Monday, February 8, 2016

Breastfeeding in Public. Knowledge is Power.

My Dear People of the Journal,

I knew this subject would be my next story, not because it was on my Blog To Do list, but because I was terribly annoyed and angered by some people's reaction to it in a video I saw on Facebook. The director basically asked a sexy model, wearing this tiny revealing jean shorts and a minuscule top exposing her breasts pretty much down to her nipples to stay in various public locations, from a mall to a bus stop and see people’s reactions to her.

And then they took this young mom, dressed in jeans and a sweater, barely letting out some of her neckline and asked her to do the same. If I hadn’t known what the video was about I couldn’t have said that she was breastfeeding because she was holding the baby in a sling.

At some point they were both sitting on the same bench in the bus stop and this young guy comes along and gestures at the mom. “Why are you doing this? It’s disgusting!” At which she asked why she is disgusting when he couldn’t see anything off her breast while right next to her there was a woman basically showing off everything on her chest. He went “well that is sexy!” I can’t explain the logic behind that man’s perception of why feeding a baby is disgusting, but I can tell you for sure it pissed me off. It only made me wonder how he would react when his wife will feed his baby. Will he find her breasts disgusting as well? I am sure it wasn’t disgusting when he was “sucking” on them before she got pregnant. Grrrr!

Which brings me to the starting point of this entry. Obviously I am not a mom yet so I had to do some research before putting this down and while I was at it I discovered many intriguing and new things. New as in I had never thought them to be possible, but as long as you don’t go through the experience itself, then you can’y ne knowledgeable that way.

So first thing that attracted my attention is mothers' perception as to what family members believe they look when breastfeeding. I mean. if you leave home already cringing the idea of being unattractive in front of a loved one, than what can you expect to feel when someone throws you a shameful look!

In a recent study, pregnant women were asked to predict what their partners’ attitudes toward breastfeeding would be. Surprisingly, their responses were highly inaccurate (hardly better than random guessing). Most believed that their partners were far more negative about breastfeeding than they actually were.

For this reason, it’s important to share your feelings about breastfeeding and new parenthood with your partner whenever possible. Such conversations can help preserve the intimacy of your relationship during the physically challenging early months, while also supporting your partner in her breastfeeding efforts at a time when every encouraging word helps.

If you love the sight of her breastfeeding your baby, tell her how it makes you feel. If you consider her nursing mother’s figure is just as sexy, let her know. Share with her your pride in her commitment to breastfeeding as she breastfeeds in public and makes herself available to satisfy your child’s hunger at all times.

Such words of support and affirmation can act as a highly effective aphrodisiac for many new mothers (if not now, then later) and may improve your relationship even as they ensure your child’s continued good health.

More experienced moms (already at their second child) do not succumb to social pressure that easily. Because they have been there once before. But as a new mom, with “no baby raising manual” at hand, putting up with your body issues, new baby issues, new household environment etc that comes with this huge change in a couple’s life, is much more prone to taking things at heart.

Breasts tend to be considered sexual objects and while it is just fine to expose them falling out at the pool in a bikini, or in advertisements for just about any product you can think of, many people feel that there is something disgusting about that same breast when it has a baby attached to it.

It is believed that because the previous generation bottle fed their babies, so many people have not seen many women breastfeeding outdoors. That’s one reason that a mother nursing in public has a degree of “shock value” and is considered by many to be a private activity that should only be conducted behind closed doors – or in bathroom stalls. Breastfeeding is not an excretory function, and there is no reason to hide when you feed your baby. How would you like to eat your lunch in a public restroom?

Of course the debate goes back and forth over this theory with other moms saying that the judgment they have experienced as a formula feeder pales in comparison to that of breastfeeding mums. In fact one of them accounts that “Maybe this varies based on where you live, but I’ve breastfed all over in public and not received so much as a second glance. Hauling out the formula bottle I got looks of disgusts, left out at the library baby group and approached by total strangers who wanted to tell me how to breastfeed. For me the two criticisms cannot be compared. As a formula feeder who wanted to breastfeed I think the criticism was just that much more painful because I so badly want to feed my baby girl and I already felt guilty about not being able to. It was like kicking me while I was down. If someone made a comment about my breastfeeding I would more confidently tell them to fuck off because I am happy with my situation right now.”

