Though my hippie mom breastfed when I was born, I think she was an outlier in this country. Bottles have always seemed to be associated with feeding babies in TV shows and advertising, especially a generation ago. So it’s not hard to imagine there are things breastfeeding moms do now that horrify ‘80s parents (except, of course, for my mom). I don't hold it against them, though. I am pretty horrified by some things parents did in the '80s, too. For example, I have no recollection of being in a carseat… because my family never used one. For shame, mom and dad.
When I had my first kid, I was not above being judgmental of moms who weren’t breastfeeding. A co-worker had her baby two months before I did, and when I returned from my maternity leave, lamenting that there was no place to pump, I asked her where she did it. “Oh, breastfeeding is not in the picture,” she informed me. At the time, I was a little shocked. I mean, everything I had been reading indicated “breast was best." But now that I’ve graduated to being a seasoned mom, and have witnessed a lot of mom friends make different choices about breastfeeding, I am fully on board with the idea that “fed is best.”
So if I had some feelings about breastfeeding not even a decade ago, I am guessing that moms of my mother’s generation had some, too. And since the information surrounding new babies (and how parents formulated their choices due to that information) wasn’t based on as many studies as information is now, I think being "horrified"by new parents, and seasoned parents, and all parents that make different choices that bring us to question our own, is part of the overall parenting gig. The longer moms are having babies, the more we learn about what’s best for everyone.
Looking at the parenting through the eyes of '80s parents, here are some things that I think would horrify them about breastfeeding now:
We Have An App For That
This might seem lazy to parents in the '80s, but we have technology to help stake the stress out of motherhood (to a certain degree, anyway).
We Also Have A Lactation Consultant For That
Kids today can aspire to be lactation consultants when they grow up. I don’t think that job was mentioned on career day at my elementary school.
We Tell People Our Breast Pump Is Actually Our Breast Pump
There is no shame in flaunting our breastfeeding power, so there is no need to downplay what it takes to get our kids fed. Back in the '80s, I feel parents, and moms in particular, treated their children as an “also-ran.” It’s true, I was totally not spoiled (because grown-ups didn’t really play with kids, or pay much attention to them back them), but I was also not a priority unless it concerned my health. Parents had a lot more to deal with, including actually going to the supermarket to buy groceries, and microwaves were just starting to be affordable household items.
To announce that their kids came first, and proudly display all the gear that went into raising them, might look like moms were shirking their actual responsibilities back then, which was still to run the household and also maybe to rock the corner office in shoulder pads.
We Pump At Work
In the '80s, and even just 10 years ago, there were no guaranteed provisions to accommodate working moms who breastfed. Did working moms back then picture a time when I could book the Mother’s Room, like any other conference room at my office, so I could have privacy to pump twice a day? I think they’d be horrified that it took until almost 2010 to make that the law for employers of a certain size.
We Breastfeed In Public
We may not always like breastfeeding in public, but the stigma attached to it seems to be going away. I can’t recall seeing any woman in the '80s breastfeeding. Whether it was because fewer moms chose to do so, or they kept themselves out of view, breastfeeding was like a secret. When I had my kid, I was not the only mom in Central Park needing to breastfeed on a bench. I’m grateful that I was pretty much ignored.
We Talk About It
Much like hiding the act of breastfeeding, moms in the '80s didn’t seem to talk much about it either. Since this was pre-internet, and there were not as many niche cable networks targeting parents, “women’s magazines" were practically the only source of “real talk” in the media landscape targeted to moms. Not much space was dedicated to breastfeeding between all those Virginia Slims cigarette ads. Compared to the lack of discussion on the topic today, all our casual talk about breastfeeding now might very well horrify moms from a generation ago.
We Wear Our Nursing Tops When We’re Not Actually Nursing
Although I never loved any nursing bras I had (because I wasn’t willing to shell out serious money for the nicer ones), I got a lot of wear out of my nursing tops way past the point at which my kids were weaned. They weren’t obvious in their construction that my hungry baby could get easy access to my boobs. And they were flattering. My kids are 10 and 7 and, yes, I still have a certain wrap-front gray jersey top that is in heavy rotation. Admittedly, this may horrify all moms, and not just ones raising kids in the '80s.
We Involve Our Partners
Dads are more hands-on now with childcare than they were when I was a kid. Although my husband couldn’t possibly understand a lot of what I went through as a breastfeeding mom, at least he was totally on board with it. His support was crucial to me wanting to fulfill my goal of exclusively breastfeeding our kids (which, I know, is not the case with many moms because we all have our unique ways to do right by our babies).
With more conversations about breastfeeding and normalizing it as a part of modern life, I’m glad I’m a mom now, and not a generation ago. Without my parenting community and my husband’s and family’s involvement, breastfeeding our children would have been much more challenging. It still takes a village. And boobs.
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