I am proud to have breastfed both my kids—the first-born until 9 months, and the second, for more than one year. I expressed milk at work using breast pumps, and I fed them directly whenever and wherever we were together. Yes, even in public.
And that’s when I got confused. The government, with the help of various breastfeeding advocates and health organizations, tirelessly promotes the benefits of breastfeeding, in all known forms of media. So it should be a commonplace thing to see breastfeeding mothers, right? So why, then, did I get pitiful stares from strangers and disapproving looks when I breastfed my baby in a mall?
It’s not as if I flash my breasts for everyone to see before giving them to my baby for feeding. I try to be discreet as I can. I may show a little skin, usually on the shoulders, but I do my best to remain covered in all the right places. And yet, what little skin I show is enough to make people look at me as if I’m completely naked and whisper behind their hands.
Breastfeeding moms can sense the meaning behind the smiles and looks that people throw their way. They can detect if they are being given a sincere smile or if people think they don’t have enough money to buy their baby formula and have to feed their babies themselves. Breastfeeding is free, I agree, and although I could use the extra cash (who doesn’t), that’s not the reason why I chose to breastfeed my babies.
I breastfed because it was best for both me and my baby. I breastfed because it assured me that, as a working mom, I would always have personal time for my boys. I breastfed because I found it fulfilling to find time at work to express my milk so that my baby would get the best nutrition even while we were apart.
Because of my breastfeeding experience, I have learned to be more understanding of people who, at this age and time, still don’t understand the concept of breastfeeding. I learned to be more confident and I didn’t cower in shame when I would get stared at while breastfeeding. I learned to face the world, look them in the eye, and say, “I am a breastfeeding mom, and I am proud of it.” So, no this story isn’t about how to deflect the stares and the whispering. It’s about how I chose to continue breastfeeding despite all that.
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Photo from mammydoula.co.uk
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