Real talk about breastfeeding for World Breast Feeding Week

2 May 2016 - Washington, D.C. - Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez stops by the newly created lactation rooms at the Department of Labor.

It’s #WorldBreastFeedingWeek brought to you by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA). Didn’t know that was a thing? Well don’t feel bad, neither did I until I started seeing blog and social media posts on the subject. I usually skip honoring the majority of themed days/weeks/months (especially since there’s just so many to keep up with these days) but breastfeeding is important to me and it should be important to society as a whole so let’s talk about it a little.

My hope is that the more people talk openly about breastfeeding the more society stops shaming and putting obstacles in the way of nursing mothers and their growing babies.

We as a society need to be encouraging and welcoming to mothers who choose to breastfeed. We should promote businesses and employers who are supportive of breastfeeding mothers and finally we should all take a stand to ensure that the legal rights of breastfeeding mothers are protected.

Did you know that most states including Alabama there are laws that protect the rights of nursing mothers to nurse in public? The law here is pretty specific – anywhere a mother can legally be she can legally breastfeed. Note it doesn’t say, anywhere she can be she can breastfeed so long as it doesn’t offend anyone. It doesn’t say she can breastfeed as long as she’s covered up. It says anywhere she can be she can nurse.

Section 22-1-13

Breastfeeding children in public or private locations.

A mother may breastfeed her child in any location, public or private, where the mother is otherwise authorized to be present.

According to WomensHealth.Gov a project of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 24 U.S. states and territories provide legislation related to supporting nursing women at work. They also highlight federal law protecting mothers, specifically mothers in the workplace. According to HHS, “The federal Break Time for Nursing Mothers law requires some employers to provide basic breastfeeding accommodations for some nursing mothers at work. These include a functional space and time for women to express milk each time they need to express.”

Before I get into my personal story and thoughts on breastfeeding let me start saying that “Fed is Best“. I’ve seen and heard of mothers who want to breastfeed more than anything but can’t for any number of reasons out of their control. I’ve also known mothers who never had any interest or desire to nurse. Hospitals these days can be very aggressive in pushing breastfeeding and mothers can be so scared of formula that they allow their newborns to starve not realizing that it’s even happening. Feed your babies, it’s that simple.

There’s no one right way to do anything in motherhood and that includes how you feed your baby. So long as you’re providing a physically and emotionally safe, nurturing and loving environment for your child(ren) do it your way momma and don’t you dare worry about what others say and do.

I breastfed my daughter for 14 and months and my first son for 20. With my third child on the way breastfeeding is something I’m most looking forward but it’s also the thing I’m dreading most. Breastfeeding is both physically and emotionally draining and never let anyone lie to you and say it’s not. To exclusivy breastfeed, pump and manage all that comes with both means working 24/7 in the earliest and already most trying times of motherhood. There’s no doubt if I’m physically able I will nurse again, it was how I personally felt best bonded with both kids. Don’t get me wrong though, I know many incredible moms who never nursed and you’d know no difference between their relationships with their children and me with mine.

Will I make it a year which was my previous goal for the other two? I don’t know. I’m not even putting the pressure on myself at this point to guess. Breastfeeding is a beautiful experience and every time I see mother’s shamed for doing it in public I feel instant defensiveness.

On the other hand while working on this message I fought over which of the two breastfeeding photos I can find (out of thousands of me and the kids that have been taken over the years) to use on the post ultimately deciding not to use one of me at all. The public shaming and sexualization associated with images of women breastfeeding is wrong! I resent it. You should resent it too. If you’re one of those people offended by nursing mothers you need to reevaluate your own conscious. This is a woman feeding her child the way God (or evolution if that’s your thing) provided. It is one of those natural god given gifts that a few loud critics have tried to taint with cries against the indecency of it. Which is partially why I suppose there’s a week to share stories and spread awareness for it at all.

For those objecting to public nursing: I’ve heard all the points of view and the fact is nothing has convinced me to hide as I did frequently in my early days. Now I do it anywhere and everywhere, with or without a cover depending on a number of circumstances including the weather, the babies mood, timing, if I have a cover with me, who’s around, and others but the fact is I believe without doubt women have a right to breastfeed anywhere they want to and however works best for them. Are you afraid of the sexuality of a breastfeeding woman? That’s your problem not hers. I can promise you that there’s not a mother in the world with a hungry child who’s sole purpose for nursing is to lead men astray. Are you afraid of your children seeing it? Teach them how normal and natural it is and then teach them that staring is impolite. 

Let’s all do better. Oh and the next time you see a momma feeding her baby however she’s doIng it if you’re tempted to say something and that something isn’t “Great job, momma!” or something to that effect just keep going about your business. Moms if you haven’t heard today, you rock!