This summer has been a scorcher, and keeping little people hydrated in 40C dry heat is often a challenge as there’s only so much water they’re prepared to drink. My oldest loves anything in homemade lolly form, sitting under a tree by the dam and getting ridiculously messy. But my little Hairy Fairy had only just started solids when this summer heat hit, so breastmilk frozen in reusable lolly moulds seemed the best option where she didn’t have to miss out on all the fun.
I didn’t give it much thought after that until I was at a social get-together. It happened to be a cooker that day too, so I packed what I affectionately called her “mommy lollies”. While casually chatting to the other ladies, they asked what I was giving her assuming it must have been cows milk which of course isn’t ideal for a baby under a year old. When I told them it was just frozen breast milk they seemed totally grossed out while it dripped down her arm and onto the picnic blanket! Even though some of them there had even breastfed their own babies, the idea of coming into contact with someone else’s breastmilk seemed really off-putting. I was embarrassed and quickly packed them away so not to offend anyone further as it seemed to make some people quite uncomfortable that essentially my breast milk was dripping all over the place. It was only on the drive back home that it really hit me. Had I mentioned the lollies were made from cows milk nobody would have probably given it a second thought.
So how did we get here? How as a society do we find it completely normal and acceptable to consume products made from the milk of a farm animal, a beast that’s standing out in a field swatting flies and eating grass? Yet milk from our own kind and the act of nurturing our babies in the most natural life-giving way is repulsive to a lot us. A woman can walk down the street in bikini top and not be shamed, probably showing off even more of her breasts than what is visible during breastfeeding. But if a mother feeds her baby discretely in public with only a minimal amount of her breast actually showing, then she gets dirty looks and is made to feel uncomfortable.
My experience unfortunately was not a once off, there is a worldwide awkwardness surrounding breastfeeding. Mothers being openly ridiculed for breastfeeding their babies in public. Working moms being too ashamed to keep their expressed milk in the communal fridge at work and rather washing their pumping equipment and bottles in the less-than-hygienic bathroom instead of the kitchen sink so not to offend anyone. How did this become normal?
Unfortunately I will be the first to admit that before I had my own kids, seeing another woman openly breastfeeding her child made me uncomfortable and even a little grossed out. But WHY?!?!?! I was a breastfed baby and I was raised in a family with a healthy view on nudity. So somewhere along the line society skewed my opinion about something so perfectly designed by nature, something that has essentially meant life or death for the survival of our species through the ages. A more natural act will be hard to find, yet it is ingrained in our culture to be repulsed.
So I have a favour to ask. To all the moms out there breastfeeding your babies in public toilets, under blankets or feeding shawls and feeling ashamed of this beautiful exchange between you and your baby. I salute you. As you unclip your nursing bra and look into those little appreciative eyes who think you are the sun and moon, sit tall. Know how miraculous you are. You’ve worked so hard to earn the title “Mom”. Know that I’m standing right behind you with every other mom who wishes the world was a kinder place, we’ve got your back! To all the grandparents, fathers, aunts and uncles. To anyone who knows a mom who is breastfeeding, please support her. Motherhood is one of the hardest things she will ever do, she needs your support, acceptance and encouragement above all else. Please, let’s normalise breastfeeding.