The Great Nursing Debate

I was reading today about a woman who wrote in to an online advice column. She said that her brother’s new wife, when meeting the family for the first time, breastfed her 5-year-old son from a previous relationship at the dinner table, explaining that he had “food allergies”.

Now, I know I’ll probably be put on La Leche League’s watch list for this blog. I might get booted from the Facebook group “The Leaky Boob”, disowned by EBF-ers everywhere, (That’s Exclusive Breast Feeders, for those of you not up on insta-speak) and maybe blacklisted by KellyMom. But I feel that we often hear about extremes on this issue, and someone needs to speak for moderation and middle ground.

I say, kudos to the columnist, who suggested that Sis talk to her brother about the issue. Then if nothing changes, head for the hills when Wifey Dearest whips one out. However, in the comments I was reading, people not only criticized Sis for butting in, but also the columnist for being unsupportive of breastfeeding!

Now please, please don’t misunderstand my annoyance. I breastfed Baby #1 for 9 months and hope to go even longer with Baby #2, despite the insistence of certain family members that rice cereal and formula is all a 5-month-old infant needs. I love breastfeeding, I love knowing that it’s good for my baby, and I love the bonding time it gives us. I am completely pro-breastfeeding.

That being said, breastfeeding a 5-year-old and breastfeeding at the dinner table with people you just met would each be inappropriate in and of itself. At five years old, there is no nutritional value in breast milk that a child cannot get from Soy, Almond, Goat, or Cow’s milk. Furthermore, a child that is nursed at the lunch table in Kindergarten is likely to have social problems and/or attachment disorders. In addition to all that, it’s weird.

Enough said.

Now about breastfeeding in public, ladies, I have three words for you: Cover, cover, COVER! That’s why they make those cute little wrap things! Yes, breastfeeding is natural and good. Yes, it’s sometimes necessary to find a bench and pop it out… NOW. No, breastfeeding is not something to be ashamed of. But do you really want that creepy old guy walking past to turn around and come back for another look? Or to sit down on the other end of the bench? Breasts are breasts no matter what they’re being used for, and there are many easy and stylish ways to cover. I wore a wide, cotton scarf almost anytime baby and I were going out. He didn’t get too hot, he didn’t get distracted, and I didn’t feel exposed. There is also a drape that baby snuggles right into that fastens over mom’s shoulder so your energetic nurser can’t pull it off. And of course, many department stores and other public places have lounges in the ladies’ room, complete with comfy couches and changing tables.

One more thing about nursing in public. If you must nurse at a restaurant, at Granny’s dinner table, or at the family reunion, do it tastefully. Uncle Joe may not be done eating, yet, and Auntie Jane may not want to field all those questions from her 10-year-old son. If you can, go in the family room or bedroom and find a quiet corner. Not out of shame, because breastfeeding is a beautiful and normal thing, but out of respect and modesty.

Breastfeeding can be a wonderful growing and bonding experience for the whole family, and is indisputably best for baby. But shocked in-laws are likely to become less supportive, not more. And support for moms is what we’re driving at here, right?

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