I’ve gotten a lot of flack over the fact that I breast fed my two-month old baby on a plane, in a middle seat, between two large men.
It was an awkward situation, to say the least, and difficult to maneuver, but I covered myself and my baby with a blanket.
I wear that experience like a badge.
I’m super proud that I nursed all five of my children.
Don’t misunderstand: I wasn’t one to whip out a breast without regard for those around me but I fed my children in restaurants, parks and on the beach.
Basically, I fed them wherever babies eat.
I certainly wasn’t as gung-ho as the woman in the instagram photo below. I didn’t have the support of empoweredbirthproject and over 12,000 likes.
Sure there were some uncomfortable moments.
Often, people looked at me as if I were out of my mind. And even now when I tell people I fed my baby in a middle seat on an airplane surrounded by strangers, they are floored and a bit grossed out, as if I’ve done something flagrant, outlandish or impolite.
But breastfeeding is natural. It’s the way babies were fed for God knows how long before formula was invented. Yes, I threw God in there on purpose. He created women in a way that allows us to do this very thing. This very important thing.
It has been suggested that babies who are nursed tend to have fewer allergies, a stronger immune system and preform better in school.
So I’m proud that despite societal shaming, I had the nerve.
It wasn’t meant to be a political act.
I wasn’t making a statement about my rights.
I wasn’t defending feminism.
I was feeding my babies.
I don’t judge mothers who choose not to nurse their children. I was just someone who needed to.
I can’t help to think that nursing a child is a privilege and if you are someone who is lucky enough to have a body that serves you in this way, and a career or situation that allows you the freedom to stay home and nurse, you are blessed.
I know using a word like freedom seems counterintuitive because people consider nursing to be anything but freeing. Some new mothers think it will restrict them, an extension of pregnancy, their body still not their own.
And in some ways that’s true. You can’t disappear— go off without your baby indefinitely. But maybe that’s a good thing. We are so easily seduced by outside stimulation and our babies need us.
In order to separate, some mothers use a pump and store their milk but that never worked for me. Suctioning my breast into a plastic funnel was excruciating. Plus, I preferred skin contact, eye contact and attuned breathing.
It is often said that nursing is inconvenient compared to bottle-feeding but I think the opposite.
I didn’t have to clean bottles or get out of bed at 3 am to warm milk. I didn’t have to try different formulas until I found the one that didn’t make my baby colicky. It was more economical and I never panicked, needing to rush to a pharmacy before it closed.
Which is better—Breast or Bottle? (Click on the link for more information.)
It’s a touchy debate. People get really intense around this issue.
But to me there is no question. The opportunity to bond and create healthy attachment only lasts a short while. (Okay, okay—I nursed my youngest for 16 months! But my daughter-in-law says she’s my most well adjusted.)
Breastfeeding is a gift for mother and child.
Nothing that promotes breast-feeding, even if it glamorizes it, could offend me. All the hullabaloo around the issue is just another way society tries to control women, dictating what they can, and cannot, do with their bodies.