Normalizing breastfeeding flying the friendly skies- Delta says yes

 

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Worried about what it would be like to sit next to a woman breastfeeding on a plane?
It would look like this.

When the internet exploded with the news that Delta airlines had informed a woman that asked on twitter if she could breastfeed on their aircraft during an upcoming 6 hour flight she was facing with her 10 week old sides were immediately drawn.  The response was incredible with some joining in supporting a woman’s right to breastfeed anywhere they have the right to be with their child, others defending the airline’s right to have poorly trained employees or to have no official policy on the matter, some ranting on how disgusting/inappropriate/unnecessary it was to breastfeed, a few wondering why the woman even asked, a startling number saying individuals advocating for breastfeeding rights were bullying the multimillion dollar company, and a handful mocking those that challenged the corporation to move beyond a basic PR apology (that sounded more like “sorry you got upset” rather than “sorry we screwed up”) to have an official breastfeeding policy expressed on their website and their employees trained accordingly.  It was both awesome and overwhelming to watch.

Isn't this tweet a gem?  Unfortunately, it wasn't the only one like this.

Isn’t this tweet a gem? Unfortunately, it wasn’t the only one like this.

So when I realized just a few days later that the flight I was taking exactly one week after I wrote this post about the situation was actually on Delta rather than the airline I usually fly (Southwest) I laughed at the irony.  And got a little nervous.  I booked my flight through Orbitz weeks before and had simply looked for the least expensive option to get The Piano Man, Sugarbaby, and me to where we needed to be by the time we needed to be there.  I honestly would probably have avoided the airline if everything had happened before I booked my ticket.

But I’m glad I ended up on that ironic flight to Chicago on Delta.  Because the time honored tradition of protesting treatment and policies that are not benefiting the people still helps influence decision makers and though the venue may have changed to online rather than physical protests, the impact has not.  The airline worked on their apology and even better, they added this to their website:

Delta Breastfeeding policy on website copy

Which meant I was totally comfortable doing this:

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Normalizing breastfeeding flying the friendly skies- Delta says no

by Jessica Martin-Weber

*UPDATE as of 2.05pm 02.21.14  at the end of this post.*

I speak often about normalizing breastfeeding and what that would mean.  Sometimes this seems like a ridiculous topic, like normalizing breathing, eating, walking, or human decency.  Or like normalizing mammalian behaviors.  It just seems so… obvious.  Why in the world would you have to normalize something so… normal?

But the reality is that in many ways, though it is touted, preached, and at times elevated, in many ways breastfeeding isn’t normal.  Like it or not, I see a very real need for our culture to embrace breastfeeding as normal.  The reasons are many and I won’t go into them here right now but if breastfeeding was normal I know this twitter exchange would not have happened.

 

Delta airlines doesn't want moms to feed their babies without a cover.

Delta airlines doesn’t want moms to feed their babies without a cover.

Um, yikes.  Also, that pumping suggestion?  Completely unrealistic.  If she has to feed her baby every two hours, she’s going to have to empty her breast every two hours.  Which means she would need to pump 3 times on that flight AND give a bottle.  Wouldn’t it just be easier and less distracting if she wasn’t trying to juggle a bottle, a pump, and a baby in her handful of square inches on the plane?  Wouldn’t it be much less intrusive for everyone if she simply put her baby on her breast?

This is why breastfeeding needs to be normalized, as silly as that may sound.  It is also why discrimination against mothers, regardless of how they feed their children, needs to stop.  This isn’t even the first time that Delta has run into issues violating laws protecting breastfeeding, way back in 2006 the airline kicked a mother that refused to cover to feed her daughter off her flight.  She sued and they paid.  But apparently, they haven’t learned.  The Georgia based airline seems to be unaware of the law protecting breastfeeding not only in their home state, but the majority of the country as well:

Georgia Code – Health – Title 31, Section 31-1-9

The breast-feeding of a baby is an important and basic act of nurture which should be encouraged in the interests of maternal and child health. A mother may breast-feed her baby in any location where the mother and baby are otherwise authorized to be.

I’ve only flown Delta once with my nursling and thankfully had no issues but I was anxious the whole time knowing the airline’s irresponsible, anti-family past.  Since then, I intentionally only fly airlines that are clearly supportive of breastfeeding such as Southwest Airlines and not only have I had no problems, I’ve been encouraged with friendly smiles, extra water and snacks, and supportive conversations.

What has been your experience with breastfeeding and flying?  What airlines have you traveled with that were supportive of you feeding your baby as you saw fit?

*Edited to add*

I have seen numerous comments on Facebook and twitter asking why the mother asked, that she shouldn’t have asked. While I agree that she shouldn’t HAVE to ask, certainly we can all understand why she did.

This mother did nothing wrong by asking for clarification on the airline’s breastfeeding policy.  Going in prepared when traveling with an infant is perfectly reasonable and unfortunately, with the number of breastfeeding discrimination incidents in this country, a mother would have good reason to be concerned.  Please stop acting like she was wrong to ask. Our culture CLEARLY has issues when it comes to breastfeeding, she did nothing wrong in trying to be prepared. Asking was well within her right and understandable given the number of times mothers are harassed for feeding their babies. This very airline has even gone so far as to kick a woman OFF one of their flights for feeding her child. Stop with the victim blaming please. 

I understand asking, unfortunately there have been enough bad experiences to make moms want to be prepared. This same airline was sued a few years ago for kicking a breastfeeding mom off a flight for not covering.

*UPDATE* The @Delta account on Twitter responded to the storm of tweets questioning the breastfeeding policy @DeltaAssist told @Classichippie.

Delta's other verified account responds

Delta’s other verified account responds

So I asked what they were going to do about it.  They replied:

Don't worry, they apologized.

Don’t worry, they apologized.

An apology is great and an important first step.  But there’s nothing to ensure such discrimination won’t happen again.

That's nice but not good enough.

That’s nice but not good enough.

One anonymous current employee shared that they receive absolutely no training about how to handle to treat breastfeeding mothers or of the airline’s breastfeeding policy.  This employee has experienced that such lack of training can result in an employee making a misstep such as @DeltaAssist apparently did and then be terminated as a result.  This hardly seems professional or fair.  The employees and the customers deserve better treatment.  I hope the social media representative keeps their job and is instrumental in helping the company implement a successful training program for all Delta employees in support of ending breastfeeding discrimination.

But perhaps the issue really isn’t about breastfeeding discrimination at all and rather a low view of woman as being little more than sex objects?  Thanks to @KellyKautz for this capture demonstrating that the airline is more than willing to encourage women to flaunt their breasts as long as they aren’t covered by a feed baby.

Screen capture by @KellyKautz of two tweets regarding women's breast by Delta social media representatives less than an hour apart.

