Sunday, June 13, 2010

Where are our breastfeeding role models?

I saw a woman breastfeeding her three month old son while walking around the busy farmer's market yesterday morning.  No one told her to take it to her car.  No one sent her to a restroom.  No one gave her a disgusted look.  There won't be an outraged newspaper article, followed by a nurse-in, followed by an embarrassed position statement from the farmer's market association.  The simple, beautiful act of a woman feeding her son passed as it should: without fanfare, without event.  I admit that I may not have even noticed her if her beautiful toddler hadn't approached my son in his stroller to engage him in a sweet baby exchange.  She nursed her son while shopping for vegetables with the agility of a seasoned breastfeeding veteran. 

It was just like it should be, and it was a beautiful thing.  Sadly, the fact that I am compelled to blog about what should be a common occurrence means that it isn't so common.

Is it any wonder that so many women report having difficulty breastfeeding?  Is it any wonder that the act of nourishing a child, something our bodies are so beautifully designed to do, is so hard for so many women? Should we be at all surprised that women, women who are good mothers, opt to forego breastfeeding entirely?

Where are our breastfeeding role models?

Do you know who the first woman that I ever saw nursing was?  It was me.  Before Jack was born, I had never even seen a woman breastfeed.  I've certainly seen babies eat:  I've seen moms walking around, well, everywhere, bottle in hand and babe in arms.  But before Jack came into my life, the act of nursing was so shrouded in mystery that I had never even witnessed it before.

That's not right.  But it is a direct consequence of our "cover it up" culture.  How are we supposed to learn if we cannot observe?  And how are we supposed to observe if women are being shunned into restrooms or exiling themselves to their homes during feedings? 

I want to add my small but determined voice to the chorus of brave women calling for the normalization of breastfeeding, calling for a cultural revolution where the breast is first and foremost for breastfeeding.

I want my son's future wife, and his future daughters and their daughters, to never have a reason to think twice about what I saw at the farmer's market yesterday.  I want that to be normal.


Sarah said...

Wonderful post! I frequently suggest for pregnant women to start to go to LLL meetings before their baby is born *just* so they can see other women nurse- there are so many women like you who want to breastfeed- but who have never even seen it happen. No amount of public health breastfeeding promotion, sassy "how to" books, helpful nurses, or powerpoint classes can replace the reassurance that a woman could get simply seeing another woman do it. Why should we each have to re-invent the wheel every time?

Becoming Mamas said...

Well said! I too had never seen a nursing mama in person before I started nursing. I agree with Sarah that attending a LLL meeting or similar event where one can see other women breastfeeding before giving birth is an excellent idea. I also think one of the best ways we can help educate other mamas about breastfeeding is by opening talking about it and NIP ;-)

Jessica said...

Great post! It's so true that breastfeeding just needs to be normalized in our society.

Miranda said...

Hi! I just saw this post today. (How is it that I'm not following you yet? I blame lack of sleep..)


What we also need in this country is a little de-sexualization of the boob. I admit to being a prude. I really do. I also admit to using my boobs to lure guys in bars when I was in college. But there's so much SEX associated with breasts that people can't see their original purpose anymore. And that's got to change. But I don't know how to change it unless I walk around with my now-saggy, sad post-BFing boobs on display. Which would probably just scare people off from ever having sex again and defeat the purpose of promoting breastfeeding as procreation would cease.


Sorry for the novel. I just want to give you a ::fist bump:: for this post.

Jenn said...

Thanks for the ::fist bump::

I totally agree with you - when the boob stops being OMG scandalous! then we can start working towards this normalization.

And there's nothing wrong with breasts being sexual, in my opinion. The problem is when their sexuality becomes their primary function, which is where we are now.