Thursday, August 7, 2014

Why you should be ashamed of yourself for feeding your baby!

I feel like I see/hear stories of women being shamed for feeding their babies, on a daily basis now.
Women are being shamed for breastfeeding their babies.
Women are being shamed for bottle feeding their babies.
Our Heavenly Father has entrusted you with this precious, fragile life, how DARE you have the audacity to NOURISH it!
But seriously, why should women feel ashamed for the way they choose (or don't choose, its not always a choice) to feed their baby?

Let's start with bottle feeding.
I feel like, in this word of social media, where the movement to support/normalize breastfeeding is becoming more prevalent, so too is the rate of shaming women who do not exclusively breastfeed.
Yes, some women choose not to breastfeed, some women don't have a choice.
Some mothers want to breastfeed, but have no support and give up.
Some mothers try breastfeeding and don't like it.
Some mothers try breastfeeding, but no matter how hard they try, or how much help/support they have, their baby won't latch.
Some mothers try, but no matter what they do, no matter what they eat or drink, or how many medications or supplements they take, or how badly they end up smelling like maple syrup from the supplements, they just don't produce enough milk, some don't produce any at all.
Some mothers have demanding jobs, where they are unable to pump, so their milk dries up.
Some mothers feel uncomfortable about breastfeeding.
Some babies can't tolerate breast milk.
Some mothers simply have no interest in breastfeeding and choose not to.
For these mothers, bottle feeding is generally the answer and there is absolutely NOTHING wrong with that! There is nothing wrong with their decision to feed their baby and they shouldn't feel the need to explain themself. They are feeding their baby and doing the best they can to make sure their baby is nourished and healthy, what more can you expect of a loving mother?

I have a dear, sweet friend, who was pregnant at the same time as me and wasn't able to breastfeed her son. I still remember the anger and hurt I felt for her the day she messaged me about their trip to the zoo. She was mixing a bottle for her son and noticed a woman looking rudely at her and shaking her head. The woman then said to her "you are feeding your child that... ridiculous" then walked away, shaking her head and murmuring about what a terrible mom she was for putting "that" into her child!

I still can't comprehend what was going through this crazy lady's head! I mean, my friend was FEEDING her baby! How does feeding her baby something that is incredibly healthy for him possibly make her a bad mother? (And just for the record: she is a wonderful mother!)

There are so many different ways that women shame mothers who bottle feed.
One example is obviously the story above.
Another way is asking WHY they didn't breastfeed. That is none of your business, and by asking that, you are insinuating that there is something wrong with bottle feeding, which there isn't.
Or people say things like:

"You could have tried harder/could have at least given it a go"
Um, no. Who the heck are you to judge? Nobody but the mother herself knows what she went through. You don't hear her thoughts or feel her feelings. You didn't struggle with her if/when she struggled. Whether she could or couldn't breastfeed, or whether she did or didn't want to, she made the best decision for her and her baby/babies and has and still is trying her hardest to be the best Mom she can be.

"Someone I know couldn't breastfeed, so they pumped and still gave their baby breast milk"
Being able to exclusively pump and still give your baby breast milk is great if you can do it, but sometimes that isn't an option. Not everybody makes enough milk to do that. Some people don't make any milk at all. Even some women who have an abundance of milk can't pump, it doesn't work for everyone. Some people feel weird being hooked up to a breast pump.

"Have you thought about using donated milk?"
Some people don't have access to donor milk, some people don't feel comfortable feeding their baby someone else's breast milk.

"Breast milk is better/breast is best"
Well, yes it is, but that doesn't make bottle feeding bad. Bottle feeding is perfectly healthy, whether it be expressed milk or formula (yes, formula is HEALTHY!). Why would you even think to say this to a bottle feeding mother? Like you think they are inferior, or you are a better mum because you breastfeed? Just, No. Go away.

I'm sure there are many more ways in which bottle feeding mums have been made to feel shamed or guilty and it has to stop. Mamas, please don't feel that way, you have not failed, you are amazing and you work so hard to make sure your children are healthy and happy. There should be no shame or guilt in that.