Screen capture by @KellyKautz of two tweets regarding women’s breast by Delta social media representatives less than an hour apart.

 

 *UPDATE 2.05pm PST on 02.21.14

@ClassicHippie tweeted that she has not seen an apology from the airline.

Delta breastfeeding policy twitter fake apology

 

 

Delta breastfeeding policy twitter apology

What do you think?  What can Delta now do to communicate a clear family friendly policy that supports breastfeeding and trains their employees (including their social media representatives) accordingly?

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Breastfeeding in public harassment and how you can make a difference

This guest post comes from Austin inviting us all to take a look at how we can go deeper to help bring systemic change when it comes to breastfeeding in public harassment.  Beyond social media campaigns, nurse-ins, and expressing outrage through traditional media, we can each utilize our individual influence in powerful yet simple ways resulting in collective improvements that impact the whole community.  Without a multifaceted approach of intentional influence, our efforts to normalize breastfeeding face not only our own fatigue, but over-saturation of the accessible avenues.  We risk burning out before reaching our goals.  This isn’t about using a cover or not, the issue isn’t modesty or moms being prepared, the issue here is basic human rights and there are most definitely politics involved.  ~Jessica Martin-Weber
by Krisdee Donmoyer

As a breastfeeding advocate active in social media, I am hyper-aware of how frequently nursing in public incidents occur.  Some are big news – Target, a Georgia church, Hollister, Las Vegas – but there are many more that aren’t picked up by major news outlets.   Recently, a Keep Austin Nursing in Public follower posted to my Facebook page about an incident that occurred in my own city at, of all places, a Victoria’s Secret store in which a mother, Ashley Clawson, was denied use of an unneeded fitting room to breastfeed by an employee who told her to take her baby to an alley where “no one usually goes.”

Would you eat here?

Would you eat here?

I reached out to Ashley to offer support and resources, and advised an initial approach of diplomacy and education.  Social media moves faster than bureaucracy, though, and after being told it would be days before she’d hear back from Victoria’s Secret corporate, Ashley agreed to a news interview.  A reporter’s call got a faster reaction from the company than Ashley’s did.  In their response to the reporter they said all the right things: they apologized, they have a policy welcoming breastfeeding mothers, and they’re ensuring all employees are aware of it.

So – awesome!  They did what we want, right?  I mean, I’m pretty sure what all moms want in this situation is that it doesn’t happen to other moms.  So, boom!  We’re done, right?

Well, not exactly.  Ashley won’t be the last mother to face discrimination for breastfeeding in a place of public accommodation.  This is a systemic issue that impacts breastfeeding rates.  It needs a systemic solution.   In Texas where Ashley and I live, there is a law that asserts our right to breastfeed in any public place in which we are authorized to be, but the law does not specifically prevent others from interfering with that right.  So, we are not protected.  What the Victoria’s Secret employee did was wrong.  She violated a civil right and endangered a nursing relationship.  But she did not break the law, because the law does not say she can’t violate our right.

This is true in more states than not.  We tried to improve our NIP law in Texas in the last regular legislative session.  We got a bill pretty far, but we didn’t get it all the way.  Work has already begun to support the bill when it is filed again in 2015.  It will educate businesses that the law exists, prohibit anyone from interfering with a mother’s right to breastfeed in public, and give her recourse if her right is violated.

Whether you live in Texas or another state, you can contact your legislators and tell them what happened here.  Look up your state’s nursing in public law.  If there is no enforcement provision, tell them why it matters to you that they support one.  Tell them that you want to be able to go buy groceries and feed your baby if (s)he is hungry while you’re out, without being harassed?

If our lawmakers hear from enough of us they will realize that their constituents expect them to be a force in creating community support for breastfeeding.  And that’s what it takes: their own constituents - the people who will or will not vote for them when they run again – that’s who makes all the difference.

You can make a difference.

Those online comments we write will only be read for a few more hours.  A nurse-in, while sometimes empowering, is over in a matter of minutes (and leaves a negative impression with some).

Look up your state law and your legislators.  Write an email, or call – or better yet, go visit their office.

Make your voice heard in a way that can make a lasting change.

You can find your state’s law here.  And you can look up your state legislators here and your US Senators and Members of Congress here.

Krisdee Donmoyer Keep Austin Nursing In PublicKrisdee Donmoyer is a feminist stay-at-home mom of three sons and an outspoken breastfeeding advocate. She’s the outreach coordinator for Central Texas Healthy Mothers, Healthy Babies Coalition, and the recent recipient of the 2013 Breastfeeding Hero Award from HMHB, due to her work lobbying for mother- and baby-friendly breastfeeding policies in two central Texas school districts and in the Texas Legislature. You can read more about her work on her blog, Keep Austin Nursing in Public, and like her on Facebook, where she spends more time than cats spend sleeping.

 

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Gisele, breastfeeding images, and real moms

by Jessica Martin-Weber

Ah, the bru-ha-ha.  A celebrity shared a picture of herself breastfeeding her child.  She’s a hero!  She’s so natural!  She’s supporting women!  She’s a REAL mom!  She’s a show-off!  She’s a bitch!  She’s pampered!  She doesn’t look like us REAL moms!  She makes breastfeeding look unattainable!  She’s making women that don’t breastfeed feel bad!  She’s pressuring women to breastfeed!  She’s a sanctimommy!  BRU.freakingHA.HAAAAAAAAAA.

Everybody has an opinion on it from commenters on Facebook and twitter to talk show hosts and bloggers.  They all must say something about it.  Apparently, me too.

Would this picture have been such a big deal if Gisele was holding a sandwich in one hand and feeding herself claiming multitasking as her team worked on her?  Or if she had an iPad set up and was FaceTiming with her child as a nanny gave them a bottle?  Or if Gisele was spooning baby food into her toddler’s mouth?  I highly doubt it.  Because while the uproar appears to be about a great many things such as whether or not it’s multitasking, or that normal moms don’t have a beauty team, the flashpoint is clearly that breastfeeding is involved.

Oddly enough, the focus has not really been on that she was pictured feeding her 12 month old daughter, the age of her little girl has hardly come up at all.  And the team working on Gisele didn’t seem to notice or care at all.  Maybe we are making progress?

I’m not one to get starstruck nor do I care what celebrities are doing.  It’s not a big deal to me personally the fashion, decorating, or lifestyle choices someone famous makes, I’m going to do what I do because it feels right for me and fits my values and tastes.  Decisions like breastfeeding and how they birth hardly seem like a big deal, they’re humans doing what humans do.  I don’t want to herald every star that puts her baby to her breast to feed them, that just seems a little… extreme.

