Monday, April 25, 2011

Oh Baby!

Let me just say that in the last few hours I have never had so much hate enter my life.  Thank you to all who have taught me how to properly tweet a hate message, how to Facebook a hate message, and how to email a hate message; I appreciate the education.  For the rest of you who have no idea what I'm talking about, let me share.  I was asked to appear on my local TV station, which, if you are a follower, you know I do once in a while.  But this was different.  I was asked by the host of the normal morning show that I appear on if I would to a special piece called "Family Focus" that was to air on the 5:00 news- goin' Prime Time baby!  Of course I was thrilled at the prospect and would never turn Brooke down (loves her).

I went at 12:15 (which is the middle of the school day and Liza was getting out early from a field trip so it was an extra special effort to make it up to the big city).  We chit chatted a while and when it was finally time to film, we did a couple of takes for my first "faux pas" of pregnancy etiquette- which was all based on a Today Show Producer who as up in arms over people touching her tummy while she was preggers.  I agree that it's a violation of her privacy and asked people not to do that as part of my top three no-no's.  Next I suggested that people stay away from asking couples or single adults when they will start a family (contentious I think) because it's no one's business!  Third I tackled what was obviously a beast and possibly the cause of future panic attacks- Breastfeeding in public!

Being a mommy of four and having nursed all my babies until well after one (almost two for most)- I'm an advocate and thank my mom and sisters for leading the way...but I have to say, I don't think I ever saw their goods, even though I was around my sister all the time when she was raising her five children.

Anyway, I suggested (as you can see in the video that I LINKED TO HERE) that I suggested that ladies should cover up.  OH BOY (yes I yelled)- this was a huge misjudgment in wording I suppose.  I don't know if I would have said it differently?  I guess I could have said "be discrete" but I probably would have gotten just as many haters.  You would have thought that I had just said that I hated all moms who breastfed, that I thought they were all awful for showing up in public, that they should be ashamed of themselves, and never again show their faces (isn't that what I said?)- Oh wait- NO!  I said that WE should cover up when in public places and when others besides immediate family (or others close to us- who I'm sure we can gage) are around in order to not make others feel uncomfortable.  I was speaking from personal experience.

Not too long ago we were with friends in Hawaii and while waiting outside for a table for dinner, I turned around to see a woman taking down the spaghetti strap of her dress to pull out her melon (watermelon) sized bare breast to feed her child in front of about 65 of us all waiting for this sushi place to open (you know the one I'm talking about on Maui?)- She was completely bare chested- there was no place to turn, she was on display for all to see.  There were several other benches in that strip mall, I know because my friend and I had just checked out a few of the other shops.  I did not wish for this sweet woman to be ashamed of her body, her baby, or breastfeeding, I just wanted her to take it somewhere a little more intimate so that just her and her baby could enjoy it.

That is all I'm saying people!  If you're wearing a sweatshirt already and you can't see anything, then you don't need to cover up, do you- which is why I said in the article, figure out what's best for you- I'm not the breastfeeding manager of you all!

I don't think I'm asking too much here or that it's bad manners.  I think it's good manners to make others comfortable.  Etiquette is simply more formal customs, so it doesn't really apply, but manners do.  When thinking of good manners, I will not give up my life, but I will consider others when making a decision on whether or not to expose my body in front of other people to feed my child when to solution is simple and when I know that will make other people feel uncomfortable, I am more than happy to retire to a bench more secluded in the mall, a restaurant booth, or one of many other locations.

I'm not saying it's easy and I'm not saying it doesn't take practice, but when I am accused of being discouraging to women who may want to breastfeed, or my words keeping them from breastfeeding altogether- I find that accusation harsh, unfounded, and unjust.

That's my two cents (and that's all it is!)



Rita said... I go I might as well jump in too. We all have a right to an opinion and I have one. I was at a reception for a really sweet couple. This pretty young woman whips out her melon size breast as she sat across from us and proceeded to feed her not fussy or crying baby. A young man sitting next to her was totally uncomfortable and didn't know where to look. It was unbelievable to me. So disrespectful to all present and obvious that she enjoyed the attention and trying to arouse the guy next to us. There it is said and you will get more hate mail. Sorry girls but a light weight blanket isn't uncomfortable and your intentions were noticed and your reputation trashed.

