13 Sep
2012

Feeder Breeder

The UPS guy knocked and I yelled “Thank you!” through the door three times before he heard me and then responded with, “This requires a signature.”

So I opened the door.

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I’d be embarrassed except I long ago lost all sense of what’s appropriate/inappropriate/polite/impolite/necessary/unnecessary when it comes to breastfeeding. It needs to be done and so I just do it. In the parking lot of the grocery store, in the middle seat on a plane, standing up chatting with a stranger during a cocktail party. I’m labeling this era of my life the Nip Slip Tour.

When I go out I usually wear a Bella Band so when I lift my shirt up my stomach is still contained covered, but otherwise, what you see is what you get (although I’m more likely to have my hair done and some makeup on). The fact that I don’t require special covers or pillows or footstools for this not-so-delicate operation means I’m a free-range feeder, and for the most part it works out great provided I have remembered the cardinal rule, which is to not wear a dress that doesn’t open at the front. You only have to break that rule one time before it becomes second nature to asses your wardrobe through the virtual lens of that one time you had to excuse yourself from a party and retreat to a back room to feed your child with your dress up around your neck like an infinity scarf. Anybody else feel that draft, or is it just that I’m standing here in high heels and Spanx?

As “natural” and necessary as breastfeeding is, however, I do strive to be respectful about it. My aunt was an aggressive breastfeeder, or at least that’s how it always came off to me, her always whipping everything out all the time, all over the place, making a big show and practically daring someone to say something. Now, despite there not being anything anyone could say that would stand up to the argument of “I’m feeding my child,” I do think one can be subtle about it. It’s in the attitude more than the actions, I guess. I just have to hope my attitude comes off as intended and not as Gross Breeder Lady Getting Her Boobs Out and Making Me Feel Weird and Ruining My Lunch. (The only way I could ruin your lunch, sir, is if I shot some cream into your coffee from across the room, and a subtle breastfeeder such as myself would never do that. In public or unsolicited, at least.)

Yet there are still times when I’m not sure what’s appropriate or not just simply because the whole process is so normal and familiar to me I really can’t look at it objectively anymore. For instance: If I’m someplace that has a special “lounge” just for nursing moms, am I supposed to use it? Am I flouting the rules if I don’t? Heaven forbid I come off as an aggressive breastfeeder and a scofflaw. And how about when someone tells me I’m welcome to feed my baby a back room, where I’ll presumably feel more comfortable? Is that really an offer with my convenience in mind, or is it a polite way of saying “Please take your nipples elsewhere, madam”? The aggressive breastfeeder wouldn’t care in either case, but I do and so, assuming people are really just trying to be nice, I usually decline the offer, not wanting to make a fuss or put anyone out, and this is how I come to be taking photos like this during a cocktail reception for a book launch in a fancy antique store.

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You might make the argument that tweeting photos like this is aggressive, is some sort of politicocultural statement about…I don’t know what exactly. Is it? Is it not? Is offense in the eye of the audience or the attitude of the actor? And can the answer to that question be true of all (most?) situations, or have I put on my giant gingham Pollyanna bow again without realizing it, and if so, how badly does it clash with Real Life?

By    26 Comments    Posted in: Photos, Regular Entries


26 Comments

  • For me, I haven’t been much into nursing covers or special rooms, etc. because once I got the hang of it, it was easy to be discreet and nurse in public. I honestly have never had someone make me feel uncomfortable for nursing, and there have been people (strangers!) that walked up to me when I was nursing, thinking to take a peek at a sleeping baby. I am actually way more self conscious about my postpartum belly showing while I’m nursing in public.

    Also, funny side story about shooting breast milk across the room. I used to work at a bar in our tiny, rednecky town and one night a girl was driving a guy crazy by shooting him with breast milk from across the bar. I have no idea how she was doing it, but she did. So I think as long as you aren’t doing that, you’re good!

