Breast Practices – supporting nursing mothers

fresco
Fresco of Maria Lactans (literal translation: Mary as a nursing mother) at the Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul in Agliate, Italy.
As you can see, Mary is breastfeeding Jesus without so much as a blankie covering her shoulder.
Also, I can find no evidence that Mary – in either a fresco representation, nor the concordance of my Bible – fed him in a bathroom.

By: Jana Greene

A young mother on an afternoon shopping trip at the mall juggles her fussy, hungry four-month old son. She needs to feed him, so she:

a) Sits on a bench in front of Victoria’s Secret store, and digs through the diaper bag for a bottle of formula. Her son quiets instantly as she feeds him. Shoppers smile as they pass by, because everybody loves a baby –  particularly a quiet one. Everyone loves to see a mommy caring for her child.

b) Sits on a bench in the mall – this time in the Food Court –  and digs through a diaper bag for a receiving blanket. She drapes it over her shoulder and  lifts her blouse underneath discreetly, and with a swift motion of the other arm, cradles her four-month-old son to her breast. Her son quiets instantly as she feeds him. Many shoppers either avert their eyes or make snarky comments amongst themselves as they pass by (some make them intentionally  loud enough for the young mother to hear) – Because everyone loves a baby, but apparently not everyone loves to see a mommy caring for her child.

Which of the mother’s feeding choices do you find most offensive?

As it so happens, a mother shopping at an actual Victoria’s Secret store in Austin, Texas was asked not to nurse her infant in the store at all. Not even in a dressing room. It was suggested by employee that – are you sure you’re ready to finish reading this? – she nurse him in “the alley.”

Ahhhh. You can spend hundreds of dollars on bras in an effort to lift and separate,  push ’em up and hold ’em down – so long as you don’t use them in a practical manner. It would seem that the Land of Silk and Money is NOT the Land of Milk and Honey.

Shouldn’t we find  floor-to-ceiling-sized posters of nearly-naked super models (whose boobs are so exposed that only her areolas are covered by strategically-placed feathers) a bit more offensive than a breastfeeding mother? Breasts are made for feeding babies. If that makes you uncomfortable, take it up with God – it was His big idea. He designed them perfectly for it, long before plastic bottles and rubber nipples. Society has managed – as is so often the case – to make something pure and natural into something perverse.

(By the way, my  least-favorite reaction to a breastfeeding mother is: “Well, SEX is natural, too – but I don’t want to see anyone else doing it.” In what alternate universe is nursing a baby “like having sex?” Answer: In no universe. What a wildly inappropriate comparison!)

When my daughters were babies – and even into toddler-hood – I nursed discreetly  in malls, and concerts; in the park, and on “Its a Small World” at Disneyworld. I was living life and raising kids. We were on the go, and many times I thanked God for the convenience and economy of lactation – not to mention the bonding between mother and child in ensures. Who has time for fooling with bottles?

Once, when my firstborn was about six months old, I was feeding her at a museum, on a bench in a quiet, darkened hallway. I had a light blanket loosely over my shoulder,  fully covering my breast (and my baby’s head, face, and shoulders.) Only her tiny legs and feet were exposed, kicking happily. A couple walked by.

“She should nurse that baby in the bathroom,” said the woman.

Here is what I wanted to say: “Do you enjoy eating your lunch in the bathroom? Most of us don’t. I’m pretty sure my daughter doesn’t either!”

But I’m a wimp, so instead, my face burned a little. Her statement did what she had  intended – embarrassed me. But only momentarily; I knew that I was doing what was best for my child.

Can a nursing mother be 100% discreet all of the time? Sometimes babies pull away for a moment to hiccup. Sometimes the chug too fast and choke a bit, in which case they suddenly sit up.  And yes, you regularly have to switch sides, folks (that old “supply and demand thing.) If you see a mother and baby in a “nip slip” and for that instant your delicate sensibilities are offended, look away.  If you “don’t need to see it,” don’t stare.

Now – If it doesn’t bother you to see it, give the mother a little smile.  She is doing what is (sadly) considered a brave thing these days…a much, much braver thing to do than what is socially acceptable (Victoria Secret model displaying her perfect breasts in billboard-sized glory.)

The nursing mother is just feeding her baby as humankind has been nourished since the dawn of time. Somehow our more primitive ancestors “got” what we have  lost.

Breastfeeding is what boobs are for.

4 thoughts on “Breast Practices – supporting nursing mothers

  1. I’ve never understood what all the fuss was about and why it’s even an issue. Seeing someone blow their nose in public grosses me out but I’d never tell someone they couldn’t do it.

  2. As a long time Lactation consultant, I applaud your blog, and appreciate that you said it. It is a sad society we live in where Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is considered acceptable and a breastfeeding baby and mother is considered pornography.

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