It’s Not All Mary Poppins

Breastfeeding Women: Brave New Mavericks or Just Another Mother?

On my post with the pro-breastfeeding video, Zoe commented that she’d “never seen anyone turn a hair” at the sight of a breastfeeding woman in the city of Norwich where she lives. (Or the city closest to where she lives? Where do you live, Zoe?)

I was struck by that, because you know that? I haven’t, either. Well, not when I was nursing my own children. This is even more striking, perhaps, when you understand that my eldest is 28. She was breastfed till she was over a year old. In all that time, as a stay-at-home mother, I took her wherever I went and nursed her when she needed. Restaurants, libraries, bus stops, church (and no, I didn’t necessarily go down to the nursery, which was often too full of distractions and noise), coffee shops, malls… Everywhere. I never once took her to a public toilet to nurse, either. Ick. My two younger children are almost-25 and 20. They, too, were nursed till they were a little over a year old. They, too, went everywhere with me, feeding as required.

And in all that time, I never had one negative remark. I did have a few positive ones.

— From a very elderly woman in the church I was attending at the time, when I slipped into a pew at the back of the sanctuary to nurse, a lovely frail lady who tottered back to keep me company. “It’s so nice to see young mothers feeding their own babies again! I always thought it was such a shame when those ridiculous doctors convinced all those poor women that those concoctions in bottles were better than what God had given us to feed our babies.” If she was 80-something then, and had fed her babies when she was in her twenties, she was talking about the 1920’s. History, right there in the pew beside me!

— From the woman in the seat beside me on a trans-Atlantic flight. My eldest was 9 months old, and I was nursing her during the ascent to assist with the popping of her teeny eardrums. “Oh, such a smart idea. She’ll be so much happier.” (Turns out she was a pediatric nurse at Sick Kids in Toronto, and her lovely husband an Anglican priest.)

For the most part, people ignored me when I fed my babies. Granted, that could have been the averted eyes of the squeamish … but I never got that impression. For the most part, I assumed people were just respecting my privacy.

Oh, wait! I’m wrong. I did have one negative response. When my son, Adam, my middle child, was five days old, we were visited in our home by good friends. When Adam cried, I made ready to nurse him. The husband of the couple made an exclamation of dismay. “You’re not going to do that here?!?”, he wailed.

I raised one eyebrow (I can do that) and nailed him with a steely glare. My tone was measured, but ironclad stern. “Byron. This is my home, and my baby is hungry. Yes, I’m going to ‘do that’ here. If you don’t like it, you can go out in the kitchen.”

Meantime, his wife, appalled, rolled her eyes at me as she smacked him in the arm. “BY-ron!!!” He glanced at my then-husband for male support, and found none. He was a great guy, Byron, and knew when to admit defeat. He grinned, heaved a giant mock-sigh. “Oh, all right. I guess I’m outnumbered.”

I fed my baby. Byron did not run cowering to the kitchen, and discovered being in the room with a breastfeeding baby wasn’t as horrific as he’d feared. (Three or so years later, when Byron’s first child was born, he was the strongest supporter of breastfeeding his wife could have asked for. I take some credit in turning that around.) 😀

Now, recall that all this was far closer to 30 years ago than 20. Three decades ago, pretty much, I nursed children in several cities in Ontario, with no backlash, no resistance, no negative comments whatsoever. Thirty years ago! Why, I wondered, this sudden flurry of defiantly pro-breastfeeding articles I’m seeing? As if women expect, as if they’ve actually been receiving, flack, push-back, disgust? I’m baffled.

The Canadian in me wants to suggests that it’s because breastfeeding is only just now being truly popularized in the (prudish) US, and so all these articles, posters, tweets and comments reflect American battles, battles largely won in Canada two and three decades ago. It could be that. Except that the video I posted was from Australia, of course. Hm. Is Australia equally prudish? I wouldn’t have thought so, but who knows?

Or was it that my experience wasn’t representative? I lived in urban Canada, in Ontario. Would I have experienced more revulsion had I been in rural Ontario? (Though that sweet little old pro-breastfeeding church lady? She was in Buffalo, New York, where I was living when my eldest was born.)

Or is it that there are pockets of prudery here and there, that people in those pockets post something on the internet, and the rest of us all read/watch what they’ve posted and come to believe it’s a bigger problem than it is? Because that happens. We know it does.

So, wanting to get to the bottom of it, I have a couple of questions. The first is for you currently (or recently) breastfeeding women.

1. How do most people respond to you? Positively? Negatively? Neutrally? (Not the outliers, now. The majority. I don’t want to hear about that one stinker every so often, and make him/her sound like they’re the norm. I’m interested in your everyday experience.) Though I admit I’m curious to know how frequently you encounter those stinkers, if you do.

2. How do you, breastfeeding or not, account for the sudden upsurge in defiant women demanding their right to … do something I thought was a non-issue 28 years ago?

I’m baffled. And curious.

February 27, 2014 Posted by | Canada, controversy, food, parenting | , , | 26 Comments

Toys that Play Themselves

Have you heard about The Breast Milk Baby doll yet?

When I heard about it, I snorted a bit.

Not because of that whole ridiculous “sexualizing of children” concern. I’ll write a post on that later.

