Recently Barbara Walters created a stir by complaining on "The View" about a mom nursing her infant in-flight. I didn't see the footage, and I don't care to, but I've really been enjoying the discussions that her off-the-cuff comment have sparked.
I ran into this topic first over at Althouse, and I've shamelessly cribbed Ann's title for this post -- but it fits! I got in about mid-stream in the comments there, but over at Open Book, I was way late to the party, so I didn't bother to comment myself -- even though the comment thread is a hoot. (sorry about the almost-pun)
There's just something about a discussion of breasts, no matter the context, that brings out the jokers, and, since I often have the sense of humor of a twelve-year-old, I think that stuff is funny. (Well, sometimes I do, anyways.) There's a quite serious side to the discussion, too, as we're debating the right of women to nurse their infants in public places. The general consensus is, as long as you're not being an exhibitionist about it, nursing should be OK. But some people are still bothered by the idea of nursing infants anywhere they might happen to be.
What strikes me as funny is that I can remember when I was uncomfortable around nursing moms. Then when I became one, I had so many problems for the first few weeks with DS1 that nursing in public was frankly impossible. When my in-laws, or anyone, came to visit, or when we visited them, I'd hie myself off to the bedroom to nurse in private. It was not an effortless process, and struggling like that in front of anyone would be embarrassing all around.
After a few months, though, DS1 and I were like a well-oiled machine, and it was a simple process. Nursing moms don't wear button-down shirts, we wear big pullovers or t-shirts that we can lift up for easier access, and there's plenty of fabric to drape down and cover what we want to cover. Even if I did wear a button-down shirt, I'd still lift it up to nurse. If you unbutton, you're exposed to the world! That gets chilly unless you're using a blanket, and not one of my babies would ever stand for a blanket.
So once I became accustomed to the process, I nursed in front of everyone. It may have discomfited my father-in-law at first but he got used to it, too. I think he understood that it really wasn't so great for me to have to go hide every 2 or 3 hours just because a baby was hungry. Plus, it's not like I was flaunting anything. I remember once nursing in a Chinese restaurant, tucked away at our table, and being surprised when a complete stranger, a woman, came over to tell me that she thought it was wonderful that I was nursing my baby. How odd, I thought -- she must have really been watching me to tell that was what was going on, because if you just glanced over casually, you never would have known.
I've nursed on planes, but never in a moving car. I've nursed in malls and restaurants and at parks. My friends and I know all the nicest lounges around town, or at least we did when our babies were tiny. We've all nursed in department store dressing rooms, too -- sometimes, those are the most convenient places to sit, especially if you have a toddler in a stroller, too. They find the mirrors very entertaining.
[nursing-related TMI warning]
I nursed my kids for many reasons. First, because I could, although with DD it was a monumental struggle. Second, because I knew it was the best source of nutrition for them. Third, for economic reasons. Nursing saves both time and money, at least when you're a stay-at-home mom as I was.
Reading the comment thread over at Althouse, I was struck by the difficulties some women had -- I had forgotten all about them, even though I had experienced many of them myself! I remember now, in particular, leaking if we went past a usual feeding time, and the feeling that my breasts were just too full. There are times when the milk "comes down", and there's not much you can do about it. You can apply pressure to your nipple and wait for it to subside, but let me tell you -- for many, many months, with each child, I went through a lot of nursing pads. And since nursing makes your breasts bigger anyway, it's very weird adding a pad, but if you don't, you get soaked.
The one upside of that is that mother's milk doesn't stain. Same with the baby's spitup -- it just washed right out of everything. I remember some friends' bottle babies and how they struggled with the spitup stains on everything... because many babies do urp all the time.
Sometimes, when I hear a new baby cry in that particular hungry way, I still get the feeling of phantom milk coming down. It's strange, but it evokes good memories. All of this discussion has me thinking about things I haven't thought about in years. Mother's amnesia has kicked in: I can't believe I went through all that! Three times, no less. It really was awesome, in the original sense of the word.