I grew up in a time and culture when nursing was done behind closed doors, or hidden from view under a nursing cover. Public breastfeeding was so rare, it was like catching a glimpse of a mythical creature. If a child was hungry, there were secret places mothers would scurry off to so they could feed their child safely out of sight from everyone else going about their day. I’ll admit that on the rare occasions I was confronted with it, it did make me profoundly uncomfortable.
When I became a father, being around breastfeeding was unavoidable. Suddenly everyone I knew did it, and everywhere I went they were doing it. It was overwhelming. I was left with no alternative. I had to deal with it. I needed to explore exactly why it made me so uncomfortable.
The reason most often shopped around by detractors is that the breast is a sexual symbol and should not be shown in public. I found this to be absurd. Sexually suggestive, even explicit statements and images are widely accepted, often celebrated in our society and available anywhere, anytime. So, if that wasn’t it, what could it be? After much soul searching, I became convinced the exact opposite was the case. I had been conditioned my whole life to view breasts as something to long for, to covet sexually. Something to be won as a man, possessed as a prize. Breastfeeding was just the opposite. Seeing breasts serve their God given purpose was a reminder that what I had been conditioned to believe was a lie.
Popular culture and societal norms have oversexualized everything. From the music we listen to, to the advertisements we see, America loves sex. We cheapen it, trade it for a buck, and wrap cheap trinkets in it for re-sale. We have been fed a steady diet of junk food for so long, we reject solid nourishment. I’m not saying sex is bad, but we have removed the gravity of it, the intimacy of it. It is the fast food of our drive through culture, the ultimate representation of instant gratification. A short lived distraction from the hunger pangs that return stronger than before as soon as the high wears away.
A mother breastfeeding a child is an act so contrary to this obsession with instant gratification and how we have been trained to see a woman and her body that something inside rises up to protect these long held views, lest we see the truth; forced to admit that we have fooled ourselves. It is so much easier to shift the blame than admit that our preconceived ideas are based upon cheap, often empty desires.
It hurts to see this in myself, but I am embracing this theory. I (while not yet completely) have become more comfortable around breastfeeding, and in this have come to respect women and mothers more than ever before. Not only do I support breastfeeding in public as a mother and child’s right, but applaud it as an innocent, intimate outpouring of love and nourishment. It is, in my opinion the gentlest act of protest standing quietly against all the perverse and damaging things in our society. If more mothers breastfed in more places, I wonder, would our thoughts begin to change? Would we as a society have a greater respect for intimacy, and be more caring and respectful to others? While I can’t say for sure—it certainly wouldn’t hurt.
About the Author
Managing Editor and Production Director, Nate Moore, has a background in business management, but left the corporate world to pursue his passion as a Wilderness Guide in a program for troubled youth. He received his B.A. in Journalism and Public Relations from Southeastern University, and finds that he expresses himself most thoroughly through the written word. Nate is a baby-wearing, pro-breastfeeding father, whose top priority is to be the best daddy he can be to his lovely daughter.