So who decides what’s best for the babies? A woman (like my mom for example who barely had milk for three days!) who cannot breastfeed because of physical issues and simply cannot make the milk happen has to bottle feed. With the new tide of fighting for longer/public breastfeeding the bottle feeding mums get cornered as well.

We have to understand that every nursing mom will try her best to give her baby the proper nutrition and care according to her condition.  Also every nursing mother has a different “comfort level” when it comes to how she nurses when she is out and about with her little one. Some are more self conscious or modest than others. Some use covers and others don’t. Some will cover up in some situations, such as attending meetings or attending family gatherings, but not in the park or at the pool. Some will pump the milk and put it in bottles. New moms who are still getting the hang of breastfeeding a newborn may feel more comfortable nursing in a  private spot, especially in the beginning when it may take a bit of adjusting to get the baby latched on. Mothers with active toddlers often find that it’s easier to get their little ones to settle down to nurse in a quiet spot with fewer distractions.

Considering that they are still viewed in some places as “abnormal” here are some tips I found as to how to nurse your baby in public without attracting much attention:
  • ·     Have a positive attitude. Find a comfortable spot, whether it’s on a bench in the park, in a dressing room, or in a restaurant booth. You’ll need space not just to feed your baby, but also to put your diaper bag, purse, stroller, and/or settle your toddler with a snack or toy.
  • ·         Create your own “privacy zone”. Have a friend assist if one is available.
  • ·         Wear two piece outfits, or clothes with nursing slits.
  • ·         Carry a blanket to throw over the baby once he settles down and starts nursing.
  • ·         Baby slings can double as hands free carriers and are one way to NIP without anyone noticing.
  • ·         Pay attention to your baby’s hunger signals.

If it seems ironic to be concerned about covering up your breast while nursing, while women with silicone boobs are strolling around in thong bikinis, that’s because it is. If you think Facebook is hypocritical when they delete pictures of moms nursing their babies because they deem them “inappropriate and offensive to children”, while they allow pornographers to blatantly post pages showing really offensive and demeaning photos, it’s because you’re right. (by the way Instagram now allows breastfeeding pictures).

The stigma attached to nursing in public isn’t fair, and it doesn’t make sense.

The fact is that many people are uncomfortable seeing a woman’s breast in any setting (unless it’s on the red carpet following a “wardrobe malfunction”!). And of course, there are still going to be those in the lunatic fringe who think that nursing in public is either a) sexual, and they like to stare, or b) think that women who nurse in public are exhibitionist pedophiles hell bent on corrupting their innocent children.

Breastfeeding is so much more than a "milk delivery system". Babies nurse not only because they’re hungry, but because they’re tired, frightened, sick, or stressed. Often they nurse because they simply need the closeness and skin to skin contact with mama that makes them feel safe and secure. Breasts are Mother Nature’s original pacifier, and there is absolutely nothing wrong with using your breast as a way to comfort your baby as well as feed him your milk.

