Imagine this: A mother is out and about with her young child. They have errands to run and friends to meet. Mom packs a few diapers for the road, maybe a change of clothes, and a baby carrier. They visit a clothing store, a playground, and a restaurant. Throughout the day, baby needs to eat. When she does, mom simply sits and brings baby to her breast; in the middle of a meal, mid-sentence, or in a baby carrier while mom shops. No one notices. No one cares. No one judges what she covers or doesn’t cover because nursing is so commonplace, her breasts don’t even cross their minds.
This is the world I imagine for my daughter and my daughter-in-laws, should they choose to nurse
their children. I don’t want them to view breastfeeding as limiting or secluded or a hot-button issue. I want them to be able to nurse a baby and feel they can continue participating in a family gathering, sitting in a church service, eating at their favorite restaurant, or doing whatever they choose, without discomfort or judgment.
This is also the world I envision for myself. I’m not looking to be an activist or a “lactivist,” but the cultural norms in the United States around breastfeeding became increasingly frustrating for me while nursing my last baby. Breastfeeding a baby should not mean stopping every public activity and finding a secluded (often uncomfortable) place, just so even the thought of a breast doesn’t disturb someone.
“Mother’s lounges” should be available for women who want to nurse in quiet or seclusion, but not an expected destination. No one should be compelled to leave a room for 30 minutes (give or take) at a time to nourish their baby. These rooms should have companion places for fathers who want to soothe, rock, change, or feed a baby as well. If breastfeeding were more normalized, these places could be one and the same.
Even when I felt more self-conscious about the opinions or concerns of others while nursing, the big business of nursing “modestly” disturbed me. If you don’t want to drape a stifling blanket or sew your own covers, you’re faced with over-priced nursing tanks and covers. All of this time and money, just so no one will catch a peek of my back, a bit of my tummy or a glimpse of the crest of my breast – all considered elegant in an evening gown, exciting on a magazine cover, or acceptable at the beach.
Nursing should be as much of a non-event as bottle feeding. The level of acceptability shouldn’t be dependent on how covered a woman is, where she chooses to nurse, whether she feeds with a breast or bottle, or the age of her child. It should be as odd to hear someone say, “Did you see that woman breastfeeding there?” as it would be to say, “Did you see that woman bottle feeding there?” Ultimately, however you choose to feed your baby, the following is true: