One of the first parenting choices I ever made as a new mother, was the choice to breastfeed. Of course, I knew that there was a chance that my choice would be invalidated by potential breastfeeding problems, but when I was successful at breastfeeding, I let out a sigh of relief and patted myself on the back for making my first mom decision. That relief was short-lived, however, when I was subjected to the creepy things people say to moms who breastfeed in public. Suddenly, my choice wasn't just about feeding my child, it was about trying to endure the misconceptions of others; misconceptions that empowered perfect strangers to make pretty disgusting comments about my body and breastfeeding, and even my son.
At home and around friends and family members, I was in a wonderful breastfeeding bubble of support. My partner helped me breastfeed and purchased our pump and researched the benefits of breastfeeding and, well, me pulling out a boob to feed our child was a normal part of our daily routine. My mother had breastfed both myself and my brother, so she was very excited that I would get to experience the same. But in public, when I breastfed my son without a cover, that bubble of support popped. I wasn't going to starve my son in the name of someone else's comfort, but wow was it difficult to sit there and listen to someone tell me that what I was doing was "inappropriate." I mean, I just can't think of anything more "appropriate" than a mother feeding her child.
Perhaps the only positive to enduring such creepy comments, was the solidarity I have come to have and feel towards and from other breastfeeding mothers. We're definitely not alone in these struggles, especially when breastfeeding in public, and as #NormalizeBreastfeeding becomes more and more popular, our collective voices are growing just a little bit louder than the voices of those who are willing to say the following, absolutely creepy and gross things. So, it's not all bad, right?
"There Are Children Around"
And? Honestly, this is one of the most infuriating comments someone can possibly make to a breastfeeding mother, because while it unfairly puts some fictitious burden on a breastfeeding mother to "protect the innocence" of children, it also sexualizes breastfeeding while simultaneously exposing children to the constant social sexualization of women's bodies. Why would you ever want to put that on a kid?
You know what happens when my son sees me naked? He points at my belly and says, "Belly!" and then he claps, because he identified a body part correctly. Then he points to one of my breasts and says, "Boob!" then claps again, because he can't say his breast and boob is, for now, a great substitute and he's excited to have, once again, identified a body part correctly. Then he goes about his day and plays with his toys and isn't forever scarred because he saw a naked body. The idea that a naked body, particularly a woman's naked body, is inherently "bad" or something that can "ruin" children, is the patriarchy hard at work.
No, "that" is normal. "That" is me feeding my kid because he's hungry. The only thing "disgusting" is the idea that something normal and natural (something that highlights the functionality of women's breasts, and not the sexuality of them) is considered "disgusting."
"You Should Be Ashamed"
Of what, exactly? I had an elderly woman come up and tell me this very thing while I was feeding my son at a local mall's food court. I honestly didn't know what to say, as I was unable to pinpoint what, exactly, is shameful about feeding my son. If anything, I think it would be more shameful to force my son to cry and starve and start to think that his mother is ignoring his cries for food, all because some individual can't desexualize breastfeeding long enough to see it as nothing more than a mother feeding her child.
"How Am I Going To Explain That To My Kids?"
I, um, don't know and don't care? I guess you could start by telling them that breastfeeding is natural and how many women choose to feed their children and that, if a woman is willing and able to breastfeed, it's a natural part of motherhood? I think that's a solid foundation.
"Your Kid Is Going To Grow Up With Some Serious Issues"
This is truly a creepy comment, stemming from the creepy idea that breastfeeding is sexual and it somehow promotes some incestuous relationship between mother and child. Have we, as a society, really sexualized women's bodies to the point that a woman feeding her child is considered some demonized, sexual act, right along side pedophilia? Come on, culture. We can do better than that.
"Sex Is Natural Too, But You Don't See Me Doing That In Public"
Well, you're not wrong. Sex is very natural, and our culture's obsession with sexualizing everything while simultaneously demonizing sex is truly fascinating (and by fascinating, I mean infuriating). However, we can't pretend that sex and breastfeeding are the same thing, because they're not. One is a consensual act between two adults that is, you know, sexual in nature, while the other is a necessary act between mother and child, in order to keep a tiny human being alive. It's honestly a little (read: a lot) gross that breastfeeding mothers have to describe the different.
"You Know There Are Bathrooms Around, Right?"
Thanks, but I don't need to go to the restroom right now, I peed before I left my house.
The day that a grown man or woman decides to eat their breakfast, lunch, dinner or any sort of snack in a stall next to someone taking a dump, is the day I will feed my kid in a public restroom. Until then? Yeah, my kid is going to eat where everyone else eats.
"Doesn't That Make Your Partner Feel Uncomfortable?"
Why would it? I can't handle this question, as it is really nothing more than the creepy assumption that my partner owns any part of my body. Like, my breasts are my breasts and not my partner's, so there's nothing for said partner to feel uncomfortable about. It's not their body, it's mine.
"Leave Something For The Imagination"
For what imagination? Yours? I just, I just can't anymore. Like, it has been almost a year since I have breastfed my son, and I still get upset and grossed out by these creepy comments that, sadly, are said to breastfeeding women across the country and on a daily basis. Stop sexualizing women's bodies and stop sexualizing breastfeeding and just stop. Stop.