The Lactivist in Me

>> Wednesday, August 12, 2009

*disclaimer - this post is going to be about public breastfeeding. If you don't like public breastfeeding or you don't want to read about it, then stop here.*

Photo from Chim Chim's Photostream on Flickr

Breastfeeding in public. It sure is debatable isn't it? I guess when you get down to it nearly everything about breastfeeding is open for debate. Where you feed your baby, how often you feed him, how long you are going to breastfeed, the list goes on. It really surprises, hmm no that's not even the word. Nothing regarding breastfeeding surprises me any more.

Let's talk history. Do you realize humanity wouldn't have even survived as long as it has, if it weren't for breastfeeding? For ages if a mother died during childbirth a wet nurse was brought in to feed the baby. Oh the horror! Someone else coming in and breastfeeding a child that wasn't their own! Can't imagine anyone doing that these days? Ahh someone did. You can read Baby Moses' story here. It's 6 months later and he is still being cross-nursed. His dad sure knows the importance of breastfeeding.
Did you know the bottle wasn't even invented until the late 1800's? Did you know that "formula" was only invented to be used in extreme cases - when a wet-nurse couldn't be found. It was never intended to be used the way it is being used today. But someone saw the opportunity to make a buck and now formula is being toted as a great alternative to breastfeeding your child.
Nothing is as good as breastmilk - don't be fooled.

So what is my point you ask? My point is, not always has breastfeeding been such a thing that you need to go do that in private. It's not everywhere that women are told "use a little modesty" or "cover that up". Breastfeeding is normal!! Yesterday on twitter I offended someone by being the lactivist that I am. I don't mean to offend. I also know that you can't "hear" me talk. You don't know the tone I am using, all you can do is read and guess. Tone says a lot.

Yesterday I was pretty mild - I wasn't even riled up. ;) Others were yes, and you know what, I feel they have every right to be. The offending message wasn't just about having some modesty while you are breastfeeding in public. Yes, I completely get that these comments were not directed right at me personally. But I do breastfeed in public and who's to say that next time they won't be directed at me. What's even more offensive is the fact that the guy said he wouldn't care if she was breastfeeding in public if she was "hot". Oh yeah, that makes all the difference in the world (sarcasm here folks).

What's offensive to me is that people see breasts everywhere. You see them on magazine covers, in magazine ads, on music covers, on TV commercials (breasts barely covered by an arm). You see more breast in some low cut tops, and in bikini tops that you ever would when someone is breastfeeding their child. But the minute someone sees a baby at the breast, eating, it's all "have some class", "use a cover", "be a little modest".

I take great offense at being called "fat, ugly hippies" just because I am breastfeeding my child wherever he is hungry. What I look like has absolutely nothing to do with feeding my child.

I take offense at someone saying to a breastfeeding mom "go do that in private" or "go do that in back". As if that is something rude. Breastfeeding is not's food! People eat in public all the time. As a person that has issues with watching/hearing people eat I would love to tell some people to go do that in private. Can you imagine the backlash?! But somehow because a baby is breastfeeding (eating when he is hungry) it is ok for anyone to tell that mom to go do that in private?? I don't think so! Why shouldn't a breastfeeding mother be allowed to enjoy the same activity that everyone else is? Be it watching a baseball game, enjoying a meal out with her family, going to the movies, worshiping in church? In all of those activities there should be enough going on that you don't have to sit and stare at her feeding her child. You can um I don't know actually watch the baseball game or movie. You could enjoy a conversation with the person you are having dinner with, oh or you could actually pay attention to what the Pastor has to say this Sunday. You don't have to stare at her - look away. How hard is that? Why should a breastfeeding mother have to cover up or go do that in private when it is you that has the problem not looking?? (I'm using the word you in a general term here).

The majority of breastfeeding moms are decent/modest. We don't all sit down and wait til everyone is watching and then "whip them out". Most of us, even if we don't use a cover (and I get some people are more comfortable using one. That's fine!) are only pulling up our shirts just enough to get the baby latched on and trying to keep that breast from being fully exposed when we are in public. I know for me personally trying to use a cover is like a circus act. E can't stand them and he never could. Even as a tiny baby he would try to wiggle out of them. (Who can blame him really? Ever tried eating with a blanket over your head?) I would be trying to keep the cover covering, holding my shirt down because he's going to pop off, and holding my breast so he can get a proper latch. I'm sure you can see the issue here - I do not have enough hands. The problem is that even though many of us are being modest, that isn't enough. People want us to cover up with a blanket or go into a "special" nursing room or even the bathroom. When all we are doing is feeding our babies, nothing more. We aren't shoving our breasts in your face.

