The first time I realized that society’s problem with breastfeeding was in fact a problem was early one morning on a small airplane when a lady with an infant son sat down next to me and immediately pulled out her breast and started feeding him. No sooner had he started eating than she started a conversation with me– asking where I was coming from and where I was going, what my major was, what I did in my spare time; all the normal small talk on a plane but it seemed so much more natural. I realized as we had this conversation that I was mildly uncomfortable with the ease at which it was happening, but very aware that if it was 7 AM and I was that hungry I would want to be fed and she was doing the right thing.
On a slightly different note, I find the way we name displays of women’s bodies and men’s bodies disturbing. When a woman is wearing a low cut shirt we think of 50 ways to describe it, few being respectful. However, when a man is doing it, we think of 20 ways to describe it, more are respectful, but still far from all. For some women, finding clothes that fit is really difficult. For tall women, finding shorts that are long enough is a chore. For women with large breasts, finding shirts that aren’t crew necks and completely cover books is also difficult. For breastfeeding women, finding an appropriate time and manner to feed their child is also difficult.
As adults we have a tendency to be very hasty with our judgments, and we tend to judge everybody. We can joke about being “hangry” at our age, but if a baby is hangry, we get upset because we’re annoyed. The poor crying child that won’t stop until it gets fed, but we also don’t want to see him/her being fed. So it seems to me, we back ourselves into a corner. Many people are aware of the benefits of breast feeding, but when it comes to others choices we expect public bottle feeding instead (whether that be pumped milk or formula). However, if it was your own child, which would you prefer? I know that your answer may fall anywhere in the spectrum and that’s a personal choice. I asked a friend with a toddler (that admittedly has similar opinions to my own) for a chat on this issue.
While we were discussing this we talked about covering yourself, how you normalize breast feeding in your life. She pointed out that for her, breastfeeding was normalized from an early age with younger siblings but with her partner, she made an effort to be sure it was also normal. I think this point is something we can all latch on to, anybody can be alright with it, especially if they have a reason to be. I also think an important point that we realize parents have much bigger fears and have to make many choices that go far beyond breastfeeding.
Again, many of us are aware that breastfeeding is what’s best for baby. Yet, our opinions of others don’t match that. We make judgments about the child who looks like they’re outgrowing their stroller, when they might be developmentally or physically delayed and in fact need it. We make judgments about the parents that use strollers instead of wearing children and vice versa based on our own preferences. We get annoyed by children all the time when much of what they do is beyond control. We get annoyed when they get in our way either directly or indirectly. And we blame their parents despite all they have to go through 24 hours a day instead of the five minutes we endure occasionally.
For many people it’s difficult to make the “right” choices. We tend to decide what is right based on what other people think rather than what we personally believe. You don’t have to walk through life believing everybody is doing what they feel is best for themselves and immediate family, but I think it certainly makes things easier. If someone is making what you see as a bad choice, is it because they also view it as a bad choice? Probably not. They’re probably operating under whatever knowledge they have which may be incorrect or incomplete.
The point is, as a society we need to start accepting things we cannot change and educating people to get them to understand why they need to change. This of course goes far beyond the central piece of this blog, but the focal point here is still extremely important and something I don’t feel gets enough attention among all the other issues of our world.