I remember, as a kid, being unsure of what to do when an aunt or cousin would being to breastfeed their her infant. I didn't know if it was a personal, intimate moment and if it would be more respectful to look away. If the mother was relaxed and joining in the conversation while her baby was latched, did that mean she didn't want privacy? Even though my own mother had breastfed my younger brother, I didn't have any memories of seeing her breastfeed. So even though my entire family is open and comfortable with breastfeeding, I still remember just how uncomfortable I felt in those moments of seeing a mother feed her child at the breast. But then, years later, I had my own children, and I breastfed in front of my kids.
Looking back, I think my discomfort and hesitation about what to do was mostly because I wasn't around breastfeeding mothers that often. And I'm not alone in ever feeling unsure of how to act around a breastfeeding mom. Even now, I rarely see a mother breastfeeding without a cover out and about. Or even with a cover, come to think of it. I still see more babies drinking from bottles than I do breastfeeding, and there's absolutely no judgment there. I believe every woman should do what makes her comfortable. But for my own part, I'm comfortable breastfeeding my babies and children without a cover and without hiding whenever and wherever they need or want to. And because of that, I often breastfed my my kids in front of their siblings, and now that I'm pregnant with my third baby, I really can't wait to do it again.
Part of my comfort does come from a sort of feeling of virtuousness when it comes to openly breastfeeding in public. I feel fairly proud to feel so comfortable with it. I am so steeped in the fact that it's my right and what's been best for my children and me that I feel righteous when I latch a baby while in the checkout line at the grocery store. And perhaps my confidence comes across, because no one has ever given me a hard time about breastfeeding in public. It's just never been an issue, thankfully, and it's my hope that by being nonchalant about it, other people will realize that if I'm comfortable, they don't have to be uncomfortable. More than anything though, I'm especially proud that my children are growing up with memories of seeing me breastfeed, or with memories of them breastfeeding themselves.
I hope these memories of being breastfed will mean they'll never stumble over what to when they see another breastfeeding mom. Moreover, I'm hoping that when it comes to one day be parents themselves, the transition to breastfeeding or to supporting a partner who breastfeeds will be easier than my own.
I breastfed my oldest until he was well past his 4 birthday. He's almost 6 and he definitely remembers breastfeeding and can discuss it. My daughter is almost 3 and still breastfeeding. She still likes to breastfeed before bed, even though there is no more milk left. I'm in my third pregnancy, and my milk has dried up, but it isn't all about milk when it comes to comfort nursing. If my daughter still wants to nurse without there being any milk, then I bet she'll continue to nurse well into her third year, and subsequently also have memories of breastfeeding. I hope these memories of being breastfed will mean they'll never stumble over what to when they see another breastfeeding mom. Moreover, I'm hoping that when it comes to one day be parents themselves, the transition to breastfeeding or to supporting a partner who breastfeeds will be easier than my own.
It's not that I had a difficult time breastfeeding. It's just that I can so vividly remember when I was first trying to get my son to latch, just how foreign that felt. Even though I'd read books and seen diagrams of what a good latch looked like, I hadn't ever really seen a baby breastfeed. The sounds he made and the rhythm of his sucking and swallowing were all new. But someday, if my son is supporting a woman who is breastfeeding, it won't be all new to him. He sees me breastfeed my daughter. He remembers breastfeeding alongside her. He was always interested in seeing how his baby sister fed. I'll never forget that once when my daughter was little and he was sitting next to me on the couch, he was watching her sucking change from the initial short little sucks to the long swallows that follow the milk letting down. He turned to me and said, "Ooooh, she's getting lots of milk now." He understood the mechanics of it. He understood from watching her and from experiencing the milk letdown as a "nursling" himself.
I will continue to breastfeed in front of my kids and in front of anyone who is around me. I'm not confrontational about it. I assume if people are uncomfortable, they'll look away. But I hope my comfort will rub off on other people.
I especially can't wait for my third baby to arrive so my daughter can witness me breastfeeding her younger sibling. She may one day breastfeed a child, and it would be lovely if, even as it is a new experience to her, it's one she feels confident in.
One of my favorite stories about the importance of breastfeeding in public and in front of other women who may one day be mothers is actually a story of a gorilla in a zoo years ago. This gorilla had a baby, but failed to breastfeed and care for that baby. When the gorilla became pregnant with a second baby, volunteers from the La Leche League were called in. These women nursed their babies in front of the gorilla. And when that second baby was born, the mother gorilla knew how to breastfeed. This story shows that even though breastfeeding is "natural" it's still something mothers must learn how to do. And I don't think there's any better way to learn than to see other mothers breastfeeding.
My children just accept breastfeeding as part of raising a baby and child. They see breasts as a functional and comforting part of a woman's body. I don't mind if they find breasts sexual, but I'm glad they'll always know their purpose.
I will continue to breastfeed in front of my kids and in front of anyone who is around me. I'm not confrontational about it. I assume if people are uncomfortable, they'll look away. But I hope my comfort will rub off on other people. When people visit me at home, or meet me out for coffee, I sometimes say I'm going to breastfeed my baby but I'm not uncomfortable. I don't feel that my breasts are acting in a sexual capacity. I don't mind if someone wants to get up close and actually watch how the baby latches and beings to suckle. Other kids seem particularly interested. And nothing makes me feel more comfortable breastfeeding in front of other people than when they themselves feel comfortable enough to watch.
My children just accept breastfeeding as part of raising a baby and child. They see breasts as a functional and comforting part of a woman's body. I don't mind if they find breasts sexual, but I'm glad they'll always know their purpose. And when it's time to latch their own babies or make other woman in their lives feel supported and comfortable, I hope their own comfort will be contagious.