Woman's right to breastfeed should never be challenged
A woman should be able to breastfeed anywhere, or any way she wants.
Why is it that something as natural as breastfeeding can cause such a ruckus? I know I've totally missed the boat to take a shot at Sunrise's David Koch about his comments in late January. (The world really does pass you by when you're on holidays.)
But I sort of will. Talking about a Queensland woman who was asked to leave a public swimming pool because she was breastfeeding, Koch said: ''I totally agree with breastfeeding in public but I think you have to be a bit classy … I think you should breastfeed anywhere, any time. It's just that I think you've got to be aware of your environment and to show respect to others and common courtesy to others … and they should show respect to you as well, but depending on the situation, to be discreet and to be modest.''
Using words like classy, discreet and modest when talking about breastfeeding is not a wise move, as Koch found out, with backlash coming from all areas, from Health Minister Tanya Plibersek, who defended a woman's right to feed in public, to the hundreds of mothers who staged a nurse-in at the Sunrise studios.
A woman should be able to breastfeed whereever she wants, and whenever she needs to, to satisfy a hungry baby, or calm an unsettled one, whether that be at a swimming pool, in a restaurant, in the cinema or on a bus.
The most public place I ever breastfed was in a supermarket queue at Woolies in Dickson. My son was miserable, hungry, tired, crying, and so I took him from the pram and latched him on and the crying stopped. We, that is me, him, and the people who were giving me death stares about my crying baby, were all relieved. Although some people continued the death stares because I had dared to get my boob out.
(As an aside … is it wrong to love a supermarket so much? I know my colleague Kirsten Lawson has written about her relationship with supermarkets, how she is torn when she visits them, in so many ways. But Dickson Woolies feels like a second home to me in some ridiculous way, it's like a microcosm of the world. From people who stop you in the aisles and ask you if they can exchange their food vouchers for cash, all the while pale and shaking; to the extremely talented busker that sits outside with his guitar and a permanent smile; to the pensioners who slowly wander the aisles alone; once I saw a family, mum, dad, two kids under five I'd be guessing, doing their shopping, at 11pm - sure the kids were in their pyjamas, but they were also sipping fizzy drink from a Maccas cup. I love the place. From the window cleaners at the corner of Northbourne and Mouat, to the eclectic consumers of cat food, cocktail frankfurts, and Coke that cram the aisles.)
But back to boobs.
What got me thinking about this now was a story about The Big Bang Theory's Mayim Bialik, who wrote an emotional blog post - http://www.kveller.com/mayim-bialik/mayim-bialiks-4-year-old-son-is-officially-weaned/ - about the self-weaning of her youngest son, Fred, who happened to be four.
First, let me say, that I was terribly disappointed when my children self-weaned at about 12 months. I could have easily been one of those women who carried on for a few more years. By that stage feeding was finally under control, it was calming, for all of us, a chance to be still, and to not feel guilty for doing nothing but staring into their beautiful eyes and drinking up their beautiful smell.
Bialik had copped a bit of flak over the years for her breastfeeding habits. She was once photographed feeding Fred, then 3½, on the New York subway, and the ''nay-sayers'', she called them, let loose. The women - and again, why are we our own worst judges? - on The View put it out there that perhaps her decision to keep night-feeding her sons, up to six times a night, Bialik herself admits, had anything to do with her divorce. (Bialik and Michael Stone, her husband of nine years, divorced in November 2012.)
I'm sure there will now be a reaction to this blog post, one where she's achingly honest about the experience of feeding and the loss she felt when Fred self-weaned.
''I know that there was never, ever, ever anything wrong with nursing Fred. Even when he was in 4T jeans. With a mouth full of teeth. Even when people laughed and sneered and accused me of horrible things no mother should ever be accused of when tending to the normal and beautiful needs of her mammal child. It was never wrong and it was always right.''
And that's the thing about breastfeeding. It is always so right. Even though it might hurt like crazy, make your nipples bleed, and drive you mad, it is always right. Whether you are doing it at 4am in a rocking chair in a nursery, stealing a moment without the hassles of a sibling in the midst of the terrible twos, thinking if only it could be this peaceful all the time. Whether you're doing it on your own lounge, while watching Dr Phil, and reading Where is the Green Sheep? to that same two-year-old, who amazes you more every day, especially when she sits next to you and breastfeeds her doll. Whether you use the excuse of ducking off to another room for some privacy, when the only reason you're ducking off is to get away. Whether you have serious conversations about whether or not you'd feed each other's babies with your girlfriends, and decide that you actually would. Whether you're feeding at a public swimming pool, in a playground or on the subway it is right.
So never question any woman's decision to do it any way, or anywhere, she wants.