    • I was at a party when Wombat was about three months old, and a guy I was talking to made a move to lift the cover of the blanket I had draped over W’s head, wanting to see the sweet sleeping baby underneath. When I said, “Actually, he’s eating right now,” it took the poor guy a beat to figure out how I was feeding a baby standing up and with one arm and no bottle, and then after a few seconds then a look of “Ohhhhhh” passed over his face and he seemed a little sheepish. Ha.

      And yes about the belly showing. That’s way more ew right now than my bodacious boobs!

  • You are a rockstar! Seriously, not aggressive at all, just doing your part to normalise breastfeeding in everyday life. Thank you!

    • Thank you! Although it’s weird to feel like I’m part of a cause without wanting to be part of the cause, you know? I guess that’s why I’m sensitive about not wanting to feel “aggressive”?

  • I function the same way. This is my first go-round, and she’s ten months now, so we’ve got it down for the most part. No covers or whatever, she hates them and they add about a thousand degrees so no thank you. I think if you’re chill about it most people don’t even notice.

    I remember how terrified I was to take her out and feed her in the beginning, though. It took me a while to get up the nerve to venture out when I knew she’d need to eat. Where would I go? What do I wear? What will people think? But I think you’re right – if you don’t make a thing out of it, other people won’t either. Baby’s gotta eat.

    • Yes to all of this. And I’m definitely at the point now where I can feed better and, I think, more discreetly, without a cover. I usually attempt to fumble with a blanket cover-up at first if I think someone’s going to be weirded out by my lifted shirt, but I almost always give that up in short order because, eh, I’m lazy. :)

  • If a nursing mother comes over to my house, I will always offer up my bedroom to her to go nurse her child. Not because ew nipples, but because maybe there are other guests in the house who give off a vibe that make you uncomfortable, or maybe you want adjust some stuff privately, or maybe anything. In my case, you’re equally welcome to say no thank you and to take me up on the offer. I think nothing about it either way.

    Oh and when I see somebody nursing in some random place in Nordstrom or wherever that’s not the women’s lounge, I just think “Ooh, a chair! Make a mental note of that!”

    • We saw a woman nursing in a big comfy recliner in Costco a while back. It was tucked between two big tall boxes (holding more recliners), and I was kind of jealous she’d grabbed the spot before I could.

      • I pulled a chair down from the bottom shelf at Target once to nurse my daughter. And while purchasing a car a few weeks ago (you know how that can take ages) I nursed my son in front of the salesman on the showroom floor. For me, the only rule is to not show my nipple if I can help it.

  • Have you seen this? As a nursing mother myself, I’m not sure I even have an opinion on it. But I thought it was interesting…

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/09/12/adrienne-pine-american-university-breastfeeding_n_1877451.html

    • Oooh. I have thoughts. I’m going to have to write a post about this. Maybe for Work It, Mom? Thanks for the link!

  • I worry about breastfeeding on my deck where my neighbors can see, although I’ve gotten over it unless their kids are outside because I’m not sure where they stand. It’s really more for other people’s comfort than for mine. Around girlfriends I’ll cover while we’re latching on, but otherwise I use a cover – I find going to another room weird like I’m being excluded (but I know there are some kids who won’t nurse in a busy room and there’s a certain age where they start getting distracted). Then there’s the awkward moment when they finish, suck hard and pull away! I just don’t need everyone seeing that. But I don’t see anything offensive in the pictures above – your breast isn’t exposed at all.

    • That’s exactly it. I want other people to be comfortable WHILE ALSO not being excluded. I figure I can do my best to keep the boob unseen, and after that, if people have problems with me, that’s for them to work out in their own little brains.

      And oh man, I forgot about the point past which babies are too easily distracted to nurse in public. I feel like it happened with Wombat around 4 or 5 months maybe? Bummer.

  • We all know I’m a childless single lady. So, as a member of the non-mommy public I just wanted to say: You go to it, Sister! I *wish* our world wasn’t so full of tight-wads and one of the most natural things in the world was more accepted than it is……

    • Having the support of childless single ladies is just as valuable, if not more than having the support of other nursing mothers! Thank you!

