The New York Times published a piece last week in the Fashion & Style section called “Nursing Bras That Show Mothers in More Than Work Mode.’” That’s a loaded title, to say the least. So much of our discussion here at Strollerderby about breastfeeding has centered around the fact that women’s breasts are functional first, sexual second – or at least that they should be viewed that way by the public. Breastfeeding advocates continually argue that a mother’s exposed breasts shouldn’t be viewed as objects of desire but rather vehicles for nourishment.
So what happens then when we mix the sensual with the essential? Are lingerie-style nursing bras in “conspicuous hues like coral or purple, with added features like rhinestones, and coy nicknames like Awakened by Her Desire and She Craved a Little Decadence” a good idea? Or do they confuse an already confusing issue?
Lisa Ebbing, the marketing director at HOTmilk – a New Zealand company that produces nursing lingerie – says, “It’s really about celebrating the sexy woman inside the loving mother.” Women who have purchased HOTmilk products, like 20-year-old Kirsten Cannon, say the items make them feel more desirable. Cannon told the NYT, “I had reached a point that I’d almost forgotten who I was as a woman. I needed a pick-me-up. I needed my husband to look at me like I wasn’t just Georgia’s mom.” Poor girl. I’m sure it’s got to be terribly depressing to have the hard body of a 20-year-old and a husband who you can’t wait to wear a $40 lace panty set in front of. Imagine what it would feel like to be a 34-year-old single mother on the dating scene trying to make due with clearance lingerie from Target? (Ahem.)
All jokes aside, I’m in a different position than women buying nursing lingerie because I’m no longer nursing. I’m not saying pretty underthings don’t have their place (though it took me this many years plus a divorce to realize it’s nice to shave your legs and don some lace every once in a while), but I don’t understand why a woman would want to simultaneously mix business and pleasure, as it were. It’s not that I think nursing mothers shouldn’t also have a sex life – it’s that I don’t understand the need to feel sexy while nursing. Or rather to feel sexy in a way that is so put on and in a way that has nothing to do with the act of nursing itself. Anyone who has ever breastfed a baby knows there’s an intimate aspect to it, and that some women even orgasm while feeding their offspring. (Talk about a confusing experience!) So I don’t really understand the point of nursing lingerie. Isn’t nursing a child sort of sexy in its own right? Not in a lecherous way, but in a sensual, life-giving way. Not in a way that should make nursing mothers feel as if they’re performing a sexual act in public, but in a way that is just downright beautiful. Personally, I wouldn’t want to be married to a man who needed to see me in lace in order to find me alluring during the months I was nursing his child, you know? I divorced a man who looked at me like I was garbage when the doctor told me I should switch to formula because my daughter wasn’t gaining enough weight via breastfeeding, so I don’t ever want to be in a position again where I feel like my best – or my breast – isn’t good enough as is.
I’m concerned that with the advent of sexy breastfeeding gear, women might think that they’re failing if they don’t feel sexy or attractive post-partum while covered in poop and spit-up. I’d hate to think that “being sexy” is yet another burdensome cultural imperative new mothers will feel compelled to live up to. It’s bad enough women feel like they have to shed their pregnancy pounds immediately – now we have to nurse in lingerie before our c-scars have even healed? Good Lord.
Of course some will say that I’m over-thinking this, and that’s fine. There is a very obvious “to each her own” element here. I don’t object to women wanting to doll themselves up, but I also don’t understand what’s so horribly hideous about a plain white nursing bra, either. Designer Heidi Rauch of Belabumbum speaks to precisely what bothers me about the idea of sexy nursing wear. In her mind, the “new crop” of designs play “to the stereotypical end of what is sexy. It’s pushing the edge with rhinestones,” she says, adding, “Our stuff will make you feel better in your skin at a time when everything is feeling different, but it’s not like it’s overtly too sexy.” That sounds more my speed. You?
Enjoying nursing with Babble’s Best Breastfeeding Accessories!