I recently ran across a blog post that posed the question, “Should We Stop Acting Like Breastfeeding is a Big Deal?”
While I agree with a few of her points, I believe that the post is very subjective and the author has blissfully lived in a land of acceptance and privilege and has never encountered the harsh realities that some of us have. But the answer to the question is ABSOLUTELY NOT!
I do agree with the fact that breastfeeding should be viewed as the normal thing to do. It absolutely is the normal thing to do. However, the whole world doesn’t see it that way, and until it does, and mothers are no longer being harrassed for doing such a normal thing, there is a real need for activism in the breastfeeding community.
The author wrote this, which really stuck out to me:
I (like most nursing mothers) was never ever asked to leave or cover when nursing despite doing it front and center in the middle of church, at theme parks, stores, and restaurants and even wedged between two men on many a flight and many other places. I never once had a negative word spoken to me while nursing and lived in three states with widely varying opinions and acceptance for breastfeeding (California, Texas and New Mexico).
Maybe that’s why she doesn’t understand why we should NOT stop acting as if breastfeeding is a big deal. She has never had to deal with the negativity. She’s never been asked to leave the mall while she was breastfeeding her toddler in the play area because the security guard on duty wasn’t made aware of the malls pro-breastfeeding policy. I have, and it wasn’t fun. It was humiliating. It was embarrassing. It should never have happened, and the reason that it did is because I live in Mississippi and just the word “breastfeeding” is associated with a shameful act.
Perhaps she doesn’t understand why we should NOT stop acting as if breastfeeding is a big deal is because she hasn’t been forced to nurse or pump in a filthy bathroom or encountered the glaring looks of her fellow worshipers during church services while she breastfeeds her infant.
Or maybe she hasn’t been called a “child molester” because she was “still” breastfeeding her 3 year old or had her child taken away because he was breastfed longer than what is socially acceptable. She hasn’t been told that she was only doing it for her own pleasure and that she was leaving a permanent scar on her child because of it.
If it were so easy to “just breastfeed as if it were the normal thing to do” the breastfeeding rates wouldn’t be so low and this wouldn’t be an issue.
So it isn’t realistic to say, “Oh, just simply breastfeed.” That’s exactly what we are trying to do. We aren’t trying to make a statement, we aren’t trying to create controversy, nor do we have an agenda. But when these things happen, breastfeeding mothers NEED support. They need others to rally around them and know that there are others who understand and support them. It isn’t about getting blog hits or creating drama. It’s about mothers supporting mothers.
Part of the problem, though, is that it isn’t just that easy. In this hyper-sexualized culture, breastfeeding is the underdog. Many children don’t grow up seeing others breastfeed, and the deficit in the breastfeeding rates is contributed largely to that. Breastfeeding is a right-brain function, therefore, when mothers don’t see it, sometimes they really don’t know how to do it. We are bombarded with books and information on how to breastfeed, but when we over-think it and let the left brain take over, the emotional aspect takes a back burner. The way that we remedy this is by seeing other mothers breastfeed. When we learn from others, we don’t have to “overthink” it too much and that allows the right brain to take over.
So, what happens when we don’t know any other breastfeeding mothers to watch?
This is where social media comes into play for a lot of mothers. In an informal poll on my Instagram account, I asked mothers about their experience with breastfeeding and social media, and if any of them “learned” to breastfeed through social media and immediately got comments like these:
“I totally did!! Y’all I’ll be honest- I never gave it much thought. I wasn’t for or against it. But during my pregnancy I found websites, blogs, etc and discovered just how AWESOME breastfeeding is! And through pages like this one I saw pictures and it made it seem beautiful and natural. I’m proud to say we are going on 8 months ebf and have no end in sight. It’s a beautiful and sweet experience and I’m SO SO SO thankful for social media making it out there and ‘normal’ for mass amounts of people.”“Social media didn”t help me “learn” to breastfeed BUT I did learn a lot breastfeeding in general. But ultimately, taking a breastfeeding class while I was still pregnant was the best decision I ever made. And then having a great LC afterwards. Social media did help me decide to nurse in public!“