Now onto breastfeeding.
This topic tends to bring a lot of unnecessary conflict from all angles.
I kid you not, I have seen breastfeeding mums shame other breastfeeding mums.
There are some people who think breastfeeding is gross. Its not. Grow a brain.
The majority of breastfeeding shaming is based around public breastfeeding, or more specifically, whether or not you should cover when feeding in public.
When Lachlan was a baby, the only time I nursed without a cover was when I was in the privacy of my own bedroom (we lived with Anthony's parents at the time). Not because I felt that breastfeeding was wrong, or because I felt that Breastfeeding uncovered was wrong, but because I was extremely self conscious and also partly because I felt shamed into doing so.
Most of the time, he was okay eating under the nursing cover, but there were times that he would fight it and uncover me/himself.
Kennen, on the other hand, was only exposed to eating with a cover a few times before he was 3 months old. He was sort of okay with it, I say sort of because he didn't seem to like it, but he would still eat.
Well, at about 3 months old, he decided that there was no way known that he was going to let me cover him up to feed him! Of course, he decided this in the middle of Epcot, when I was wearing a maxi dress and had no other option, but to let my whole breast hang out above the neckline of my dress! Of course, now that I know that he absolutely wont eat with a cover, I dress in such a way that the layers of my clothes cover as much of my breast as possible, but that is for my own comfort, not anybody else's.

Now, I have heard countless arguments against breastfeeding uncovered in public and not one of them was valid. It would take a lifetime to list them all, so I am just going to address a handful.

"It is indecent exposure"
Actually, Its not. Indecent exposure is the exposure of sexual organs in public. Breasts are not technically sex organs and breastfeeding is specifically exempt from indecent exposure laws. In fact, there are specific laws in place PROTECTING a woman's right to breastfeed in any place that the woman is permitted to be, with or without a cover. (This fact SHOULD end the argument, but some people are so ignorant, hence the rest of this post)

"Its disrespectful"
I'm sorry, who is it disrespectful to? If you don't want to see me feeding my baby, it's as easy as directing your gaze elsewhere, certainly much easier than struggling to feed a baby who is fighting with whatever is covering his/her head and much easier than leaving the room with a crying, hungry baby and looking for a clean, comfortable place to feed. By asking a woman to cover up or leave the room when she is feeding her baby, YOU are the one who is being disrespectful.

"I don't want my husband to see it"
Really? I mean, REALLY?!!
Is there something wrong with your husband, that he sees breastfeeding as something other than a baby, eating? Are you worried that he will be attracted to the woman that breastfeeds in front of him? Grow up, breastfeeding isn't attractive. It doesn't bother me one bit if my husband sees another woman feeding her baby, we both know she isn't out to seduce him and even if she was, breastfeeding in front of him sure won't do it! I know for starters, that my husband is polite enough not to stare, and even so, he is a mature, grown man and sees breastfeeding for what it is: FEEDING A BABY. There must be some other underlying issue if you are that worried about your husband seeing another woman feed her baby.

"You shouldn't do that in front of  *gasp* the CHILDREN!"
Oh? and why not?
We already covered the fact that it is NOT indecent. Should children not know that the primary purpose of breasts are for feeding babies? Should we teach our children to sexualize breasts? That breastfeeding is bad?
I don't think so Tim.
I personally want my children to be exposed to breastfeeding. I want them to see it as the norm, to not feel awkward when a woman breastfeeds around them. I want them to know that there is no shame in feeding a baby. I want them to support their wives in whatever decisions they make. I want them to know that breasts are made for nourishing life, not just to be sexy play things.
Hiding breastfeeding from our children accomplishes nothing, except to teach them that it is a shameful act and that it is not what breasts are meant for.

"I don't want to see your boobs"
Okay...?? So don't look. Duh.
But seriously, If a woman is with a baby and starts adjusting her shirt, look away because that's a surefire sign that she is about to start breastfeeding. And if the baby is already eating, his/her head is already covering more than what a bathing suit covers, so If you manage to see anything you don't want to, then that's on you because you were obviously looking too closely.

"I don't pee or poop in public, so you shouldn't be able to breastfeed in public"
That is not even a slightly valid comparison. Urine and feces are bodily wastes, breast milk is not. You can't nourish a baby with pee and poop, yet breast milk is recommended by the World Health Organisation as the primary source of nutrition for the first two years of life.

