Lactivists

OK. Back to bodily functions.

I read this CNN article tonight. It’s about the debate over breastfeeding in public. The headline shouts “Lactivists: Where Is It OK To Breastfeed?”

First, I laughed over the term “lactivist.” Women who have become activists about their rights to breastfeed wherever they are when their babies need to eat have been named lactivists. I think that’s very clever. And I love punny plays on words. So “lactivist” has become my new favorite word. 🙂

Next, I want to weigh in with my opinion. While I’m not a lactivist, (I’ve never participated in a nurse-in, which I’m pretty sure you have to do in order to be a card-carrying lactivist) I do think women should legally be allowed to nurse their babies anywhere. I’ve nursed in restaurants, in movie theaters, at parks, during staff meetings at a summer camp, and at family gatherings. But I try to be discreet and keep my breasts covered. I don’t want just anyone and everyone seeing my breasts. I think they are a private part of my body, so I try to keep them covered.

I know women who cannot seem to nurse discreetly. Every time they nurse, they end up flashing everyone around them. Honestly, I can understand why some people would complain about these women nursing in public. I know, these women say the breast is more than a sexual object; it is a natural way to feed our babies. I agree. But in our culture, like it or not, the breast is a sexual object and is considered a private body part. That’s why it’s sexual harassment if a man touches a woman on her breast, but it’s not necessarily sexual harassment if a man touches a woman on, say, her forearm. So, most people don’t want to be flashed while they are trying to enjoy a dinner out with their family. Most moms don’t want their 10-year-old sons sitting across from an exposed breast at Cracker Barrel. I can understand that, and nursing moms ought to be sensitive to that.

If all nursing moms were sensitive to that and tried to be discreet, I don’t think anyone would complain. Nobody has ever complained or given me a dirty look for nursing my babies in public. Most people don’t even know that’s what I’m doing. They think I’m holding a sleeping baby close against me. I know this because a lot of people have started to lean in to get a closer look at the sweet, sleeping baby or have started to move the blanket partially covering my baby. Of course, then I’ve covered the baby up completely, leaned away a little, and said, “Thank you;” or if that still doesn’t give them the hint, I’ve smiled and said, “He’s eating now.”

We can breastfeed our babies in public without becoming a public display. We can breastfeed our babies in public without making a statement, without screaming out, “Look at me! I am woman; watch me nurse!”

When I nursed my babies, I would choose the chair against the wall instead of beside the aisle, and I would cover with a blanket or burp cloth when my baby latched on, and if there was any chance my squirmy baby would let go and expose me, I would stay covered with a light cloth while he nursed. This does not mean I was embarrassed by breastfeeding my baby. It means I respect those around me. I tried to keep the private areas of my body private. You can breastfeed your baby in public and still keep your breasts private. That’s what I would say to the lactivists.

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4 Comments

Filed under media, motherhood

4 responses to “Lactivists

  1. I agree. I nursed all over the place with my first-born and I was always discreet. I see no need for making other people,and myself, uncomfortable with exposed flesh.

    But I did still get some dirty looks and comments…. Whatever

  2. I agree with you. I think you should be allowed to nurse your baby when you need to but you can be discreet about it. Not everybody needs to see everything. But to think that breastfeeding is not a natural function or to make it a sexy thing is kind of disgusting to me as well.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi. A MOMYS here. Just wanted to let you know that I do agree with keeping discreet, it is not true that women who get kicked out of places or asked to leave are not discreet. I know more than one story of women who were discreetly and quietly nursing asked to leave places. Some people just have a hangup about it.

  4. I am sure you’re right. But a lot of the women I’ve known who have been very adamant about their rights to nurse have not been discreet. And I only shared my experiences nursing six children. I have never received a dirty look or had anybody complain, that I know of, when I’ve nursed in public.

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