Friday, May 18, 2012

Reason Not to Nurse In Public: "Intimate Moment" Fallacy

"But nursing is an intimate moment between you and your baby, you should have a quiet moment for just yourselves. Wouldn't you be more comfortable alone somewhere to enjoy that? You shouldn't do that here."

I've actually heard this a few times. It's the RNTNIP I hear that I find hardest to respond to. Partially because they are correct about a little part of it. I've thought for a few weeks on how to write this post out, and last night it finally came to me exactly how to put words to my feelings.

Sure, nursing CAN be an intimate moment between mother and child(ren). Some of my favorite nursing memories of me and DB are laying quietly on our big fold-out sofa under the sunlight streaming from the window, just staring at each other. Intimate, lovely, peaceful. But allow me to interrupt this beautiful breastfeeding moment to bring us all back to reality. Nursing is just food. For every beautiful nursing moment of bliss, there are at least 40 other times that were just business! That's not to sound callous, it's just a fact. Breastfed infants nurse upwards of 14 times a day. Older infants and young toddlers can still nurse upwards of 8 times a day (these don't even include night feedings!). Keep that number in mind as I explain why the "intimate moment" fallacy doesn't hold water.

Imagine this scenario: you and a close friend, perhaps a partner, perhaps a date, perhaps a spouse, are enjoying a wonderful brunch in bed, or cande-lit dinner, or a moonlight picnic. It's a lovely, intimate setting for a meal, and it really is enjoyable and wonderful. Now imagine that no matter when or where you were hungry, you HAD to re-create that moment. Every time. Three meals a day and snacks besides. Sound exhausting? That's because it would be! It would be horrendous! It would also likely rob those intimate moments of all their "special", because you would be working constantly to make this intimate setting over and over day after day.

I don't think it's a stretch to say that most people would find the scenario above to be ludicrous. People simply don't do that. You have to eat, you eat! You drive through and get a smoothie, you pick up a sub sandwich, you pull in to the farmers' market and grab some fruit, you eat a packet of almonds out of your purse, or you grab a snack as you walk into Target. Sure, you enjoy a nice intimate dinner or brunch, maybe you even have an intimate meal once a day, connecting with another human over a meal is almost instinctive, it seems, but that's not the main purpose of food.

Walking up and to someone eating a burrito as they rush around getting errands done and saying "why aren't you using the good china and sitting down at a white linen table" isn't something we'd do, because we understand that sometimes, you just have to EAT! We can't expect nursing mothers to be forced into this preconceived and poorly conceived notion of intimate nursing when their babies are just trying to eat, and have to do so easily 2-3 times more often than you do! Not only that, but these mothers really are eating for two, so they also have to balance their own meals in addition to being someone else's meals!

When you say something about the "intimate moment", it may be because you genuinely thought that's what a mother needs, it may be because you aren't fully educated on a nursing mother's needs, and it may be because you are simply uncomfortable and want her to be elsewhere but don't know how to say that without sounding ignorant and closed-minded. Whatever your reasoning, it's not ok. Unless a nursing mother asks your opinion, don't share it. People have to eat, even and especially tiny people, sometimes at a candle-lit dinner, and sometimes in line at the grocery store.