Karen Hardy breastfeeding her daughter. Photo: Graham Tidy
I hadn’t thought about boobs for a while but over the past couple of weeks boobs have been right out there, so to speak. From Scout Willis’ stand in the #freethenipple campaign, to the Instagram photo of supermodel Natalia Vodianova breastfeeding her son Maxim, to Canberra duo Juliet Moody and Catherine Crowley and their viral video Ruin Your Day, which has racked up more than 600,000 hits on YouTube and was picked up by the British media in recent weeks.
Boobs are right out there. Erect little noticeable nipples under the T-shirt of silence.
And then earlier this week Facebook lifted its nipple ban allowing families to post breastfeeding photographs on the site. But then later this week when Fairfax's Essential Baby tried to promote the story through a Facebook post, by making an ad using the same picture and wording, the post itself was deemed unsuitable due to its sexual nature.
Surely there hasn't been a better time to lift those T-shirts of silence high ladies and get your boobs out.
Because that’s what breast-feeding is all about, isn’t it? As Moody and Crowley sing, all new mothers are exhibitionists. Lolling about all day looking for opportunities to flop a boob in someone’s face.
Well, actually no. It’s about feeding someone, or soothing someone, about being able to take a moment, albeit, a moment with a proper purpose, just to stop for 20 minutes or so and stare into your baby’s little face.
I get quite sad when I think I’ll never get the chance to breastfeed again. Right now, even thinking about it, they’re a little achy. Like they felt when you heard a crying baby in the next room, even if it wasn’t yours. Remember that feeling?
The other night my baby, all 50kg and 11 years of him, and I were having a snuggle on the lounge while we watched Friday Night Football, and he got a little snuggly, as he’s wont to do sometimes, nestling his big noggin into my boobs. Not that he was doing it consciously I’m sure, without it sounding too odd, but just doing what has come naturally for centuries, a child finding comfort in his mother’s bosom. (And I love that word bosom.) It was just lovely at the end of a long week, that closeness and comfort. Just like it was at 4am when he was a baby.
There’s also a campaign running on social media at the moment to #normalisebreastfeeding with mothers across the world taking and posting feeding selfies to get the message out there that this is a perfectly normal thing to do.
(Indeed, if we’re worried about inappropriate photos of feeding on social media let’s ban all those food wankers who think we’re all interested in seeing what they’ve had for brunch in their local cafe. Shots of coffee are boring, people. Even with those stupid little designs on them. Not interested. And not in your sandwich either. Move on.)
Because breastfeeding is a perfectly normal thing to do. And women should have the right to do it wherever they please, whenever they please, and not feel as though they need to hide away in a toilet somewhere. If someone else is offended then that is there problem.
I stumbled across a great forum thread on the Australian Breastfeeding Association website titled Where have you fed in public this week? Some of the posts are a little old but women from around the country owned up to feeding on a plane, in the supermarket checkout (ditto with those two), at a wedding, at a NRL game, at a bus stop, in church, in a meeting with the boss, and my favourite - sitting on a toilet in a plumbing shop.
Still, there were a few posts about women not feeling comfortable about breastfeeding in public and I wondered why it is they felt that way. I remember when I first started feeding I wasn’t very confident and sometimes things would go a little pear shaped. You don’t need that happening in public so I can understand that aspect of it. But once I became more confident in the process I became more confident about doing it in public. Some others said they didn’t want to have to deal with confrontation if people did abuse them for daring to bare their boobs. That happened a few times too, but my fallback comment was always what would you rather, a glimpse of flesh or a crying baby? Once or twice I even unlatched the baby to let the crying resume and the abuser quickly shut up. And the baby, too, once they were back on the boob.
We need to continue to fight the good fight, exposing, so to speak, people and places who make breastfeeding mothers feel bad. In South Australia this week a woman, Rikki Forrest, said she was felt humiliated after an experience at Middlebrook Winery, in the McLaren Vale. Attending a winery tour, her first outing without her son, four-month-old Brock - and we all know how nerve-racking that first outing is - Forrest needed to express some milk, pumping and dumping throughout the day to keep up supply. Nothing natural about a breast pump, so Forrest asked the staff if there was somewhere private she could go to to express. Staff allegedly directed her to a room full of people and Forrest was forced to find a private spot outside behind a water tank. The whole story caused quite a storm after Forrest posted something on Facebook and it was subsequently picked up by news organisations.
We’ve had our share of incidents in Canberra over the years. The Club Pink CISAC case is the biggest one I can think of in recent times. In 2006 two women were told to stop breastfeeding their babies at the women's only gym and the matter was referred to the Discrimination Tribunal. The gym settled the matter under confidential terms and later added a mother's breastfeeding room to the complex.
I’m sure there have been times when breastfeeding mothers have been discriminated against, and I’d love to hear them.
Let's free the nipples of Canberra.