Public Breastfeeding, and the Things I am Sorry For

I am sorry.

I am sorry that breastfeeding is a scary and offensive thing that you did not get to grow up with, that you didn’t get to see your mother, your aunts and your cousins do. That you didn’t get to see your siblings do. That you didn’t see a newborn grow into an infant at his mother’s breast, and into a toddler and into a small child that slowly weaned away.

I am sorry that you learned about the sexuality of breasts before you learned about the nurturing. That your first exposure to breasts as a child was one that came with shame rather than growing up with them as a source of comfort and nourishment.

I am sorry that you think that breastfeeding is private.

But it isn’t.

It is nothing sacred, as it happens every hour for an hour, sometimes. Ain’t nobody got enough time in their day for that amount of sacred. Not even monks spend that much of their day to day life on sacred things.

It is nothing unusual, as it is what every infant is born expecting. While things happen in this culture that make it rare, and while there are conditions that make breastfeeding impossible (as there have been throughout all of history) it is not a thing that is meant to be rare. It is a thing that once was a part of the beginning of every man and woman born. It should not be as unusual at it is.

It is nothing private. It poses no risk to anyone. It is self contained and clean and quiet. I am sorry that you have not grown up with the knowledge of how clean, how simple breastfeeding is. It is not like the other things that come to mind. It is not like urine or feces, it is not like vomit or semen. It is one of nature’s cleanest things.

I am sorry that you feel that a child should wean when they start to speak, and that you likely have no clue about why a mother would nurse beyond that point. That the idea so shocks you that you can’t deal with finding out. That you don’t know about the antibodies, the nutrients. That you don’t know it is what a child’s body expects and what they need.

I am sorry that we are on such different pages. That you find breastfeeding to be so scary and shocking, and that I find it to be what it is. Something humdrum and ordinary that weaves its way through the pattern of those early days.

I am sorry that I cannot come to meet you where you are. I cannot un-learn the things that I know about breastfeeding and I cannot come to a place of shock and outrage about something that is so simple, so clean, and so needed.

I am sorry, though.

I am not sorry for breastfeeding. I am not sorry for each toddler that I have nursed. I am not sorry that I breastfeed in public.

I am sorry for each and every woman that wishes deeply to do those things, but that fears…

Because your thoughts about breastfeeding are a violence against them. A violence against these women and their babies.

I wish you were sorry, too.

  10 comments for “Public Breastfeeding, and the Things I am Sorry For

  1. Marise
    June 11, 2014 at 9:02 am

    Thank you Sarah, you are the voice of motherhood and humanity in a crazy world. Your words give strength to so many mothers, myself included. Keep ’em coming :)

    • Simone
      June 11, 2014 at 10:52 am

      LOL
      I don’t always see previous comments before adding my own, but I happened to see Marise’s and I agree 100%! Also, she’s my sister and introduced me to Nurshable! Sarah, you have 2 big fans in us! ;0)

  2. pam
    June 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

    What lovely words :-)

  3. June 11, 2014 at 2:08 pm

    You, my friend, are fantastic. Brava!

  4. Lindsay
    June 15, 2014 at 4:08 pm

    Most people DON’T have a problem with it- if it’s done discreetly. When I see a woman whip it out and I can see the breast and the child suckling her nipple, it makes me uncomfortable. Nursing moms should be able to nurse publically but be discreet

    • Jackie
      June 16, 2014 at 12:30 pm

      Simple just to avert a stare.

    • sarah
      June 16, 2014 at 3:02 pm

      It makes you uncomfortable because you don’t see it often. :) It used to make me uncomfortable too. The more I saw it the more comfortable I became with it. I think the solution is for more people to see it more often, not for people to cover up more carefully.

  5. karyn-grace jacoba
    June 16, 2014 at 1:01 am

    What a fabulous perspective! Thank you for writing that.

  6. michelle
    June 27, 2014 at 6:37 pm

    Thank you for this! I nursed each of my babies for 3-plus years, and now my first baby is nursing her first baby. I nursed my babies whenever, wherever, and I’m so proud that my daughter is doing the same. This lovely essay deserves to be posted everywhere. Not just in pediatricians’ offices and baby stores, but everywhere, because everybody — moms and dads and grandmas and grandpas and teenage boys and women who chose not to have children and little girls who might someday choose to have them and everybody else — needs to hear this message.

  7. jodyL
    December 26, 2014 at 2:33 pm

    Love it.
    However, as a 5x breastfeeding mother with over 7 years (and still nursing) of combined nursing time, I am sorry that some of my fellow moms seem to feel the need to use their breastfeeding as a political statement. I am sorry that instead of letting normal be normal, it is turned militant and excessive exposure is done purely for shock value in the name of “making a statement.”
    I am sorry that these few make the road harder for those of us who simply want to feed our babies.

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