Friday, August 04, 2006

You're a Mammal: Get Over It

Odd juxtaposition of stories on Yahoo's most e-mailed news list today. The top of the list is a story that says children who were breastfed have fewer anxieties as they grow up. The third story on the list is about people agitated because a parenting magazine's cover picture is of a baby nursing. (The #2 story is about a woman getting stuck to a toilet seat in a mall...really.)

Now, I realize that I not only live here on the Left Coast, but also right near the breastfeeding capital of the country, if not the world. So my reaction is not likely to be typical. I also come from a long line of breastfeeders. My sister and I were born at a time when breastfeeding was out of vogue. My favorite story is that when my mother was in the hospital after giving birth to my sister, the nurses refused to bring the baby to mom to nurse! So she checked out and took my sister home and nursed her there.

Anyway, here's my point. We're mammals. One of the defining characteristics of a mammal (and indeed, the one that gave us our name), is that we have mammary glands so that we can feed our offspring before they can feed themselves. That's what breasts are for.

I can appreciate that people may not want to watch others breastfeed. There are plenty of other bodily functions that we generally choose to do privately. Of course, in most cases, we provide facilities for people to do those things in private. If you don't want to watch, don't look. If you really don't want to have to look away, provide places for people to go out of your sight. But don't condemn people for doing something natural and necessary.

Now, as for the picture, here's the thing: it's not a picture of a breast. It's a picture of a baby. It's a really cute, happy baby. There happens to be part of a breast in the picture, too, but that's really not the focus. I think it says a lot about those objecting to the picture that they tend to characterize it as a picture of a breast.

By the way, the picture link there is to a really interesting site called BAGnewsnotes, which does interesting analyses of visual images, generally those in the news. Quite fascinating.


Laura E. Goodin said...

"Breastfeeding is necessary" -- you're not wrong. It's not just instinctive, it's insistent. When the mom's body is ready to feed the kid, the kid better be hungry!

sueinsacca said...

Your sister never heard the story of Mom checking out of the hospital in order to nurse; only the one about asking what a nurse was about to inject into her and learning it was something that would dry up her milk supply. Good thing she asked.

I loved nursing my daughter and I love watching other moms nurse. It brings back fond memories. I saw a mom nursing at the table in a restaurant recently. Didn't bother me a bit, and I was really glad when no one bothered her about it.