Hashtag: Normalize Breastfeeding

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I had a post written, ready to share, about the good that has come out of social media in terms of breastfeeding and the whole ‘normalize breastfeeding’ hashtag that may better be classified as a movement; because hot damn there’s a lot of moms out there sharing – what truthfully is – a significant part of any new breastfeeding moms life. Breastfeeding an infant is pretty damn close to a full-time job. But then I was talking to a friend who confided that she shared different feelings about all these moms sharing about their dedication to breastfeeding and flashing images left and right of them feeding their babies; an over-saturation of sorts with a message that may have gotten lost in the abundance, the point – possibly – distorted. Where perhaps an innocent message of comradery somehow started to translate into a ‘my way is the best way’ message of inferiority. Hard to say if seeing it in a context such as this is produced from the images themselves or through the eyes of the one viewing them. I thought it was an interesting debate so I figured I’d bring it here, so others could weigh in.

How do you feel about moms sharing images of themselves breastfeeding their young? Do you feel that the message ever gets misconstrued; that perhaps some of the authors of these images have a pretentious air of inferiority? Does the author behind the images you see impact the meaning you derive from the image’s content? In other words, maybe it’s not the subject matter at all but perhaps the voice behind an image that may lend to a less-than-desirable translation?

Seeing so many images of moms openly breastfeeding has made me less shy about breastfeeding – especially in public – this third time around. I stressed much more about breastfeeding when Hooper, and then Van, were babies. Staying home felt most comfortable in terms of avoiding having to feed them in public. I remember wandering the flea market with Hooper as an infant and asking a vendor if I could use his car to feed him in. I was there the other month with Sonny and I fed him on the stairs in the middle of the bustling food court. It wasn’t that I yearned for anymore privacy when I chose to use the vendor’s car with Hooper, it’s more that it simply felt more socially acceptable; I wasn’t doing it for myself, I was doing it to protect everyone else.
I can’t say for certain whether it’s different because Sonny is a third-born and my cares have gone with the wind or if the movement of normalizing breastfeeding has spread visually so abundantly that I feel, well, comfortable. I’m even comfortable with others feeling uncomfortable.
I used to think of breastfeeding as such a huge commitment and, sure, it is. But this third time around it doesn’t feel like such a ball and chain; it feels like a privilege. Maybe that’s because I know it may be the last baby I breastfeed. I’d like to think it has at least something to do with this “normalize breastfeeding” movement because, dammit, I need to feel there is some good coming from social media and not just one rolling instagram feed of picturesque kitchens, sponsored posts, and curated mumbo jumbo.

Anyway, curious to know your thoughts. And for those that don’t breastfeed or didn’t breastfeed or aren’t going to breastfeed – for whatever reason – do you feel like an image of a breastfeeding mother is a back handed judgement on you? Do you take images like that personal? I suppose ‘fed is best’ could be a separate post on its own, but worth a mention here anyway. Because, really, fed is best.

Images by Tish Carlson

Breastfeeding in public

photo source
…Because the zoo, that wedding you were invited to, the beach, the park, that doctor’s appointment you have to be at, and the dinner reservations you made won’t come to you…
I’ve never had a problem breastfeeding in public. I lean more toward the side of hippie feminist who feels it’s my god damn right. If someone has a problem with it, which truthfully I’ve never encountered, I assume it to be their problem as opposed to my own.
When I knew I’d be breastfeeding Hooper, I always made sure I had a hooter hider and dressed with feeding him in mind. I’d get apprehensive before going wherever we were going; an inner anxiety would fester over where I would feed him and how it would all work out. In any event, it always worked out.
The second time around, I’ve thrown caution to the wind. The apprehension and anxiety, while still there, have diminished significantly. I’m no longer shy about where I am or how frequently he eats or if my nipple is visible for the 2 seconds it takes before he engulfs it in his mouth. I breastfeed him wherever and whenever he’s hungry. If someone has a problem with this, I write it off as their problem and their problem alone.
We used to take Hooper to the Rose Bowl Flea market when he was an infant. I remember breastfeeding him in a vendor’s van. When we went the other month with Van, I breastfed him while sitting on the curb. When you have more than one, you don’t have the luxury of finding the perfect spot. As it is with much of life, the more you do something the more confident you become at doing it.
I rarely use the hooter hider anymore. It’s most always buried somewhere in my car in case I need it, but more times than not I free ball. Van gets too distracted with the hider anyway and instead of hiding my ta-tas from people that aren’t looking anyway, it looks as though I’m putting on a puppet show and all the characters are getting ready to come out as they dance behind the curtain.
The other day, I fed Van on a bench at the zoo. A dad walked by with his little girl and the little girl would not stop starring. The dad looked in my direction to see what was keeping her from walking in a straight line and instantly he grew noticeably uncomfortable. My heart, however, did not skip a beat. His discomfort is his own problem. I wouldn’t be feeding my child in public if I weren’t comfortable with it and I try to own that as much as I can.
Things I keep in mind when nursing in public:
-I try to keep a low profile. If we’re sitting in a restaurant, for example, I may switch seats with Willy if the direction he is facing is more private.
-I make eye contact with people around me. People are less likely to stare, I feel, if they catch your eye the moment they glance over. If you’re looking down at your baby, creepy creeperton may try to sneak a peek. That’s what I tell myself, anyways.
-Think about what you’re wearing. Tops that pull up, down and over, or button down all work for breastfeeding, but tops that you can lift up provide more cleavage cover. With your baby covering your abdomen and your top covering the base of the mountains, the only thing left to show is nipple which is down your kids throat anyway.
How do you feel about nursing in public? Any tips worth sharing? Any funny experiences?
Minus the ad for Luvs, a cute video and oh-so-true.
You can read my other posts on breastfeeding by clicking here.

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