“I support breastfeeding. But…” – A list of common rhetoric.

Supportive PartnerYesterday I saw a meme about a conversation a mother had with her 4 year old over breastfeeding her younger daughter. The comments on the post were…..well, very discouraging.  “I support breastfeeding. But…..” followed by a host of excuses. If there is ever a ‘but’ after “I support”, then you don’t support it. Period.  If your support was true, it wouldn’t need any modifiers. There always seems to be a core list of ‘buts’ that people use to mask their conditional support. I’ll try, as feeble an attempt it may be, to dispel these common modifiers through my own experiences.

“Use a cover!” – Ummm, no. My children do not like covers. They are hot little creatures that sweat and a cover compounds that. Have you ever seen a mother attempting to cover a child that doesn’t want to be covered while nursing? Yeah, little flailing limbs that draw about 1,000% more attention than the act of nursing without a cover ever would. Covers are not an option for us.

“We’re trying to eat here.” – And so is my child. We eat at the table, my child eats at the table. It’s simple really. Should I deprive my child of food because you yourself are eating? That seems illogical. You’re also making my wife uncomfortable, so please swivel your head the other way and focus on your own table and family.

“I don’t want my kids seeing that!” – What, how nature works? What breasts are really meant for? A special bond between a mother and child? If anything, kids SHOULD see this. If anything, a child will think NOTHING more of a nursing mother other than she is feeding her child. Children do not see a problem with that, adults that think their children shouldn’t see it do.

“That child should be on regular milk.”  – Regular milk? You mean pumped breast milk from another species of mammal designed specifically for their own offspring? Because that sounds like what nature intended to be natural and regular. The only milk I’ll ever classify as regular is the milk that my wife produces for my child with her own body.

“If they’re old enough to ask for it, they’re too old for it.” – By this logic a child should never be breastfed because they ask for it no sooner than they are born. A lot of children sign it by 6 months and most can ask for it verbally at 1 year. AAP and WHO recommends it until at least 2 years old. This is a completely flawed argument. Humans have evolved this special ability called speech, and a child being able to ask for it, whether through crying, signing or verbiage, makes it much simpler on the child and mom.

“I don’t just pull my stuff out in public. That’s all these mothers want to do.” – You figured them out. There is this whole sorority of nursing moms that get their jollies on flashing their breasts in public. Nursing is legal exhibitionism don’t you know. The last thing any mother (and their partner for that matter) wants is a stranger staring at her breasts while she feeds her child. And honestly, as much breastfeeding and nursing as I’ve seen (not just from my wife but from the plethora of parenting related events, conventions, rallies, etc. that I have attended) I rarely see that much actual boob. And as a side note, your ‘stuff’ cannot nourish and sustain an infant’s life; so until it can, it stays in your pants.

“Can’t you pump and use bottles?” – Doesn’t work that way. It can, but most of the time it doesn’t. Most babies have difficulty transitioning from bottle to breast and latch is greatly affected. Some moms, no matter the grade of pump, just won’t produce milk with one. Only the baby stimulating the breast will work. And then there’s the working moms. Moms that spend the day away from their child (my wife falls into this category). When they are home; they are nursing. Plain and simple. That is their bonding time. They pump all day and can’t wait for their little one to latch on and have that reconnecting moment.

There is a good chance that mother had a hard time getting to the point she is currently at in her nursing relationship. It may be her first time being comfortable enough to publicly nurse. She may have overcome a great struggle to even breastfeed in the first place. Also, the nourishment and hunger of my child will always trump your argument. Every. Time. So the next time you are slightly uncomfortable around a nursing mother, you might to think twice before reaching into your bag of worn out rhetoric.