But I am committed to normalizing breastfeeding so I do see the value in celebrities sharing that they are breastfeeding because I recognize that people look up to them.  Just as stars can normalize a fashion trend, inspire people to get their colon checked, or connect with nonprofit charity work, so can others be inspired to view breastfeeding as normal or at least ok because someone with notoriety has done it.  And who am I to say how someone should be inspired?  They see Kim Kardashian, Gisele Bündchen, Pink, Angelina Jolie, Miranda Kerr or some other celebrity breastfeeding and think “hey, maybe it’s not so bad and I could do that” that’s a good thing so why not?

Just as I understand how a celebrity sharing images of breastfeeding their children or talking about breastfeeding publicly helps normalize it, so do, I believe, the efforts of us incredibly normal, average, non-celebrities.  When we share our pictures and talk about the realities of breastfeeding, we’re helping create a culture that will eventually stop considering it newsworthy when a celebrity does the very normal, average, human behavior of feeding their baby.  A woman using her body as it is biologically intended to feed her baby won’t cause gasps of shock any more, perhaps it will be as normal as the marketing we accept every day that uses the female form to sell stuff.  Eventually, all the trolls and naysayers won’t have any buttons to push on the matter.

Gisele has said some things in the past that have made me cringe and I have a funny feeling she’ll say something cringe worthy again.  But this moment of sharing a picture of herself feeding her baby while she was working isn’t one of them.  The majority of mothers don’t have a team available to them to do their hair, make-up, and nails.  The majority of mothers also don’t have to look impossibly impeccable as part of their career even after flying 15 hours and getting only 3 hours of sleep, they don’t have the pressure of adhering to an artificial standard of beauty for their livelihood.  The majority of us moms are short on sleep and long on too much to do but we all have our own version of what that looks like.  My multitasking doesn’t look exactly like yours and nothing like Ms. Bündchen’s.  My multitasking also doesn’t look like that of a women in extreme poverty in a third world country or a mother struggling to feed her kids in the slums of New York.  Doesn’t make any of it less real.  Dismissing someone’s version because we can’t relate or maybe we’re even jealous or because we judge them isn’t helping anyone.  Such immature responses could actually be damaging.  Declaring “REAL moms…” or “REAL women…” don’t experience life as or look like someone else objectifies that person.

People, particularly women and especially moms need to stop that right now.

What’s “real” has many different expressions.

Gisele breastfeeding with beauty squad

This is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This is also a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

This too is a real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work (image from Snugabell).

 

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

Another real mom multitasking breastfeeding and work.

These are also real women breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

These are also real moms breastfeeding, not multitasking but still real.

Mama and baby with bottle

This is a real mom feeding her baby too. (photo credit: David Castillo Dominici)

Is this the world we want for our children?  A society that trivializes the reality of someone else simply because they can’t relate?  A society that dismisses the good of an act because they are personally offended that it doesn’t look a certain way?  A society that attempts to marginalize someone that can have influence simply because they are jealous?  A society that can only support those whose reality is just like their own?

I hope not.

What all these women need is pretty simple: support.  Even if you’re different than me, even if your reality looks different from mine, even if your choices are ones I can’t understand, even if we can’t relate: I SUPPORT YOU.  Natural birthing or highly medicalized birthing, breastfeeding or formula feeding, safely cosleeping or safely separate sleeping, working outside the home or stay at home parent, no processed foods or all processed foods, and everything in between as long as you’re not intentionally abusing or neglecting your child and have the access you need to make fully informed decisions according to your personal circumstances and available resources: I SUPPORT YOU.  Because anything else only serves to divide, keeps marginalizing women, and drag us all down.

I’m going to go out on a limb and state the obvious here: celebrities are normal, real people.  Normal, real people that can help change things.

Gisele Bündchen has a life I can’t even imagine, bet she can’t imagine mine either.  I multitasked writing this post while cuddling a sick 5yo and breastfeeding an active 19 month old.  In my pajamas.  The same way I answered emails, talked with my site host, interacted on Facebook, texted with my children, and worked.  Sometimes I multitask breastfeeding my toddler while speaking to a couple hundred people about sex.  A typical day for me, normal and real, different from Gisele’s day which for her was no less normal and real.   Though I can’t relate to her life, I appreciate her and all the other women in the world celebrity or not, that are sharing the very real aspect of caring for their children through breastfeeding.  As they continue to do so, maybe when my own daughters are breastfeeding their children, there will be more important and interesting matters discussed by society and the media than how a woman is feeding her baby.

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How to explain breastfeeding to children of all ages

Every once in a while, pretty much every time breastfeeding in public comes up on The Leaky Boob Facebook page or in a group setting, someone expresses in frustration why they feel women should cover or go somewhere private to breastfeed asking “what do I say to my child as to what she is doing?”  Inevitably I think they are joking for some reason and for a moment I’ll be amused.  But then I realize they are completely serious and they find this to be a very valid reason as to why women should not breastfeed in public.  So I, very seriously and with compassion for their situation, offer suggestions, believing that knowing how to talk to children about nutrition, life, and normal infant feeding is important and I don’t want to leave them hanging.  How DO you talk about it?

If you’re very busy, and you probably are, I’ll go ahead and save you time and you can get on with your day:

Tell them she is feeding her baby.

This explanation is the most straightforward and appropriate response no matter what the age of the person asking.  It has the added bonus of being neither awkward or an untruth.  From 12 months to 120 years old, anyone can understand that a breastfeeding woman is feeding her baby.  It is simple, it is clear, it is true.

Eplaining breastfeeding to a child

Now, it is possible that some may find this confusing and want to argue that it is somehow gross, indecent, or too intimate to be done in public.  This argument is made possible by beer commercials, the media’s portrayal of women’s bodies, and our own overblown ideas fixating on only the sexual nature of the female breasts.  However, those that would raise such objections are not likely to be children but rather adults that have bought into the messages of society that the female body, in particular the female breasts, exist solely for the sexual gratification of men.  Children do not naturally have such bias so it is doubtful that, if your child is asking what a woman is doing while breastfeeding, they are equating the act with sex.  The anxiety you feel about their question is coming from your own inner insecurities and not that of the child.  Have no fear though, it is a simple fix: take a deep breath, own your issues, and answer honestly.  Hopefully by doing so you can avoid handing down the same issues you have internalized in objectifying women.

Need more help in handling this situation?  As a mom of 6 children and a teacher of many more, I’ve had lots of practice.  Check out these 6 simple ways of answering the question “what’s that lady doing?” when your child sees a breastfeeding woman:

18 months – 2.5 years old: “You see the mommy feeding her baby?  Isn’t that sweet?  Let’s leave them alone so that baby can finish their snack, would you like a snack too?”

Or, for the toddler that breastfeeds as well…

“Yes, that baby gets to eat just like you.  Would you like to have some mommy milk now too?”

