The other day I was sitting on the couch in the women’s lounge at my athletic club working on my computer, when I overheard a conversation that took place between a group of girls, around 8 or 9 years old. They were attending the club’s summer camp, and I often had spotted them at the pool or in the gymnasium — swimming, playing, and laughing the summer away.
“When I was in here earlier, I saw the grossest thing,” one of them bragged to her pals. “There was a lady nursing her baby, with her boob, right there on that couch!”
A chorus of “ewwws” erupted amongst them. I laughed for a moment. Kids will be kids, after all.
“I am never sitting on that gross couch ever again,” she continued. “It has cooties.”
I thought back and tried to remember if I had seen who the “gross” lady was. And then I realized — it was me.
Before I dropped my 6-month-old off in the nursery so I could get a little work done (yes, I work in the women’s lounge of my gym), I had whipped my boob out and fed her in that very place.
Their laughter stung a little, as I was transplanted back into my middle school bathroom, listening to some mean girl talking trash about my outfit, unaware of the fact that I was peeing in an adjacent stall. But then one second later I remembered that I was a 36-year-old woman and they were just little girls, and I laughed a little too.
When it comes to my own nursing policy, I am not super liberal and try to cover up my nipple and most of my breast during feedings, but I feel as though every woman should decide what they are comfortable with. When dining at restaurants, I cover up because I personally feel strange having strangers stare at my breasts while taking a bite of their steak. However, I have no problem at all whipping out my boob in women’s lounges, playgrounds, and other kid-friendly havens.
The little girl who “ewed” me was probably just being a little girl and saying things that little girls say, but regardless, it got me thinking:
Was I doing something wrong, feeding my child in a place where other children were present?
Sweeping through past encounters in my head, it occurred to me that in the past I had gotten a lot of funny looks from children and teens. There was the too-cool-for-school lifeguard the other day at the pool, who couldn’t stop glaring at me through her aviator shades when she should have been watching the kids splashing around; the two little girls eating lunch with their mom, who curiously kept peeking over at me from in between bites of their chicken nuggets; and the mother who once moved her kids to a different table.
The breastfeeding in public controversy has been sweeping the nation lately, and I feel like as a society we are becoming more accepting of it. Public feedings are becoming normalized, thanks to the many celebrities as well as non-famous women who bravely share beautiful images of their suckling babies. We have opened up the dialogue, but I think the conversation is predominantly taking place between adults.
That’s why I think it’s time that parents start teaching their children that breastfeeding is beautiful.
In the game of raising responsible children, it can be easy to pass over conversations simply because it doesn’t occur to us that they are even worth having. I think breastfeeding is one of those. Because it’s so natural to many of us, we don’t give it a second thought when we see a woman nursing her child, but we forget that our kids are processing it a different way.
I can’t help but wonder if the people who are so against public breastfeeding were raised to believe that there is something wrong with it, or if it was simply a topic that slipped through the cracks of their upbringing?
My son is young, so he probably won’t have memories of his mother nursing his little sister, but there will come a day when I will catch him curiously staring off at another mom feeding her child.
“Isn’t that something?” I will say to him. “There is nothing more beautiful than a mother feeding a baby with her body.”
Because there really isn’t.More On