image via backtoclassics.com
Growing up, professionals would say that "Breast is Best" til they were blue in the face. But as a child & as a young woman, I desperately needed to see women nursing babies in order to understand what it meant to live with this being normal & healthy culturally. Mum nursed me until 18 months, & I knew that factoid without really seeing its value. I never really thought about weddings, pregnancy, or infants despite babysitting since age 11. By the time I went to college, I had maybe seen two babies being discreetly yet shamelessly nurtured at their mother's breast. This aspect of motherhood, however present it may have been, was tucked away & utterly foreign. Therefore, seeing breasts (Lord have mercy if a nipple showed up) was always furtive & shameful, rather than wholesome. Speaking of wholesome, I was utterly unaware of an entire genre of Christian art called "Maria Lactans" that shows the Madonna nursing baby Jesus. Despite coming from Catholic extended family, churched every week & educated partly in religious schools, I was largely ignorant & somewhat fearful of my own anatomy.
It is both ironic & tragic that breastfeeding is censored from the public eye where we live. Our city is filled with students & professionals whose artwork & lifestyles defy injustice & discrimination through images instead of words. However, we clearly continue to fail in honoring & embracing the breastfeeding community. We celebrate that women have rights of property, of voting, of ambitious careers, of holding public office... we insist that women's bodies no longer be objectified or sexualized... we raise awareness about breast cancer with slogans like "I heart boobies"... and yet we reject the true purpose & beauty of breasts. Mother's milk is set apart from any other bodily fluid: the perfect food delivered best from the source, in whatever quantity possible. It is discrimination to sequester a woman to closets or lavatories to ensure no one else is "offended" or "indecently exposed." Nothing about breastfeeding is indecent; its practice need not isolate mothers of young children. Those who are uncomfortable are those who should remove themselves or get over their own issue. Being an independent woman does not require that I nurture my children in a vacuum. In that environment, I will wither & suffocate. So how & where will we gather?