Who could cover up this face?
Well, it finally happened to me. Someone actually decided to say something to me about breastfeeding my daughter uncovered.
Let me preface this by saying that if you wish to use a nursing cover or otherwise cover yourself while breastfeeding, that’s cool with me, it’s your choice. For me, it’s just not a possibility. Little Miss wants to see what’s going on around her. She is a kid that does not want to miss a thing and from a few weeks old would flail and pull at any cover I attempted, so I just gave up and learned to latch her on quickly and efficiently, for my own comfort.
I have been stared at, pointed at and given nasty looks while feeding in public on a few occasions. The vast majority of the time, I don’t notice what anyone else is doing, because, well, I’m kinda busy.
Yesterday though, I attended a birthday party for the daughter of a very dear friend. It was a backyard party complete with jumping castle, piñata and delicious food. My 7 month old was not going to make it through a whole party without being fed, despite her enthusiastically trying small pieces of cheese and bread. Anyway, I fed her a couple of times while we were there, and I can’t say she made it easy, wanting to pop off and look around almost constantly. But we managed with minimal fuss and I didn’t really think anything of it, despite a few jokes from a friend who offered to cover his head while I fed.
Later in the day, another guest at the party raised the subject with me by mentioning that she had seen me on Sunrise earlier this year. After a bit of chat, she said she’d seen me feed earlier and that it made her uncomfortable, and said I should have used a blanket.
Now, the possibility of someone saying something like this to me has, I admit, crossed my mind in the past. I have thought up numerous witty retorts, scathing comments and polite-yet-firm responses to such situations and when it came to the crunch, I drew a total blank, because it was so unexpected. The first thing she said was
“I saw you feeding her and I thought it was, you know, a bit much”. I wasn’t even sure I’d heard correctly so responded with “Sorry?”. She expanded on what she’d said with “It was a bit much, I felt uncomfortable seeing you feed her”
I instantly felt bad for making her uncomfortable. That was my knee-jerk response. And then I felt angry that I let someone make me feel like that when I had done nothing wrong. All that came out of my mouth was “I’m sorry you felt that way”. She continued to speak about feeding her own kids, using blankets etc. I said “Good for you” and left the room.
It doesn’t surprise me that some people still feel this way but it does disappoint me that they would feel the need to put their feelings back onto the feeding mother. How someone feels about seeing any mother breastfeed is their own responsibility. As a mum, my responsibility is not to ensure that every person around me feels ok about how I feed my child- my responsibility is to feed my baby.
I recently read the story of a gorilla at a zoo that was raised in captivity and was unable to feed her baby as she’d never been exposed to other breastfeeding gorillas so therefore hadn’t learned how. When her next baby came along, zoo keepers enlisted some mums from the local La Leche League to breastfeed their infants where the Mama gorilla old watch and learn- this led to her successfully feeding and raising her baby. I think this story illustrates the role feeding uncovered has played in our own societies. In our culture, the rate of breastfeeding has declined as breasts have become more and more sexualised. I think it is clear that this is more than just a correlation and it’s about time we reinstate breasts back to the position they belong in. Yes, they have a role to play in a sexual sense, but the primary function is to feed our children. By feeding openly, not only do we help to normalise breastfeeding within our society, but we also allow other mums-to-be to begin (consciously or not) to learn how to breastfeed. Feeding is hard work when you have no idea how to do it- I can testify to this first hand! I received information and support from midwives and lactation consultants, but my best source of advice and information was other breastfeeding mothers- I’m hoping that I can pay that forward.