What's Wrong With This Picture? (The Answer is Nothing.)
I think every woman who breastfeeds has a complex relationship with it. My daughter Petra ate well right off the bat but a couple weeks in, I was recoiling in pain because she had a minor yeast infection on her tongue (I can't imagine full-blown thrush). We got through it but then, there was the exhaustion of a second and third round of cluster feeding as she went through growth spurts and oh, the stress of hearing her hunger cry from her carseat. 'Do I pull over?' I wondered. For those first few weeks, nursing her required more pre-game rituals than a superstitious football player. I'd heard so many stories about difficulty in latching, upset tummies from bad alignment, and disappearing milk supplies that even if we were at my dinner table and Petra was giving hunger cues, I would run upstairs with my lucky nursing pillow, pint of water, burp cloth, and babe. It was only at eight weeks when I went to Mexico with my family that I braved feeding her in public, and I was amazed at how much easier life became for everyone. Now three months in, I am comfortable feeding her whenever and wherever she requires because well, babies are snackers and I am her food source.
But if you live in Saskatoon, you probably know of a mother whose baby's meal at Cora's made the news. Though a family restaurant seems to me the most appropriate place for anyone to eat, a server and, subsequently, a manager made a scene as they tried to force a mama to cover her baby whilst she ate. After that mother eloquently took her complaint to the media, Cora's publicly decried the staff's actions, issuing an apology and a statement supporting breastfeeding and reminding the staff that Cora herself was a single mother of three. And that might be where the story ended for you. But as a breastfeeding mother myself, the whole thing struck a nerve. How was it that in 2015, when the mantra "breast is best" is trumpeted by health care experts, where clothing is often more revealing than breastfeeding a baby, and when the law says a mother can feed a child anywhere and any time, could this have happened? Well, I made the mistake of reading some comments below the news story and it was heartbreaking to see how many people agreed with the staff's request for her to cover her child. Some people thought she should have fed in a bathroom stall and one man likened the situation to changing a colostomy bag in public, which of course, is a nonsensical equation. I got emotional as I read the comments, feeling each one as an attack on my child's health and happiness, and soon I was writing an email to my blogmates here at OCM with tears in my eyes. Would they like to get together to show in photos how normal feeding a child looks?
As you can see, the support was awesome. (That's Joc above, giving a thumbs up as she nurses her little Enver. Beside her is Erin Crooks and Desiree Martin is on the left.)
So we planned a couple of outings, complete with a babies. Photographer and OCM sister Tammy Boehmer took photos at Fuddruckers, a restaurant that Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters cites as an advocate for true family meals. That's Tams above with Enver, as captured on her own cam by Jocelyn de Moissac of DeMo Photography.
This wasn't a debate about covering or not, breastfeeding or not... those decisions are a mother's choice, protected by law. I often use a cover because Petra gets distracted and we both find it more comfortable if we have some one-on-one time as I look down at her in her little tent. And if another mother is simply covering for her own privacy, that's an equally good reason. Because it's her reason. Every child has right to eat comfortably, just like any other person. As Joc says, "I wouldn't ask anyone to put a bag over their head as they ate a hamburger!" Click through the above gallery to see our joyous family meal.
As it turns out, people love babies. (Well, most people love babies and those who don't would rather a babe be happy than the opposite!) As Tammy took photos of our little nurse-in, good vibes from other patrons abounded. A young couple behind us who looked so in love talked to Enver as he cooed at them, and Petra got swept away by the loving arms of this grandma.
I felt fortunate that Saskatoon was the village that would raise my child.
And it was hard to imagine that THIS was the city whose news only days before featured a mom shamed for breastfeeding. I had to meet the mom who'd had the courage to stand up for her child's human right to eat. So I sent Jennifer a message on Facebook and the next day, Joc and I met her for coffee at the always-welcoming Citizen Cafe and Bakery. Photographer and OCM sister Desiree Martin joined us to capture the afternoon.
Beyond the topic of breastfeeding, we also talked about baby wearing, family, photography, and whatever else came up. We all just happened to be feeding our babies at the same time! It was a great little visit and we OCM girls were happy to have met the mama who stood up for rights that mean so much to us. Jennifer had her little kidlets with her as well, and though they're not in these photos (they were reading quietly at another table), I must say that Mackenzie, 9, was particularly well-spoken and even read a book to Petra when she needed some entertainment. We all had a really nice visit.
I also talked with the other tables, all of whom were only supportive, and again I found myself hopeful about the attitude of the community.
But it's for those who still imagine breastfeeding to be lurid and x-rated that I want to be part of the discussion. I want to show that it's really no big deal. It's how many babies in the world eat-- it's how a lot of the detractors themselves ate-- and we should encourage this healthy activity when mamas are doing it. As I mentioned, breastfeeding doesn't always come easy and if someone is sticking to it despite adversity, she should be commended rather than shunned! Lord knows I'd have gone crazy if I still felt the need to run to my room with a nursing pillow every time Little P wanted a snack.
So don't keep your support silent! If you see a mother breastfeeding, give her a smile. Say something friendly. And if you see her being treated unfairly, stand up for her. She and that child she's feeding deserve to feel supported. Tammy and Joc were at The Drift setting up for their 8th Snap Happy class, saw this mama nursing her babes, and gave her this photo version of a high five.
If you're a mom, you can help the cause by just living your life according to your child's needs, not according to pressure you might feel. Does this mean you have to nurse uncovered or else you're not part of the solution or that you've failed as a mama if you're not breastfeeding? Certainly not! Your bod, your babe, your choice.
Thanks so much to Jennifer and her family for being a part of this post, to Saskatoon Breastfeeding Matters for their work in breastfeeding education, to the wonderful Dr. Penny Stalker for being my guide through all things new and strange in motherhood, and to my OCM blogmates who are fabulous humans doing good things on the daily. Not everyone could make it out because of work commitments and such but everyone's response was heartfelt and supportive. A special thanks to Desiree Martin, Jocelyn De Moissac, and Tammy Boehmer for their multi-day co-blogging contributions.