Home Home About Zen Mama Contact

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Expert Advice on "Breastfeeding" Without Controversy (or Quotation Marks)

I was recently more than a little irked by some "I support breastfeeding, BUT..." comments, which, as we all know, means they do not support breastfeeding. They were in response to the piece I wrote on the topic (click here to read it). As a result, I went looking for more on the harm of Modesty Doctrine on breastfeeding. I found some good stuff. Then I found this: Expert Advice on "Breastfeeding" Without Controversy. I immediately thought, "Oh, this has GOT to be satire. I mean, quotes around breastfeeding and everything!" It read on. It wasn't. I about lost my lunch and peed from hysterical laughter all at once. It seems to need some slight dramatic complete revision, so I've taken on the task. You're welcome, Ms. Trasancos.

Nursing doesn’t have to be controversial. Too often the conflicts over breastfeeding in public turn into a debate about whether the woman has a right to expose herself in public or not. One side says it’s natural and the woman is justified, the other side says she isn’t because, frankly, it makes people uncomfortable.

Ok, so, maybe not COMPLETE revision. This part is fine.

When I was younger, I was in the first category, a me-first mentality and the media seems to encourage that mindset. “Look what a great mom I am!” For me, that need to show-off was a compensation for the compromises and insecurities of trying to appear liberated. As I nurse this seventh child now, I realize my approach to nursing has changed, drastically. Age? Experience? Faith? (Exhaustion?) A lot of reasons.

Um, treading dangerously close to some very ugly territory, but as she's only just speaking of her own feelings, I'll let it slide...for now.

First, that compulsion to prove myself vanished. I’m happy, confident, and proud in my home, and if I must go somewhere, then I am prepared to find an enclave. Nursing, like it or not, is private, and a woman is not oppressed if she has to excuse herself to feed her child. It’s a considerate gesture, an act of propriety, to acknowledge those around you — basic good manners.

Ok, ok, ok...let the revisions begin!
Actually, I'll go back to that last paragraph just for kicks.

When I was younger, I was in the first category, a me-first mentality. While the selfish mentality has long gone (thankfully!), I have maintained my place in this category. In fact, I have solidified that place and I realize my approach to breastfeeding is all about my son's needs. My insecurities with my body have all but disappeared, I have to make no compromises for society's odd hang-ups about the human breast, I am completely liberated, as is my son. The reasons: age, experience, faith in my son and myself, exhaustion in attempting to conform to social norms that are both outdated and anti-woman and child...a lot of reasons.

First, that compulsion to prove myself vanished. I'm happy, confident, and proud in my home. I'm just as happy, confident, and proud outside of my home. If I must go somewhere (the homebody that I am sees most outings as a 'must'), I am prepared to breastfeed wherever we are. Breastfeeding, like it or not, is normal and natural, and a woman must not be oppressed into finding somewhere else to feed her child. Expecting someone to do so is inconsiderate, an act of impropriety, a dismissal of the rights of the mother and child in favor of the squeamish wants of those around them - basic bad manners.

Moving on.

Second, because it will happen, when I have no choice but to nurse in front of other people, I do it discretely. It doesn’t have to be a big deal, and a woman’s attitude can put others at ease. Cover up with a blanket, focus on the baby, and do what needs to be done. This may seem insignificant, but refraining from eye contact will do much to maintain a little private bubble. [3] Chances are, no one will even notice, and your mini-withdrawal will put them at ease if they do. Once the baby’s situated, carry on. People don’t mind knowing you are nursing, it’s the risk of exposure that makes them nervous. Understandably so. Nursing is intimate.

No, no, no. This will never do.

Second, because it will happen, when I have no choice but to breastfeed in front of other people (again, the introverted homebody in me makes my first choice to be with only my husband and son), I do it (and I spell it correctly). It isn't a big deal. My attitude of it being a non-issue puts others at ease. I covered once. It sucked. It was a hassle, an extra and unnecessary step, and prevented me from making eye contact with my son. Never again. Now, I just do what needs to be done. This may seem insignificant, but making eye contact with not only your babe, but those around you will, again, show others that what you're doing is a non-issue and put them at ease with you. Keeping yourself in a little private bubble is alienating yourself from the world and showing others that what you're doing is something of which to be ashamed or embarrassed. Chances are, no one will even care that you're breastfeeding unless you make a big deal of it by hauling out the cover and getting yourself and your babe all situated. Keep calm and breastfeed on. People don't care and those who get nervous have a personal problem that is none of your concern. Breastfeeding is no biggie.

Much better.

Third, I simply let myself enjoy it. It’s not a competition and babies grow too fast anyway. These are precious moments. So what if you have to make temporary sacrifices? So what if you have to learn, by sometimes failing, to navigate uncomfortable scenarios graciously?

Third, I simply let myself enjoy it. I refuse to teach my son, as he is growing all-too-quickly, that he must bend and sacrifice based on senseless social stigma.


Last, using a more appropriate word helped me orient my thinking. “Breastfeeding” sounds so utilitarian. I prefer to call it “nursing” which implies loving care. Moms nurse the child in the womb, and into adulthood. Every stage comes with its challenges and joys, so let the first years be intimately special, and leave the controversy for another day.

Last, I choose to purposely call it breastfeeding (no quotation marks) as opposed to nursing. Nursing, in some countries, means the simple act of holding someone lovingly. I prefer to call a spade a spade and not downplay the importance of that terrifying word - breast [*gasp*] - in the act. However, call it what you want. It's no skin off my nose. Just do it. No controversy. It's your legal right and your babe's human right. There's a special finger reserved for those who try to debate the issue any other way.

This is shaping up quite nicely!

In other words, lighten up. You don’t need publicly published professional photography to capture the moment and rankle a non-issue.

In other words, lighten up. You don't need to hide yourself away from crowds, gatherings, or the camera on the off chance someone might be rankled by such a non-issue.


Finito! I don't know who your original editor was, Ms. Trasancos, but clearly they were having an off day or were distracted by their own breastfeeding babe, because they did a terrible job. Never fear, though, I fixed it all up for you. You're quite welcome. It was my profound pleasure.

(Photo: mother breastfeeding babe uncovered while speaking to and making eye contact with the late president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez)


  1. A wonderful piece and fantastic picture. Thank you Zen x

    1. I have this picture up in my house. I love it!