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.