Our family went art crawling yesterday, and my boys even took part in a few collaborative art projects.
If the point of art is to evoke emotion, my favorite piece yesterday was something I am very familiar with.
My husband took the gallery tour through all of the rooms and hallways first, and when he came out he told me “turn into the first room on your left and you’ll see an image of a little tiny chair with a video being projected onto it.”
I was intrigued- what would I find on this little chair?
My husband knows me so well, and knew I would love what I saw.
“The Early Chair” by Brooke Gassiot was the name of this installation, and it was a loop of a mother and baby, dressed in white, sitting on a white chair. It moves through phases of holding the baby, nursing the baby, and patting the baby’s back.
It was beautiful. Any breastfeeding mom knows so well those early months with a newborn when you feel completely tethered to your nursing chair.
We sometimes feel as if it’s not very beautiful at all. Especially when you’re tired, hungry, thirsty, in need of a shower, a nap, a new wardrobe, a new chair, and the list goes on.
But it is beautiful. And it is art.
Artists who depict breastfeeding, keep it coming. The more everyone is exposed to it, the more natural it will become and the more accepted and less self conscious breastfeeding moms will feel. And then hopefully we won’t have to hear ignorant comments like the one I heard from the 30 something year old guy in front of me who briefly watched the video and said, “I don’t need to see that.”
Really? Why not? No really- Why not? The more I think about it, the more I want to get on my soap box and wish I had asked him then and there. So I’ll take a deep breath and let my blood pressure simmer down. (After I heard him I made a big deal of saying loudly how beautiful and amazing the installation was. Mature? no. Did I get my point across? I hope so.)
We saw this renaissance painting earlier in the week, aptly named “Charity.”
Thank you Jacques Blanchard for glorifying breastfeeding in the 1600s. And thank you, Brooke Gassiot for showcasing a nursing mom in 2013.
I could boycott Chick-fil-A for what a manager there did this week- criticized a mother for breastfeeding her five month old baby in the play area. I want to even go so far as to boycott Knoxville, TN since that is where the incident took place. But really it happened completely because of the opinion of an individual. It had nothing to do with the corporation, or the city (that my husband happens to be from and we visit often).
Yes, I wish making a mother feel ostracized and unwelcome about breastfeeding her child had never happened, but hopefully it will continue the conversations within the company and get people talking. I can only hope good will come from this.
Being a mother of small children is hard enough as it is. To wonder if it’s OK to breastfeed in a public place should not be on our minds AT ALL. Though it is. I’ve been fortunate enough that the times I’ve worried about what others were thinking, they have taken a moment to tell me, “Great job, mama.”
I have some friends who have been encouraging of my frequent and public and extended breastfeeding, but most just don’t say anything. More like they don’t notice, or maybe it’s just a non-issue. Maybe for those who know me well assume I’m 100% confident in my baby feeding choice, knowing how outspoken I am about it. But I really would love some encouragement.
So, in the “do unto others as you would have them do unto you” mindset, every single time one of my friends has an obviously upset baby, one who clearly wants to nurse, I say, “feed her!” “Feed him!” I encourage it to the extreme. Maybe I go overboard. Sometimes I do this to perfect strangers who seem to be assessing the situation when they say “he wants to nurse”…Maybe I do it subconsciously to balance out those less informed who ask breastfeeding moms to stop, or who say that breastfeeding is gross. (Wait, what decade is this?) I’m not sure.
But for whatever reason, this is one area I am extremely passionate about. I was breastfed until I could ask for it, (a taboo to some!) and I thank my mother wholeheartedly for going against the grain and not worrying about the opinion of others in the seventies.
SO as I often have to remind myself, instead of sitting around and getting angry about something that is happening in our world, what can I do about it? What am I going to do today to be the change I wish to see???
In honor of national breastfeeding week, I have a few thoughts.
I have now been non-stop nursing at least one, at times two children for 3 years and 11 months.
This afternoon, tired from chasing two boys in the extreme heat, all I wanted to do was lay down. We were also in a hotel (read: no kitchen). My 13 month old was hot, thirsty and hungry and wanted to nurse.
Our two wants meshed perfectly.