Babies give off a lot of clues they are hungry - the biggest being crying. So you hear the cries, you see a mom pick up her baby and start fumbling with her shirt. You know exactly what is going to happen. ( I promise she doesn't have a bottle warming up in her bra.) So if you are going to be offended by the mere fact she is going to feed her child - then look away! Don't continue to stare and then give her dirty looks, make rude comments, suggest she cover up or go elsewhere. She isn't the one with the problem. Obviously if she would be more comfortable using a cover she would be using it. If she would be more comfortable breastfeeding in private she would have picked up the baby and went looking for a nursing room. She's comfortable, if you aren't - don't look.

I honestly don't mean to offend people with my lactivism. I am just very passionate about breastfeeding of all babies, everywhere and anywhere.

Video made & posted by BabyREADY


Anna D (Admin) August 12, 2009 at 10:57 AM  

Hooray for you Mama! Giving nourishment to your baby via breastfeeding in public is NOT Obscene or Offensive!

You said it wonderfully, and I Did sense your 'Tone'. ;)

madabutterfly,  August 12, 2009 at 11:16 AM  

Im a breastfeeding suppert worker and am very passionate about breastfeeding too and the lack of support that moms get.
I really loved your blog and am glad that we speak out and give these moms the support and enouragement they need and deserve

Anonymous,  August 12, 2009 at 11:36 AM  

Very well written. I think it's wonderful that you've used your blog to write about something you're passionate about. I hope whoever was offended by whatever you said (that you support public breastfeeding? or that you are yourself a public breastfeeder?) will make them see the light.

Cassaundra August 12, 2009 at 11:46 AM  

Totally agree with you. But for my own part, I want to go further. I DO want to offend people. If they're offended by a child eating, they deserve to be upset. I want to make a point, a point about Women's power about Women's rights. I want to shock and confront the assumptions that prompt someone to attempt to control or shame Women. Change comes when we confront that which needs to be changed. Every assumption that our Western society holds dear about Motherhood, family, work, money is based on the unquestioned, unpaid, unvalued, unsupported, unspoken reproductive work of Women. I want to tear down the entire structure of society, roof, walls, windows, doors, floors, foundations. All of it. Tear it down. Breastfeeding in public is an act of revolution for me.

Baby Led Solids inToronto August 12, 2009 at 12:07 PM  

Well said. I am happy to be surrounded by passionate, strong breastfeeding moms (and dad supporters!) and your words encourage me in keeping up with it and voicing that it is our right to breastfeed whenever, wherever.

Krista August 12, 2009 at 6:25 PM  

Anna D, Madabutterfly & anonymous: Thank you. If more mothers were given support then I'm certain babies would be breastfed longer. It's the comments that make them feel shamed and as if they need to stay home, that contributes (I feel) to moms stopping sooner than they may really like. It's very sad when all they are doing is feeding their children.

Krista August 12, 2009 at 6:37 PM  

Cassaundra - I totally get what you are saying. Some people need to be shocked in order to give them pause to really think about why they think what they do.
That said, I don't intentionally try to offend people with how I breastfeed. I do what I do and if they have a problem with how much of my breast is or isn't showing, that is their problem not mine.
I have several friends that have no problem pulling their tank top down and letting the baby nurse that way out in public. Good for them I say! I'm glad they have the confidence to do that. There isn't anything shameful about it. They are feeding their baby. On the other hand,I feel very self-conscious doing that in public. Plus I'm not thick-skinned enough to deal with the comments that I would probably get. I wish I was stronger. It makes me really question how much of a lactivist I really am then - but I try to do what I can do to spread the knowledge that breastfeeding is normal. Hopefully someone pauses to think from that.

Lee August 13, 2009 at 12:31 PM  

It wasn't the concept of public breastfeeding that got me riled-- that would make me the worlds BIGGEST hypocrite! It was just the manner in which some people were arguing (not yours, really the other people, but I got to the discussion via your post, and realized later that you are one of my few blog readers (you poor thing!! :) ) and figured you'd be the only one to see whatever I had thought about it. I actually clicked to read the discussion because I was so pissed that someone should have the gall to say that a woman didn't have the right to breastfeed in public! (and what I read made it sound like it was just a discussion of covering up vs not-- and made me think of "discussions" on the topic in my area, and it got my dander up. I had a friend (visibly pregnant at the time) who was approached by a TOTAL STRANGER in town, who demanded to know if she planned on bfing (she did), and told her in a very surly tone "Just remember, HERE we BREASTFEED our babies!" Pleasant, right?). I figured I hadn't read the whole story-- and I'd like to smack the guy upside the head for is "if she were hot" comment. Pig.