Breastfeeding – if your body allows it - among many other things, presents a number of benefits that only this kind of “product” can possess. From the milk itself which is the best medicine for the baby’s immunity to the psychological effects it has for the mother-baby bond. Here is a short list of things I found:
1. A healthier baby
“The incidences of pneumonia, colds and viruses are reduced among breastfed babies,” says infant-nutrition expert Ruth A. Lawrence, M.D., a professor of pediatrics and OB-GYN at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, N.Y., and the author of Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession (Elsevier-Mosby). Gastrointestinal infections like diarrhea—which can be devastating, especially in developing countries—are also less common.
2. Long-term protection, too.
Breastfeed your baby and you reduce his risk of developing chronic conditions, such as type I diabetes, celiac disease and Crohn’s disease.
3. Stronger bones
According to Lawrence, women who breastfeed have a lower risk of postmenopausal osteoporosis. “When a woman is pregnant and lactating, her body absorbs calcium much more efficiently,” she explains. “So while some bones, particularly those in the spine and hips, may be a bit less dense at weaning, six months later, they are more dense than before pregnancy.”
4. Lower SIDS risk
Breastfeeding lowers your baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome by about half.
5. Fewer problems with weight
It’s more likely that neither of you will become obese if you breastfeed him.
6. A calorie incinerator
You may have heard that nursing burns up to 500 calories a day. And that’s almost right. “Breast milk contains 20 calories per ounce,” Lawrence explains. “If you feed your baby 20 ounces a day, that’s 400 calories you’ve swept out of your body.”
7. It’s good for the earth
Dairy cows, which are raised in part to make infant formula, are a significant contributor to global warming: Their belching, manure and flatulence (really!) spew enormous amounts of methane, a harmful greenhouse gas, into the atmosphere.
8. Better healing postdelivery
The oxytocin released when your baby nurses helps your uterus contract, reducing postdelivery blood loss. Plus, breastfeeding will help your uterus return to its normal size more quickly—at about six weeks postpartum, compared with 10 weeks if you don’t breastfeed.
9. Less risk of cancer
Breastfeeding can decrease your baby’s risk of some childhood cancers. And you’ll have a lower risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer, an often deadly disease that’s on the rise.
10. An unmatched feeling of power
“It’s empowering as a new mother to see your baby grow and thrive on your breast milk alone,” Lawrence says.
11. A custom-made supply
Formula isn’t able to change its constitution, but your breast milk morphs to meet your baby’s changing needs. Colostrum—the “premilk” that comes in after you deliver—is chock-full of antibodies to protect your newborn baby. “It’s also higher in protein and lower in sugar than ‘full’ milk, so even a small amount can hold off your baby’s hunger,” says Heather Kelly, an international board-certified lactation consultant in New York City and a member of the Bravado Breastfeeding Information Council’s advisory board.
When your full milk comes in (usually three to four days after delivery), it is higher in both sugar and volume than colostrum—again, just what your baby requires. “He needs a lot of calories and frequent feedings to fuel his rapid growth,” Kelly explains. “Your mature milk is designed to be digested quickly so he’ll eat often.”
12. More effective vaccines
Research shows that breastfed babies have a better antibody response to vaccines than formula-fed babies.
13. A menstruation vacation
Breastfeeding your baby around the clock—no bottles or formula— will delay ovulation, which means delayed menstruation. “Breastfeeding causes the release of prolactin, which keeps estrogen and progesterone at bay so ovulation isn’t triggered,” Kelly explains.
“When your prolactin levels drop, those two hormones can kick back in, which means ovulation—and, hence, menstruation—occurs.”
Even if you do breastfeed exclusively, your prolactin levels will eventually drop over the course of several months. Many moms who solely nurse will see their periods return between six and eight months after delivery, Kelly adds; others don’t for a full year.
14. Less time off work
Your baby will be ill less often, so that means fewer sick days for you.
15. It’s cheap!
According to La Leche League International, the cost of formula can range anywhere from $134 to $491 per month. That’s $1,608 to $5,892 in one year!
16. A great way to learn about your baby
“You have to read your baby’s ‘satiety cues’ a little better, because unlike with a bottle, you can’t see how much he’s eaten,” Kelly says. “You have to rely on your own instincts and your baby’s behavior to know when your baby is full.”
17. You can stash the condoms—for now
Breastfeeding can be 98 percent to 99 percent effective as a post-baby birth control option if a few guidelines are followed: Your period must not have resumed; you must breastfeed at least every four hours around the clock; you must not give your baby any pacifiers, bottles or formula; and you must be less than six months postpartum.
According to Kelly, nighttime feedings are the most important to the “lactation amenorrhea method,” so do not let your baby (or yourself ) sleep through a feeding. “Going long stretches at night without nursing seems to be directly responsible for the return of ovulation,” she says. Prematurely sleep training your baby can also hasten ovulation.
18. There’s nothing easier
Simply pull up your shirt and nurse. Breast milk is always available and always at the right temperature.
19. Benefits for all
According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, the United States would save about $13 billion per year in medical costs if 90 percent of U.S. families breastfed their newborns for at least six months.

