These breasts are made for feeding

and that’s just what they’ll do
one of these days these breasts are gonna squirt all over you ♪ ♪ ♪

Lots and lots of chatter about breastfeeding in public lately. I’ve felt compelled to put together some thoughts on the topic for a while now and today I’ll do just that. The purpose of this post is to help enlighten those who aren’t nursing mothers, provide some tips for folks who want to support breastfeeding mamas and spark some conversations and thoughts among others.

I’m not going to go into a breastmilk v. formula debate. Nor am I going to try and list all the ways breastmilk is superior to any other nutrition available to a baby. If the WHO, CDC, Surgeon General and AAP’s statements regarding benefits of breastfeeding aren’t enough for you… email me. With that said, let it be known that breastmilk and the act of breastfeeding is of highest importance to a developing tiny human. So why is it that mama’s who feed their children in public make others so very uncomfortable? Why are mama’s being told to “cover up” or “go to a private place”? Why are people judging the age of the nursing child?

There aren’t any good answers to these questions. I’m going to go ahead and give all those who are uncomfortable around nursing mothers the benefit of the doubt and say that you probably weren’t exposed to much of this in your life and you aren’t quite sure how to handle it. I understand… I think I’ve been in those shoes before. I would have appreciated a little insight to the world of nursing mama’s.

Breastfeeding is hard work. For the first handful of weeks and possibly longer it is often painful. You are susceptible to thrush (a yeast infection of the mouth and throat), mastitis (inflammation of the mammary gland in the breast) and engorgement. While your baby and body regulate your supply, your breasts go through a period of being incredibly full and swollen. Your baby is learning to latch, you’re learning what positions enable a good latch and your baby eats all. the. time. Things get easier as the learning phase passes, as your milk supply regulates and as you get more sleep. But for some reason you lack the social support you deserve.

You’re asked by friends/family “Are you going to feed him in here?”; the conversation you were having with someone suddenly stops when you start making motions to nurse your babe; your friends (mothers or not) tell you they “would never breastfeed in public without covering up”; you catch unapproving glances from more people than you can count; people ask you “When are you going to wean?”; you read ignorant comments about people seeing nursing mothers in public and their opinions about them plastered on social network sites. These words and actions, whether meant to or not, completely discourage mothers. Women begin to question their parenting decisions, they look over their shoulder to see if there’s someone around who might be offended and worst of all they never really feel free to feed their child. Even women who breastfeed in public openly and sort of in-your-face, do so to prove something, to stand up for the women who don’t feel like they can, to expose those who haven’t seen it before. They’re fighting. They’re not free. Yes, the law stands behind nursing mothers, but every single person walking this earth has an obligation to support nursing mama’s… not just the law.

So.. how do we support nursing mothers? Here are a few quick suggestions:

* Share positive breastfeeding stories with nursing mothers (especially new ones)
– as a side note: the same goes for pregnant women… only share positive labor stories with pregnant women.

* Give a nursing mother a smile, a head nod, a thumbs up… a small positive gesture

* Treat the mother and child as if they were any mother and child… have a conversation with them, offer a seat if they need one, stick around – show others it’s ok to stay near nursing mothers.

* Don’t offer a blanket or something for them to cover up with.

* Do not… I repeat… DO NOT suggest the bathroom as an acceptable place to nurse a child.

* Support her partner. Mom’s need their partner’s support and likewise partner’s need social support for their role as well.

* Leave your unsolicited advice at home.

* Leave your judgement at home – including how old you think a child should be when he/she weans.

* Become comfortable… do whatever it takes to take the sex out of breastfeeding so you won’t feel awkward the next time you catch a glimpse of a breast.

* Teach your children of all ages about breastfeeding.

And for good measure… here are some breastfeeding resources:

* La Leche League international

* Kellymom

* WIC breastfeeding promotion and support

Tagged ,

3 thoughts on “These breasts are made for feeding

  1. Tomitka Crow says:

    Good stuff Lilk! Keep up the good work 🙂

  2. Natalie says:

    love this as i am still breastfeeding my 26 month old baby girl!!!

  3. Chris Axling says:

    As a stay-at-home dad since my daughter was born, I’ve warmed up gallons of frozen breastmilk, since my wife returned to work. Living in Port Townsend, a very liberal community, there is an overwhelming support on the side of breastmilk, myself included. Being sans boobs, however, meant that there were a few long hikes when she was a wee one, when I would pack along a thermos of warm water and some formula. Feeling like a chemist concocting some illegal substance, I’d look both ways before measuring out the powder. Funny, how our country is so different depending on where you live.

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