Stacey said...

As a mom currently nursing her third (often in public) I agree that it is polite and tasteful to take other people's feelings into consideration. I guess the problem I have with the blanket "don't make other uncomfortable" rule is the question of exactly who's level of comfort am should I be catering to? Some folks are weirded out by the idea of breastfeeding occurring at all. Others don't bat an eye even if mom whips it out for all to see. I don't really see it as my job to poll everyone at the park or restaurant to figure out how they would prefer me to feed my baby.

I cover around others because that is comfortable for my child and me. I feed her when and where I want and believe that by not acting ashamed, by continuing to make eye contact and have conversations with people that I'm doing my part to remove some of the negativity associated with breastfeeding.

Sure, people can take their freedom to nurse in public too far. But I fear the greater problem that many new moms are so terrified of the imagined repercussions of breastfeeding in public (disgusted stares, pissing off the ettiquite police if you're on the wrong bench) that they don't even try. That sadly can lead to early weaning because they give up in frustration, feeling chained to their living room couch, or supply suffers from supplementing too often. Either way, I err on the side of encouraging moms to feed naturally whenever, wherever. :)

Katrina said...

Rita, I highly doubt any woman in her right mind would attempt to seduce a man by breastfeeding. I think your comment is totally inappropriate and judgemental. It's people like you that scare mothers away from doing something so natural as feeding their child. She shouldn't feel ashamed nor should anyone consider her a bad person. And just for your information, babies should be fed several times a day, regardless as to whether or not they are crying.

Penelope said...

I have breastfed all five of my children and do have an opinion about this. It’s so easy to be tasteful and discreet when breastfeeding. It’s just a matter of if you have class or not. I do believe that some women like to flaunt the fact that they are breastfeeding and don’t care a whit about what anyone else feels or sees. When I see that happen, I just consider the source and ignore it….happy that my daughters were brought up with manners and sensitivity. Breastfeeding is a wonderful, tender, bonding experience between a mother and her baby and should be treated as such……and that’s my two cent’s worth.

Janine said...

Stacey- To answer your question, if people are "weirded out" by the fact that you are feeding your child at all in public (which I said was perfectly fine) then that's their problem, not yours. Like I said in my article, I didn't ask moms to shut themselves away, I just asked them to find the best way for THEM to cover up and then do it. If a blanket makes you feel comfortable and you are not baring your naked breast to the world, sounds like you got it made sister!

Heidi Lewis said...

I am involved in the breastfeeding community and when women feel they are pressured to cover up while nursing they usually give a bottle instead and this causes early weaning because of drop in supply. There are laws protecting this sort of thing and I'm really bummed that you suggest women do this. Besides, not all children nurse under a cover.
What should mom do then?

p.s. You suggest the Hawaii mom would enjoy her nursing experience more if she was covered or somewhere else nursing. That's pretty absurd to think that.
If anyone is uncomfortable they can look away.

My 2 cents.

Janine said...

Heidi- If women stop breastfeeding because of what I said, then I don't know how committed they were in the first place. I would have never let anything that anyone said detour me from giving my child what I thought was the best, would you? I'm not easily influenced when it comes to what I think is best for my family and neither should anyone else be. I will not take responsibility for that.

Katrina said...

I don't think Heidi was saying that just because *you* said women should cover, moms out there aren't going to breastfeed. The point is that the message that breastfeeding is something to hide permeates our society. Here in the US we have so over-sexualized the female breast that many women do not feel comfortable breastfeeding in public and thus often end up feeling like they must choose between never leaving home or giving their baby a bottle. I also think that if we saw breastfeeding more, more women would nurse and nurse longer.

Do I personally feel comfortable baring my whole breast when I nurse in public? Not usually. But that doesn't mean I expect every other mother to do what I do. I just want women to do what works for them and their baby.

