Take away my mammal card if this is how people treat breastfeeding moms
I'm buried deep in blog posts that need to be written about our excursion down south, syllabi that need to be prepped for fall and a book that's in progress with a co-author. I've got a team of qualitative researchers waiting on my coding for a large journal article literature review. I've got three stitches in an all-important typing finger. Stuff needs to get done besides blogging!
And yet, I feel the need to write about Julia today.
Julia's story about breastfeeding in an Ottowa Starbucks and the ensuing result went viral this week. Here's the five second version in Julia's own words:
"I went to Starbucks with my 5-month-old to grab a coffee. He started to fuss, I sat down to nurse him to calm him, and a middle-aged woman asked a teenage barista to get me to stop breastfeeding, loudly calling it 'disgusting.' He took care of it -- by offering me a free refill, a voucher and an apology for the unpleasant experience as the complainer fled the scene. "
Yay, Canadian teenage boy barista!
Boo, middle-aged woman complainer!
I shared it on Facebook along with a million other people and thought nothing of it. Until today when Julia wrote a follow up piece on HuffPo Parents. Here's what struck me, the negative comments:
That side ranged from the absurdly uninformed ("Neanderthals breastfed in public, we should evolve up not down!") to the sickeningly misogynistic ("Yeah, I'd stare at those titties if they were flapping around in Starbucks") to the needlessly crass ("I don't pull my pants down and piss in public, why should you whip out your tits and breastfeed? Attention seeking b*tch"), with a whole lot of "Why don't women cover up when they're breastfeeding?" in between.
Who in the world, besides this one random middle-aged woman in the original piece would ever scandalize or disparage a breastfeeding mother? I mean come on, who are these negative commentators?
In Julia's words:
What shocked me most in all of this is how many of these negative voices came from women. From the original complaining customer to those posting their comments online, I am truly afraid of what it means for our society that adult women find it acceptable to insult and belittle other women for breastfeeding in public -- basically for having breasts and using them as nature intended.
Julia and her baby, on the day she was at Starbucks. She looked just like this.
As a proud former breastfeeding mother of two daughters (8 and 7 months, respectively) I'm here to sayenough! I'm embarrassed to be a woman if this is what my peers are saying to each other on this subject.
Julia received comments about how showing breasts in public is offensive and that she should cover up or nurse in her car or stay home to feed her baby. I offer three rants points for you to choke on consider.
1. It's summer in America and Canada and a lot of other places in the world. If I wouldn't leave my dog in the car, I probably shouldn't nurse my baby there either.
2. Nursing mothers need to do things like shop, run errands and eat. Babies need to eat - often - so I should schedule my day around the two to three hour window when they are not hungry? Not possible, nor realistic. I should delay my errands because you can't handle seeing breast flesh? Don't go to the community pool in the summer, then, baby cakes.
3. You know when babies cry in the grocery store or in a restaurant or, God forbid, on an airplane? How do we get them to calm down? Nursing. You want a screaming baby interrupting your flight or a possible glimpse of a side boob when I'm getting her to latch? You pick.
Um, hello? We see more boobs than a nursing mother on television commercials, internet ads and magazine covers in the grocery check out line. No one seems to care then!
Oh, wait, are you only offended when breasts are used in a non-sexual way, like in the nourishing of children? Well, that might be it. We really don't see boobs used in that way on the cover of People Magazine or on TMZ. That would be downright disgusting, I'm sure.
We see them squished into fabric triangles or hiked up in corset-style wedding dresses. We see them draped in expensive silk or harnessed into sports bras. We see the outline of them under a t-shirt or seductively encapsulated in a halter top.
But, people freak out when they see them attached to a baby's mouth. If we're going to treat nursing moms like this in public, I don't want to be a mammal anymore. I'd like to be a reptile, please. Just hatch me and my offspring from now on.
Look, people. Feed your baby from a bottle or a boob. Whatever. Either are fine or a combination like we did. The kids grow up and before you know it you are instructing them how to feed their babies. Feed your baby in public or private. Whatever. Babies are part of our society, thank goodness, right?
** note: Best breastfeeding spot I ever found in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area was Nordstrom's 4th floor women's lounge. Go, Nordstrom!
What if I told you that you could never eat in public, only at home? That you had to eat with a blanket over your head in 96 degree temperatures or that there are no snacks on the airplane anymore! Go eat in your car, random lady, because it bothers me when I see you eat.
That's what you're saying to the newest generation. You're disgusting when you eat. You're saying to new mothers, who are most likely struggling with how to juggle motherhood, surging hormones and a body that is not quite snapping back into shape, you're embarrassing when you feed your baby.
Nursing moms, bottle-feeding moms, adoptive moms... I salute you all.
Me and Maddy, circa 2005. Breastfeeding.
Dr. Jana Craft is a Christian, wife, mother, business professor, fake biker and terrible cook who writes about the struggle to balance these identities and the joy derived from them all. She writes daily on Holding True @ janacraft.blogspot.com