2.5 years old – 4 years old:  “Oh, that mommy’s just feeding her baby.  All mammal mommies have breasts to feed their babies and even the daddies have nipples but really only mommies have nipples that work for feeding babies.  Where are your nipples?”

Or, for the preschooler that breastfeeds as well…

“Yes, that baby gets to eat just like you.  Would you like to have some mommy milk now too?”

To help them understand how normal this is and that all mammal mommies feed their babies this way, watch one or all of these sweet clips from Sesame Street:

Mom and baby mammals

Buffy nurses Cody

Maria Breastfeeds

You’re My Baby music video

4 years old – 8 years old:  “She’s feeding her baby.  That’s what breasts are for, feeding babies.  That’s where the term ‘mammal’ comes from, all creatures that feed their babies with their teat or breast are called mammals.  What animals can you think of that feed their young this way?”

Or, for the child that breastfeeds as well, all that plus: “Would you like to have some mommy milk now too?”

8 years old – 11 years old: “Thanks for pointing out the mom feeding her baby, I love seeing moms feeding their babies, don’t you?  Can you think of other ways babies are sometimes fed?  Do you know what kind of creatures feed their babies this way?  What other animals feed their young with their mammary glands?  Do you know how I fed you as a baby?  You were breast/bottle fed and I’m so grateful for the time I had getting to feed you, it was so special.”

11 years old – 13 years old: “It is so nice to see a mom feeding her baby.  What do you think of seeing this?  It isn’t always easy for moms to breastfeed in public, our society hasn’t always been very supportive of moms.  It is the normal way for babies to eat though, we should smile at her to encourage her as she takes care of her baby.”

13 years old – 18 years old: “She’s feeding her baby, isn’t that cool?  Does it bother you?  I wonder why a mom feeding her baby would make you uncomfortable?  Did you know that the primary function of the female breast is to feed babies?  Breastfeeding is the normal way for human babies, actually, all baby mammals, to eat.  You and I don’t have to hide when we’re eating, why should that baby have to hide?  And did you know that bottles are designed inspired by the breast?  I’m really glad we got to see this mom feeding her baby, I hope it helps us remember that this is normal and good.  Too often the only capacity in which we see the female breast is with an over emphasis on the sexual nature that ends up objectifying women.  Let’s smile at her to show our support and in thanks for the reminder that women aren’t sex objects.”

For an adult that acts like a child when they see a woman breastfeeding, refer to the explanation for the younger two categories, that should be simple enough for them to understand.

If you would, however, rather not inform children about breastfeeding and would prefer to hand down issues, simply act like breastfeeding is shameful.  With a reaction like that you can continue to be a part of a society that pressures women to breastfed yet sends confusing messages that doing so is somehow shameful and perverted.  Such a reaction will go a long way in helping absolutely nobody.

Because it really is as simple as breastfeeding is a mother feeding her baby.

 

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Tips for Breastfeeding in a Soft Structured Carrier

This post made possible by the generous sponsorship of ErgoBaby Carriers.

Ergo breastfeeding image

Babywearing and breastfeeding often go hand in hand; breastfeeding encouraged and even made easier by babywearing and babywearing encouraged and even made easier by breastfeeding.  There can be a learning curve to figuring that out though but worth taking the time to see if it is something that would work for you.  Once I got the hang of breastfeeding in a carrier it made it so much easier to chase around my other children (I have 6 total, keeping up is a big job!) and meet my baby’s needs too.

Whatever carrier you have or prefer, breastfeeding is likely possible while babywearing.  Today I’m sharing some simple tips for breastfeeding in a soft structured carrier using an Ergo.  The below video was shot last fall at the ABC Kids 2012 show, a simple demonstration of breastfeeding in a carrier.

 

Tips for breastfeeding in a soft stucture carrier:

 

1. Be confident. Fake it until you are.

2. Be patient.  It may take time and practice and being patient with the process will help in the long run.

3. Practice at home when baby isn’t hungry so you don’t feel stressed or rushed.

4. Release strap on side you’re going to feed from.

5. If necessary undo back clip.

6. Loosen and lower waist if you need to get the baby still lower to the breast.

7. Wear a low cut stretchy neckline and pull breast out the top to avoid wrestling with pulling your shirt up with baby on you.

8. Slip hand in top or side of carrier to free breast and latch baby.  Can use two hands usually if needed.

9. Large breasted women may find a rolled up receiving blanket placed under the breast helpful for support.

10. If baby has trouble latching, leaning forward may help give a little more space.

11. Once latched tighten straps for hands-free Breastfeeding.

12. If you feel you need more coverage snap one side of the hood.  Leave the other open so you can see in easily.

13. Once baby is done eating, slip hand in to put your breast away.

14. Tighten strap and waist to raise baby back to the safest position with the top of their head easily kissable.

Breastfeeding carries on!

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Why I breastfed my baby on TV

 

 

guest post by Jennifer Borget, news reporter for Austin, YNN and blogger at The Baby Making Machine.

 

babymaking mama austin newscast breastfeeding

It’s amazing how something as natural and innate as breastfeeding can be so misunderstood.

I didn’t see breastfeeding growing up. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I began to learn the benefits. I believe there’s a serious gap in awareness and knowledge about breastfeeding, and so many mothers—Especially in the minority community–don’t know what they’re missing.

I work as a news reporter and have a chance to help make an impact. In an effort to bring awareness to breastfeeding, and continue this important discussion, I sat down with two other mothers and conducted an interview with our babies latched-on, on-air.  (See the original segment here.)

It was bold, and something that required quite a bit of discussion and approval from people way above my pay grade, but in the end, it aired, and I was happy with the result.

Providing breast milk to my babies—What I consider to be the best nourishment for my children, hasn’t been a walk in the park.

First, I had to do my own research on the benefits and process. My mother tried to breastfeed me, but said it didn’t work out. I remember helping with my younger sisters formula bottles as I grew up.

All I knew was formula, and we were fine. I didn’t think it would be a big deal if breastfeeding “just didn’t work” for me either.

I took many of my questions to Twitter, and often found myself getting annoyed by self-proclaimed “lactavists” who told me to throw away my emergency can of formula, and seemed to have an answer for every excuse I had for why breastfeeding may not work for me.

At the time I felt like these tweeple were acting like “know it alls” who perceived formula as poison. To this day I’m still a little intimidated by overzealous lactavists, but then again, I wonder if I’ve become one myself.

I started with a goal to breastfeed through maternity leave. I pumped almost every day, multiple times a day. I stored more than 200 ounces of frozen milk to use as an emergency stash after I went back to work. I pumped every day at work, but some days I came up short, and the stash came in handy.

My husband was very supportive, making sure not to feed our daughter right before I left to come home. It was liquid gold we were rationing.

