Saturday, 6 December 2014

I'm so tired of this conversation

I've steered clear of wading in on the whole breastfeeding discussion in this blog because - well, frankly, it's been done to death. In the same way that every love story is a retelling of Romeo and Juliet, the thousands of newspaper articles, blog posts and heated Facebook discussions don't seem to be adding anything new to the debate. On one side, we have the "offended". The "uncomfortable". The "I can't handle seeing a titty" committee. On the other, women feeding babies. How does this become a global discussion? WOMEN FEEDING BABIES. What?

But sadly, it is, and Nigel Farage's most recent foray into misogyny in defence of diners at Claridge's whose eyeballs don't work the same way as everybody else's has pushed me over the edge. Yet again, I'm having conversations - sadly, often with people I respect and care for - about why their refusal to turn the other cheek should not infringe upon my physical comfort OR my reproductive rights, never mind the ability of my child to eat in the most nutritious and natural way around.

So let's break down these arguments.  Just why are people so upset about breastfeeding?  

They say:  Having sex is natural and we don't want to see that in public either.

I say:  The moment breastfeeding my baby brings me to orgasm, I promise I will get a room.  And possibly therapy.  And if you think that the desire for sex and the need for food are of the same importance, I wonder if you might not benefit from some time with a shrink too.

They say:  Our bodies were also made to defecate and urinate.  Shall I do that at the table?

I say:  By all means, in your own home.  However, given that you seem unable to differentiate between a bio-hazard and a meal, you'll understand if I turn down your invitation to Christmas dinner.

They say:  But now we have an easier way - formula!

I say:  Perhaps my definition of "easier" differs from yours.  Planning ahead to ensure the correct amount of powder is in a sterile container; finding somewhere clean to prepare a bottle; giving said bottle to a reluctant, squirming infant who isn't fond of a mouth full of plastic; washing and sterilising said bottle and ensuring that all of this is possible at the exact moment a baby demands it is not, in my eyes, quite as easy as lifting up a piece of fabric.  But if you would like to test my theory, you're more than welcome to pay for the formula.  I'll stick with the free stuff, thanks.

They say:  A child that can ask for it is too old.

I say:  Maybe communication isn't your strong point, but you know when my 2 hour old baby cried?  He was asking for something.  If what you mean is "a child that can verbalise their needs is too old", I would love to see the evidence of this.  Last time I checked, punishing babies and children for developing and learning wasn't on the curriculum at Parent School, and taking away something they they love, that is good for them, because their vocal cords have reached a certain point of maturity seems not only unfair, but faintly ridiculous.

They say:  But there are CHILDREN around!

I say:  I know.  One of them is mine.  Should I let mine go hungry so you don't have to have a conversation with yours?  Then we can both be in the Shitty Parent Gang!  Hey, we can build a clubhouse!  No kids allowed, though!

They say:  Just use a cover!

I say:  I agree.  Every breastfeeding mother should carry a cover for those moments when her baby needs to eat in public.  If anybody expresses offence at the horrific spectacle unfolding in front of their (apparently paralysed) eyeballs, she can then put it over their head.  I'm not going to make myself and my baby hot, awkward and uncomfortable to satisfy the arbitrary demands of a random stranger.  If I were to ask that you wear a green sticker on your left knee just because I like it, would you feel obliged to do so?  Even though you'd probably forget it was there after a minute, unlike a breastfeeding cover?  Didn't think so.  

They say:  Can't you just go over there in the corner?

I say:  Unless you're Stephen Hawking, you're going to find it easier to swivel your eyeballs than I am to take myself, a child and all of our paraphernalia off to social isolation for the duration of this feed.  Just pretend I'm a market researcher or a pushy, slightly mad religious zealot on the street and look past me as if I'm not even here.  I promise I won't be offended.

They say:  The toilets are over there.

I say:  I plan to teach my children that we don't shit where we eat.  It didn't work for Clinton and it won't work for my baby.  Plus, metaphor aside, I tend to shy away from small rooms filled with the floating poo particles of strangers when attending to a dietary need.

They say:  But why do you need to post pictures?

I say:  Because you're still asking.  Because it's still seen as something odd, or private, or something to be kept to one side.  It'll never become the norm if it's not treated as something normal.  And you know what?  If I cook a beautiful meal, or run a race, or graduate, or get a really high word score on Scrabble, or have a wonderful time with my son, I take pictures of that.  I'm so happy to live in a digital age where I'm be able to access a visual recollection of my beautiful memories at any time. I document my achievements, my celebrations and my happiness.  Breastfeeding is all of those things.  And in case you're of a nervous disposition, I should warn you that I've documented some of those beautiful moments with my son at the bottom of this post.  If breasts offend you, look away now.

But look, all joking aside, this is a ridiculous argument and I have something to say to those who are against breastfeeding in public (those who are against breastfeeding full stop, I have a lot more to say to you but my mum might read this, so I'll have to bite my tongue).  You're not owed a world without slight discomfort or occasional offence.  My breastfeeding my child demands nothing of you, yet you feel that it is appropriate for you to ask me to put myself out for your benefit.  I don't understand how this came about - should we force all strangers to adhere to our moral code?  How would that work in a world of 7 billion people, all with varying ideas of what is acceptable?  Should I ask you to refrain from ordering steak in a restaurant if a vegetarian sits at the next table?  Perhaps I have asthma - should the rest of the world put away their perfume bottles in case they trigger an attack?  I cannot stand chewing gum - how people look and sound when they chew it, how it gets stuck to my shoe when they don't dispose of it properly - but I'm not starting a movement to deny people the right to minty-fresh breath.  Live and let live, people.  Move on.  Nothing to see here.

My child has a right to eat, and I have a responsibility to provide the healthiest, most nourishing food source I can.  The day you see my 3 month old brandishing a McDonald's french fry, you will be welcome to step in.  Otherwise, understand that I have chosen one of the two options available as a food source for infants, and afford me the same respect you would a woman who chose formula.  

For God's sake, people - even the Pope can handle a bit of side-boob.  Let's worry about the children who are starving, not the children who are eating.

If this is wrong, I don't want to be right.  And I ALWAYS want to be right.


Brianna Hawkins said...

Amen! Way to preach it!

Ginna Shellhammer said...

Awesome!!! Very nice!!!

Jane said...

How very level headed, and beautiful pictures too xx

Brad said...

I'm not against breastfeeding (or seeing your breasts for free in public), but what was the argument for not using a cover? That seems like neutral ground to me. You have the right to breastfeed, but no need to rub it in other people's faces. Now you've gone from breastfeeding to motorboating. Where do we draw the line?


Inadvertent Parent said...

For some reason I can't reply to comments directly, so I apologise. Brad, the argument against using a cover is that it's hot, awkward, uncomfortable and unnecessary. Also, motorboating? Breastfeeding without a cover = motorboating? What?

Then, there's this:

Anonymous said...

@ Brad, My son won't nurse under a cover. You don't eat under a blanket, why should he? He likes to make eye contact with me (one of the best bonding times for an infant is while eating). Breasts are made to feed babies. It is what they do. End of story.