"If you can whip your boobs out, then I should be able to whip my penis out"
No. Not at all the same. As we already covered, breasts are not sex organs, but penises are. You can't nourish a baby with your penis. If you had said "If you can whip your boobs out then I should be able to whip my man boobs out..." oh wait, it's perfectly acceptable for a man to show the male equivalent of breasts. My friend's sister made a good point about that idiotic comparison. She pointed out that if you believe that breasts and penises should be treated alike, therefore, artificial breasts (aka baby bottles and pacifiers) should be treated like artificial penises (dildos, vibrators, etc). Therefore, if you don't consider baby bottles and pacifiers to be sex toys, then how could you possibly consider breasts obscene?

"Its immodest"
Actually, its not. Modesty is somewhat situational. Most swimsuits show much more than what you see when a woman is breastfeeding, yet when you are at the beach, do you feel immodest in a one piece or tankini? of course not! Feeding a baby in the way God intended it not immodest in any manner.

"Breastfeeding without a cover is the younger generation's way of rebelling"
I actually laughed out loud when I read this one!
Breastfeeding without a cover is by no means a new idea. Covering whilst breastfeeding is actually a more modern idea that feeding uncovered. Through history, even in times where it was considered "rude" to show so much as an ankle, women could breastfeed publicly without a cover and it wasn't given a second thought.

"Women who breastfeed uncovered are exhibitionists"
I'm pretty sure I already covered the fact that I am self conscious and I'm pretty sure that no mother feeding her child is doing it to show off, she just wants to feed her baby! Its not like she is waving her bare breasts around, screaming "Look at me, I have my boobs out!". Nope, she is JUST feeding her baby.

"I don't have sex in public, so you shouldn't breastfeed in public"
This goes hand in hand with the whipping a penis out in public and urinating/defecating in public. Its not a valid point in the slightest. None of these acts can nourish and sustain life, so stop bringing them up!

"You could always cover with a blanket or scarf, or better yet, they make super cute nursing covers these days!"
I have three super cute nursing covers! But that doesn't change the fact that my son absolutely wont eat under any sort of cover. If I am lucky enough to get him to latch on when he is covered up, he will only stay latched long enough to trigger a letdown, and then he pulls away and ends up getting milk sprayed all over his little face and in his eyes, all the while, fighting whatever it is that I'm using to cover him.
And, having experience with both covering and not covering, I can honestly say that covering up draws more attention to what you are doing, so if the baby happens to unlatch and pull the cover away (trust me, it happens a lot!) then you are more likely to be exposed.

"What if a woman who couldn't breastfeed sees you? You will make her feel bad"
I'm sorry if someone feels guilty or bad for not being able to breastfeed. I personally never want to make anyone feel bad, and as I said before, I do not think I am better than any other mother just because I was able to breastfeed. I will not refuse to feed my son just because there could possibly be someone who I don't even know, watching me and feeling bad. She shouldn't feel bad anyway if she is doing the best she can for her child.

"That's what breast pumps/bottles are for"
AGAIN not all women can pump. Pumps are nowhere near as effective as babies at removing the milk from the breast, it takes longer, then you have to think about the storage and transportation of the milk, the fact that if you are out for more than a few hours, you can become engorged, which causes a lot of pain and discomfort and going longer than normal between feedings can reduce your milk supply. And that is assuming that the baby will take a bottle, not all breastfed babies will take a bottle.

There are so so many more and so far, the only valid reason I have ever heard for covering up in public is that the breastfeeding mother herself is self conscious/uncomfortable with being uncovered. Literally every other argument for it is either uneducated, uninformed or just plain moronic. If you truly look at it for what it is, all you will see is a mother feeding her baby, all that awkwardness, discomfort, prudishness, embarrassment, etc. fades away.

So PLEASE open your minds, consider the facts and be compassionate towards mothers who are feeding their babies. Don't say stupid things, don't act like your parenting choices are better and please please stop the shaming.
By shaming a woman for feeding her baby, whether you mean to shame her, or are just being negative about her choices, you are sending the message that what she is doing is wrong. There is nothing wrong with breastfeeding or bottle feeding and they should not be hidden.

The sooner we see breastfeeding and bottle feeding for what they are: FEEDING AND NOURISHING BABIES (regardless of whether she is breastfeeding or bottle feeding, using expressed milk or formula) the sooner ALL women will be able to feed their children without shame, embarrassment or "mommy guilt".

What other baby-feeding shaming comments have you heard? post in the comments below!

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