Prior to conceiving my little one, I never gave breastfeeding much thought. However, as my pregnancy progressed so did the frequency of one question in particular.
“Are you going to breastfeed?”
The question was usually followed by comments about how it is so much better for the baby than formula and how I owed it to him to give him the best I could.
In our society everyone thinks they should have a hand in raising your child. The pressure to breast feed is tremendous. I did ultimately decide to breast feed our son. This is what’s best for him, and acceptable in society’s eyes. Right? Think again.
I had heard horror stories about breastfeeding moms being asked to leave public places for feeding their babies. I had yet to experience this for myself but it was really only a matter of time. When your baby is screaming in hunger it is only natural to want to give him what he’s crying for right away.
We went out for lunch at a local fast food establishment and our son woke up screaming. The restaurant was packed and rather than maneuvering both of us under a cover (which is a skill I have yet to master) I decided to retreat to the quiet of our vehicle. I took our 7 week old infant out to our SUV thinking it would be a more comfortable place for both of us.
It didn’t take long for people to start parading by and to start glaring disapprovingly at me. At first I felt ashamed. Then I realized I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I was feeding my baby. That’s when the absurdity of what was happening hit me.
Complete strangers had no problem telling me that I needed to breastfeed my baby. As long as I wasn’t doing it anywhere that they might see (including the safety of our own vehicle). Car load after carload of restaurant patrons walked past our vehicle. Some didn’t notice, but of all of those that did, every single one, either shook their head or shot a disgusted look my way. From their view, I was no more exposed than anyone wearing a bikini as my son’s head was blocking any direct view they may have had. Yet, somehow, just knowing that I was feeding my baby with my body was enough to disgust them and cause them to judge me.
While no one actually stopped to say anything to me, this experience has left me weary about our next outing. How will I feed my baby if he gets hungry while we’re out? Then I realized the answer. I’ll feed him just like I always do. From this day forward I will no longer let the public decide when and where my son gets to eat. I will provide nourishment for his tiny growing body whenever he needs it and I will do so without shame. I encourage all breastfeeding women to take a stand and do the same. Feeding our children is not pornographic, disgusting or anything else that these naysayers may think. In fact, I’m willing to bet money that my son has better table manners than most of the people who didn’t approve.