Not long ago there were national "nurse-in" demonstrations at Target stores nationwide to assert a woman's right to nurse her child in public. This reminded me that I thought about writing on this subject awhile back (a long while back) and never did.
At that time it was because Gisele Bundchen (Mrs. Tom Brady of Patriots fame), was making waves with her commentary on breastfeeding. She declared that all mothers should be required to breastfeed their babies for six months. Nonsense. Interestingly enough, she has been mum on her great parenting skills ever since, and her broad stroke criticism for those who do not parent as amazing as she does, has ceased, or at least it's not 'news' anymore. Although we did learn recently that she doesn't know much about football, even though she's married to one of the best quarterback's in the NFL.
But back to the subject of nursing. I was an 'older' mother when I had my first child at 37, and as it turned out my only child. I did nurse, not only for the baby but for myself too. Breastfeeding does have health benefits for the baby, and I even read that it would help broaden the child's pallet for food and make them a better eater. Considering the children in my family have never been very adventurous when it came to meal time, I was sold. Oddly, in my case, this proved to be a myth. My daughter still prefers chicken and fries, macaroni and cheese, and pizza. Sigh. Anyway, I took a course offered at the hospital, and learned the mechanics of nursing, and more importantly, how to complete the task discreetly without having to sequester myself to a coat closet in public or excuse myself for every meal.
My first day home from the hospital, I did excuse myself to a bedroom because I wasn't sure my dad who was visiting would be comfortable. He assured me he was fine, and excusing myself wasn't necessary, and at 65, I decided if he could handle it so could I. I mastered lifting my shirt just so, and never did have to leave a venue. Just once, when I was at a Starbucks in Mystic (CT), did a fellow patron make me feel uncomfortable. It was clear that she and her husband or partner could tell what I was doing, and they were 'disgusted.' I looked them straight in the eye, daring them to say something to me directly, and they didn't. That was probably for the best.
Nursing came to an end for me at 16 months which I thought was respectable, and close to 10 years ago now. Recently, my sister-in-law and I had a heated discussion about breastfeeding in public. Obviously, I was fine with it, and she was on the opposing side as I had always suspected. She had 4 children and they were formula fed which I never took objection to or judged because it's a personal choice, and everyone is entitled to make their own decision for what works for them. She made it clear that she objected to a woman nursing her child in public, and went as far as to say, that she felt at a restaurant a mother could breastfeed in a bathroom or on a bench outside. I suggested that a person having a problem with nursing in public excuse themselves! My feeling is that a child being nursed has just as much rights at the table as a child being bottle fed.
It really is a beautiful thing to feed and nurture a child so completely, and further, the woman's body was designed for birthing and feeding her offspring. What strikes me as odd, is that it's women who primarily object to their fellow woman breastfeeding her child. Is it body image issues? Are these the same women who hold a towel in front of their daughters in the locker room when they are getting dressed in the locker room after swimming? I tell my daughter, we are all girls and everyone's bodies are different, and there is no need for a towel. If you're in the women's locker room, that's privacy enough. I'm no stranger to weight issues, and went through years of unhealthy eating habits, and starvation before learning how to eat right and exercise, and fortunately, that was all before I brought a girl into the world. I took off the baby weight slowly which was fine because as I learned at some point, extra milk is stored around the waistline. A "dairy queen" of sorts, but the weight does come off, and producing milk, is quite the calorie burner. As I mentioned earlier, nursing is also good for the mother.
Whether you nurse or you don't, it's choice, and a very personal one, and no matter the choice, I think we women need to stick together. If nothing else, it's good for our daughters.