastfed babies have not and will not use a bottle (it is called nipple confusion).  Some mommies can not pump - babies can get the liquid out, but the pump can't.  Mommies should be able to go out in public and feed their hungry baby wherever and whenever they want - oh wait - they can - all 50 states have laws protecting the breastfeeding rights of mothers, exposed or not.
4) Some women just don't care that some men never matured past their teenage years.  They are not going to allow some man's opinion dictate how they feed their baby.  So they breastfeed however they want to. They figure it is the immature man or woman's problem if they choose to be offended.  They believe in the saying, "If breastfeeding offends you, go put a blanket over your head."

And here is the question that I pose that tends to make people leave a breastfeeding woman alone:  If God created breasts to nurse a baby, is it a sin if you expose your breasts?  And if God doesn't think it a sin, then why should it bother me that you have a problem with it?

I believe, like the subject of racism, that being offended by breastfeeding is a socially, culturally taught thing, usually as a child or a teen.  You may live in a community where racism is an accepted norm, but that does not make it right.  You may live in a community where breastfeeding is offensive, but that does not make it right.

I see comments like yours and all I can think about are the many, many stories I have listened to and read from women who have struggled with breastfeeding, and I just want to get the word out that there are many reasons behind why a person might see more than they are comfortable with when glancing at a nursing mother. I just think of how many women have been genuinely hurt by comments and jokes like that and basically just wanted to get across that there are other viewpoints. It just makes me sad that people think jokes like the one in your status are culturally acceptable.

And to sum up, here is an article about breastfeeding in public that my husband Kevin wrote that I of course think is brilliant:

Written by Kevin C. Neece:
It is really a sexist view that proclaims that women are intelligent and responsible and can make choices about how they respond to stimuli and that men are just drooling animals, uncontrollably dominated by their passions because they are basically too dull-witted to do otherwise. Saying that men “can’t help it” or “are wired that way” may seem like compassion and consideration for men, but in reality it is a degrading gender bias. The truth is that we should expect all adults to behave like adults regardless of their gender.

As a man, I am personally tired of hearing such views bandied about so easily as though they are not at all bigoted. It may be culturally acceptable, but it is wrong to expect men to be the lowest common denominator of our species. Adult men are expected to be and are often portrayed as no more than college frat boys with families. But college frat boys are just junior high boys with newfound freedom and legal permission. And junior high boys are just elementary school boys with sex drives. So essentially, we are telling men that their progress as a gender is so stunted that they can never truly be expected to grow out of boyhood. This is now excused because we tell them that they are genetically wired to be too stupid to grow up. When you place no expectations of civility and maturity on any human being, they will more often than not respond to those expectations by remaining in the realm of their baser instincts. If, however, people are treated as beings capable of civilized, respectful behavior, they develop as such.

Moreover, the story of human progress tell us that the basic project of being human consists of learning, changing, growing, and trying to become more than what we are. By insisting that men are incapable of advancing themselves in a conscious, focused manner, we are depriving them of their basic dignity as human beings by ignoring their potential to grow in positive, civil and mature directions.

As a man married to a breastfeeding mother, to whom I am very sexually attracted, I can say that simply having developed the mindset of the natural, feeding function of the female breasts has allowed me to consistently view my wife’s breasts as sources of food when seen in a functional context, and as sources of arousal when seen in a sexual context. There has never been any confusion between the two. I did not have to be trained or desensitized. All I had to do was learn about the purpose and beauty of breastfeeding. Were the activity of public breastfeeding more common and accepted in our culture in general, and were our expectations of men inclusive of more than unthinking Neanderthal-like sex drives, there would not be an issue regarding the response of intelligent, civilized men to public breastfeeding. A mother must be asked to do no less than put the needs of her child before other considerations. A man’s response to what he may or may not see for a brief moment is his own to deal with.

The breastfeeding conversation among Christians today tends to focus on nipples, nudity, and naughtiness. Instead, Christians should be about the business of helping to develop a view of breastfeeding as normal, natural, and necessary. Part of that process includes the promotion of breastfeeding as an acceptable, everyday experience. This may create some difficulties along the way for Christians who are now grown men, but it will also help prevent future complications for the Christian men of tomorrow. If our boys are raised in a culture that values and openly accepts the fullest, truest nature of the female breast, we can come one step closer to a world that no longer reduces breasts, and indeed women, to mere sex objects.

Familiarizing the younger generation with a broader understanding of the feeding function of breasts will help to prevent unnecessary and unwarranted sexual temptation in the future rather than creating such temptation by presuming a universally sexualized view of the breast. This is not about a few instances of men being bothered by seeing a little skin. It is about a process of cultural education and development toward a more enlightened future where sex is a natural part of life and not something that dominates our lives in a negative fashion. In this future, breastfeeding is placed in its proper context as a normal and necessary function of motherhood, no longer overshadowed by over-sexualization, nor oppressed by the tyranny of titillation. Therefore, normalizing public views of breastfeeding mothers is a move toward moral responsibility and away from the domination of sexual temptation. As such, it is important that it be carried out, not flippantly or defiantly, but with a focus on awareness, education, and acceptance.

 I love articles that are thought-provoking and helps to rethink thinking, don't you?
Here is another great article on the issue of modesty that I think can be applied to public breastfeeding:

Modesty, Body Policing and Rape Culture: Connecting the Dots


Stepanie Smith said...

Great articles, the both of you! Thanks for sharing. I've been thinking about these issues of modesty lately and talked to my husband about it too.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melissa for your excellent post, and for your comment in the Her.meneutics article. Your perspective adds sense to the debate.

Holly said...

Love it! Thank you so much for sharing!

Herb of Grace said...

I linked in to this post over a series of slicks, so not sure how I ended up here.... But I love this post-- especially your husband's contribution. If you don't mind, I'd like to re-print that part of it my my blog readers, of course linking back to your blog and giving credit to your husband.

You can leave a comment at my blog!

FindSavings said...

I nursed for a year and I did it in public. I, would not use a blanket b/c I was worried about breathing in the same air, so I used a cover that was loose and tied around my neck. That way, there was plenty of ventilation and I still had privacy. Even moments when I was completely covered, people would still stare and give me what I call the evil eye of moscow. No offense. I just do not understand how people cannot be more supportive of something that is so amazing and good for a baby. Great posts!