Three months went by, and I set a new goal to breastfeed until my daughter hit six months. That’s a lot of formula money saved—One of my big motivations at the time. Then I set another goal to continue nursing until her first birthday. By the time my daughter turned one, we had survived our own personal hiccups, and made it further breastfeeding than I had ever imagined. I continued to nurse my daughter until she was about 17 months. By then I had learned an immense amount of information about breastfeeding, and found myself on the giving end of breastfeeding support.

The Baby Making Machine

Jennifer and her children on set at her job.

Now, my daughter is three and I have a three-month-old nursing baby boy. I’m excited to talk about breastfeeding with anyone who will listen. I hope I don’t come across pushy. I’m really just excited to share a secret, the secret benefits, convenience, and enjoyment breastfeeding brings, that I didn’t know about when I was about to have my baby. Though they’re not really secrets, I just didn’t know about it at first.  This excitement is what drove me to do a news segment on breastfeeding, and with it being World Breastfeeding Week, there was no better time.

Here in Austin and in other locations around the world, nursing mothers are coming together for latch-on events, and nursing in unison. These events are made to start conversations about breastfeeding and nursing in public. One idea is the more we see women breastfeeding, the more normal it becomes, and the more people can learn about the benefits of breastfeeding. If I had seen women around me breastfeeding while I grew up, maybe I wouldn’t have been so hostile towards women who tried to inform me about it. Maybe then breastfeeding would have never been a question, but an automatic decision.

If I had seen women around me breastfeeding as I grew up...

 

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Have you found yourself becoming more of an advocate for breastfeeding?  How so?  Where you ever hostile towards those that tried to inform and encourage you to breastfeed?  If you’ve changed, what inspired that change?

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Breastfeeding and Following Jesus- uninviting “modesty” to the breastfeeding discussion

Maria lactans 17th century Antwerp

What is a woman to do?  You’re walking along, minding your own business with your husband and 2.5 kids at the mall when *BAM* female human breasts are thrust in your face.

Ok, not exactly thrust in your face.  But one breast is indeed thrust into a baby’s face.  Not your baby’s face, mind you.  Uh-uh.  This complete stranger has whipped her tit out and stuck it in her baby’s mouth.

She’s breastfeeding.  In public.  Ugh.

I’ve always wanted there to be a sound effect when I whip my breast out but alas, I can’t quite make my mammary glands whip really.  What would it sound like when a breast is whipped out?  Whoosh?  FFFt?  Whap?  SSSHHHHK?  Flub-a-lub-a-lub?  Just wondering.

Aren’t there covers for this?  Nobody wants to see that.  Can’t. She. Go. do. that. in. the. bathroom?

She could, yes, but just as tired as that suggestion is so is this reply: would you want to eat your dinner in the bathroom?

If you answer yes, go right on ahead.  However, until health departments regularly approve restaurants to set up customer dining with the toilets, I’m not feeding my babies there.

Doesn’t she have any decency?  Fine, feed your baby in public without being shamed into the bathroom but, for gosh sake, have some self respect and exercise some modesty!  Your body is for your husband alone and you don’t want to share it with the whole world.  I mean, good grief, there are other women’s husbands out, teenage boys, perverts… they can’t help themselves!  Hormones render their ability to not objectify women with the slightest sight of skin or shape and in a mere moment they will be overcome by their sexual urges!  The collective low view of the males of our species is that they are nothing more than animals that lose all control at the sight of a human female mammary gland.  The scary female feeding her baby will entice them like the harlot on the street corner in Proverbs.  Run, run away before all the men stumble, jealous of the child feeding at his mother’s breast.  And some women even do that IN CHURCH!

Remember when God said: “Thou Shalt Be Modest When Feeding Your Baby”?

And then proceeded to define “modest” as “having a light blanket, breastfeeding apron, or use the bathroom to feed child.”

Yeah, me neither.

maria lactans

And before you dare compare breastfeeding in public to urinating, defecating, copulating, masturbating, or really ANYTHING OTHER THAN EATING in public, go read this.  That argument is even more tired than the bathroom suggestion and not at all as clever as many seem to think.  It’s old, it’s done, it’s ridiculous, and it’s irrelevant.  Drop it.

“Fine, breastfeeding in public is fine but it must be done discreetly!” I hear this all the time.  Being discreet is to avoid offending someone and as much as we like to focus on the BREAST part of BREASTfeeding, this is an infant or small child’s meal we’re talking about.  Discreet hardly seems to apply.

I follow Jesus, I would identify myself as a Christian, and while my faith is a huge part of my life I don’t typically bring it up here.  This post, however, I’m writing because of my faith.

I grew up hearing a lot, and I really do mean A LOT about modesty.  In fact, I wasn’t allowed to wear pants, make-up, short skirts, bathing suits without a cover, shorts, etc.  All in “deference” to my “brothers in Christ” for fear of making them stumble.  So I get the modesty thing.  I was totally indoctrinated with the idea that as a female, it was my responsibility to make sure men never lusted over me.  Completely inundated with the message that there was something so vile and perverted about my body it would make these helpless male creatures fall into sin and it would be all my fault for reducing these otherwise intelligent beings into Pavlo’s salivating dog, modesty was my one safety net in combating the evilness of my own flesh.  Yet I don’t cover to breastfeed and I’m not going to ever again.  I haven’t since my 3rd daughter and now I have baby #6.

It’s not that I don’t care about my brothers, because I do.  I just care about my baby more.  And I don’t believe men are so helpless.  Just as I would never put the responsibility of me feeding or not feeding my baby the biologically normal way (AKA: as God designed) upon my brothers, so I will not take the responsibility for them seeing me and other women as human beings rather than sex objects on my shoulders.  Or chest.  Or my baby’s head.  Covering the natural, non-sexual function of the female breasts contributes to the dehumanization women.  Instead of her personhood being valid and feeding her baby acceptable, forcing a woman to cover or hide feeding her baby values her sexual appeal over the personhood of both her child and herself.  A man’s sexual desire (or possible sexual desire) then trumps a baby feeding and both the man and woman devalued as people, become nothing more than sex object and sexual desire.  Because I care about my brothers, my sisters, and my daughters, I’m not going to participate in the dehumanization of either sex.  Men aren’t dogs and they can be responsible for their own thoughts and actions.  As can I.

Sure, the Bible has a lot to say about modesty, things like not braiding hair, keeping a woman’s head covered, wearing gold… you know, all that stuff most Christians are following religiously.  Or not.  I won’t go into all that here but suffice it to say that in the context of when Scripture was written things were a little different.  Or a lot different.  But did you know that the Bible has a lot to say about breasts and breastfeeding?  Mamapsalmist breaks it down for us:

In my effort to double check my theories against the bible and God’s theories, I did some research.  The bible has a LOT of references to breasts.  A lot.  They’re all over the place.  Most often, the word breast is an anatomical reference.  The right breast for a sacrifice or the growth of breasts to symbolize puberty.  Then, there are the sexual references.  All seven of them.  Four in Song of Solomon, one in Proverbs, two in Ezekiel.  How many times does the bible reference breasts in the context of breastfeeding?  14.  Plus 10 other references to nursing and drinking mother’s milk.  Twenty-four times the bible references breastfeeding without shame.   Without hesitation.  Without hiding it under a blanket or in another room.