Not because I have any reservations about kids, girls and boys, practicing breast-feeding. While I believe that each woman has the right to choose how to feed their infant, I give particular encouragement and practical support any and all woman I know who choose to breastfeed.

Why particular support to these women? Because getting started with breastfeeding is more complicated than bottle feeding. It just is. Moreover, these new mothers were mostly bottle-fed as babies, meaning that their mothers can’t offer practical support or advice.

In fact, too many offer discouragement, old wives tales, rumours, and just plain old bad advice. My mother-in-law, who was very supportive of me and my ways, kept offering to give my newborn baby a bottle “to give you a rest”. That’s fine when the baby’s a couple of months old, but it is NOT fine in the first month, when the milk supply is being established. She honestly thought she was being helpful, though, and it was hard to turn her down without feeling ungracious. I did turn her down, and we both thought I was being ungracious. Sigh. But the breast-feeding went REALLY WELL, thanks!!!

Thus breastfeeding mothers have a few more hurdles to overcome at the start — though once everything’s established, it is SO MUCH more convenient than bottle-feeding!

I breastfed my three children for over a year each, and I loved it. Because they saw their siblings breast-fed, my older two “nursed” their dollies. My daughter AND my son. All small children who see younger siblings being nursed will nurse their bolls. ALL of them.

One day, little Adam, then about three years old, sat on the couch with his sister’s beloved Cabbage Patch Baby (known to the children as “Baby Cabbage”) shoved under his shirt, its head nestled well into Adam’s armpit. His daddy entered the room.

“I’m feeding my baby!” Adam announced, very proud.
Dad gives a wry grin. “You’re in for a BIG disappointment, son,” was his only comment, and as children do when adults say inexplicable things, Adam ignored him. A moment or two later, he yoinked baby out, flipped it over his shoulder, burped it, and then shoved it into the other armpit. Because kids, they copy what they see.

And that’s the thing that makes me snort. Both Adam and Haley nursed their dollies. Their rag dolls, their plastic dolls. The most expensive was that Cabbage Patch baby, a Christmas gift from grandparents.

This nursing doll retails for about a hundred dollars. We need to spend a hundred dollars on a doll that will make sucking noises and burp, when a $25 rag doll will do the job just as well, without the internal mechanism? Heck, a plastic baby from the Dollar Store will do the trick. But no, we must purchase an expensive doll (complete with a very silly two-flower bra thingy) so that the doll will make the noises that any child is perfectly capable of imagining?

I’ve always been leery of toys equipped with technology to do what a child’s imagination does just as well. Spend more money on a toy which attempts to replace a child’s imagination?

So, no. I won’t be buying the Breast Milk Baby doll. Which is a shame, because I’d like to, you see. I’d like to support the company which has been so beleaguered by legions of silly, squeamish prudes who kicked up such a fuss about it. I’d like to stick it in the eye of the sex-obsessed prudes, I really would. Too bad I have all these inexpensive (some even home-made!) rag dollies which do the job just as well for so much less.

September 29, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , | 6 Comments

Chocolate moments in history

1158067_chocolate_swirlToday’s post is a memory, brought to mind (and to you!) courtesy of this post by Rosie-Kate.

Many years ago, I was nursing my youngest at church. How many years ago? Depends on which child it was, and I can’t really remember. Said child was no more than six months old, that I do recall, so it was somewhere between 16 and 23 years.


Anyway. Nursing my baby. At church. I’d slipped from my seat when s/he got fractious, and slid discreetly into the far corner of the very back pew. (Yes, I could have gone to the nursery, where the service was thoughtfully piped in, but, thoughtful though those speakers in the wall might be, if you actually want to hear the service, a roomful of babies and toddlers is not the place to be.) So, as I say, discreetly in a rear pew.

Not so discreetly that a restless four-year-old didn’t notice me, mind you. A four-year-old whose mother caught my eye, pointed to her wriggly daughter with raised eyebrows and tipped her head to the rear of the sanctuary. The message was clear. I nodded. Sure, she could come with me. (Don’t ask me why said four-year-old wasn’t in the Sunday School class. As I say, it was a long time ago. Maybe I never knew.)

Four-year-old was delighted, and trotted over to keep me company. She watches with interest as the baby slurps. Then I flip the baby over the burp cloth on my shoulder. Four-year-old wants to know why. I explain, briefly. Four-year-old gives the baby a few wallops too, just to help out. I fit the baby to the other side. Four-year-old wants to know why.

“Well,” says me, “The first one has white milk, and the second has chocoate. She’s finished her meal, and now she’s having dessert.” Mwah-ha. Even back then, I’d learned the pleasures of playing with a small child’s head. Four-year-old is dumb-struck. Which was the point: as you recall, I was sitting there because wanted to be able to hear the service. She gapes at me, silent with amazement. (Even back then, I was just so smart with the kids.)

After the service, the four-year-old runs up the aisle to meet her mother, silent no more.


She has BIG NEWS to share. Mommy is making “shush” faces, but they’re not working.


BIG NEWS to share… with, so it would seem, the entire congregation.


Heads turn. Everyone wants to know, everyone is about to find out, that MrsP has a…


Sometimes? Sometimes you can be too smart.

September 24, 2009 Posted by | food, health and safety, the cuteness! | , , , | 8 Comments