I had originally started writing a sort of scathing bit about rude individuals making unsolicited comments and judgements to breastfeeding mothers in public, but decided to change course mid-stride and take on a new strategy.
The reason for this change is twofold; I felt very strongly that something that needed to be written was going to be lost in all of the jokes, and also I read my wife’s blog last night and she pretty much already covered everything I had written… with the authority of an actual mother of a nursing baby. So, yeah. My thoughts in that regard are pretty much echoes of an actual mother. I can’t add anything to a dialogue on breastfeeding that way, so I’m going to take this one in a new direction.
This piece will be loaded with FACTS. Be warned. You are free to express your OPINIONS in the comments, but do not confuse your opinions with facts. These two things are oil and water, peanut butter and topsoil, vodka and Facebook… they do not mix well.
If you disagree with something that I state, please correct me and provide reputable references to support your claim. That’s not a condescending challenge. I really appreciate being corrected (tactfully) with new information. This is the only way in which we can arrive to the best possible conclusion on a subject: by expanding our understanding with new, valid information. Information that does not come to us as the direct result of mixing vodka with Facebook.
Whatever your objection to public nursing is, whatever it is that you find disgusting or inappropriate, take a moment to consider the following…
First, we are all, technically, animals. We belong to a division of animals known as mammals, and every single mammal under the sun nourishes its offspring through lactation. Not all mammals have “breasts” or “teats,” some just lactate through sweat-like glands in their skin and their young suckle the milk from their belly fur, but all mammals internally produce food for their offspring.
This is just how it is. No matter how much you want to see yourself as something higher than an animal, we all live, eat, sleep, poop, and die as animals. No number of complicated social constructs we produce, no remote distance that we observe in space, no remarkable scientific discoveries can erase this simple fact. We are animals.
Following that, a mother nursing her baby is about as natural as you can get. When you sit down to a burger and fries, you are eating…well, we never really can be 100% sure what you’re eating, can we? It’s safe to just categorize a cheeseburger and french fries as something that you will never really stumble upon while walking through the woods.
In short, you are sitting down to a less-than-natural meal. A nursing infant, on the other hand, happens to be eating the absolute best thing that nature can provide for its developing little body and mind: breastmilk.
Breastmilk is naturally engineered to be the perfect source of nutrition for a baby. Did you know that breastmilk even carries the specific antibodies that a baby needs to stay healthy and fight off infection? A new little human being that has never been exposed to the overwhelming volume of bacterial pathogens that we encounter in our daily routines actually gets what it needs to stay healthy from breastmilk.
One theory behind this, although we don’t totally understand the mechanisms behind the transfer of information, is that the mother “reads” information in the saliva of an infant through her (amazing) nipples, determines which antibodies need be produced, then makes and delivers them to the infant through her breastmilk.
Additionally, the nutrient composition of breastmilk changes as the infant’s development needs change. Initially, breastmilk is roughly a 90:10 percent mix of whey and casein proteins, respectfully. Whey proteins are quickly digested while casein proteins require a considerable amount of energy to digest and convert into energy. As a baby grows older, this mix adjusts to about a 50:50 split, optimal for baby’s growth and development later in lactation.
Breastmilk is also loaded with vitamins and minerals.
This is like having your own personal chef preparing your meals, custom tailored to your own nutritional needs and balanced for optimal performance. Don’t even try to tell me you would not want your own personal chef. We all do.
Well, babies have their own personal chefs. Suck it up, buttercup. Take comfort in knowing that it will not last forever, and eventually that little miraculous bundle of youth and promise will grow up to eat the same crappy diet that the rest of us eat. For now, though, my baby girl is eating like royalty.
I could go on, but this blog will turn into a textbook. If you are interested in reading a textbook on the subject, check out excerpts from this one available as a Google Book preview. If you want something written in lay-speak for us poor huddled masses, check out The Womanly Art of Breastfeeding. I suspect reading the latter selection, as a man in public, will probably get you more attention from women looking for a sensitive type. If that’s your thing, I strongly recommend the second one.
Just don’t get offended if she starts breastfeeding. Your ruse will be ruined.
So that’s it, that’s my argument. You aren’t witnessing an act of brazen disregard for your feelings. You are not watching something vile and disgusting, but rather the pretty awesome process of a mother providing pretty mind-bogglingly amazing nutrition to a baby. It is a wonder in itself, and despite your best attempts to distance yourself from your animal nature and the sight of a little skin in public, breastfeeding will long outlive your social norms and hurt feelings.
Why must it be done in public, you ask? Try telling a baby to wait until you can find a secluded area, sheltered from innocent eyes and passersby. See how that goes over.
That all being written, if you find it disgusting that some women breastfeed their children in public but are fine just looking the other way; if you can’t stand the sight of an infant nursing, but are considerate enough not to publicly shame her, then thank you. Seriously, thank you.
I am not writing from the vantage point of a nursing mother, but I am sure that plenty of them would rather have some privacy while breastfeeding than be subjected to your stares and comments. The fact of the matter is, you just can’t explain things like social norms and the delicate sensibilities of the easily offended to infants. When they need to eat, they need to eat. If that just so happens to be while they’re out with their mothers in public, then so goes the universe. So again, thank you for understanding and not making a big to-do over a little boob.
That is all.