Permission Granted

By the power vested in me by… well, no one, I’m giving you permission.

A friend called me, concerned. She had breastfed for a year, and didn’t feel like stopping but thought that somehow she should. “Can I keep breastfeeding?” she asked, unsure of herself. “Of course you can!” was my response.

Speaking with the receptionist at my dentist’s office, she worried aloud about her daughter, a new mom, who was barely keeping hide and hair together, sad, working full time, commuting too far, pumping and nursing around the clock, with a grumpy baby who didn’t sleep. (Okay, maybe my dentist’s front office staff is prone to oversharing, but I don’t mind, the ladies are lovely.) “Has anyone told her she can stop pumping or nursing?” The receptionist was caught off guard by my suggestion, probably figuring that her daughter already knew that. But I wasn’t worried about whether she knew that, rather, I wondered if anyone had ever told her so, out loud.

So let me say it outloud, er, in writing. You have permission. Sometimes you just need to hear someone else say it.

These are breastfeeding examples, but there are so many more.

Motherhood, strike that, parenthood is really just improv. You do the best you can, as you go, guided by instincts, friends, family, doctors, books, and the internet. It’s no wonder that so many of us second guess our choices and decisions. I do it all the time.

So here’s the thing. Odds are very good that you’re doing it right.

We don’t tell each other that enough.

So stop second guessing.

Do you want to stop breastfeeding? Stop breastfeeding.

Do you want to keep breastfeeding? Keep breastfeeding.

Do you want to name your child “North”? Go ahead.

Do you want to circumcise/not circumcise your son? Do it.

Do you want to make your child wear a onesie that says “I heart titties and beer”? Um, no. Please, don’t do that.

But you get my point.

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Don’t Be a Boob.

Here we go again… the breastfeeding in public debate has hit the news again, this time in my little state.

Let’s agree on some things, shall we?

  1. Breastfeeding is a really good thing for those who can and want to. (Though I found this article “The Case Against Breast-Feeding” from The Atlantic really interesting and well-researched.)
  2. Some people are prudes.  Or to put it another way, there is a huge range in the types of things that make people uncomfortable.
  3. Breastfeeding in public is legal in my state (as well it should be!)

Now that we’ve agreed on those three points…

Here’s the story: a woman breastfed her 10-month old at a restaurant.  The hostess did not ask her to stop, but asked her (on behalf of some restaurant patrons) to cover up a bit.

COMMENCE PROTESTS!

While dining out, I would probably find the presence of a loud talker, or a terrible toupee far more distracting and offensive than some boobage.  But I’m not everyone.

Should the sight of some boobage, or even a little bit of a *gasp!* nipple, while you’re trying to eat your crabcakes offend?  Nope.  Boobs are good.  Lots of men like them.  Lots of women don’t give ’em a second thought.  Some men don’t give them a second thought. Some women like them.  I don’t think I know anyone who actively hates breasts. They are breasts.  Everyone has them and half the population have ones with the capability of providing baby sustenance.  Which is pretty cool.

Should a breast-feeding mama be publicly shunned and shamed for doing something as basic as feeding her child?  Especially when she has every right to do so under the law?  Absolutely not.

Now that we’ve agreed on those points…

We’re having the wrong conversation.

I believe the key to good relationships, good communication, and good people-ness is consideration.    I do not need to bend to the whims of others, do as they say, or do as they do, but it is good for the universe if I, at least, consider their points of view, feelings and perspectives.

Yes, in this instance, according to the mom, her baby’s needs trump those of fellow diners.  And it is her right to breastfeed.  But given the fact that other diners had the time to beckon waitstaff, make their complaint, have their complaint passed on to the hostess, and have the hostess request some discretion, I kind of get the feeling there was a lot of boob out, for a lot of time.  Some people – even people who like boobs quite a lot – are made uncomfortable by the sight of breasts (for many reasons including age, temperament, religion, prudidity – I made that up). Perhaps the mama should have considered these other folks, too.    No need to wrap yourself in a shawl, and smother your nursing baby.  All it would have taken is a tug of the shirt, a small shift in her seat, some consideration for how other people feel to make this whole situation a non-issue.

Call me naive, but a little consideration for others isn’t hard.  And it infringes on your rights and desires very little.  I am pretty far from prudish, but there are a lot of natural bodily processes that are amazing, and interesting, but that I’d rather not see.  Or not see much of.

I know it can be a slippery slope.  What’s acceptable? Nudity? Piercings? Vulgar t-shirts? Racist bumper stickers?  For everyone, the threshhold of vulgarity is different.  I think for the vast majority, breastfeeding isn’t seen as vulgar at all.  Because it isn’t.  But I say, when you can be cognizant and respectful of the feelings of others you increase the likelihood that they will be cognizant and respectful of yours.  You may not agree with the boob-prudes at the next table, but you can at least consider them when making your choices.

I’d argue that “the pursuit of happiness” that we’re guaranteed was not meant to be “the pursuit of happiness at all costs with no regard for others!” We’re all on the same little planet here, people. You can make your baby’s life better by breast-feeding, and you can make your neighbor’s life better by shifting a little to the left.  Everybody wins.