In my conclusion I will mention – because I can’t possibly miss to! – Pope Francis who is unafraid of the breast. One Sunday he invited mothers to freely feed their hungry children during the baptismal ceremony at the Sistine Chapel. Where one might see scandal, Francis saw the natural order of things. 
"You mothers give your children milk and even now, if they cry because they are hungry, breastfeed them, don't worry," he said, according to Reuters.

As a nursing mother said as per Pope Francis' reaction to public breastfeed - “When I began breastfeeding — after the first few weeks of agony — I found it both sublime and unnerving. A suckling baby is something to behold. But the act of nursing in public, or even around friends and family, demands an entirely new kind of physical vulnerability. Sometimes I found myself using the word "nursing" as a euphemism if I felt timid about saying "breast," a nervousness I credit to my own modest Catholic upbringing. Those feelings diminish with practice, and with the absolute reality of what it means to feed an insatiable baby.

I don’t breastfeed in public to be confrontational; I do it because my daughter is hungry and I refuse to stay cloistered at home, sitting in the same nursing chair, staring at the same buttercup-colored walls. I do it to preserve my own sanity, but also so that my daughter can experience the vibrant sensations of the world outside. I get to watch as she gazes at redwood trees or focuses on the thin blue line of the ocean’s horizon or gleefully smiles at another baby.

If giving her these experiences means breastfeeding in public and possibly making someone else uncomfortable, I’ll happily take that chance. Sometimes I use a nursing cover, but my daughter often gets lost in the extra fabric, her hands flailing and head bobbing from side to side. That just seems unnecessarily complicated."

So let me just say this. I hope my man finds breastfeeding adorable and sexy. Because you know what? Nothing should be sexier for a male than the knowledge that his woman is feeding his baby, the same woman he decided to impregnate with his future. And if anything, he should “clean” those milk drops left behind. I don’t think that’d hurt when most moms get their sex life back about 2 months post-partum. I also hope he is not embarrassed by me wanting to nurse in public and  will act as my shield to both give me that private space I need and also fend off those who complain about it.

Consequently to this research I can see how easily it is for a new mom to succumb to other people’s criticism of such a natural act. If a mom-to-be already comes in with her own fears of how she will be perceived by family members; - also if some of them are “lucky” enough to have their hormones triggered during breastfeeding and feel aroused by it – which leads them to feel ashamed, weird, improper mothers etc (a taboo subject among many mums), then going out there to handle more negativity can only worsen the situation.

Public breastfeeding should be seen as natural rather than a bizarre prelude to sinful thoughts. Even now, writing my statement of “freedom” as to my future public nursing, I am scared. Because people can really bring you down if they want to and a mother should focus on enjoying her baby and not worry about people’s opinions of whether she is doing the right thing or not. As long as we accept pornography on TV, extreme exposing fashion sometimes and almost 90% nudity in lingerie shops, you cannot possibly support the idea that showing half a breast when feeding a baby is disgusting.

Knowing what breastfeeding entails for both the mother and the baby is powerKnowing that a nursing mother doesn’t sexualize her breasts and neither do the kids who see her nurse (unless they are taught that way) is powerKnowing that one must be tolerant and respectful towards such a display is also power. Telling a nursing mom that what she is doing is disgusting and that she cannot “disturb” you with that image is judgmental. If I walk up the stairs with a large lady in front of me who wears thin transparent yoga pants where I can see their red thong and possibly their pads, is ultimately “disturbing” to me. I never stopped one to tell them that. Seeing a young man wearing his jeans literally half way down his ass, walking around in his boxers pretty much surely is “disturbing” to me and kills my friggin’ “erection”! I never stopped one to tell them that either. I just look away. There are many things out there that bother us according to our views, principles and believes. But as long as they don’t directly involve you or jeopardize you in any way, I think you can let it go and walk away. Try to make a point when it really matters and remember that perhaps your way is not necessarily the right way. The truth is not absolute.

Wish the best of luck and lots of love to all the mums and daddies out there. 
It’s the most important job you’ll ever undertake.

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