Wednesday, August 02, 2006

On the Selfishness of Mothers Who NIP

Mothers who advocate for their babies' rights to nurse wherever and whenever they are hungry have been accused by some of being selfishly unconcerned with the feelings of others. Who is the selfish one, though, really? The mother who puts the needs of baby for nourishment and comfort ahead of her own personal concerns for modesty or the passersby who put their psychological comfort "needs" ahead of the real, physical needs of a baby? I am so tired of being told that I am being selfish. Since becoming a mother, I have learned a whole lot about setting my needs and wants aside in the service of the needs of my children. Aren't the selfish, self-absorbed people those who believe that their needs are more important than the needs of babies and children?

When I was nursing my daughter three years ago, it never occurred to me that I should breastfeed discreetly for anyone's comfort but my own--I nurse as discreetly as I can in public because I prefer not to expose my breasts to strangers. Sometimes, though, when nursing a fussy or distracted baby, even the modest mama finds herself briefly exposed. I grew up with the understanding that it was rude to stare at any woman's breasts and assumed most strangers, polite ones anyway, would do their best to avert their eyes at such critical moments.

I also was taught that I am responsible for my feelings and my reactions to whatever I encounter in the world around me. I don't expect others to put my needs above theirs or those of their dependents. Growing up, I learned that babies often require us to put their needs above our own...even babies who are not ours, because parents deserve our support as they raise the next generation.

If the sight of a mother nourishing her child makes you uncomfortable, avert your eyes. It is the height of self-absorption to demand that busy mothers, some with more than just one child with them as they go about their daily lives, concern themselves with whatever screwed up ideas you have about the wholesome, nourishing act of breastfeeding. If you unwittingly catch a glimpse of a woman's breast while she nurses her child and that makes you uncomfortable, take the time you would've spent complaining to a manager or venting on my blog and look inside yourselves. Why do you believe that your needs supersede those of a baby? What is it about breastfeeding that makes you so uncomfortable? Why do you pervert a something as innocent as a mother feeding her hungry baby?

Think about it.


Anonymous said...

Here's another oddity: there are milk banks in Europe, why not in the US?

I have had two friends with difficulty breastfeeding, at different times. Their nipples were raw -- one had blood in her milk. The lactation consultants at the hospital, and La Leche League, recommended they give their breasts time to heal. The babies were so young that the moms knew that her baby probably wouldn't return to the breast once familiarized with a bottle. I suggested that at least I could supply breast milk -- I had a freezer-full, and could supply for some months. I knew I was healthy, and my friends trusted me. It seems simple to bank milk on a small scale and help out a friend.

To create a milk bank on a larger scale, hospitals or La Leche League would need to provide some security screening for the milk. Our lacation consultants (hospital and LLL) were unable to answer questions about screening for disease, about storage and transfer, about liability.

It's really pretty simple, and the American Red Cross does a bang-up job with blood -- why not milk? Red Cross even has nurses, refridgeration, administrative protocols, local presence, huge financial backing, the ability to publicize.

Maybe it's because of lack of demand?

Part of the lack of demand is b/c mothers still don't value it enough for their kids. In both of my friends' cases, they opted not to use my milk. One was so determined to breastfeed her child, that she painfully gradually got her breasts and her child to unite, weighing her several times daily to make sure she got enough nourishment, trips to the hospital daily. Not something every mother is capable of doing.

The other mom was so distraught over losing her experience of breastfeeding that she was unable to focus on the loss to her baby. She thought it would hurt her emotionally even more to have her baby taking someone else's milk.

Seems like if a breastmilk bank were a natural and publicized alternative when new moms run into roadblocks, there would be more demand, and more supply, and more demand... This is an issue of education, rather than logistics, I think.

Why doesn't LLL joint-venture with the Red Cross on this one?

O Mama Mia said...

aaaahhhhh.... I'm so glad I found you! You speak my mind, mama! I'd be honored if you dropped by my blog this week as I write all about nursing. And if you have pics to share we have a flickr pool open to the public at

caramaena said...

Bravo, well written.

childfree but not a childhater said...

i don't deny any woman the right to feed her baby when the baby is hungry. the baby doesn't understand time or surroundings and gets hungry whenever it wants. when the baby is hungry, the baby should be fed to keep it from getting sick and throwing up, which is bad.


this does NOT entitle a woman to whip out her boob anywhere at any time in order to feed her baby at the expense of other people. one woman sodding modesty and nursing her baby doesn't outweigh the other people who may not like seeing the mom's breast. i have no qualm with any woman who respects other people and feeds her baby somewhere out of the way of large crowds, covers herself up, and doesn't make a big stink about being told, "ma'am would you mind doing that somewhere else?"
a mother with a baby should respect other people the way she wants to be respected herself. she has the right to nurse her baby--but not when other people don't want to see it. it's rude and selfish to do something in public that upsets other people. if you want respect, you ought to give it back, as well.

