I'm the proud mama of a 2-month-old little boy, and I'm happy to be exclusively breastfeeding him. I'm often in public places when it's time for him to eat, and I'm generally happy to feed him (without a cover, as I find them annoying and difficult) wherever we find ourselves---be it a park, cafe, or friend's home.
However, my husband feels uncomfortable that I do this, and it has sparked tension between us. I don't much care what random observers think about my practice, but I do respect my husband's opinion. On the other hand, I feel as though he's being prudish and controlling...
Dear Baby Mama,
Honey, you gotta let those girls fly. Take the puppies out of the basket. Give your boobs some breathing room. Breastfeeding is hard enough---what with the pumping and the cracking and the soreness and the wardrobe restrictions---you can’t also be worrying about what your husband thinks about Rando Calrissian seeing a nip slip while the baby is getting his lunch.
I can see your husband’s perspective---up until 2 months ago, your breasts were highly sexualized body parts, and, even if you are currently not thinking of them that way, what with the bleeding and leaking and all, he might still be. He is certainly worrying that other men are.
But just to put it in perspective for him, here is an incomplete list of all the men I breastfed in front of, in my 15 month stint: my priest, my father-in-law, all my male friends, my dance instructor, the guy who cleans the laundromat, everyone at every park and restaurant in my neighborhood, the dude sitting horrifyingly close to me on an airplane, my boss, and my city’s entire baseball team. They could all sing to me that snarky little song Seth McFarlane thought was so clever at the Oscars, “We saw your boobs!” And how many shits would I give? Zero. I would give none of the shits.
I found breastfeeding to be alternately the greatest thing ever and shockingly isolating and difficult. So, I began brazenly breastfeeding everywhere I went---I mean, how many dicks have you seen in public, when men whip them out to pee in a corner/on a bush/by the side of the road? WAY too many. Why should they be allowed to relieve themselves wherever, whenever, when I was just trying to give my child some nurturance and get her to stop wailing, for everyone’s sake?
I have no idea how my husband felt about this. It was actually not something he was allowed comment on. It was my body, and I was working so hard to give our baby food from it that my husband would never dream of saying, “Honey? Could you cover up a little? Homeboy behind the counter is giving you a stare.”
But that is my relationship, and this is yours. It is fine for your husband to state his opinion, and sweet of you to care. However, what I’m not game for is him inflicting any kind of shame on you about your choice. Body shame is serious problem, and the oversexualization of women’s lady bits has led to a society rampant with the kind of prudish, controlling behavior you suspect your husband of on the one hand, and a violent underbelly of objectification and rape culture on the other.
Your body is your own. Your breasts are only yours, and what you choose to do with them, especially when you are quite innocently feeding your baby, is your business. I hate to say it, but welcome to the contradictory experience of being a mother, where you’re damned if you stay at home for being too smothering, and damned if you work full-time for being abandoning. You’re damned if you breastfeed in public without covering up, but you’re damned if you pull out a bottle of formula as well.
Like Bob Dylan said, everybody must get stoned. You might as well embrace it now, and get used to mothering this child however you want, making peace with yourself despite those (in this case, including your husband) who may not always understand or agree.
In Mammorial Solidarity,
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