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Fear of the Fuss

               Mrs. K, Liam and I went to a “play” late one night past Liam and Mrs. K’s bed time. Yes, an actual play that people pay for, not a freebie at a school or rec center.  I was skeptical taking Liam as he’s only 7 months old and typically becomes crabby around 7:30-8 pm when its bed time for them both. We’ve never been out that late, other than a relative’s house; and I was unsure of taking on that sort of challenge. For that matter I’ve always been unsure of going out with my son and wife those first few months as to avoid being “that couple” with the annoying crying baby in public that everyone turns their heads at and collectively curse us in their uniformed minds. Growing up I was the back-of-the-class invisible kid that didn’t disturb the water but rather floated on the ripples others created. This transitioned into adulthood and eventually fatherhood. Never wanting to create a scene in public and slide through unnoticed without rippling the water.
                So as you can guess, taking a 7 month old to a play that late at night posed a problem to that lifelong fear of being singled out and gawked at.  Although the play was highly informal and boasted a sparse attendance with semi-stadium seating, that didn’t mean my fear was any less real. I sucked it up and we went to a play where I was sure my son would be the one taking bows at the end.
                Suffice to say he made it through the majority of the show without incident before deciding to become a bit chatty to the point where he and Mrs. K had to make a timely exit. There were only a few moments when he wanted fed throughout the ordeal. Now when my son gets hungry and knows he’s about to receive his beloved bosom; he makes this half cackle/cough sound that demands the attention of others around him. Now this is actually kind of cute, but makes it rather difficult to stealthily feed in public. Indeed, he did make his patented here-comes-my-boob! noise, and indeed, people did take notice as it was a quiet moment in the play.
                There was a group of older people in the audience that noticed my wife’s boob was out and sustaining the life of my child. To my horror they watched the unbuckling of bra-straps and lifting of breasts into Liam’s gaping noise-emitting mouth. To my surprise, the two women of the group looked on with a smile of loving content, completely opposite of what I was expecting.  His coos and talking were also met with smiles, even by a couple of the actors in the production. Now that means one of two things are happening. Either the innocence of a child really does overcome all that they disrupt, or my son is just that damn cute that you can’t help but smile at his striking beauty. I’d like to think it’s the latter, and all the little girls in his daycare will tell you it’s latter.
                In this moment I realized that maybe I was being too overly-paranoid about the whole thing and left wondering why? Why should I be embarrassed or ashamed of my infant son making a scene? His behaviors aren’t restricted by social protocol. He’s not concerned with what others view him as. He’s a child. He’s my child. The fact that he is cooing and making incoherent gibberish makes a father smile with pride. So why is this bugging me? And in sitting there watching the older women smile at my feeding child, who earlier downplayed a more serious moment in the play with his giddy feeding noise, it occurred to me that I shouldn’t care. He is a baby after all, and that’s what babies to. They make noise, they cry, they need to be fed, and most importantly they need to be free to express themselves through their noises and gestures.
                From now on, I will hold my son up, Simba style, and exclaim “This is my son, he’s gonna fuss, he’s gonna eat, and you’re going to deal with it!” I love my son.

Nursing In Public

                Breastfeeding has been an issue of sorts for a while now. It seems as if the younger generation is beginning to embrace and revert back to the natural ways of raising and nursing children. Maybe it’s the culture we’re surrounding ourselves in or maybe it’s actually taking place, but I believe future generations are setting the tone for what’s acceptable as opposed to what might be imposed from their elders. BF (Breastfeeding) is becoming more commonplace in public and with it eyes are opening, noses are rising in distaste and uncomfortable people are complaining.
 I watched a video recently Mrs. K found online about breastfeeding vs. formula; a funny little PSA type skit that’s pro-breast feeding. I’m not going to point out the pro’s to BF considering the audience, but for the curious, there are a few bits of knowledge after the jump – Breastfeeding Benefits. This got me thinking about all the various times we’ve been out and had to nurse Liam in public. All those times I feel conscious about it, as if we have a horn growing from our forehead. Mrs. K might not have realized it but I being the paranoid that I am from time to time did notice.
It’s funny how there’s a stigma attached to BF in public when it’s the most natural thing a mother can do.  It’s been brought up in the local news and on primetime television. Literally. On Primetime, What Would You Do?. It’s a kind of a hidden camera show about specific topics that are staged and reactions are caught and people are interviewed…  A breastfeeding mom was sent in to a restaurant to nurse her child to catch the reaction of onlookers. An astonishingly amount of people turned away, some looked in disgust and only one woman told her to keep doing what she’s doing. Eventually the manager/owner asked her to leave.
Nurse-In at Polaris Mall in Columbus, OH. Mrs. K is far back left.
It’s funny how people will pay money and encourage woman to show their breasts whenever they can. But as soon as there’s an infant attached on the end it becomes inappropriate. The same thing happened to a mom at a Hollister in Texas earlier this year. The manager asked her to leave while she was nursing her child in their store. This resulted in a “nurse-in” at various Hollister’s around Columbus, OH. One of which Mrs. K took part in! (Article hereand video here) At the time I was kind of eh, you can go if you want; but in hindsight I’m very proud of her. It’s something she’s very passionate about and stands up for. You have to be extremely dedicated to BF and actually follow through. We know too many moms that gave up on BF because of the difficulty involved. Whether it is too involved, inconvenient, impatience, or whatever the reason may be.
It wasn’t easy for us either. Liam didn’t have a good latch for 3 days afterwe left the hospital. He became very irritable and crabby due to an empty belly. We tried feeding him with an eye dropper which was semi-successful. We tussled back and forth whether to supplement with formula or not just so he could have a full belly. Many times quitting came up as it was becoming very aggravating and we wanted what was best for Liam. It’s essential that he eats a lot in his first few days of life, but it wasn’t happening. Ultimately, we saw it through and sought out a local lactation consultant (a non-hospital recommended one, they’re not truly trained) and no sooner did we schedule an appointment than Liam latched on like a boss and it’s been smooth sailing since.
I guess what I’m getting at is it takes commitment and valor to be able to BF your child, whether in public or private, whenever they need nursing. Some women have a hard time to get to the point where nursing becomes natural, if they’re able to nurse at all. Lestechan (the girl from the video linked above) said it best: “It’s a civil rights issue. [Children] have the right to get their needs met when they are hungry. They shouldn’t have to wait until mom’s in a comfortable place or away from other people to make other people feel comfortable”