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Lactivism Part I

Carside To Go
Just because I'm quiet doesn't mean I'm dead. Heck, no. In fact, a lot of stuff has been getting on my damn nerves lately. I'm going to start with this: breastfeeding.

The first thing that got under my skin was reading this article about a magazine that featured a breastfeeding baby on its cover. Apparently, the negative reactions to this range from "Gross, I'm sick of seeing a baby attached to a boob" to "A breast is a breast — it's a sexual thing." Further, the article cites a survey that reports that less than half of the respondents think women should have the right to breast-feed in public.

My reaction to all of this is: ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!

Okay, let's back up a second. First let me say that feeding your kid formula is not going to do any serious damage. There are hardcore breastfeeding supporters who would disagree with me on that, but come on: there are many happy adults roaming the earth who were fed formula as infants. I'm one of 'em. But you cannot with a straight face argue the simple fact that breastmilk is best for infants. Okay? So let's just use that as our starting point: that formula won't kill anyone, but — if possible and available — breastmilk is best for babies.

Now, back to my rant. To the women I quoted above: guess what, ladies? That's what boobs are MADE FOR. Your American upbringing may have led you to believe that your dirty pillows are only for the men in your life to stare at and/or grope, but in reality they are designed to be milk-making machines. It's not gross. It's a simple biological fact. If you choose to feed your baby formula (or if it is a necessity of adoption, biology or medication) that's your business. It's a free country. And if your baby gets hungry in the middle of Target, you find a quiet spot, bust out a bottle and give him a snack. And that's what breastfeeding moms have to do, too.

For the first two months of Trixie's life I didn't go out in public for more than two hours at a time. I was paralyzed with fear at the idea of feeding her in public. I was sure someone would walk by me and make a comment like, "Ew, gross." and send me into a hormone-induced sobbing frenzy. So, I'd feed her, scramble to leave the house, do the errands as quickly as possible, and scamper home.

But I realized that, if I wanted to try to breastfeed her for 12 months, I couldn't live like that. I'd have to figure out how to do it in public. So, I found a local La Leche League meeting and went. (I figured if I was going to whip a tit, that'd be the place to do it.) It felt weird, but I didn't die. And the women there were very encouraging and gave me lots of tips on how to be discreet.

Over time, I became more and more bold. To the point where, at a lunch with co-workers, I just draped a blanket over Trixie and fed her at a restaurant. I decided that I had nothing to be ashamed about, and if someone was uncomfortable it was their problem, not mine.

Cream of the Crop
I work with almost all men, and the area of the office where I have to pump — while visually private — is not soundproof. So, guess what? I said fuck it. I dubbed it "The Pump House" and three times a day I swagger in there with pump in hand and if the guys need to talk to me, they yell over the wall. One time they even started playing the song "Milkshake" on the office stereo while I was in there. I'm sure some of them were uncomfortable with it at first, but now — if they are uncomfortable they sure don't let it show. And any discomfort I may have felt at the beginning has dissipated because I just own it. As RuPaul once said, I just work it. What choice does one have, really?

I guess what I'm getting at is this: not one mom I know leaves the house thinking, "Golly, I really hope I get to try to feed my baby in public today!" We leave the house to do our business, and if our babies get hungry along the way — so be it. And unless we are waving our nipples in your face, you don't get to complain about it. Not only because we have the legal right to do it, but because we are trying to be good moms. We are trying to raise healthy babies the best we can. We are not doing it to make you feel weird. And if you do feel weird, you can do two things: look inside and ask yourself why you feel uncomfortable about a straightforward biological process, or look the other way.

It makes me sad that there are people out there who think breastfeeding your baby is gross, and who are raising their sons to believe that — no matter the context — a breast is a sexual thing.

Coming next: Lactivism Part II, A Conversation with my Dad

Posted August 13, 2006 9:43 AM | On This Day: 2002



amen! i had almost the exact same experience. it's amazing how when you are in public with a screaming baby, possibly quickly flashing a stranger your boobie is not a big deal compared to the fact that your baby is starving. i don't whip it out but if she's hungry alot less people notice that i'm feeding her (in fact i haven't had anyone even make a face at me) as compared to when she is screaming her head off and half the store/mall/restaurant is looking at us and saying, 'she's hungry, she's tired, she's cold' etc.... go mommies go!

I've never been tempted to flash the gals in public, but I have breastfed on airplanes, in restaurants and at a rodeo. I've also breastfed many times in the car to avoid nursing in public, but sometimes it just wasn't possible. And sometimes, I just didn't want to.

You'd think with the popularity of videos such as "Girls Gone Wild" where it apparantly kicks ass to lift your top wherever you are, that breastfeeding in public would be more popular.

I don't get the controversy either. I get that magazine and it didn't even enter my mind that someone could possibly think the cover controversial.

Shortly afterwards I was able to do my part for the cause. We were eating at Se Salt (new restaurant at the Falls) and a woman was breastfeeding at the next table. Husband questioned whether this was appropriate and said he was uncomfortable. This after watching my breastfeed two of our kids! I gave him the verbal equivalent of a smack to the head. He's clear on the answer to that question now.

I hear you Meg - I hear ya screamin. Boobies are best. I heard the fuss about that photo of the baby breastfeeding and so I went check it out.

Here is a link and a photo of the picture. http://www.parenting.com/parenting/babytalk/channel

Quite honestly..that is one amazing photo. The eye contact baby is making with mamma - and lets face it, that is one nice looking boob! Breastfeeding can be difficult enough on its own - why add the frustration of feeling like you have to hide to do it. Knowing that I am doing the best thing I can for my baby. Clean dipers, nonstop cuddles and kisses, and the good ol' natural dairy diet. Amen. Meg - good for you for aiming for the 1 year mark. Good Luck!

That post was so sexy. It was about boobs, right?

I participated in a big debate about this on a message board, and it's amazing how divided people are on it. That one quote about the breast being a "sexual thing" is just ludicrous. Breasts are multi-taskers (Alton Brown approved!), fun and function! If someone can't tell the difference between the two, that's their problem. If that person was right, breastfeeding would be a form of molestation, right?

I know they make big light privacy ponchos you can wear while breastfeeding, which is something I'd probably go for when the time comes, but more because I care more about my own comfort than some jackass who thinks I'm putting a sex object in my child's mouth in public.

Unless of course pregnancy makes my boobs look like that one in the picture... In that case I'm walking around shirtless all the time. :)

What a wonderful post!!! I have nursed all my children in public most times without anyone knowing I'm doing it! Quite a feat for someone as well endowed as I am! :) It always amazes me that we can flaunt sex and anything sexual all over the tv, the radio and out in public but the simple act of naturally feeding out children brings outrage. I hope that changes. It's sad that our priorities are so screwed up.

I loved your post and can't wait to read the next installment.

Yay for boobies! I have breastfed my baby (who is now 17 months and still nursing) in public, shamelessly, all this time. Most people never even noticed I was doing it, not even in restaurants, malls, parks, parking lots, beaches etc. I once had a 4-year-old ask me what my baby ate for breakfast, and when I explained she still nursed ("drank milk from boobies") she asked, quite enthusiastically, "Can I see your boobies?" Her mom was a little embarrassed, but this goes to show that the argument that kids are "traumatized" by seeing bared breasts is a load of hooey. 'nyways, that's my rant about it. Keep on writing!