Lessons in Parenting
Breastfeeding: Get Over It
Published on June 6, 2012 by guest author: J LeBlanc

As I sat through the session of my birthing classes devoted to breastfeeding, I was surprised to find that the first half hour was devoted to stories of people giving women a hard time for breastfeeding in public. One woman was thrown off an airplane for feeding her child to keep his or her ears from popping in preparation for takeoff. Another was asked by a security guard at the Smithsonian to stop breastfeeding. Two recent pictures of mothers breastfeeding have caused an uproar. One is the Time Magazine cover from a couple of weeks ago depicting a young mother feeding a three-year-old who is standing on a chair. The other is of two mothers in the military feeding their babies in uniform.

The Time Magazine cover appears to be trying to provoke a reaction. The young mother is wearing a tight-fitting tank and skinny jeans, staring directly at the camera, a hand on her hip; her son is latched onto one breast and is also staring at the camera. What I see as the problem with this photo is that no one breastfeeds like this. Mother and child don’t seem to be making any connection with each other and, although I have no experience breastfeeding a child that old, I can’t imagine anyone would choose to breastfeed while striking a runway model pose. Sadly, an opportunity for helping people understand that some mothers and children continue with breastfeeding until this age because it works for them is lost because people can’t get past those poses.

What really baffles me is that people are upset over the photo of the military mothers. Unlike the somewhat stiff and unnatural Time Magazine cover, this is a candid shot of two mothers doing something they do everyday. They are looking down at their children and smiling. I think it is a beautiful image of mother-child bonding. However, it seems there are a lot of rules about what can and cannot be done in uniform and, although breastfeeding does not appear to be on the list, based on the sheer number and minute detail of those rules, I’m guessing that has at least a little to do with the controversy.

What I think is needed here is a healthy dose of practicality. Mothers breastfeed because it is easy (for the most part), much cheaper than buying formula, and healthier for their babies. Babies, especially newborns, need to eat often.  If you’ve ever seen how frequently a newborn poops and spits up, you’ll understand why. Who wants to have to change clothes just to nurse? Even covering up, although I’ve always done it when in public, isn’t exactly easy - in the beginning because of the frequency of feedings, and later because of the fact that curious babies will fling away the cover to see what is going on. And for those out there who equate nursing with defecating and want to consign nursing mothers to the bathroom, all I have to say is: would you like to eat your lunch in a public bathroom?

J LeBlanc is a former high school teacher who resides in Lebanon, N.H. She is currently taking a break from teaching to stay home with her 8-month-old son.

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