“A girl’s gotta eat” is all I could say to the stranger staring at me as I nursed my daughter in the park. The woman had a horrified look on her face and if the Prolactin running thru my bloodstream hadn’t been making me feel so relaxed, I might have gone into a tiny rage.
I’d started my morning run thinking I could get back home before my seven week old had to eat but babies aren’t reliable when it comes to schedules and my little girl woke up mid-route. It was a beautiful day and I found a quiet bench in the corner of a park where I thought I’d be inconspicuous. (probably would have been less noticeable if I’d gone topless.)
Something about nursing a baby makes people stare.
I’d like to think things have improved for women and it’s gotten easier to nurse these days. I’m not talking about the inconvenience of finding a private place (that should be the easy part, right?) but the attitudes we face in making the choice to breastfeed or not. Why is an act as personal as breastfeeding so suspect to judging? When did it become so political?
We all learn from history (well some of us anyway) so let me share my theory as to what’s going on with judging a mom on her choice to nurse or not.
When my mom had her babies in the late ’50s and ’60s formulas were popular substitutes for breastmilk and breastfeeding declined in popularity. Formula companies had aggressive marketing campaigns and for awhile, women who breastfed their babies were the ones being treated as the social “outcasts.” The tides turned in the mid 1970’s when coalitions formed to promote breastfeeding so women could learn about the benefits of it, and slowly breastfeeding started becoming more popular again.
Then in 1988, the formula companies started marketing directly to the public by creating infant care bags that included free formula powders, diapers and even blankets in some cases. It wasn’t until 1990, that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) released a statement listing reasons for its opposition to advertising infant formulas to the general public. When I had Adelaide in 1996, I still received one of those hospital “goody bags” filled with formula, coupons for formula and disposable diapers.
The nurses in the hospital showed me how to nurse right after I delivered her. I had access to a lactation consultant (who happened to be a very good, close friend) but many of my friends tried talking me out of breastfeeding, making me feel uncomfortable about choosing to nurse my baby.
Today, breastfeeding still isn’t as popular as formula feeding, but the numbers of women choosing to nurse is growing and there is a ton of marketing showing the benefits of nursing to encourage women to breastfeed.
My point in sharing this information is that it seems regardless of whether a woman chooses to nurse or not, society’s views flip back and forth.
I was lucky breastfeeding worked out for me and I had access to help when things got tough. Some women aren’t as lucky to have that kind of help (it’s easy to stop when ya don’t have support) or they don’t want to nurse their babies. We must recognize that it’s a personal choice no one should criticize.
Women should have the freedom to make this choice for themselves without worrying about society’s response.
For me, breastfeeding was a choice of convenience (and ok, I’ll admit, a little bit of vanity…it truly did help me drop those pregnancy pounds fast). The bonus was having time to bond with my baby. I couldn’t delegate the feeding to anyone else and it made me stop my other chores and actually pay attention to her. Then again, I couldn’t delegate the feeding to someone else and it was tough at times being tied to her schedule. (Those 4:00 a.m. feedings were killer!)
I launched MAJAMAS in the maternity/nursing market with our patented Original Nursing Top – the first tank designed for new mamas that was versatile, responsibly made AND super cute.
We even had a brick and mortar store that offered the MAJAMAS for MAMAS brand, other maternity brands and baby clothing. I can’t tell you how many times a new mom would walk into our store and apologetically say “I’m not nursing my baby. I’m just here for some baby clothes. ”
I was shocked and saddened anyone would make her feel bad.
My motto is “whatever works for you” is the way to roll after having a baby. Its tough enough being a new mom and the last thing we need is to be judged as a new parent.
Why are nursing mothers still being asked to cover up or leave a public place and why are non-nursing mothers made to feel guilty for not breastfeeding?
World Breastfeeding Week is upon us and this year we must look at it differently. We need to use this week as a way to support each other, not to criticize another for choosing to breastfeed or not.
That summer day in the park feeding my baby will be ingrained in me forever. I knew I was doing what I felt was best for my baby, but the woman glaring at me made me feel as if I were doing something obscene. Just as some of my customers felt ostracized for not nursing, I felt that stranger’s wrath in a similar way.
Let’s make World Breastfeeding Week a time to celebrate motherhood!
For those choosing to nurse their babies, feel free to feed them anywhere and remind those glaring at you that you’re using your mammary glands to do what they’re intended for.
For those choosing not to nurse, let’s respect that choice and help to empower those mamas with positive reinforcement rather than with criticism or guilt.
There is so much stress encountered as a new parent. Let’s not add to it by judging.
Remember, we are stronger together and we’re at a point in time when respecting each other, regardless of our personal decisions, is more important than ever.
We’re celebrating World Breastfeeding Week by giving new mamas (nursing and non) 20% off their MAJAMAS for MAMAS order. Browse, buy and enjoy being as comfortable as your baby. Let’s bring support and joy to World Breastfeeding Week, not criticism and shame. You go Mama!
– Germaine Caprio, Company Owner & Designer
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TO HEAR FROM YOU
Where do you stand on breastfeeding & why?
Please share your own thoughts with us – let’s get a conversation started in the comments below! Your comment may even win you a free MAJAMAS garment this week!