I recently found out that most of my friends are freaked out by women breast feeding in public. I expect this from the boys (All of whom I'm sure have already backed out of this post), after spending most of your life sexualizing the breast bringing a baby into frame has to be shocking. The women I’m surprised at. They’ve all had breasts for at least a decade and I have to assume that in addition to objects of sexual desire their breasts have also been an annoyance, a point of pride, an embarrassment and most days a nonentity. Breasts play multiple roles in women’s lives and the role of bottle seems like a natural part of the repertoire. So why do they all seem so uncomfortable?
I understand discomfort and awkwardness. If a hungry screaming child were to rip through my womb and into my arms today I would probably toss a blanket over my boobs before the suckling began. I’m embarrassed by this. I would be covering up out of self consciousness and fear of judgment. In an ideal world I would not be embarrassed by my boobs doing the number 1 job that boobs were born to do (number 2 job: holding up that awesome tube top at my birthday party).
Having a baby is a pain. Babies are demanding and needy and loud. You don’t get to sleep enough or drink booze and I’m guessing it takes at least 2 years to teach them how to make dinner and wash the dishes. Making mom stay home in order to meet all of junior’s dietary needs seems cruel. Sure she can pump and leave a bottle with a babysitter (if you can find one). Sure she could use formula as a back up (if the baby will take it). Sure she could try to keep the baby on a strict schedule and only leave the house when demand for the boob is likely to be low (if she can get your errands done in that 3 hour window). But should she have to? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be breastfed until at least 6 months of age and ideally throughout the first year of life. 12 months is a long time to stay home with a baby. If women feel too uncomfortable breast feeding in public they’re probably going to stop breast feeding.
People generally seem willing to acknowledge mom’s need to get out of the house sometimes with mini me in tow. Most discussions of public breastfeeding eventually come around to the “Can’t she go into the bathroom?” suggestion. Where is mom supposed to sit in the bathroom? In addition to being pretty disgusting the idea of breast feeding while sitting on a toilet doesn’t sound very comfortable. I don’t see why a mother should have to go to so much trouble just to save everyone else from feeling a little squeamish.
I often feel like our country is obsessed with doing things for the kids. As a snobby singleton myself I’ve rolled my eyes at many a baby in a nice restaurant. I don’t think every place in America needs to be baby friendly. I’d like to avoid making too many allowances for children and parents. Choosing to have a baby does mean choosing to change your life style and parents shouldn’t expect the world to bend to their child’s demands. Screaming babies and unrestrained toddlers can adversely affect the atmosphere in an adult environment but I don’t see how a women breast feeding can be called an evening ruining event. I’d certainly take this image over a hungry baby audio assault.
Maybe I just like boobs (What’s not to like?). I don’t mind changing in front of other people. I don’t get bent out of shape about boyfriends looking at girl-y mags or stripers. I think women should breast feed wherever the hell they like. It’s her breast and her baby. I think the rest of us should all be a little embarrassed by our discomfort.