I was reading that, in some places in Africa, if you’re out in a public place and your baby starts to cry, you had better stick a boob in that baby’s mouth in about two seconds. If you don’t, people will assume that you’re carrying around a stolen baby! In lots of cultures, it is pretty normal for woman to walk around topless. A little breast exposure is like, ‘Um, who cares, boobs have a very important function: to feed babies‘. In fact, it’s very common, in many cultures, for woman to have their bosoms flapping in the breeze… But, to the contrary, in that same culture, exposing the knees and thighs… well, you may as well be walking around naked! Europeans are pretty liberal when it comes to body parts… I’ll never forget the time when I was backpacking through France and these German girls who were staying in a large room hostel room with us, were sort of just hanging around naked. They had just showered and were casually getting dressed… slowly… Ok, I was only 17 years old and had not been to uni yet, but I still remember being in a bit of shock!
Body image is very much determined by the society you live in. Right now, in western countries, slim is in…. but not too long ago, having a bit of chub and curve was considered sexy! In India, a lot of the celebrities would seem ‘chubby’ by our standards. So, what is different? It’s not really the people… you will always have skinny, curvy, tall, short, etc… It’s just that culture’s perception as to what is considered acceptable.
Alright, but let’s get to the point here: Breastfeeding in public. I took Margo to this indoor playhouse today, called Imagine That. It was stinking hot outside, right from the start this morning (and I’m talking the 4:30am morning, when Margo woke up). I wanted to do something in the air conditioning and knew that I would probably want to avoid the shopping centres at all costs since it’s so close to Christmas. We dropped Art off at work around 9:30 and went directly to the playhouse. It was a really awesome place! Margo loved it (except for when Santa made an appearance… we think that guy is cool… but a little scary too). I loved it too. It was cool. It was clean. It was cheap ($8.50), I had a bathroom where I could take Goldie to do her wees if she needed it. There were other woman there who had babies and they were breastfeeding their babies, and I even saw a few other baby wearers! There were benches and chairs everywhere for the parents, so all I had to do was sit there and laugh and giggle with Goldie and Margo was busy playing. Well, laughing and giggling with a four month old soon turns into slobbering and drooling, head slumping, fists in the mouth, bird mouth on a rotating head that starts turning into your chest looking for food. Ok, no worries, there are like 800 woman and children here.
I told Margo where I was sitting, sat down on a bench and started feeding Goldie near a woman who was also feeding her baby. Except, she had a little shawl to cover up what she was doing. Oh… I thought… that’s a little strange, 99.9% of the people here were either woman or children. The .1% was the guy dressed up as Santa Clause, but he was off in another room taking pictures with the kiddies. She was not a nervous first time mother feeding a newborn either. Her baby looked to be about 2 months old and it certainly wasn’t her first child. Oh well, I thought, maybe she’s got a messy eater, like mine! I finished feeding Goldie and we kept playing. We spent about 2 1/2 hours there. As I was looking around, I noticed that all the mothers who were breastfeeding their babies were all covering up! I was happy to report that there was a lot of breastfeeding going on of young babies… but I kept thinking how weird it was that everyone had to cover up. I mean, even if you had never breastfed a baby, surely everyone has seen a breast at some point, especially if you’re a woman (duh, your own)… and anyway, you can’t see much of anything once the baby is on there… And, if you’re stealthy and practiced, you can make it so that nobody can really see a thing. Again to mention, these were not first time mothers. Having said how weird it seemed that all the mothers covered up, I certainly turn the other way, if I can and I must confess, I DID cover up ONCE!
I have seen a rising trend of nursing friendly dresses / Milk Nursingwear that allow mothers to breast feed discreetly without sacrificing style. It really is a great option for mothers who feel limited to what they have to wear out in public.
One time, when Margo was about 2 weeks old and we went for a walk. We sat down on a bench and I covered her up with a muslin cloth. Look, Art even got a picture:
But, I felt so stupid and it took me a few weeks to figure out why! 1) Because I was pushing my tiny newborn baby around in a stroller, when really she was a pipsqueak and I could have easily been wearing her in a wrap. 2) The reasons she started to fuss was not because she was hungry, but was because she wanted me to pick her up. 3) Everyone knew what I was doing under that muslin shawl, so why didn’t I just take the darn thing off and let my baby get some fresh air! Oh… the perils of a first time new mother! It only took me a few weeks to get myself sorted: baby wearing, breastfeeding in public sans shawl, elimination communication in the bushes, etc. With baby #2, I now feel like I have it down to a science.
Now that there is a baby #2, I don’t have as much liberty to time my feeds so that they happen in private places, like I did with Margo. Almost every time we’re out at the playground, in the shops, etc. I have to feed Goldie. I probably do try to go to a quiet place, mostly because Goldie will get distracted if there’s too much going on. The boobs come out whenever they need to, but it’s not like I’m not running around like a topless lunatic. In fact, if there is a clean and quiet parent’s room, I will almost always use it! I don’t know if they have them in America, but where we live in Australia, they have quite a few nice ones in the shopping centres where we go. They even have a low sink with a mirror that I can take Goldie to use the toilet. Bwahaha, beware of the sink (I clean it out afterwards). If I can, I feed her in the car, as I will admit, Goldie is a sloppy eater and there is a LARGE chance that we will make a little mess. The car is the best because we have a little potty/change station in the back of the wagon. But, it’s summer, and even in the shade, the car can get way too hot!
I mean, when a baby’s gotta eat, a baby’s gotta eat. You can’t just explain to your baby that in this particular society that they have been born into, that people have these weird conservative ideas about breastfeeding in public. Well, you can, but they’ll probably just start crying. Just today, I was at the playground for the umpteenth time, Goldie squawked, I gave her boobs, nobody batted an eyelash, everything continued as usual.
The other day we were eating our favorite vegetarian restaurant, Govinda’s. It was PACKED in there. It’s a tiny place and we were in the middle of eating. Goldie wanted boobs, I gave them to her. We all ate, (Goldie ended up with a little veggie curry on her head), there was no fussing, nobody had to listen to a screaming baby, I didn’t have to go run and sit in the car and hide. I actually didn’t even think about how naturally I just whipped out the boobs in a public place until afterwards in the car ride home. I remembered how a friend of mine in America was telling me that she was asked by a restaurant manager to stop feeding her baby where everyone could see it! She was with her two other children and husband and they were all in the middle of eating. One thing that I have learned, is that when everyone else is eating, the baby wants to eat too! It always seems to happen. Anyway, my friend couldn’t go to the car, she wasn’t about to upset the whole family and get angry and leave the restaurant, and well… the baby had to eat… so she had to go into the toilet!!! Feeding a baby where people go to the toilet?!?! That is so yucko! I would have asked the restaurant manager if he would like to eat his dinner in the bathroom. Come on America!
I’m so curious to hear from people their experiences with breastfeeding in public, whether it’s you doing the feeding, or just being around mothers who are doing it. There a lot of people form all over the world reading this, it’s interesting to know what the world’s views are on feeding babies in public! Speaking of feeding babies, I better go to bed and snuggle with mine, she’ll be wanting some soon 🙂