You should read her entire post because it is rather amazing.

In a recent thread on The Leaky B@@b Facebook page, in response to accusations that women that don’t cover while feeding their baby are immodest, Cindy MacDougall, Times Colonist writer, articulated how she, as a Christian finds such accusations to be offensive not only to her but indeed even to Mary, the Mother of Jesus:

Mary immodest cindy macdougal comment

maria lactanas cindy macdougal comments

christian bfing cindy macdougal copy

Side note, it looks like all the artists that depicted Mary as breastfeeding the Christ child had actually seen open breastfeed quite a bit and used actual breastfeeding dyads for their models, their depictions are very realistic.  Also worth noting, before you mention that breastfeeding in public is “ok” as long as the child is under a certain age, many of these depictions show a much older Jesus at the breast, well into toddlerhood and even early childhood.

go ahead, tell the Mother of God to be modest

Does modesty even have a place at the table in conversations about breastfeeding?

Modesty is a pesky business really.  Definitions of modesty appear to be fluid at best, cultures and subcultures, and even families can’t agree.  Is modesty a burqua?  Or a one piece bathing suit?  Perhaps it’s hiding the shape of the body?  The amount of skin?  Or just specific skin?  A head scarf?  Just cover cleavage?  Shoulders?  Elbows?  Collar bones?  Belly buttons?  Two fingers below the collar bone?  The knee?  Two inches above the knee?  Or to the fingertips?  Ankles?  Skirts and dresses only?  Some female body parts or all of them?  Is immodest a bikini?  Pants?  Or something sparkly?  Making eye contact with a man?  What makes something modest or immodest?  Is it what’s showing?  The intent?  And who determines that?  Cultural standards?  How someone else thinks of that article of clothing and what you have showing?

Who gets to decide?

Modesty according to the Merriam Webster Dictionary online:

Modesty webster

 

Modest according to the Oxford Dictionary online:

Modesty oxford dictionary

According to 1 Timothy 2:9-10, Paul describes modesty this way “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”  Decency and propriety, not adorned with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes.  Is it indecent or improper to feed a baby?  In her Q Ideas article “Modesty: I Don’t Think it Means What You Think it Means”, Rahcel Held Evans points out that in Scripture, the emphasis on modesty is more related to materialism than sexual impulses:

“…nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament express grave concern when the people of God flaunt their wealth by buying expensive clothes and jewelry while many of their neighbors suffered in poverty. (Ironically, I’ve heard dozens of sermons about keeping my legs and my cleavage out of sight, but not one about ensuring my jewelry was not acquired through unjust or exploitive trade practices—which would be much more in keeping with biblical teachings on modesty.)

Held Evans goes on:

When Jesus warns that “everyone who looks at a woman with lust has already committed adultery with her in his heart,” he uses the same word found in the Ten Commandments to refer to a person who “covets” his neighbor’s property. Lust takes attraction and turns it into the coveting of a woman’s body as though it were property.  The farm equipment and livestock of the neighbor in the Bible isn’t responsible for the neighbor’s coveting.  And men are responsible for their own thoughts and actions when this happens; they don’t get to blame it on what a woman is wearing.

And probably not on a baby eating either.

Is feeding a baby really a conversation that modesty needs to be invited to?  How is a woman feeding her baby, immodest?  If someone struggles to control their thoughts and actions, should their struggle supersede that of a small child’s need for food and comfort and should the burden of that individual’s possible struggle be the responsibility of that small child and that mother?  Where do we break the chain of shaming the mother feeding her child?  And could we be using “modesty” as a way to continue objectifying women in general and what responsibility do we have for how that impacts the infants in our community by communicating shame about the way their mothers feed them?

Perhaps modesty needs to be more about how we demonstrate our wealth, successes, opportunities, possessions, how we spend our money talents, and time than it does how women dress or feed their children.

Held Evans challenges us:

…biblical modesty isn’t about managing the sexual impulses of other people; it’s about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves.

Every Sunday I sit in church and often my youngest needs to nurse.  As part of my worship, I give her my breast exactly as I believe God created me to do, without leaving the worship space because I belong there and so does my daughter.  Why should we be ostracized for feeding the most vulnerable and dependent in our community?  There is nothing sexually provocative about feeding her, my daughter has a need and I meet it as I am able, as I am designed.  I am confident God is pleased by it and I believe that with exposure my brothers and sisters in this family can handle it as well.  Over time we can turn the tide that objectified women and instilled a fear that somehow breastfeeding would cause others to stumble and perpetuated the attitude of women as a lesser part of the community.  In time perhaps we will stop seeing “modesty” as being a discussion aimed at women to hold them responsible for how their male peers think and treat them and instead work towards being modest in all areas.

It’s time to “modesty” was uninvited to the conversation of breastfeeding, it just gets in the way and confuses things.  Moms just need to feed their babies, covered, uncovered, in private, or with a bottle without dealing with the responsibility that someone may objectify them and without having their decency, propriety, even their modesty questioned by how they are caring for their children.

Not sure how to handle yourself when you see a woman breastfeeding?  Try some modesty.  Remember she’s a person first, nurturing another person.  Try to cultivate humility, propriety, and deference within and look her in the eyes or if you can’t trust yourself with that, look away and remember that maybe, this isn’t about you.

And be grateful she’s not blessing you with a shower of her milk as a modest act of worship.

marialactans-miraculous2

 

 

 

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Instagram and the global village of breastfeeding

It is said that it takes a village to bring up a child.  Do you have a village?

Once upon a time community was found while foraging, working, washing, around the well, in the birthing room, through places of worship, then in salons, on front porches, over quilts, around suffrage signs.  Most never moved too far from the place where they were born.  Children grew up aware of the work their parents did, helping at times, involved.  With the exception of Victorian era stodginess, much about the reality of life was shared openly, families just lived and extended family and friends involved.

Today the global village has expanded where we find community.  No longer are the borders of our village confined to our geographical context, we find our place through social media with our past, present, and future, via our interests, concerns, and passions.  We learn about life in our context and far beyond, broadening our perspective and opening our minds to other ways of living.  By sharing the exiting, the mundane, the average, and the significant parts of life, people are finding their village again.  In a time when it is easy to be isolated and alone, the internet is drawing people together.

All this and more is what I love about social media.  I found my village.

