10 Things Men Need To Stop Saying About Breastfeeding Moms
I never realized how much debate and discussion and endless conversations swirl around the choice to breastfeed, until I made that choice myself. Honestly, I didn't put much thought into whether or not I would breastfeed; my partner and I were aware of the benefits and I wanted that experience and, well, I just breastfed my kid, very few questions asked. Little did I know that my decision to breastfeed would also expose me to all the things men say about breastfeeding mothers; things that are sexist and objectifying and offensive; things they absolutely should stop saying, immediately.
I tried my hardest to stay inside the supportive bubble that was my home, while breastfeeding my son. For the first month or so that was easy, because I was sore and exhausted and didn't feel like exploring the world with a newborn baby I was still, somewhat, terrified of (they're just so tiny). However, eventually I needed to get out of the house and when that day arrived, that supportive bubble popped and I was shamed and judged for breastfeeding in public. It didn't happen all the time, of course and thankfully, but it happened enough for me to realize that while the decision to use my breasts to sustain another human life didn't seem like a big deal to me or my partner, it is (apparently) a very big deal to others, especially cisgender men who can't physically breastfeed yet feel entitled to comment on it.
Part of me feels bad for those men, and the many men I didn't come in contact with but have some "feelings" about breastfeeding. Internalized misogyny is a very real thing, and chances are they've been conditioned by a patriarchal society to sexualize women's bodies constantly and to the point that they feel they have some ownership over them. Still, ignorance isn't an excuse, which is why I think it's worthwhile to go over all the things certain men say about breastfeeding that they absolutely should never say again, including:
The idea that breastfeeding is somehow "inappropriate" stems from the constant sexualization of women's bodies. There is absolutely nothing in inappropriate about a kid eating. In fact, it's kind of necessary. So to tell a mother that she's being "inappropriate" while she sustains a human life, is so off base it hurts.
This honestly makes my blood boil, as I can't imagine anything selfish about using your body to feed another human being. You're definitely not selfish when you're up all night, feeding your kid; You're definitely not selfish when you're exposing yourself in public to feed your kid, knowing that there's a good chance someone will say something ridiculous; You're definitely not selfish when you choose to be the only person who can feed your kid; You're definitely not selfish when you push past the pain and try to increase your milk supply and work through infections.
The idea that a woman decides to breastfeed just so she can validate herself or somehow feel great about herself, is just annoying. However, if that was the only reason, who the hell cares? You deserve to feel validated and great about yourself and, when you do, you're not being selfish.
"They're Just Doing It For Attention"
What kind of attention do you mean, exactly? Like, the kind where people scream and yell at you when you're in a public place, because our society has done such a bang-up job of sexualizing women's bodies that people can't disassociate the sexuality of breasts from the functionality of breasts? That kind of attention? Trust me, buddy, there isn't a woman in the world who wants to be yelled at while she's feeding her kid.
I feel like someone telling a breastfeeding mother that she's gross is so juvenile and so misinformed and so, you know, childish, that the only logical response is to say, "Um, you're gross."
"They Have No Shame..."
No, no they don't, because there's nothing to be ashamed about. While I didn't always like breastfeeding in public (because I knew people were going to have an issue with it and I hated feeling vulnerable), I never once felt ashamed for deciding to sustain my son with my breasts. Like, not even once.
"...And Need To Learn To Cover Up"
You need to learn to look the other way, if my uncovered breasts upset you so. There are so many women who don't cover while they breastfeed because the baby isn't comfortable being covered or the baby gets too hot or they can't watch the baby and get them to latch properly. Other women don't cover simply because they don't want to (example, me) and because it's their body, they shouldn't have to do something to please anyone else. Like, just no.
"They're No Longer Attractive"
If sustaining another human life means I'm somehow less attractive, so be it. Honestly, the idea that a woman must appear to the male gaze or do things with her body that please other people or make decisions that somehow make her appear more "attractive" to whoever the hell wants to think she's attractive, is sexist. It's sexist and it's the patriarchy hard at work and it's so damn annoying that society expects women to be desirable above all else.
"They're Setting A Horrible Example..."
Of what exactly? Of motherhood? Of selfishness? Of fighting the patriarchy and reclaiming my body as my own? Of refusing to cater to sexist social constructs? Of refusing to let someone's sexualization of my body impact how I parent? I mean, if that's what I'm exemplifying, guilty as charged, sir.
"...And Exposing Children To Nudity"
It's pretty damn heartbreaking that bodies are considered "bad" and nudity is considered "toxic." It's insane that a society that markets sex ad nauseam, fails to be sex-positive. My son sees myself and my partner naked all the time, and you know what happens? Nothing. Like, he absolutely doesn't care. Children learn that being naked is "bad," because we've demonized bodies and sexuality.
Furthermore, showing my breast while I feed my child is not the same as some tequila-fueled scenario where I flash my breasts in a sexual manner to strangers. I am not hurting children by showing them how amazing it is to sustain another human life with your own body.
"They're Not Saving Something For Their Partners"
This is just infuriating, and solidifies the patriarchal idea that a woman's body isn't her own, but someone else's (i.e. a man's). My body is mine. It isn't my partners. Honestly, it isn't my baby's. If, at any time, I wanted to stop breastfeeding I would stop breastfeeding because it's my body. If I wanted to continue breastfeeding for the foreseeable future I would because, yep, it's also my body. I am under no obligation to "save" anything for anyone, my partner included, and the idea that breastfeeding somehow takes away from his ability to enjoy my breasts (when I allow it), once again, prioritizes the sexuality of breasts over the functionality of breasts. Just, no. No no no no no.