Today I had to go to Target and specifically went to one out of my way in hopes of meeting up with some mothers who were involved in the Target Nurse-In. Somehow, I read about a local protest going on in my area that the news reported on (somewhat snarkily, I might add) where five women got together in the Target cafe to do their thing. I got there too late (or somehow expected them to be milling around the store, babes in hand LOL) but managed to read some idiotic comments on the article when I got home from shopping.
I bet none of the people who left a comment even saw any of the women in question. And because Target wouldn't allow cameras into the store (which is pretty common practice) we could only get a shot of the back of one woman and the top of her baby's head. If I saw the picture out of context, I wouldn't have even realized she was actually nursing a baby.
People used the typical phrases, "Go somewhere else," or "Find a private place," with proclamations of not wanting to see bodily functions - almost like you're comparing breast milk to sputum or diarrhea. Well, that "bodily function" sure saved me a lot of money when it came to feeding my babies. And if you want to look at it that way - yes, it's a function of your body, which means it was designed to do it. Doesn't mean you have to, but if you weren't meant to you'd be born with two cans of Enfamil strapped to your chest instead.
As I cruised around the store I saw one woman in the baby bottle aisle contemplating which one to choose. Maybe she was shopping for herself, maybe not, but I couldn't help but feel an invisible pang that said "You don't really need that stuff!" Yes, yes, I know there are many women out there who can't nurse: women with serious health issues, some who take dangerous medications, some who have other health issues that interfere with breast milk production that they don't even know about (more about that later in my upcoming series on thyroid disease). But I can't help but wonder if some of the biggest obstructions to nursing mothers (or potential nursing mothers) is psychological.
I don't know if I want to come right out and call people lazy. But there might be some truth in that, some of which isn't even their fault. Nursing is sometimes hard work for people, and I have the utmost admiration and awe for those who succeed, or try their damnedest, to make it work despite the odds. Pumping, working mothers? Oh how I respect them, because I know not everyone can stay home all the time to nurse their child whenever he wants the boob. Women who have tried every supplement on earth and still nothing works? You bet.
I think the modern age of conveniences - like relatively cheap, easy-to-come-by infant formula, perhaps - have made us lazy, in a sense. The mentality of It's right there, just go ahead and use it! is very tempting. Old worn-out ideology about nursing ("Your breasts are too small," "Your nipples are too flat," "You can't feed a big baby") still manage to somehow prevail, which boggles my mind, and therefore creates in women the idea that they're broken and can't possibly work, so why try?
This mentality, I think, has been happening way before us: before we were born, maybe before our mothers were even born. The heavy marketing of cheap, ready to use infant formula (along with lots of other modern things that made our lives easier) swayed our mothers and grandmothers to think the very parts we were born with were somehow dirty, outdated, useless, and paved the way for something better, or just as good, at least. Once the idea that breasts are meant to be looked at, ogled, instead - and that you could display them as you wished because you were a woman and free to do so, if you liked - somehow replaced in our minds that breasts were first and foremost meant to feed a baby and now, we were free to talk at length about their other purpose.
Because of that mentality - the same one that took us from "breast is best and infant formula should be only used for sickly babies" to "formula is fine; why even bother with anything else?" - there's this psychological supposition of failure: That because your mother and grandmother "could never nurse," you might not be able to, either. That because your baby spits up on your three or four times, he has colic and your milk is "bad." That because he's "fussy," (whatever that means) that you should just go ahead and stop nursing because this stuff is better and you don't even have to do anything. Because "who wants a two-year-old sucking on your tit all day?" *sigh* We've gone from people who couldn't afford not to nurse to a nation that actually subsidizes it - by upwards of 50 percent of the total consumption.
That same psychology of failure is what leads many people to believe it's wrong, you can't do it, because it seems like they almost want you to fail because they did. Like, "Because I couldn't do it I'm going to complain at length about why you are." Perhaps they're jealous, I don't know. Maybe the reason they couldn't or didn't is because, like our generation, they get mostly crappy support. No one to quietly tell them, "Hey, great job!" "That's awesome!" or even, "I could never nurse my babies but I'm happy to see you doing it." It's another mommy war, in which people are still angry that someone else dare succeed where they have failed.
One older woman I know, and probably many like her, was given medication to dry up her breast milk - without even asking - because it was assumed she would formula feed. This wasn't even that long ago; sadly, one recent article I read said that few hospitals in the US fully supported nursing mothers in their breastfeeding relationship, even among those who expressly said they wanted to nurse. Disgusting.
People can tell you to "go somewhere private" all they want - but that's not always a foolproof plan, either. One time while shopping in Walmart, I had to nurse the baby so I retreated to a fitting room (which was fine with me; then I could get nice and relatively comfy). In the middle of nursing, a kid - probably ten years old - looked under the door for several seconds not once but twice, which I must say I found kind of annoying. I mean, modeling a perfectly normal breast-feeding relationship is one thing, but can we do it another time, perhaps? And where the heck is your mother, kid?
The majority of people in that article who complained, I bet, have never even seen a nursing mother expose herself. Much less even seen a woman nursing her baby in public. Sadly, I can't even remember seeing a nursing mother any time recently. I think the last time I did was almost two years ago at my son's school field trip, when the mother of my son's classmate was breastfeeding her baby. And then, I stared - in awe, not in shock - because I admired her for tucking herself in a shady little corner and discretely nursing her baby. I knew what she was doing, but saw no breasts, nothing - except a little bundle of love cradled in her mother's arms.
Target employees bully breastfeeding mom despite corporate policy - Best for Babes
Breastfeeding mother 'told to leave council headquarters because it is a multicultural building' - Daily Mail
Breastfeeding mother asked to leave pool
Women-only gym asks mother to leave for breastfeeding son
Natalie Hegedus, Mom, Kicked out of courtroom for breastfeeding - Huffington Post
Kasey Kahne, NASCAR driver, tweets against breastfeeding in public - Huffington Post