15 February 2009

Political Breastfeeding

Yesterday I sat and breastfed my lovely two year old in *front* of the "modesty screen" in a large cafe. When Martin came back with our drinks he found us happily nursing under a large sign indicating the area behind the screens as being "for nursing mothers".

This made my day, in some small way. The freedom to say, quietly and politely, that I will feed my toddler wherever I am comfortable.

A young mother on a table close by eventually came past us to nurse her own tiny baby behind the screens. I wonder how she felt to sit behind there, away from the rest of her family, if she felt she had no choice or if she wanted the peace and quiet. I wonder whether seeing us there made her feel she could choose to stay at her table if she wanted to.

If Morgan had been very distracted I might have decided to seek out somewhere quiet myself (or, now that she's older, more likely just stopped the nursing session). I didn't make the decision to nurse, not to nurse, where to nurse, based on making a statement either - she climbed onto my lap and I knew she was tired and fed up, so I offered her the milk.

It *shouldn't* make a statement. It should just be normal. It should simply be OK for me to feed Morgan wherever I'm comfortable being with Morgan, without thinking about what anyone else might think. But nursing my toddler is a political statement in itself. Let alone where anyone might see us!

I haven't had enough sleep. I'd probably make more sense if I had... Yesterday, I felt simply happy that I felt safe and confident enough to be normal with my toddler. Today I feel sad that this isn't always the case, not for me and not for anyone else. Today I wonder how the world will ever be changed.

Is it possible that my daughters will be permitted to mother in public without fear of the consequences? At least, I suppose, it is possible that in this family they can grow up with some kind of emotional immunisation against the world and who it thinks they ought to be. After all, my mum gave me this gift - not only by having breastfed me. By sharing with me my whole life the values that made her want to breastfeed, succeed at breastfeeding, and learn from that relationship.

Breastfeeding taught me a lot of my mothering. It taught my own mum a lot of HER mothering too. And my own mother passed on her mothering skills, and her breastfeeding skills. What a gift! OK, now I feel blessed again. :)


  1. Was that a well-known cafe you were in or a local one? I've never seen a 'modesty screen' and I don't think I would sit apart from my family in order to disappear behind it. However, I did find myself sitting in the family toilet in Bluewater shopping centre on Friday nursing Tilly. I don't know why I was there, I wasn't really thinking about it, and I'm not usually worried about feeding in public. It just somehow seemed easier *sigh*. I'm reading 'Food of Love' at the moment and it's WONDERFUL, have you read it? xx

  2. Modesty screen? What a load of tosh! I've never seen one of these but if I do I'm going to breastfeed right in front of it as well..... with someone else's baby if mine isn't avalible!

    grr, it's one of those annoying things..."we're breastfeeding friendly...as long as you do it somewhere we can't see you1"

    Well done you!!

  3. This would be in Ikea actually lol, where we had gone to find new bedding for Jenna's grown up bunk beds.

    I'm glad that any nursing mother who found it difficult to feed in the cafe has that option - two years ago in Ikea I remember taking Jenna and feeding her in the toilets (because she was too squirmy with so much noise around us), and someone coming up and helpfully closing the cubicle door on us. I opened it again.

    But oh to really feel that nobody would care where or how I fed her. Oh to feel that the screen was only there to offer an option, not to segregate me as an embarrasment.

    Most of all, what about posting nice big art canvasses of nursing mothers everywhere? That would probably restore the balance a little. ;)

  4. Good for you for feeding in front! In almost 5 years feeding I have never gone to somewhere 'special' to feed, apart from when I wanted to get away from everyone else!! The only time I remember feeling somewhat timid was on a flight from Wellington to Tauranga, which happened to be full of suited business men! The plane was very small and we were all VERY close to each other. Maia needed feeding and I have to say I did think twice but then thought what the heck! My thinking was that if any of them took offence it was there problem and isn't a quiet toddler better then a screaming toddler?! In fact, no-one batted an eyelid. x

  5. What will they think of next? No don't answer that, I'd rather not know! I love the idea of political breastfeeding! Just got to get out of the house more!

  6. Good for you. Wish I had been in the same cafe and I would have joined you. How about a mob of breastfeeding mothers in front of the screen...? Would make a great photo me thinks!
    Uma x


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