Friday, August 2, 2013

Normalizing Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding.  Breast. Feeding.  I feed my baby using my breasts. My baby sucks on my breasts to get nourishment.  I love breastfeeding my daughter.  I want to breastfeed my daughter until she decides she is ready to stop, weather she is 12 months old or 5 years old.

 Many people will read the above sentences and be embarrassed, ashamed, disgusted or angered.  Why is that? I ask myself.  Women have been breastfeeding their children since the dawn of time.  Why now, in a society where marijuana is being legalized and some states allow  men to marry men and women to marry women, are so many people affronted by the fact that women are breastfeeding their babies?

It seems to me that we live in an overly sexualized society, where women are praised for their beauty instead of their brains and breasts are freely displayed as objects of sexual desire and pleasure. Since the female body has been demoralized in this way for so long, society is now surprised to recall that breasts have a function and are not prepared to mentally re-categorize the priority of breasts when they are face to face with a nursing baby.  Immediately our brains refer us to the thousands of images of women in sexy clothing and the men vying for their affection.  Seeing a baby eating from a breast is a shock to the system that forces us to react with surprise and in some cases, disgust.

In order to reverse the effect that advertising has played on society’s view of the female body, we have to reverse the images that society regularly sees.

It’s all about exposure.  I don’t mean physical exposure of the breast, just the simple exposure of feeding your baby whenever and wherever it’s necessary.  A lot of breastfeeding women feel self conscious, wondering how it will make those around them feel, and that is half the battle.  Once the breastfeeding woman decides that she has no legitimate reason to feel discomfort, and has the courage to feed her baby despite the circumstances, those around her will recognize the shift and accept it.  
I am a breastfeeding mother and I am eager to breastfeed in public.  I want men, women and children to see me feeding my baby.  I encourage conversations with those who make eye contact with me.  I am not ashamed, nor do I want anyone else to be.  Children are easiest to handle, their curiosity is natural and innocent and I often find myself confronted by young girls and boys wondering what I’m doing. I am discreet, I don’t use a full cover, but I expose as little of myself as possible while making sure my 7 month old daughter Lily is comfortable.  
Perhaps I can credit my friendly nature or the air of confidence and comfort I seem to exude, but I have yet to experience ANY negativity surrounding feeding my daughter in public.  In fact, I usually get the opposite.  Women approach me and express pride in seeing a nursing mother,  men respectful converse with me without staring and children innocently ask me what I’m doing or tell me how their Mommies fed them that way too.

  I have found within my own circle of friends and acquaintances that although a few were uncomfortable being around when I would breastfeed, over time, they too have come to realize the natural process.  I don’t make a fuss about it, I don’t announce it, I just do it and I have watched those around me simply grow to accept it.  They no longer feel they need to avert their eyes or excuse themselves to another room.  The simple act of being present and realizing that my breastfeeding doesn't affect the tone of our conversation or the level of concentration has been enough to ‘normalize’ the process.  

 The resources available are boundless and easily accessible.  If breastfeeding women can join together to support one another then we may find ourselves in a time where a woman who is feeding her baby a bottle gets the funny looks instead of the ones feeding straight from the source. **I should also say that I support each woman and their right to choose how to nourish their children.  I will never judge or criticize any mother, for her choices are just as unique as she is.  

It is always important to remember that the law is on our side.  Federal Law states that we have the right to feed our babies anywhere.  We may be discriminated against by some, but everyone has the same right.  If you are out to eat with your baby and you breastfeed him/her at the table and the couple in the booth next to you is uncomfortable; remember this, they have just as much freedom to leave the table as you do to remain there.  

Well said, Ryan Gosling Meme <3

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