I usually don't post my opinion on highly controversial topics-- especially on social media-- but I just have to say something. Here's the skinny: I've never really been comfortable with breastfeeding. Perhaps it stems from the fact that nursing hasn't been part of my life, like, ever. I don't have a big family, I don't have nieces or nephews on my side, so it's just not something I was around very much.
When my oldest son was born, it didn't take long for me to discover that I didn't enjoy nursing at all. My breasts weren't cooperative and, quite frankly, I felt weird doing it. I can't explain why I felt this way (because we're told that nursing is supposed to be/feel natural and a bonding experience) but I just felt extremely uncomfortable. After 6 weeks of an honest attempt, along with a horrible experience and a lot of maternal guilt, I found the courage to quit and it turned out to be the best decision for me, my baby, and my family at the time. 7 years later, in preparation for Baby Julian to get here, I went through the exact same guilt and found hardly any supportive information for mother's who choose to formula feed from the get-go. Because of what I had read and the "breast is best only" approach at the classes I had attended, I was overwhelmed with feelings that I must be a selfish mother with something seriously wrong with me because I'm not choosing to nurse-- and even worse, because I don't WANT to nurse. However, with Seth's total support, I stuck to my decision and bottle-fed Baby Julian from the moment he was born. I didn't try nursing once, nor did I pump an ounce. Again, this was the best decision for me, my baby and my family at the time.
I give you that background because a few weeks ago, we went on a date to Smash Burger and there was a woman sitting across from me nursing her (probably) 10 month old baby. Her spaghetti strap tank top was pulled completely down off her shoulder, and her entire breast but the nipple itself was exposed. Her baby would suckle, then stop and look around and the feeding probably lasted 45 minutes. The mother seemed so comfortable while I, on the other hand, was not 100% comfortable with an exposed breast in my peripheral. But I didn't mention it to anyone and went about our date. I asked Seth on the drive home if he noticed it and what he thought about it. We then started talking about how we would have approached this sort of situation had our 7 year old son been there (which I wish he would have been). We had good conversation of the importance of being honest with our children and not shaming them, or anyone else.
Fast forward to today. An article popped up about how nursing women should cover up while feeding in public. I usually don't get involved because I don't nurse, I'm not against breastfeeding in public, and I don't like to read these types of articles because they are written with intent to create a stir... but I was a little interested this time because of my recent experience at Smash Burger. So I read the article… and then I made the mistake of reading the comments. This is what I gathered from it all: nursing mothers are gross, rude and disrespectful if they don't cover up and anyone who may be uncomfortable with uncovered nursing must have deeper issues, are perverted idiots, and are too stupid to understand basic human anatomy.
And now I'm sitting here, totally FLABBERGASTED, thinking "What in the good hell are we doing to each other? And WHY? What. Is. The. Point?"
It's clear that our motive in all of this is to prove to ourselves, to our friends on FB, to the world, to anyone who will listen to us, that OUR way is the RIGHT way. We so desperately want to be "RIGHT" that we will do whatever it takes to get people on our side, to force them to understand why we think the way we do and all the reasons why they're foolish for thinking the way they do. This whole mentality sends shivers down my spine because with 7 billion people walking on Planet Earth, there simply cannot be one right way to live... Right?
Just because I wasn't entirely comfortable in Smash Burger doesn't mean that I am over sexualizing anything, or that I must have "deeper issues", or that I am perverted idiot who clearly doesn't understand the purpose of breasts. It just means that I wasn't raised in that environment and so, it's not something that comes as naturally for me… I didn't feel comfortable even nursing my own babies…. and you know what? That's okay! I'm not a bad, dumb person for feeling that way. And it also doesn't mean that the nursing mother without a coverall is gross, rude or disrespectful for nourishing her baby the way that works for the two of them. It's okay! She's not a bad, inconsiderate person. Just like I have my reasons for feeling the way I do, and doing things the way I do, so does she. And I'm willing to bet my left arm that if someone sat down and genuinely got to know me and the reasons why I didn't nurse, and her about why she was nursing uncovered, they would get reasonable answers that would probably make sense. Maybe not the kind of sense to do it the exact same way, but enough for people to stop and think before making harsh assumptions and trying to prove to everyone that OUR way is the RIGHT way.
The real tragedy here is not if nursing mothers use a cover up, or if Billy voted democrat, or if your neighbor wears yoga pants in public every single day of the year…. it's that in effort to be right about everything all the time, we're losing sight of what really matters: basic human-kindness. We're spending so much time and energy believing that once everyone around us changes, everything will magically be better and we will all get along. And in the mean time, we're ditching dignity and class and we're becoming downright attacking and mean.
But the truth is… it has always and will always start with us. If we switch the focus from others being wrong to how we can be better human beings, and actually WORK ON THAT, we will notice a positive difference in our daily lives, in our relationship with others, in how we view others, and in how we feel about ourselves.
I believe that positive change begins with us.
(And as you can see, this post really isn't about breastfeeding- covered or not… so let's not even go there :)