This morning I heard a story on the radio about a man who by studying teeth has been able to tell how long a Neanderthal was breastfed by mother-Neanderthal. As interesting as this is, the real question is whether or not mother-Neanderthal was allowed to breastfeed her baby-Neanderthal in the mall.
I am continually amazed at the commotion about breastfeeding in public! Really?!? It is the most natural thing that there is – ask any baby who does it. It is just eating, folks, that’s all! I find grown adults eating a greasy hamburger with one hand and a clump of salty French fries with the other and a mega-size diet coke with the other in the mall food court far more disgusting than a woman breastfeeding her baby on a bench next to the Gap. What is not natural is for a woman who is fully equipped, experiencing let down when she hears her baby cry, fumbling around trying to find a bottle in the diaper bag to feed her baby. Or having to go to the bathroom to nurse the baby, all because someone gets upset that her breast is not firmly in her bra cup and instead is in her baby’s mouth. Remember, it’s eating, that’s all! Would you want to eat in the bathroom at the Mall? Actually, I found the Nordstrom bathroom a nice place to nurse my babies. They had a wonderful, gently lit anteroom with a comfortable rocker, away from the hustle and bustle of the Mall. I am sure that they put it in for the comfort of the mother and baby as opposed to the comfort of the one who is being offended by the woman FEEDING her baby in the way that God intended. But even in the restrooms that are regularly cleaned, I don’t want to bring my mocha frappe, let alone eat a meal. Why would I want to feed a little baby in there?
When this subject comes up I am usually just really annoyed. But if I think about it long enough, I become greatly offended. Think about it. It is the ultimate in objectifying a woman. As Julia Roberts once said, “They’re only breasts!” Okay, that may be a bad example as she was in bed with Hugh Grant at the time. Thinking of breastfeeding in public as “indecent” is offensive. I did it all the time, and probably most people didn’t know I was doing it. I even did it in church! (Not ever in the pulpit. Now that would have been distracting – mostly for ME). But even if a little skin shows while the process goes on, what is the big deal. The walls of Abercrombie have pictures of bigger than life people who are practically naked! (Which always intrigues me that they are trying to sell you clothes and they do it with pictures of naked people. Maybe they are trying to coax the naked people to buy clothes?? …but I digress.)
A breast has more functions than sexual arousal of people! When we can only think of breasts sexually, we are on our way to thinking of women in a strictly sexual sense. When we do that we limit the spheres where a woman can go. We do that so that she can’t possibly arouse a man (who can go wherever and do whatever he chooses). You think I am over-reacting. Maybe I am. But it was not that long ago in our own history when it was improper for a woman to show her calf in public (and I am not talking about an activity at the state fair). It is not that far away that women are required to cover their entire body, except for their eyes and go out in public only when escorted by a male relative. (There are still Christian versions of this dynamic as well).
Okay, you’re asking how I got from breastfeeding in the mall to burkas and beyond (that could be a name for…never mind). It’s just that we have come a long way, (baby). I was able to breastfeed in public more than 20 years ago. I never fed my babies with a bottle (others did, when I was not around). If I tried, my baby would look up at me and give me the, “You can do better than that” look. Women before me fought long and hard so that I could have many freedoms including breastfeeding my baby in peace…or in the mall.
So, let the poor, sleep-deprived woman FEED her baby in peace. If it bothers you, just go buy a hamburger or go window shopping at Abercrombie. Remember, it’s just eating.