She rode happily in her stroller, taking in all the scenery, while I tried on clothes and bought some makeup. (Seriously, she already loves to shop at 4 months old. She is my child.) About an hour and a half into the shopping trip, she got a bit fussy, so we stopped so I could feed her. We found a nice little bench outside, parked her ride and sat down to nurse. (Note: The outlet mall we went to is an outdoors rather than in, so walking from one store to the next is all outside.) She was nursing quietly, as I sat and watched shoppers stroll by. I didn't pay much attention to her, but I saw a woman pass, and looked up just as she turned and started coming back towards us. She approached me, and this is how our conversation went...
Her: You know, they have restrooms here for that.
Me: (Shocked, looking for words) Um, no thanks.
Her: Well, don't you have a blanket you could cover up with?
At this point, I'm gaining my composure and realizing that this is actually happening. When she first approached, I was so shocked, I didn't really know what to say.
Me: It's 95 degrees out here. I'm not covering her. She'll burn up!
Her: Which is why you should just take her into the restroom where it's cool.
Me: (Angry now) Seriously!? You must be one of those women who think God gave us these things for men to gawk at.
Her: (Stumbles a bit) NO, I breastfed all three of my children, but I had the decency to do it in the restroom while I was out in public.
Me: Yeah, I'm not doing that. I'm not ashamed to feed her. She's going to eat right here. If you're offended, don't look!
She didn't say another word, just turned on her heel and walked off in a huff. I was stunned. I was beside myself. My hands were shaking, I was so angry. I didn't understand why this woman wanted to humiliate me and make me feel dirty for breastfeeding.
What made it more confusing to me is that this incident occurred one day after a good friend of mine told me of the struggle she is having with her company after returning to work from maternity leave. She went back to the office last week after 3 months of leave, and was promptly asked by management to write down all of her pumping times so that they could keep track of how much time she was spending doing so. At the end of the week, during her review, they also asked her not to store her breast milk in their fridge anymore because "someone complained." She told me that she was certain she knew who this complainer was because, get this, he called her AT HOME AFTER WORK HOURS and told her he was anti-breastfeeding. Come again?? He said to her, "Why can't you just give her formula?" and suggested that since her baby is sleeping through the night and she goes all night without feeding, it shouldn't be much different going all day without pumping or nursing.
So, I tell my friend to write any and everything down that happens from now on with her company where pumping is concerned. This guy is obviously an idiot, and her company seems to be doing everything in their power to discourage her or make it harder for her to continue the breastfeeding relationship with her daughter.
Imagine my surprise when I fire up the internet this morning and find that many of my favorite blogs are buzzing about this article written by Rabbi Shmuley stating that breastfeeding can drive a wedge between couples. I started reading the piece and the more I read, the more hot my face became. I thought about my friend and her co-workers rude comments to her. I had a little flashback to the disgusted look of the woman waving her finger at my nursing. Then, I got to this part of the article, "Furthermore, I said, her obsession had turned one of her most attractive body parts into a feeding station, an attractive cafeteria rather than a scintillating piece of flesh," and my head exploded. He, just like the woman at the mall and my friend's co-worker subscribe to the idea that God gave us breasts for the satisfaction of men. It's not only insulting and maddending, it's flat out wrong.
He goes on to say, " Obviously, breast-feeding is not the same as carrying on an extramarital affair.
He says that if a mother is tired from waking to breastfeed the baby, that she'll be too tired to be intimate with her husband. Rabbi Shmuley never once mentions that getting up, mixing formula and washing bottles in the middle of the night also requires that you be awake and therefore would leave a mother just as exhausted.
He advises that women should cover up while breastfeeding in their own homes to save their husbands from having to see them nurse. Because, God forbid that he actually see breasts for what they are, a source in which to nourish his offspring. Obviously there aren't any men out there who would look at this act taking place, and actually have MORE love for the woman who has carried and given birth to his child and is now providing food for them. Not only is this article insulting to women, it's highly insulting to the fathers who the rabbi paints as being so shallow they can't see past breasts anything other than sexual play toys for their arousal.
The article also states that "breast-feeding is usually the best thing for a baby." Apparently the rabbi missed this article, because now more than ever, the evidence shows us that there is no nourishment for our babies that is superior to mother's milk.
I said on my blog not too long ago that we need more support when it comes to breastfeeding, and these three examples are exactly what I was talking about. My friend's co-worker, the woman at the mall, and the rabbi all attempt to shame and sabotage the breastfeeding relationship that many mothers fight so hard to establish and maintain. Whether it be from ignorance or something else all together, that is the result.
But what I love about breastfeeding mothers is that we will not let them win this battle. Nature and science is on our side in this one, ladies. Don't ever let anyone make you feel dirty or shamed for nursing. Whip those boobs out and feed your babes as you see fit. The real men out there will love you more for it, not in spite of it.