  • Nursing in public = no big deal. You aren’t wearing a stupid nursing cover in either pic above and I can see approx 0.000% of your boob. Fox’s head covers everything up nicely and the only way anyone would see anything is if they got right up in his little baby face and tried to look. You’re percisely in the space between fussing with a stupid apron cover thing for everyone else’s benefit and being a crazy hippie with her boobs flopping out all over the place. You’re FINE. (For the record, I fully support the public breastfeeding rights of fussy cover moms and crazy hippie moms alike, even though I don’t dig their style).

    • Right? I get that people can be weirded out by seeing boob in public, I do, but at the same time, this is the best mine will ever look, so take a gander! (Just kidding.)

  • You rock, lady.

    I kind of have the same philosophy. I’m going to nurse wherever I am when my kid is hungry. I don’t do covers because I worry about him getting too warm and I’m comfortable enough with my body that if he does pull off and I give the room an accidental eyeful, well, whatever. I’m aware of my body when I’m nursing. I react quickly. You would have to be staring straight at my chest to get a look at my goods :)

    I really don’t think that tweeting pictures is aggressive, I really don’t. I think it’s really fucked up how breastfeeding is viewed in society and I think your actions are perfectly in line with someone who just wants it to be viewed as a perfectly normal (and maybe a little beautiful?) way to feed her child.

    • Says the woman breastfeeding on Amazon.com! :) (I love that, by the way.)

  • totally read this while breastfeeding.

    • *high five!* This makes me happy.

  • I say good for you. Good for you for feeding your baby (which is what you’re doing! not making some kind of political statement) and, frankly, for being able to do it without all the accoutrement I used to need–seriously, when he was Fox’s age, I had to nurse my son sitting down with my My Breast Friend or it would never happened (we had latch issues). You’re giving me hope this second time around will be a breeze.

    As for going to another room–eh, eff that. You certainly have the legal right to stay where you are, and I always hated when I had to go hide away. Didn’t happen often, but I did feel like I was missing out. You’ve got it down, so why worry? I think moving to another room makes a bigger deal out of breastfeeding than just politely declining and staying put.

  • I think it’s awesome that you can stand and breast feed! I still haven’t mastered that technique. I tend to be a defensive nurser in public, thinking “Say something, I’m protected by law!” but at the same time doing my best to expose as little boob as possible and sitting my babe just right so one can’t quite tell what I’m doing. I don’t use a cover, but I do love my Undercover Mama ranks…have you seen these? They are awsome and great for the postpartum belly.

  • Not too long ago I was nursing one child while kicking the soccer ball with the oldest. Now that my little one is nearing the six-month mark, mobile nursing is getting harder b/c I need two hands to hold her and she gets heavy. I ALWAYS wear a nursing tank so that my stomach never hangs out. Having my stomach exposed is much worse than a breast, at least for me. Like you, I don’t cover up when I nurse, or go to a different room (unless I want to get away!), I just wear clothes that expose as little as possible. No cute sundresses for me this summer — skirts and t-shirts were easier. I think the more we nursing moms treat nursing as just a no big deal thing, the more people accept it. That being said, I am really lucky. I’ve never had a bad experience with nursing in public. No one has ever made even a snide comment, let alone asked me to go somewhere else. This commercial made the rounds a while back and I thought it was great: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZgmbJso-2-o

  • Ha! I loved this so much I showed the picture to my husband (I figured you wouldn’t mind since the UPS guy saw you?).

    I just stopped breastfeeding my 16 month-old last month and while the public nursing stopped long ago (I cut down to just mornings and nights when he was 1), I have a lot of fond and funny memories of me, baby on boob, desperate to get the phone, answer the door, shoo my dog away, reach the remote, get some coffee…

    I never had a problem nursing in public but for some reason I did feel weird nursing in front of men I knew (extended family, friends, etc.) I guess it was because I knew I’d have to see them again :)

    • Same here with the guys I know. I don’t want to weird them out! Especially those who aren’t fathers (yet).

Have at it!

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