#beautifulBfing

On June 8th, as I headed out for a date with my husband, Jeremy Beyond Moi, I quickly checked The Leaky Boob Instagram account but was already logged into my personal account which I checked first.  I noticed a comment on one of my photos asking what happened to The Leaky Boob account on Instagram.  Unsure what she meant a knowing feeling came over me and I entered the login information for the account and received this screen.

TLBigDisabled

Hoping it was a mistake but suspecting it wasn’t I tried again.  Then checked my email and saw no email from Instagram so I tried again.  After 4 tries I gave up.  The account was indeed disabled.  This part of my village was gone.

I’ve checked every few days since.  Gone.

I wasn’t sure I had the energy for this.  It’s not the first time The Leaky Boob has had issues on a social media platform and the fight was starting to feel wearisome.  With our eldest daughter preparing to leave for the summer, 5 other kids at home, and work, I was feeling swamped as it was without this issue.  But this is part of my community and not just mine but thousands of others as well.

We want our village back.

On May 23rd I received a warning from Instagram that The Leaky Boob account had been flagged but with no details as to why.  It was the third warning I received within a week.  All that was included was that I supposedly violated the terms of service, terms that are conveniently vague at best, intentionally nebulous for subjective interpretation at worst.  I emailed requesting they let me know what images I posted violated what terms of service and received no reply.

Instagram warning email

Shortly after this, inspired by Instagram’s own weekend hashtag projects and user Instagram_kids, I started a new hashtag on Instagram, #beautifulbfing to encourage more sharing of breastfeeding photos and informed users.  Posting about it I asked users to use the hashtag and I would select from those images ones to feature, or regram, just as thousands of other users and brands, including Instagram’s own account, do.  With each post, I credited the user that posted it and only used images from the #beautifulbfing hashtag.  The #regram is the only way to share other posts and functions much like the Twitter retweet, the only current option Instagram has to compete.  Every image I shared was of a breastfeeding mother and was within Instagram’s terms of service regarding nudity.  While I had forgotten the terms of service to not post images that weren’t yours, I didn’t feel this was a problem as I had permission to use those photos and had modeled this sharing of these images after Instagram’s own usage.

Instagram weekend hashtag

Instagram Kids

There were no further warnings between the May 23rd email and the account being disabled on June 8th as well as no response to my inquires about the warnings I had received.  I received no warnings after I began sharing the images from the #beautifulbfing hashtag either.  Nothing, just the account disabled.  On June 9th there was another form email that someone had flagged my account and if the terms of service were violated the account could be disabled but no details as to why or how to contact Instagram to dispute.  My account was already gone.

Many don’t understand why images of breastfeeding are shared online, I go into that in my post about my struggle with Facebook over the same issue and you can read that here.  And to go ahead and address the inevitable boorish “peeing and taking a dump are natural but nobody wants to see pictures of that” read this and remember, we’re not talking waste, we’re talking nutrition for a baby, something mothers spend a significant amount of time doing and it’s a part of her life… her life that she shares with her community.  Don’t understand?  Simply put though, moms need to see breastfeeding, it’s important.  Others need to see breastfeeding to put a stop to the dehumanization of women through the over emphasis on the sexual nature of the female body.  Sharing these images is important because we need to culturally encourage moms to breastfeed and go beyond just lip service and accept them fully in society without penalizing them by requiring them to hide feeding their children.  Society needs to walk the talk.  What I said about why share breastfeeding images on Facebook applies to Facebook owned Instagram as well:

Why  share breastfeeding photos on FB?  Some may feel it’s too private to share, I don’t.  In fact, I believe it’s crucial to share breastfeeding photos.  Gone are the days where breastfeeding is seen in the day in and day out living of our lives in a community, replaced instead with virtual communities found on Facebook, forums, and other social media platforms.  Social media and virtual communities need to be as multidimensional as the physical community or we lose ourselves as a society, relating to each other as a slick collection of data without the human and biological component that makes us alive.  We need to see breastfeeding in real life and in the virtual world that many of us relate in as our community.  This photo may seem obscene to some but to others it was inspiring and encouraging, leading some to even learn something about breastfeeding.

Women used to see breastfeeding all around them in their community, it is only fairly recently with the advent of artificial breastmilk substitutes or formula that breastfeeding was considered something to be hidden.  Not sure about that?  Check out the number of historical paintings of religious and nonreligious nature depicting breastfeeding as well as the historical photographs from even the Victorian era that include breastfeeding mothers.  We’ve lost that presence of breastfeeding in our community and today new moms see it in their online village.  Breastfeeding may be natural but it needs to be learned and it’s learned by seeing others feed their baby.

I don’t know exactly why The Leaky Boob IG account was disabled, I have received no response to my inquires from Instagram.  My best guess is that the many breastfeeding images, my own, were flagged by other users.  It is possible that Instagram decided to disable the account because of the #regram sharing, singling out The Leaky Boob to enforce this rule while blatantly ignoring it themselves and with other brands.  I don’t know.  But I do know that Instagram has shut down a resource that connected thousands of women and served as one of the avenues of the global village supporting breastfeeding.  In doing so Instagram has essentially said that breastfeeding women are not welcome and sends a conflicting message that may cause breastfeeding moms to question:

 

…if images of breastfeeding are inappropriate and not fit for her community to see, is it inappropriate for her child to breastfeed?  If she’s struggling and looking for her community for support but these images aren’t permitted, how is she going to work out that there can be a wide variety of normal in breastfeeding baby’s latches or any other variety of breastfeeding related questions?  How is she going to know that she’s not alone with how her little one behaves at the breast?  How else are moms going to get over the emphasis on the sexual nature of female breasts to just feed her baby when her very community shames and harasses her for sharing these images?  The message that is being sent is that you can have community, you can be marketed to within that community, but your personal experience with breastfeeding is shameful and not welcome in the community.  Which ultimately means the breastfeeding mother is not welcome in the community.

 

Maybe you’re uncomfortable seeing images of breastfeeding, that’s ok.  In time, with enough moms openly feeding their babies and sharing the experience with their village, you’ll get more comfortable with it.  For now though, just look away, scroll right past it, and remember that a woman feeding her baby is still a person and her child’s right to eat may just supersede your right to be comfortable.  And the law agrees with that.

Help us bring back The Leaky Boob on Instagram.  Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has permitted breastfeeding images to be shared according to their terms of service, we need to pressure Instagram to do the same and to stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and the feeding children.

Instagram bring back TLB

What can you do?

Join the Facebook page: Instagram, stop discriminating against breastfeeding mothers and babies

Sign this petition.

Tweet and post on Instagram and Facebook using the hashtags #beautifulbfing #bringbackTLB #stopbfingdiscrimination #normalizebreastfeeding and tag @Instagram to let them know.

Share this post with your village.

