Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Guest Blog: Maggie's Story

Until I became a mother I never knew who strongly people felt about breastfeeding. Somehow I missed this even all through my pregnancy. The only formula and bottles I ever had were the samples I was given at my ob’s office. I just thought “breast is best; so, people must breastfeed.” I never realized that some people are so vehemently opposed to it. And that it’s hard to openly breastfeed your child without being adamant about how important it is; because it seems you often need to defend your choice.

I learned quickly though. The pediatrician at the hospital where my first daughter was born attempted to tell me that breastfeeding would poison my baby because she was jaundice. Luckily, I knew better. I saw how he could have easily convinced a less-sure mother to formula feed, but I could tell from the look in my baby’s eyes when she nursed that she was born to breastfeed. And I fought the pediatrician the entire four days he kept my baby in the hospital, going as far as to pour the bottles of formula he sent for my baby down the sink.

We changed pediatricians three times in the first six months of my oldest daughter’s life before finding one that had a rather neutral opinion on breastfeeding. Obviously “supportive” was not an option and neutral was going to have to do. I learned to just give the “right” answers at well-baby visits. As in “my baby nurses for 20 minutes on each side every 3 hours and sleeps on her back in her crib.” Even though my baby ate every 60 to 90 minutes for about a total of ten minutes and seldom left my arms in the early months.

The two behaviors seemed to complement each other (breastfeeding and co-sleeping.) Keeping my baby close to me seemed to naturally be part of breastfeeding. How could I possibly feed her every hour if she was in the other room?

The part of breastfeeding that goes on between mom and baby went well. Baby and I had a few minor problems with latch, but nothing serious and it was resolved fairly easily after we knew what the problem was. We developed a strong bond and both enjoyed nursing.

The social part of breastfeeding was a different story. I had support from my family, my mother breastfed, her mother breastfed and so on, but I encountered varying levels of disapproval elsewhere, including from the baby’s father. He did not come from a family of breastfeeders and until I breastfeed our child it was something he had never seen before.

When my oldest daughter was eleven months old I encounter the most public disapproval of breastfeeding. I was told that I could not breastfeed in the dining room of the Olive Garden in Michigan City IN. The assistant manger informed me that I need to stop breastfeeding or leave. So we left. And with the help of a friend took the story to the local paper. And then the local radio station picked it up, and then a TV station in South Bend IN, and then several other stations across the country and then another friend sent me copies of an article that ran in Canada and another from Germany. And I made shine magazine’s “Top 10 Breastfeeding Incidents of the Year” in 2009. WOW.

So when I heard about the incident with Michelle at Target I understood how she must have felt. I felt a special duty to go out and participate in the nurse-in since I am currently nursing my second child, who at seven months refuses every bite of solids I offer. I hate to hear about this happening to other women. It isn’t a pleasant thing. And I hope Michelle can stay strong throughout the process because the worst part is what strangers have to say after the story gets out there.

I would like to say that I will be nursing my baby anywhere and everywhere. I probably won’t ever be using a cover. I don’t like them, and they are supposed to be for the comfort of the mother; so if I don’t like then what’s the point. I like to be able to see my baby. My baby is more important to me than someone’s ideas about what’s “proper”. Do I really look like a woman who worries about being “proper?” With four tattoos, facial piercings and black nails and ripped jeans do I really care about being “proper?” I put my baby first without apology. I’m not sorry I breastfed in your restaurant. I’m not sorry if your kid saw. Maybe now is the perfect time to teach your child about the human body and explain that breast are for feeding babies not just for men to gawk at. I truly believe that the best way for me to help the next generation of babies to be breastfeed is to make sure that mothers-to-be see babies being breastfed.

I have to stand up for what I believe in or I might see my daughters or even my little sister not able to breastfeed their children in public. I would like to see every mother as oblivious to how critical people can be of breastfeeding as I was before I had kids; only I would like them to be able to keep believing that breast is unanimously best when they wean their children after years of happily and peacefully nursing. I don’t see why this has to be such a polarizing issue, but as long as it is I will stand up for what I believe. And I will fight even a little harder than those on the other side because I have the well-being of my children and my own freedom to use by body as I choose to motivate me.

 Maggie Naas

1 comment:

  1. I was the same before i had kids.... my mother bf'd me and my siblings and the thought never occured to me to buy formula and bottles - I was going to breastfeed and i was going to do it wherever and whenever he wanted - I was 20 and young and naive and never gave it another thought. My second child born 4 years later was the same - fed wherever and whenever. Baby number 3 came along a few years later and again - was fed wherever and whenever, without a cover or hiding away.... then i was asked not to during a church meeting... It never occured to me till then, after 7years of on and off bf'ing that people could find it so offensive! I spent the next two weeks after the incident researching all the pros and cons, benefits to mum and baby, the Church official standing on it - even found a drawn picture from a child's scripture book with a mother (in Jesus' time) baby wearing and breastfeeding!!!! I also discovered that i could bless other women and babies by donating my milk and did so for 6months. I'm now breastfeeding my 4th child and have signed up to donate again. But, ever since I was asked to not breastfeed in front of people i thought of as extended family, I second guess myself, thinking maybe i shouldn't do that here or should i go over there, out the way... i tried a cover once or twice but neither of us could handle it... even now with number 4, instead of just getting on with it and ignoring everyone else like i used to, i wonder what people are thinking, what can they see, are they talking about me over there...
    If I was in the US, i'd have been at Target too!! Good on you ladies! xxx