It is your legal right to breastfeed anywhere you are lawfully allowed to be, covered or uncovered, with any amount of exposed breast skin as might naturally show in the process of feeding. No one can make you leave and carry on in, say, a public bathroom or the backseat of your car.
Nursing has become repulsive. Not all the time — just during episodes of aversion, otherwise known as breastfeeding agitation, which come sporadically. And it’s intense enough at those times to make me want (need) to force weaning.
Seriously? Me, The Nursaholic? Wanting to wean? Well, this aversion stuff SUCKS. And it’s curiously confusing because, as everyone already knows, I LOVE breastfeeding so much that sometimes I suspect my heart is powered by breast milk.
You sit down to the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day with nursling in tow. The unenlightened relative to your left makes a joke about “juicy breasts” (on the turkey, natch), and the friend to your right commits you as her official Black Friday shopping buddy. It seems that everyone is begging to give your exclusively-breastfed baby a taste of the mashed potatoes, and the smell of sage wafts so heavy from the kitchen that you can taste it on your pecan pie.
How can a room full of blessings and joy be so full of breastfeeding landmines, too? Thankfully (because it’s just that holiday), you can move forth into the upcoming turkey-carving and gourd-displaying processions without threat to your nursing relationship so long as you know where to look.
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Giving beer to a baby is bad. Giving breast milk to a baby is good. Giving beer to a breastfeeding mother… well, let’s talk about that.
In March, a woman in Arkansas was arrested on the basis of child endangerment for breastfeeding in a restaurant after consuming two beers. In September, a Virginia woman was kicked out of Big Woody’s Bar & Grill for — yep, you guessed it — sipping a beer (only one sip, she says) while breastfeeding her 11-month-old. I know, I know… “What was she thinking bringing a child to a bar?!” A bar & GRILL, actually. You know, more Chili’s, less Coyote Ugly. (And the particular establishment bills itself as “family friendly”). The woman also claims she is a degreed chemist who has done her research and knows how much alcohol she can have without affecting her breast milk.
Did these women deserve arrest and refusal? Were they misguided to think their behaviors were perfectly harmless, or do they know something their persecutors don’t? Let’s see…
We all know the deserved reaction to harsh comments about breastfeeding in public. Someone who says “That’s gross!” might benefit from being handed a therapist’s business card. Someone who insists “No one wants to SEE that!” could use a reminder that it takes only 30 degrees of movement to make a publicly breastfeeding pair disappear from peripheral view, if so necessary. Whoever snidely laughs, “Stop trying so hard to prove a point!” may be appropriately received with literature on biology and survival (preferably a hardback cover straight to the face), the “point” of ensuring that our children stay alive and happy.
What concerns me more than the pitifully ignorant and sadly classless ones are the well-intentioned ones who occasionally say the wrong thing too, and risk causing as much harm as the jerks. For especially sensitive women (read: virtually all postpartum mothers), certain phrases, questions, statements can be taken the wrong way.
Everyone experiments… with breastfeeding advice! It’s true. Maybe you got suckered into buying those over-the-counter alcohol screeners to test the “safety” of your breast milk only to realize you can just measure your drinks for free, if you’re so inclined. Maybe you tried nursing your baby on the left side while pumping on the right (because ability to multitask is a commodity of motherhood) only to watch as antsy infant legs knock 10 ounces of just-expressed milk to the floor. Or maybe you casually decided to surprise your older infant with a nipple shield, as if no proper introduction is needed, only to find out they’d never play nice together.
Breastfeeding moms are kind of ridiculous.
Seems like all we say is, “Hey, breastfeeding is so not a big deal! Lighten up, naysayers!” But then we stage nurse-ins, tweet to businesses that have mistreated us, and remind everyone from our friends to the mailman about the zillion ways that “breast is best.” I know, it’s a bit backwards to make a point of talking about breastfeeding at every chance, purposefully inflating it into a big deal when the bottom line of our advocating is, “Hey people, breastfeeding is NOT a big deal!”
Especially, especially, especially… breastfeeding in public.