Saturday, July 10, 2010

Breastfeeding: Bringing nursing back

This article was orginally published at Chicago Moms Blog in April 2010. I'm ressurecting it in celebration of the Carnival of Nursing in Public over at Nursing Freedom.

Much like spring break tends to liberate even the prudest of college girls, hanging around the senior citizen crowd unleashed a whole new side of me during a recent vacation from snow-covered Chicago to sunny, warm Fort Myers.

Art by Erika Hastings at

Just like those spring break girls, I now am equally unashamed of baring some boob. Of course, though, I'd like to think mine is for a nobler reason than winning a wet T-shirt contest. After all, I'm nourishing a baby with my girls not just feeding the bare-skin desires of some 20-something guys at the local beach bar. Friends, I have become an unabashed, unashamed lactavist.

A lacta wha?

You know, a mama who isn't going to go hide out in the corner of any restroom to nurse her babe while dining out because she doesn't want to offend anyone who just might get a glimpse of breast while her baby is (gasp!) breastfeeding.

I used to be that kind of breastfeeding mother. I used to care about other people's comfort while I was feeding my child. I used to feel like I needed to be politically correct about nursing -- didn't want to accidentally have baby give anyone a peep show during a nursing session because baby deemed something else more interesting than eating. I'd spend nursing sessions wrestling to feed my baby while shielding the world from him and my breast with a nursing cover only for baby to squirm out from underneath and abandon his lunch because he didn't want to be hidden. I'd leave interesting dinner table conversations to hide in a restroom and nurse my little guy so no one around us would feel uncomfortable if they got a glimpse of skin.

I assure you I didn't know it before we hauled our suitcases through the gated, ritzy golf-club community my grandparents call home during the brrr-cold Chicago winters. But those seniors, well, they inadvertently unleashed the breastfeeding advocate living inside this (formerly) politically correct nursing mother.

We were at the pool. We were seated next to some older gentlemen who were lounging in chairs under the warm Florida sun. They must have thought I couldn't hear what they were saying because they were discussing how nice spring break time is because of the change of landscape among the pool crowd. They very obviously were not referring to the rose bushes but rather the young ladies clad in bikinis who were now poolside instead of the older ladies sporting full bathing suits and swim caps during water aerobics. And they were very, very happy to have this change of scenery.

Fast forward to eating at the classy club house located next to the pool where these young ladies sun themselves with their cleavage showcased nicely for anyone to see through the windows.

One of my dining companions leaned over and suggested that perhaps if my little baby wanted to nurse during dinner, I could sneak over to the Billiards room because it would be quiet.

"A lot of these people are old fashioned and conservative," she whispered.

My mind raced back to the gentlemen's poolside conversation; and just like that, I exploded volcano style into a lactavist.

"If the baby wants to eat, I'll feed him in here," I said. "This is a dining room. And if he wants to eat, he'll be dining here in the dining room."

She looked a little taken aback by my answer because I've always been conservative. But you know what -- I still am! I'm a conservative lactavist, and for me, the two go hand in hand.

You won't see me out at the beach displaying my goods for all to see in the name of sexy. You won't find my girls popping out of my shirt in the name of fashion. And you certainly won't find me scampering around the beach busting out of my bathing suit in an attempt to be visually appealing landscape.

But you will find me baring some boob in name of nourishment, in the name of bonding, in the name of snuggling and in the name of loving my baby and giving him the very best nutrition I can.

Because if I hide in a bathroom to nurse my baby or bury him under a nursing cover in an effort to shield my breast while doing the very thing my breasts were made for, I'm not doing anything except for perpetuating the societal myth that breasts are only for bringing sexy back.

And, mamas, though I care about sexy, I'm using these bad boys for bringing nursing back.


  1. Love your rebellion toward all the right things and for all the right reasons!!

  2. Good for you! You go Mama. I often nursed in public, but I personally was more comfortable with a cover. I just found that I was uneasy without it (can't escape my Midwestern modest upbringing I guess). And my daughter had no problem being under it. I did not go to the restroom or a quiet, out of the way corner. I nursed wherever I was when my child needed to. And I received lots of positive encouragement from strangers. Men and women. People would come up to me in restaurants, stores, the zoo and say things like, "Good for you!" And, "Way to go, Mama!"

    I will say the only time I didn't use the cover was at the pool. It was too hot for her to be under there. I had a special nursing bathing suit, and simply turned my chair to face away from the pool. We did fine, and no one said anything nasty. And yes, women at the pool were exposing far more boob that I was. ;P

  3. Fantastic argument! I don't have babies ... yet ... but plan to breastfeed, and can't thank you enough for this article.

  4. You go girl :)
    I love it when you get fired up about nursing. Such a good cause!

  5. I was VERY conservative about nursing in public until about two weeks ago when I flew for 24 hours with my little one. I think everyone between Italy and New Orleans saw my boobs and I don't even care!!! :)

  6. For my first two boys, I went to the ladies restroom to nurse. I even nursed my second son at my father's wake. Though I did it in an empty sitting room. I also remember nursing in the back of a church. I nursed my daughter at her christening. You should have seen the reactions! Yesterday, a woman nursed next to me at church. I felt happy remembering those nursing days with my kids. I miss them. But I don't miss those bites once in a while :)

  7. Loved this the first time, and love it again. You have inspired me to nurse more openly!

  8. Oh how I love this post. I, too, am conservative but when it comes to breastfeeding? A momma's gotta do what a mommma's gotta do, you know?

  9. Oh I love it! I used to be so nervous an worried about what other people thought about me nursing in public too. With baby #3 I've gained the confidence I never had before. There is nothing to be ashamed of when it comes to nursing and we definitely shouldn't be made to feel ashamed of it! You go!!!

  10. absolutely. babies gotta eat, and i wish everyone would just grow up already. there just BOOBS. look away people, if it gets you so riled!

    -a fellow lactivist;)

  11. GREAT post!

    I'm always horrified by people who suggest that breastfeeding is somehow offensive or something that *should* take place in private. it's mindboggling to me.

  12. This is a sassier post than I remember it being originally--and I love it!

  13. OK, so I'm incredibly glad I scrolled on down after wandering over to your blog from your guest post on Foursons. I love this post!

    It is mind-boggling to me that a large portion of our society is comfortable with wearing -- and seeing -- incredibly skimpy outfits in public, and yet those same people will turn around and claim that a mother nursing a child is offensive. How will our society ever become more comfortable with and supportive of nursing mothers if it's always hidden away, as though it's some kind of embarrassing little secret? My son's no longer a baby, and our nursing in public days are behind us. But when we were, I nursed him when he needed, with no shame. All I was doing was feeding my baby, it was just a part of life as we lived it.


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