I hate the contention that surrounds this issue. I just feel sad that you chose this topic for your KSL piece. Let women breastfeed when, where, and how they please. I don't feel it is a matter of etiquette. I feel it should be seen as no big deal.

Janine said...

Thank you for your comment. I agree that we need more role models for breastfeeding out there, but we can be encouraged to breastfeed in public by walking by and seeing her nurse her child with something covering her breast (or even part of it) just as easily as she could with all her goodies out for the world to see.

I think the statement that one must see a naked breast out in public in order to be validated or know that she's doing the right thing is a false one, but one I keep getting. I do, however feel that we as women need support, which is why it's so nice that women get together for breastfeeding support groups and that The Le Leche League is thriving (an organization that I love).

The reason (as stated so many times) that it is a subject of etiquette (or manners) is that it makes some people feel uncomfortable and we as a society are getting too used to doing whatever pleases us regardless of what might hurt others or infringe upon their freedom to choose as well.

Finally- I didn't choose the topics- they were chosen for me and I was asked to come in and do the piece. In retrospect, the only thing I would have done differently would have been to say "be discrete" or "be considerate of those around you while breastfeeding" and left it at that- otherwise, it is good manners and always has been.

But everyone is entitled to their opinion and I value yours. I am sorry it makes you sad, It is my intention to ever make anyone feel uncomfortable, sad, or angry and obviously I did this time. I will work harder to make sure that what I say and how I say it is eloquent so that it is harder to misconstrue.

PS you might be interested in the link at the top of my new post- it links to an iVillage article that is short and sweet, but makes the point that I'm talking about. Just a suggestion.

Katrina said...

I appreciate your respectful response to my comment. I read the article you linked to. I of course feel that we should be aware of those around us and follow rules of etiquette and appropriateness, but I disagree that breastfeeding should be included in the same category as swearing or bikini wearing.

I guess I have a hard time understanding why it was even necessary to talk about covering up as an etiquette issue because I see so few women nursing openly anyway. It doesn't seem to be a huge problem in our society. Conversely, the reason why breastfeeding advocates feel so strongly about this is because we are trying to do whatever we can to encourage more mothers to breastfeed. And when women don't feel they can incorporate breastfeeding into their normal lives, they much more likely to stop.

I think breastfeeding mothers on a whole are very cognizant of those around them and what is appropriate. I have never seen a nursing mother flaunt herself. She just wants to feed her child. I don't think mothers need to be worrying so much about the sensibilities of those around them. Some people feel uncomfortable even around a nursing mother even if she is covered. We can't know at what level someone is going to be offended.

I realize that we probably will never agree on this point. I have lots of friends who feel the same as you. But I will keep working to make breastfeeding seen as ordinary so that it is no longer an issue of making people feel uncomfortable. That may seem like a lofty goal, but one person at a time can make a difference I think.

Croft Family said...

Thank you for you comments. I have nursed all five of my babies when and wherever they are hungry without a cover (I do put something over me to latch them on) and I get irate when I have read that mom's are asked to nurse in the bathroom. But personally I don't really feel there is an issue in our community of women bearing all for everyone to see. I am a HUGE advocate of women nursing. I talk about it with every pregnant mom I know, I get saddened if I see a new baby using a bottle (yes they could be drinking mothers milk) but nursing is just not about the nutrition, it's also about bonding and love. Something only I get to do for my babies, and my husband feels the same as I do and promotes nursing to soon to be dads.
I don't get uncomfortable when I see a women nursing discretely but personally I don't want to see another womens breast, maybe I'm just jelous that I don't have big breast I don't know old saying goes "If you have seen one you have seen both" Just think and respect those around you. You have no idea if a pervert Pete is watching you, a teenager who does not think that breast are anything but a sexual object. Nurse in all it's glory when and wherever you want. Just try and be discrete.
I have more than 2 cents on the topic of nursing.

Janine said...

Croft family- I couldn't agree more- I echo your sentiments. Love what you have to say on the matter...too bad this had to get blown out of proportion when it was never about whether I believed in breastfeeding in public or not. Thanks so much for your comment.