It took a lot of courage for me to post to my blog my thoughts on the matter, especially once I realized you might read them. I appreciate more than I can say your comments, and the fact that we can communicate our thoughts without the anger and whole "well, I'm right, and you suck, so go die a horrible death" attitude that is too prevalent nowadays. It's so refreshing not to deal with that!

Sarah August 13, 2009 at 6:07 PM  

In total agreement with what you've said here. Breastfeeding is just eating and a baby's birthright. Brestfeeding should be done in a way that is comfortable to Mother and child...not to onlookers.

Summer August 13, 2009 at 7:14 PM  

Thank you! I wish people spent more time learning how to turn their heads away than they do complaining about what they are staring at!

Melodie August 13, 2009 at 9:16 PM  

Woot Woot Krista! So happy you wrote this. Of course I am in complete agreement with what you said.

PippaD August 15, 2009 at 6:28 AM  

I don't get people who don't breastfeed, or who give up at the first hurdle.

I don't get people who think it is unhygenic to feed a baby in public or who make remarks or tut that I have my breast out in public.

I do get that Baby Boy knows what he wants and what he wants is boob!

Krista August 15, 2009 at 7:49 AM  

PippaD ~

I don't really understand the people that won't even try it. Even for 6wks *shrug* but that is their choice I suppose and it does no good to belittle them for that choice. The only thing you can really do there is gently give them knowledge if they want it.

As for people that give up at the first hurdle - breastfeeding is hard. Unless you come into it with a mindset that I *AM* going to breastfeed for x amount of time, it's really easy to just say give me the formula. Also without very good support it is very hard to keep going, especially when problems arise. If you have no *good* support sometimes those hurdles are beyond hard to get over. And many women don't have the knowledge to get past even not so difficult hurdles because the *art* of breastfeeding is lost in our culture. There isn't the circle of women that surround the new mom & baby to help get them going and give them the hands on advice. People in our culture don't see breastfeeding everyday,'s hidden away so that art isn't being passed on as this is something normal and anyone can do it.

The other comments about it being unhygienic or negative comments about public breastfeeding - I don't get it either. I think it's very immature especially given the way people dress (and some of them have the nerve to say something about NIP)no one would ever go up to a girl that had a very low cut top and say "put some clothes on" but they find it ok to tell a breastfeeding mom to "cover up". Stupidity at it's highest. (I can't call it ignorance because ignorance is not knowing - it's just plain stupidity.).

All that said - Good for you for breastfeeding your baby!!

Laura McIntyre August 18, 2009 at 3:33 PM  

I think i love your blog lol.

Im very passionate about breastfeeding and proudly say i have never spent 1p on formula but most people do take offence to that.Thats why i was desprete enough to post the twitter call for help (about my 11 month old son biting) , he is my 3rd and it was new to me. In my head 11 months is way to young to even think about weaning and i just needed to figure out how to keep going.

As for feeding in public , i was not sure i would do it. When my eldest was a few weeks old on our first trip out she needed fed and we went to a bathroom to do it. It stank of poo and i promised never again would i do that to myself or child and i have not fed my children everywhere and anywhere. Personally i don't find it a big deal and don't get why others do ? Im offended at all those bottle feeders but no one tells them to cover up lol

Mellisa August 21, 2009 at 5:51 PM  

I loved loved loved your article!! I breast fed all 4 of my babies...I loved how you said that if a mother was picking up her screaming baby and fumbling with her shirt that she doesn't have a warming bottle in there! That is so funny...but it's true look know what she is going to do. I am way to modest to have breast fed in public...and now that my babies are older and so am I(30) I wish that I could have gotten over that. I spent way to much time feeding my kids in the public restrooms listening to you know what. I couldn't even do it in front of family because it was to hard to use a cover. By the time my baby was latched on I would be sweating bullets! Thanks for such a funny and supportive article! If you are a new mom and breastfeeding please don't be afraid to do it in public!

Mellisa August 21, 2009 at 5:53 PM  

Sorry to post twice but I wanted you to know that I found your blog from a post over at Mama Notes and that I am now following since I enjoyed your well written post so much!

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