As I was laying there I thought- I wish everyone knew how easy breastfeeding can be. I’d much rather be able to just take a load off and feed my baby than have to track down bottles, cups, milk, powder, water, a refrigerator, microwave, et al.
I was able to rest while I was feeding my child. How’s that for multitasking? I find it works particularly well for lazy days, while traveling, on a plane, at the park, anywhere.
I say this knowing full well the many many hurdles that can get in the way of a successful breastfeeding relationship. I have personally experienced mastitis over 7 times, plugged ducts, thrush, vasospasms, a baby with reflux from over supply, exhaustion.
And I’ve had friends who’ve experienced much worse- inverted nipples, tongue tied babies, severe blood loss during labor (breastmilk is made from the proteins, sugars, and fat from our blood supply), breast implants and reductions, nursing twins and triplets…and they have ALL endured and breast fed their babies. I am so proud to call them friends.
The truth is, breastfeeding a newborn is hard. I wish there were more PR campaigns devoted to acknowledging that fact. Do the powers that be think that if we moms know the truth- that it’s not very easy in the beginning at best, and downright brings many women to tears- we’ll choose to just not even try?
I think not.
We all know how hard pregnancy is/can be, and yet we embark upon that journey willingly, knowing that there is an end in sight- an outcome that will outweigh any discomfort, illness, weight gain, stretch marks, heartburn, round ligament pain, incontinence, swollen ankles, bigger feet, wider hips, and loss of brain cells. Yes- we endure all of these things for the joy of holding our babies in our arms.
There are also many women who know exactly how painful labor and delivery can be, yet choose to give birth without any anesthesia. It is worth feeling every single contraction and pushing with Olympic strength to bring a child into the world.
But it is NOT easy! It seems something as essential to the survival of humans as breastfeeding would just come naturally but it doesn’t. It is a learned behavior- not an instinct. We need to watch other moms breastfeed to learn how to do it, and we don’t.
I once watched an interesting video showing a gorilla in isolation with no idea how to nurse her baby, because she had never seen it done. She even held the back of the baby’s head to her breast in confusion. When she became pregnant again, the local La Leche League organized a group of breastfeeding women to show up at the glass of the enclosure to nurse their babies. They did this regularly, and by the time the gorilla’s baby was born she knew what to do and nursed!
She learned by example and fed her baby. She was not guilted into it or convinced by all of the studies proving the superiority of breastmilk. She saw it, so she did it.
It was never intended for us to just figure it out on our own.
Parenting is hard, and we can’t just walk away from it when the pain gets to be intense. My hope is that someday breastfeeding would be held in the same regard and that moms would be informed and supported enough in the work place, in the public square, everywhere inside and outside the home to the point that feeding babies anything other than human milk would be done so as an absolute last resort.
According to the American Association of Pediatrics breast feeding is a public health issue and should be treated as one, instead of a lifestyle choice. Since the majority of U.S. births occur in hospitals, there should be someone to assist the mother and baby with the very first breast feeding attempt.
In New York City when I gave birth in 2008, I kept asking for help from the nurses and I received none. “Just let us give the baby some formula,” said THREE different nurses. All the breast feeding classes I took while still pregnant did nothing for me in that moment- when I had a living, breathing, newborn baby rooting around at my breast.
So let me say it here, if you’ve never heard it before. Breast feeding will hurt. Your nipples will be sore. His latch might suck. You might feel awkward, nervous, embarrassed even. You might even get thrush or mastitis and your baby might be sensitive to the food you eat.
It gets better. Usually after the first 6 weeks, definitely after 3-4 months.
I wonder if Jacques Blanchard endured media outrage when he painted “Charity” circa 1634?
But I digress…
Breast Milk is a miracle. The more it is studied, the more is discovered about the way it nourishes our babies (and older children!). Over the course of the breastfeeding relationship, the nutrient profile changes and adapts to the growing nursling’s needs.
The day my newborn baby arrived, my 2 year old had a hacking cough- the worst one he’d ever had. When the lactation consultant paid us a visit, I asked her how I should handle nursing my 2 year old without exposing my new baby to the virus causing the cough.