Sharing breastfeeding images isn’t for everyone, individual comfort level may prohibit you from sharing.  But if you are comfortable sharing your breastfeeding photos, please do and we’d love to see.

Follow jmartinweber on Instagram for more updates on the situation with The Leaky Boob IG account.

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edited: In less than an hour of publishing this post and in only 20 minutes of sharing it on Facebook, I received the following email:

IG apologizes for mistake

 

While I’m grateful they acted fast to reinstate my account once I took this issue public, I’m not satisfied.  Nobody should be afraid their account will be suspended if they share breastfeeding photos.  Rather, Instagram needs to clearly outline in their terms of service that breastfeeding photos are permitted and have a system in place to be sure images and accounts are viewed after a flagging so as compliant accounts and images are not deleted.  Please continue to speak up for all breastfeeding women and let Instagram know their policy needs to change NOW.

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Changing for the breast? A 14 year old shares her views on breasts, breastfeeding, sex appeal, and society.

by Ophélia Martin-Weber
Photo credit Dorothea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress, American Memory

Photo credit Dorothea Lange, 1936 Library of Congress, American Memory

I wonder when people started treating boobs as objects used just for sex.  A long time ago did people respect moms and their breasts feeding hungry babies?  Even though they didn’t see women as equal did they know that breastfeeding was the healthiest, easiest, and natural source of nutrients to feed the baby and nothing to shun?  There was a time when women didn’t have the right to vote but could freely pull out their breast and feed their baby and today it seems like we have flipped those.  In some ways we have come so far in how women are treated and viewed in society but in other ways women, particularly mothers, are dismissed as their real value being only in their appeal to the opposite sex.  I wonder if we’ve lost something.  Then I wonder what that means for me and I’m only 14 years old.

When I was younger I didn’t know breasts had amazing powers to produce milk even though my mom breastfed my sisters and me.  All that I knew was that I had little boobies and I couldn’t wait for the day when my nipples would transform into breasts.  I don’t remember when the fact that mature breasts can give milk really stuck in my head but when it did I thought humans were related to cows.  Sure, humans and cows are both mammals but when I was a kid I thought maybe women actually were cows.  Today I know that’s not true and I also understand there is a lot of attention given to the sexiness of the female breast and that makes me uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because now that I have breasts I find myself wanting smaller breasts in part because of dance but also because I know that bigger breasts are supposed draw attention from guys, are seen as more sexy, and could decide how I am treated by others.  Part of me feels that if I want to be liked I have to have big breasts.  I want guys to notice me but I don’t want guys to notice me (yes, I know this is a contradiction) and I really don’t want them to think I’m just here to have sex with.  I’m just not ready for that and don’t know if I ever will be.  To me, I’m so much more than my sex appeal.  So I’m careful about what I wear, I don’t want communicate that I want attention based on sex but that frustrates me too.  The clothes I like the best are more form fitting but if I wear yoga pants that fit my butt well will it be communicating that I want the wrong kind of attention?  Or in a leotard are my breasts speaking louder than my mind or my art?  I hope not.  I want to matter to others for more than just my body.  As a dancer, I work with my body a lot and I work hard to make it strong and healthy but not for attention.  That work is to help me tell stories, to use my body as an artist and an athlete.  Struggling with my body every day is part of my lot as a dancer and I have a love hate relationship with it and I’m ok with that.  What I don’t want is to question my natural biology simply because of how others say it should be.  Sometimes it feels as though society wants to punish those with female body parts yet tell us we’re equal without having to act like we really are.  I don’t get it, I understand that breasts are considered sex things but they don’t seem any more “sexy” than most of the other parts of my body such as my lips, my arms, my shoulders, my legs.  Men may find them sexy (is it that way in every culture or just ours?) but they aren’t sexy to me, they feed babies.

The author, Ophélia Martin-Weber

The author, Ophélia Martin-Weber

Looking back to what my childish mind was thinking and comparing it to some people’s opinions about moms openly breastfeeding in public, I wonder if they too see breastfeeding moms as cows?  Do breastfeeding mothers need to be fenced and herded together, separate from everyone else?  I know there are people that think about moms that way but not everyone does.  A lot of my adult friends have different opinions about breastfeeding but they don’t think poorly about my mom and they don’t ask her to cover when she’s feeding my little sister.  It doesn’t bother them that part of my mom’s breast is visible.  Pictures of beautiful and sexy women show off breasts at least as much as a mom’s breast is seen when she is breastfeeding.  In our culture, what is the most sexy part about women’s breasts?  The breast that is popping out of a too small shirt or the covered nipple?  Why?  If it’s the nipple, why is it such a big deal about breastfeeding in public if the baby is hiding the nipple?  Understandable because of the messages we get from certain parts of society, they might think it is sexual because a person’s mouth, even if it is a baby is on a woman’s breast but they need to get a grip and review their history lessons.   And also learn how breastfeeding works.

And why is it ok for men to show off their mammary glands but women can’t?  Why aren’t women “allowed” to expose their chest as much as men can?  Why is it considered indecent for me to be topless by my neighbor across the street can walk around just in his shorts and nobody has a problem with it?  How is that equal?  How is that not discrimination?  Stop telling me I can be equal to my male counterparts but then tell me I have to hide my body more as if there is something wrong with me.

I’m not sure I even want to have babies but if I do I will breastfeed them though I have to admit the idea of breastfeeding in public scares me because I know how people think of breasts, women, and moms.  That kind of attention isn’t what I want for myself.  I don’t know what I will do though because I know too much about breastfeeding to not breastfeed and I don’t think I’d want to just stay home all the time.  How sad is it that anyone would be afraid to feed their baby in public?  I’m a little disappointed in myself for feeling this way, I mean, my mom is The Leaky Boob, I feel like she’s the queen of breastfeeding.  But that’s where I am right now.  Fortunately, I have a long time to figure that out and I know I have a family that will support me along the way.

If all this obsession with female breasts didn’t actually happen, what would life be like?  If we could change the attitudes against breastfeeding would we actually change attitudes about women?  I hope we can learn from our mistakes.

 

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What do you think?  

Do you feel attitudes about breastfeeding are related in any way to our attitudes about women in general?  

How did you think about breasts, breastfeeding, and your own body when you were a teen?

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Completely unrelated to this post, this video shares the author’s story of dance and her dance aspirations.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ycG-NW1UGno

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IMG_0404 Ophélia Martin-Weber is 14 years old, the eldest of six girls.  Ophélia is in 8th grade, homeschooled, and is   passionate about dance.  A few years ago Ophélia wrote for The Leaky Boob, sharing her views as an 11 year old on breastfeeding and Jessica recently shared a proud mama moment about Ophélia.  You can see some of Ophélia’s dancing and hear her share her dance story and dreams in this video.
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