Adventures in Breastfeeding
I always knew I would breastfeed my children. I knew all the stats about the benefits of breastfeeding: better immunity, higher IQs, reduced risk of several types of cancer for the mother, reduced risk of obesity, diabetes, and leukemia for the baby, just to name a few of the thousands of reasons. For years before I became a mother, I would vehemently and passionately argue with anyone who thought it was “weird” or “gross.”
In fact, just thinking of some of those conversations now makes me want to set something on fire.
What I didn’t know was how fearlessly I would breastfeed my Wee Bean, and that it would enhance and illuminate my identity as a feminist.
I have breastfed Willa Kathleen all over creation, sometimes in banal situations, sometimes in strange situations that only she will experience.
When Willa was about a month old, my mother had flown out to Los Angeles to save me from drowning. I needed a haircut, I needed clothes that fit (side note: will someone PLEASE make a million dollars by creating post-natal clothes for poochy tummies and enormous tatas?), I needed someone to just help me with the laundry (the godforsaken, never ending, ratf*ck laundry, the worst part of motherhood). I was sinking, I was fighting the “baby blues,” I was crying almost all the time, and I was lonely as hell. Out raced my sainted mother, all the way from North Dakota.
She took me shopping and walked the baby around the block for an hour while I got my haircut. We then got some lunch at The Farm of Beverly Hills, where I passed two major milestones:
1) Cleaned up Willa’s first head to toe poopsplosion on the floor of the bathroom (with the help of a kindly fellow mom who happened to come in and find me sweating, on the verge of tears, and clearly in over my head), and
2) Nursed Willa in public.
Willa started to fuss as soon as we returned from the poopsplosion adventure. As hard as I tried to soothe her, it was clear that she just needed to eat. My mother gave me all the encouragement I needed with a smile and a squeeze of my hand. I took out my trusted Hooter Hider, draped it over myself, unhooked my nursing bra, and got Willa latched. I gratefully discovered that I got no sideways glances, no harumphs from old ladies wearing pillbox hats, no leers or jeers from any gross men. In fact, I don’t think anyone really noticed.
Since that day, I have nursed Willa
– in the dressing room at Anthropologie, Macy’s, and The Gap,
– in several public parks in Los Angeles and Chatham, MA,
– in the front and back seats of a couple different cars, never while driving, obviously, but most memorably in a terrifying 7-11 parking lot on Santa Monica Blvd.,
– on a plane, in an airport,
– during the opening remarks of the Atwater Village Centennial Celebration Street Fair, where I stood near the stage chatting with deputies from Council President Garcetti’s office and State Senator Carol Liu, nursing all the way,
– while singing back-up for my husband’s band (see pic above),
– while running from site to site on Glendale Blvd., coordinating our Summer Nights on the Blvd. event,
– during a meeting of the Executive Board of the North East Central Alliance of Neighborhood Councils (NECA), on which I serve,
– while watching the Independent Shakespeare Company’s performance of Much Ado About Nothing,
– and most recently, standing on line outside the DMV in Lincoln Heights.
I feel so passionately about my right to breastfeed my child, and I’m proud that I live in a city where it just doesn’t seem to make people too uncomfortable. For those ladies who aren’t lucky enough to live in a progressive place like the east side of Los Angeles, or for those who, like me, perhaps have in-laws who aren’t terribly comfortable with the whole idea of breastfeeding, I say, Whip ’em Out. Whip those boobs out. We won’t change minds until we make it clear that breastfeeding is natural, normal, and most certainly NOT sexual, gross, or weird.
Always remember: people who think breastfeeding is weird are the ones who make breastfeeding weird. Not nursing moms who know all the incredible benefits of breastfeeding. So feed your child. Don’t ask permission. Apologize to no one.