This lovely little photo of the author of the blog Gregarious Peach got some internet love yesterday and stirred some heated discussions and strong opinions.
I shared it on my facebook wall, stating, “Maybe I’m desensitized from living in Costa Rica, but this looks totally normal to me. The comments on this photo are hilarious (not really) – such an uproar about it!”
And quickly there followed 23 comments arguing about this momma nursing her babe, standing up in a grocery store. There are 653 comments right now on the original picture posted at peaceful parenting.
Some said it’s offensive, and out of respect and courtesy for others moms should use a cover. Others said the baby looks uncomfortable and the mom should cherish her nursing times more, finding a quiet place and enjoying the bonding time. Other cheered her on and wished that more moms would nurse in public just like her.
Then this morning friends sent me the new Time Magazine Cover photo:
What’s your opinion? I’m sure you have one!
When my first son was born in 2003, I was 23 years old and absolutely mortified by breastfeeding.
I don’t know why I felt that way, or where that came from, perhaps a strong religious upbringing, but for whatever reason I was absolutely ashamed and embarrassed to nurse in public.
The only spot I ever nursed, as much as possible, was on my bed, with the door shut, in my room.
The first few months I could hardly leave the house without feeling panic that I might have to nurse in public.
There are other scenes that stick vividly in my mind:
Walking into church and seeing a mom sitting on the ground nursing her babe without a cover. I so admired her.
My Costa Rican friend visiting in California and sitting on a display chair in Costco nursing her infant. I thought that was so cool.
Because I just couldn’t do it.
I remember nursing in bathroom stalls, hot, stuffy cars, or telling my husband to shield me while I nursed on a bench. It’s a horrible feeling.
With the following three boys I did loosen up a bit, but I never quite got over my timidity.
That’s why when I see a photo like the one above it makes me smile. I wish I had had the courage to do this!
What a brave girl!
Maybe because of people like her, other young moms won’t have to feel the way I did.
I was first introduced to a real mom doing extended nursing when I started reading Dulce Chale’s blog, Dulce de Leche. She writes candidly about nursing her four year old and nursing several children at the same time. I’m so thankful for her voice and others like her, because it is empowering for women to see and hear these stories.
When I teach child development for young adults we have a section where we view attachment in the Bible. It’s a very interesting theme, but one of the topics that comes up is the common age of breastfeeding in the Bible.
I usually comment that Jesus was most-likely breast-fed until he was at least 3, if not older. Without fail, someone will say,
That’s the common reaction. Gross! Breastfeeding until 3? With teeth and all?
Totally normal. Totally Biblical.
I imagine Jesus is very happy with the mom pictured above.
A breastfeeding mother is giving herself totally, and the baby gets the message. The message will eventually translate into the concept of love from God: the mother teaches the baby first to trust, then to be loved, then to show love to others, and finally to understand what it means to love God our Father and to be loved by Him.”
- Martha Sears
Now I live in Costa Rica, and breastfeeding here is the most normal activity. You will see moms nursing in church, their front steps, the beach, anywhere they need to without a hint of shame crossing their faces. These moms are so confident and I am convinced that this is because it is so accepted within the culture.
A pastor’s wife was chatting to me about this and sharing that she felt she needed to help teach these moms modesty and the importance of covering up.
I didn’t want to start a debate at that moment, so I dropped the subject, but inside I shuddered.
That is the last thing in the world these moms need to be taught. In fact, it needs to be the other way around.
These moms have a lot to teach us American moms in the area of breastfeeding.
Let me describe a scene from yesterday.
I pulled up to the slum on my bike with my backpack full of supplies – paint, cotton sheets, paper, markers and more. We set up under a big tree and began creating art for the afternoon.
One mom with a three week old infant began drawing. Her sister-in-law was holding the baby, and I was holding the sister-in-law’s baby.
The next thing I know the sister-in-law starts nursing the infant ~ it’s not her baby, but she just held him and gave him some milk. It was the cutest thing. No one flinched. No one even commented. It was just so, totally normal. And I was floored.
I’m thankful for these strong, confident moms. I have a lot to learn from them.
So these are my comments about Gregarious Peach’s photo above:
To those concerned about her feeding standing up ~ I am sure that this momma gets plenty of time feeding her baby in a soft rocking chair with the lights dim. How do I know that? I don’t. But I just imagine she does. That doesn’t concern me when I see this photo.
To those concerned she will drop the baby ~ I just don’t think she will. She’s holding him in such a way that you can see she knows his body, she’s used to carrying him and holding him. I trust her grip on him.
To those concerned about modesty ~ Nothing really to say about that, except get over it. And if you’re worried this photo might make a man feel lustful, I’m sorry, but that’s the man’s problem, not ours. And relating breastfeeding to sex? That’s just weird. Come on, people.
To those concerned she’s showing off ~ Unfortunately the way things are in our culture right now, it’s going to take photos like this and moms being bold to help change the tide back to one of normalcy.
She’s not trying to say she’s super mom, or she’s better than you, or better than other moms who don’t nurse. Not at all. She’s just sharing a normal scene of everyday life on her blog. Isn’t that one of the reasons we all like blogs? Because they give us this intimate glimpse into other people’s lives, and we’re all just fascinated by it.
But we have to stop comparing ourselves with others. Maybe you weren’t able to nurse, or nurse as long as you felt you should. I feel that way. I do have regret, and it’s a difficult emotion.
But I am thankful for other moms who are able to do it. Maybe if I had known more people like this mom, or read more stories about moms nursing, it would have encouraged me in my journey. So maybe this will help others. I can be grateful for that. But my own regrets? That’s something I have to deal with and grow through.
Or maybe you don’t have regret and you are happy with your journey of bottle-feeding. Then, that’s great, too. Be proud of yourself. As moms, we need to feel good about ourselves, because we are doing an amazing thing. Be ever loving and kind to yourself.
But don’t begrudge this mom her journey, just because it was different than yours. And don’t be offended by her.
Those are my comments. What are yours?