I never imagined that becoming a mom would hinder my ability to enjoy life as I knew it BK (before kids). So when my oldest daughter was about four months old, I bundled her up, popped her in the Baby Bjorn and headed to the Upper East Side for her first trip to the Whitney Biennial. It was an incredible day, lunching with my girls from college and checking out a couple of fabulous baby boutiques en route to the museum. After waiting in a line that curled around the block, my friends and I finally gained entry to the museum and were free to explore just like old times. The only difference was that unlike old times, I now had a sleeping baby strapped snuggly to my chest. No big thing, I figured.
But she was a tiny and powerful thing indeed. And when she woke up and attempted to devour her entire fist (in between frustrated squeals of hunger), my fantasy of freedom came crashing down. Within minutes, my long-awaited trip to the museum had turned into a quest for a quiet place to breastfeed. I knew how to feed J-Jo in a way that didn't allow others to see even a centimeter of skin, so everything seemed fine once I found a bench that was somewhat out of the way – I was relieved, the gallery goers were obliviously swirling around me and J-Jo could finally have lunch. But that still didn't stop my friends from asking "don't you think you should, uh, do that in the bathroom?" All I could think was: I know you didn't just say the bathroom. You want me to get up and go feed my child in a public hotbed of e. coli and possibly even chlamydia? Oh hell no. Rosa would have been proud.
I felt sympathy towards the nursing mother who was recently forced to leave a Delta Freedom Airlines flight because she refused to cover her child with a blanket while nursing discreetly. The flight attendant might have thought she was just doing her job, but she was preventing a mother from doing hers. I know the challenges a parent faces when stuck in public with a nursing baby who happens to be hungry. J-Jo was the type of baby who figured: why should my parents buy Similac when I can get breastmilk for free? She hated bottles and spit out plastic nipples as if we were trying to poison her. It didn't matter if I had pumped first, she wasn't trying to hear it. Her screams sounded so tortured, strangers glared at me with fingers positioned on their cell phones – two seconds away from calling C.P.S. But these glares weren't nearly as piercing as the looks I'd been shot on the random occasions I gave into those cries and begrudgingly began breastfeeding in public.
Considering the amount of flesh flashed in advertisements and music videos, the social stigma attached to breastfeeding just doesn't make sense to me. Not when the average American has been exposed to more of of Mariah Carey's boobs than a random nursing mother's. But despite scientific evidence that breastfeeding has a host of health benefits for a baby the stigma still persists. We live in a culture that sets aside an entire month and designates a color for the fight against breast cancer, but ignores evidence that women who breastfeed beyond thirty-six months can significantly lessen their risk for the disease. I'm not exactly an attachment parent but the statistics – plus the evidence that breastmilk boosts a baby's IQ – was enough to make me a believer.
What do you think: Should breastfeeding mamas get the boot? Or does this society have a warped view of womanhood?