Rebecca said...

Well said. And exactly what I've been saying in posts in the first section "Article in the Oregonian". Extend some courtesy and it will be returned.

Susan (5 Minutes For Mom) said...

What a great site!

I came here from "O Mama Mia". I also wrote a post about Breastfeeding this week on my blog.

I think nursing is the most wonderful gift and I am so thankful that I endured the early frustrations and I'm now still nursing my 15 month girl.

Velcromom said...

I noticed this: "a mother with a baby should respect other people the way she wants to be respected herself. she has the right to nurse her baby--but not when other people don't want to see it. it's rude and selfish to do something in public that upsets other people. if you want respect, you ought to give it back, as well."

This is based on the old argument that people have the right not to be offended. Unfortunately, this is a myth. There is no such thing as The Right Not to Be Offended. Our grandmothers had it right when they told us, "Offense is taken, not given; practice portion control."

It is also based on the premise that feeding a baby in public is inherently disrespectful and upsetting. That is another false premise. There is nothing inherently disrespectful or impolite about eating. If a person were in my line of sight chewing with their mouth open and I found it rude and upsetting, would everyone find it ok for me to ask that person to put a blanket over their head or eat in the restroom? Could I call over the restaurant manager and have them offer a tablecloth for covering up? Could I have the manager ask them to pack up their meal and leave? I very much doubt it would be ok, in fact I even doubt I'd be taken seriously at all, but that is exactly what people are doing when they ask a nursing mom to cover up or leave.

In fact they are doing even more. They are asking the nursing mom to risk both her milk supply and her breast health. Delaying a feeding looking for a place to nurse can cause engorgement that not only hurts, but might very well back up into a plugged duct which can cause mastitis... very painful for mom. Same thing happens if you give a bottle - your body still expects to nurse and your breasts fill with milk in preparation. Then if you don't nurse or if you feel you have to wait til you get back to your car or someplace "private", it can be the beginning of problems that take days or weeks or more to resolve. It's absolutely unreasonable to ask a woman to risk health problems because someone out there has issues with how babies are fed.

Nursing moms: It is not your responsibility to be aware of and accomodating to every whim and preference of the general public. You are not being rude when you give priority to your baby's need to eat. No one has The Right Not to Be Offended.

Mike said...

Being the great opener of cans of worms that I am, I thought I'd do one of the things I do best: stir the pot a little more! I totally agree that nobody has a right not to be offended, but there's more... nobody has a right to go around gratuitously offending other people for their own amusement. I do not believe for a moment that there is a single nursing mother out there who relishes the opportunity to "whip a boob out" so that she can offend people. Of course there are those puritanical prudes out there who will turn over the most microscopic speck in order to find something offensive about which to whine, but seriously folks... how many nursing mothers do you know who have the time to even think about something as trivial as the number of people they could potentially offend in a given day by going about their normal routines of taking care of their children? I don't know any personally, but if you do exist and you happen to read this comment, then make yourself known to me and I will buy you a beer!!!
You see, I am not afraid to admit that I often enjoy making puritanical prudes squirm by bringing up subjects that trigger their knee-jerk "righteous anger responses" because I find such pathetic mental midgets utterly contemptible and they deserve a swift kick in the arse whenever someone like me is around to give it to them.
Leave the nursing mothers alone! They are the ones who are doing the few good things that anyone in our self-absorbed society bothers their precious self to do. All you whiners would serve the public good by picking something substantive about which to expend all your pent up energy whining about!!!

gardenmama said...

Hey Mike you can buy me a beer :) I'm a moma of four and while I was totally worried and never showed a speck of flesh with my first, I've gotten more busy over the years. I now bike with my husband and kids on our quad bike and nurse down Broadway with the baby in a sling. I nurse wherever I happen to be and if I know I'm in a snooty all the better if I happen to flash some boob around. Mostly so folks can get over it and I can at least make life easeir for my discret friends!

Anonymous said...

Hey anonymous -- there are milk banks in the U.S. Not many, and they're very regional (due to issues of handling and shipping breastmilk, not something which can stand a 24 hour trip cross-country) but there are at least a dozen. Google, my friend, Google!