Over the weekend, tired from too many errands and not enough food, The Kid and I slipped into a coffee shop to caffeinate (me) and nosh (him). Huddled into one dark corner of the shop was a woman very discreetly nursing her baby. I wouldn't have even noticed she was there, except for the stroller I had to maneuver around. And I wouldn't have even noticed she was nursing, except the blanket she was wearing seemed out of place in the 90+ degree weather. Realizing is was a nursing cover-up, I had to admire the woman's dedication to discretion. I would not have been so accommodating to my fellow patrons in such weather. Maybe a light blanket draped over the little one's head, but a full wrap-around model? No way. Too sweaty. And The Kid (then The Infant) would've just pulled it off anyway. He hated those cover-ups.
She caught me looking at her, and I smiled. "How old?" I asked.
The man standing in front of me glanced over at the sound of our voices. His eyes scanned quickly from woman to cover-up to woman to stroller to woman. Grabbing his iced coffee off the counter, he gave her a disapproving look of contempt, and walked off shaking his head.
"There are bathrooms for that," he muttered under his breath.
"Why don't you go drink your coffee in one," I shot back.
He scowled at me over his glasses with disgust because, you know, consuming a beverage in a public bathroom is gross. Duh. Unless, of course, that beverage is breast milk, in which case the scent of piss and sounds of defecation only make it more appetizing.
My own nursing days were marked with the same disapproving looks and rude comments. And I've gotta ask you: What the hell? What? The? Hell?
What is it about nursing in public that is so abhorrent to some people? Why do so many immediately equate it to public urination or masturbation? Why do so many seem incapable of considering a use for breasts (their true purpose) outside of a sexual context?
The, "I wouldn't be allowed to masturbate/urinate in public, so why can you nurse in public?" argument is as common as it is ridiculous. I have a friend whose grandmother told her she shouldn't nurse in public because the mere idea that bare breasts are present will "entice men to fornicate." And a woman once approached me while I was nursing in a secluded corner of a shopping mall (fully covered, I might add) and reminded me that "the good Lord wants us to be modest, dear."
Blink. Blink. Blink.
Yes. Well. If the good Lord was so concerned about my modesty, He probably should've thought to route my milk through something other than my tits.
I'm going to go out on a limb here, people. And some of you are not going to like what I have to say, but I feel that it must be said. Only in a puritanical, sexually retarded society could feeding one's young the way nature intended be deemed dirty and repugnant.
Personally, I would be happy if every woman felt as comfortable as Maggie Gyllenhaal nursing in public, without a cover-up. (Though I'm feeling a little bad for her babe, who appears to be battling that cute little jacket thing Maggie's wearing.)
When this photo was first all over the Internets, I saw it posted somewhere with the caption, "What is wrong with this picture?" I loved one commenter's reply: "Um. She's not using a coaster?"
But I digress...
The woman in the coffee shop (and myself, in my day) was being very discreet; completely covered up. There was no offensive piece of flesh showing anywhere. If you find something distasteful or immoral about that, that is your issue - not hers.
Not every mother wants to breastfeed. Not every mother who wants to is able to. Not every breastfeeding mother will choose to do so in public. But some mothers do want to breastfeed, and can, and will do so in public. And you'll just have to deal with it and, if I may be so blunt, shut the fuck up about it.
Because even though you may not like it, those mothers have every natural and legal* right to nurse their children in public. And because, NO!, for the love of all that is good and holy, those mothers will NOT nurse while sitting on a toilet in a public restroom. Thank you very much.
This week is World Breastfeeding Week. If you're interested, learn more here. If you're not, at least lay off the nursing mothers until Saturday.
*In the U.S., 43 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands have laws with language specifically allowing women to breastfeed in any public or private location. In addition, twenty-eight states, the District of Columbia and the Virgin Islands exempt breastfeeding from public indecency laws. I confess to being completely ignorant to the laws of any other country.
Mighty Girl’s Quince
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