A few weeks ago I posted about a mom who was perturbed by my breastfeeding Millie while waiting in line in the grocery store checkout. While most people who have seen a child begging for something as they wait in line- usually for candy or some other sugary treat- would have just rolled their eyes, my child, asking for a boo-boo, seemed to spark a nerve in this mom. Her son was with her- maybe he was 15 or 16- and I would imagine we were both sharing mom done-ness at that moment. No parent waiting in the grocery store line at 6:30 at night has patience. Whether their children are 4 or 16, our last nerve is slowly being struck, and so I understood that she was at the end of her rope. I understood that my child whining was annoying. Frankly I too was annoyed, so I put Millie in the the top part of the cart I leaned in, raised my top shirt, unlatched my tank top, and allowed her to nurse. I wish I could say she could even see anything, but all you could hear was really happy baby, slurping away- finally… comfort. Relief. My tired, hungry, 20 month old girl had exactly what she wanted. While not a sugary treat or baked good, this mother still felt the need to tisk me.
She’s not hungry for your milk like that. Just tell her ‘no’. the woman had said to me. She also mentioned she wasn’t trying to be mean… in truth, I think she was more concerned about her son’s wandering eyes, slowly landing on the bit of side boob that I’m sure was revealed as Millie gleefully wrapped her hand around my breast.
And this is why it sparked my interest when a friend sent me a picture of the current Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. A young woman on the cover, groping her breasts- barely covering her nipples- in a barely visible bikini bottom. The swimsuit edition I thought. Where’s the swimsuit?
My friend is a mom as well, though her kids are older than mine… and boys. I can imagine she feels a grip in her throat when her sons see exposed breasts on a magazine cover. What will they think? How do they perceive women? I got why she sent me the picture… I’ve been called out for breastfeeding without a cover and an older child. There’s a portion of the population that focuses on shaming breastfeeding women. There’s been stories of the woman who had breast fed at a Bernie rally having death threats said to her. Death threats for feeding her child.
Oh you just want attention they say.
That poor baby they say.
Breasts are sexual so breastfeeding is sexual they say.
Have they ever tried to breastfeed?
It’s not exactly a cakewalk… even when it comes easily (as it did for me and Millie and not so much for me and Addie). Feeding a hungry baby is, in no way, a sexual act. Breasts are not, inherently, sexual.
When we see young women on the cover of magazines, out in the open in a prominent display at, of all places, Cumberland Farms (a chain of gas stations, if you’re not familiar), no one says a word. No one takes pictures and slams this business, or Sports Illustrated. No one says that these models are posing for attention or because they want to show off their boobs… They are heralded as beautiful women. Models. Blessed with a fabulous figure.
But let’s remember: They are posing with their breasts [mostly] exposed, for money. To make more money.
We’re just trying to keep our kids from going off the rails on a crazy train. Or get through the line at the grocery store without having a breakdown.
Or, you know, keeping our children alive by feeding them.
I’m not blessed with a beautiful figure, but I’m pretty athletic .I’m not a model and I’m not breastfeeding for attention- in fact, her wailing in public for a boo-boo is sometimes too much for me… until I look into her eyes and realize, she is just tired, or didn’t eat enough lunch, or just needs comfort. And then I’m just loving my child as she needs in that moment.
I’m feeding my child.
If a woman touching herself on the cover of a magazine that is exposed in a gas station at eye level of your children doesn’t inspire you to riot, then you don’t, in the same un-upending breath, get to be offended by me feeding my child. You not teaching your sons (and daughters) that breastfeeding is natural and simply one form of feeding a child- that breasts are, in fact, scientifically for feeding children- then that’s on you. Not me.
So listen up Sports Illustrated and listen up Boy Scouts of America. Breasts aren’t so scary and aren’t so sexual and aren’t for exploitation or shame. Stop blaming your erections, impure thoughts, embarrassment and fears of the human body on my child’s hunger.