Sunday, January 20, 2013

Art Imitates Life


At 20 months old, Claire is a breastfed toddler. My goal is to continue breastfeeding until she's two. Once we reach that mark, I may reconsider and continue. Claire happens to be a child who loves to breastfeed. I don't have a problem obliging her something that seems relatively uncomplicated for me to do. 

But I'm not trying to make a political statement. Nor am I trying to tell others what to do either. I know many people find my choice offensive. After all, I wasn't living under a rock when the controversy surrounding the Time article on extended breastfeeding happened. Really, I'm not the type of person who openly courts conflict. It doesn't make me happy that people feel uncomfortable, embarrassed or offended by my decision. 

Lately, I've noticed more dirty looks from people when I breastfeed in public. What surprises me is that 100% of the looks come from women. And that they express their disapproval by staring long enough to make me want to shout, "Take a picture, why dontcha!"  Honestly, I do my best to be discreet (you see more boob on the red carpet, actually). I want to respect other people, but I don't deserve to feel ashamed either. 

When it all starts to get to me, I remember a time when I felt a calling from above. A higher power touched me on the shoulder. The Virgin Mary seemed on my side.

Mary and Jesus


Mary and JesusThis summer, I was walking in a Northern Renaissance gallery at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City. I looked around and counted. Ten out of 30 paintings showed the baby Jesus breastfeeding. And we're not talking "away in the manger" baby Jesus. Many of the images were of a big, tall, cherubic baby Jesus, who had clearly mastered the skill of walking. In some of the paintings, the Madonna was shown bare-breasted, as the Son of God reached for sustenance. 

In truth, it's probably more accurate to say that breastfeeding a toddler was well and good to the Northern Renaissance painters of those images than to the Virgin Mary herself (after all, who can say how long Jesus was breastfed). 

But that's fine too. It reminds me that beliefs about breastfeeding are culturally constructed and shifting. I realize that people's offense today is not an absolute. If I were living in the Renaissance, rich patrons of the arts would be sharing their living spaces with paintings in which breastfeeding is exalted. 

Of course, it's not the Renaissance. And I don't need these kinds of images in homes to justify my choices. The Met can keep their paintings right where they are. 

But I do have a wish for the world in 2013: I wish that people would let others do what they think is best for their children. I wish that women supported one another more. I wish that we could all be tolerant of one another's personal beliefs. 

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61 comments:

  1. That's exactly what it is all about ~ supporting one another and the decisions we make and what we KNOW is best for our child!
    Good for you mama!!

    xoxo
    Lanaya
    www.raising-reagan.com

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    1. Lanaya, I feel so supported by you! You are awesome.

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  2. This is lovely. I agree- people need to let breastfeeding mothers be. We aren't doing it to bother anyone, we are doing it to feed or maybe comfort our child. I get frustrated when people start saying things like, "I'm fine with it as long as you cover up." Because that frames that whole thing as us needing them to OK us to do something that we truly need no permission for.

    I hope the pendulum will swing back soon. If it's good enough for Mary and baby J, it's good enough for me :)

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  3. I think you're absolutely right here - women should be supportive of each other, not judgmental. Especially when it comes to raising children.

    Thanks for linking up :)

    Sarah @ A Cat-Like Curiosity

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    1. I always feel the love from you, Sarah! Thank you.

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  4. You said it! To each their own, truly. All this judgement stuff is exhausting. And that's a great pic of you and your daughter :)

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    1. Aw, thanks, Meredith. I always feel like you are on my side. It's great!

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  5. Hi, I've just started following your blog! I found it super interesting and I could relate.

    Here in Australia, a talk show host recently voiced his disapproval on public breastfeeding. It has created a national outcry!

    http://babytiley.blogspot.com.au/

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  6. Totally. I am not an extended BF'er (actually, maybe I am to some. We went to 15 months) but I do wonder why people would feel "offended" or "grossed out"... Its bizarre.

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    1. I got "looks" when she was 15 months, too. It's just getting worse. Thank you for your support, Jamie!

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  7. Oh I so agree with you. Whatever is good for the child and Mother - certainly all can agree to that - right?
    You are not harming anyone.
    Not to worry - please God - not man.
    Blessings,
    Janis www.janiscox.com

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  8. I second this! I breastfed my daughter until she self-weaned at age 3. :)

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  9. Hey woman, guess what? I just gave you an award! Check it out here, and congratulations! :)
    http://www.findingninee.com/bloggers-are-awesome-the-liebster-award/

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    Replies
    1. Aw, thanks! What an honor coming from you. You are one of my favorites!!!!!!

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  10. here, here! Very topical here in Oz at the moment.

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  11. I totally support you! A friend told me there is a lot of research saying we should all be bfing our kids until they are past the toddler stage. Who knows. All I know is that weaning has been emotionally difficult for me at 13 months, and I no longer judge anyone. (I'm sorry to say that I once did... before I had my own, that is.)

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    1. Yes, my own research is one of the reasons why I'm not sure if I'm going to stop now at two. I know weaning has been hard. I hope it gets better soon.

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  12. Very good points made. Thanks for sharing.

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  13. Ah Tolerance.....wouldn't it be nice if everyone had a little more inside of them? I guess I've never realized that people got so upset about breastfeeding, because I was surprised to hear that you actually get dirty looks.....and from women! That makes me a little sad. Also, I just loved the comment from "yourgoodfriendrobin"........."if it's good enough for Mary and baby J, it's good enough for me." Well said! Thanks for linking up with Tuesday's Prayers today. Praying blessings abundant for you. :-)

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    1. Yes, I have gotten dirty looks, especially recently. I have to say that MOST people don't care. Honestly, most people don't even realize I'm breastfeeding!

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  14. I wonder if those who give the dirty looks never breastfed their babies? Anyone who has must know all the good that comes from that time. Good health benefits, good bonding, and it even relaxes mom (in most cases). Not when being thrown dirty looks, of course :). Stick to your guns, friend. You are doing a good thing.

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    1. That's a really good question. My guess would be no! Thanks for your encouragement. I really appreciate it.

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  15. It's sad that our world has become so offended by how the Lord made us! Thanks for speaking out against it and standing firm in your convictions.

    Thanks for linking up with Tuesday's prayers today, too!

    Christie
    www.satisfactionthroughchrist.com

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    1. Thank you, Christie. I appreciate your words so much!

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  16. I totally support breastfeeding (I breastfed all four of mine), and happy to hear you doing what you know is best for you guys. Doesn't matter what one other person thinks...if it wasn't breastfeeding they'd find something else to belly ache about. Some people just like to judge or complain. Most people don't (hurrah for the latter!). :)

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  17. Great post and lovely blog.We are following you now can you follow us back? Kisses

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  18. I see no reason to judge. It doesn't affect others so they shouldn't get a say.

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  19. This is a great post. Go, you! Breastfeeding is one of those things that by nature cannot be done totally privately in the same way that you can privately give an older child a soda (or not). You need to feed your kid when your kid is hungry and huddling shamefacedly in the bathroom is not a realistic option. So if you choose to breastfeed you're going to come up against some judgment by virtue of the public nature of the act.

    I think it's great that you made the choice to do extended breastfeeding. There are so many health benefits and nothing could be more natural. I think it's good that people see you do it and thereby extended breastfeeding itself becomes more normalized and gradually more accepted.

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  20. Hi Rachel! I was going to reply to you on my blog but you are a no-reply blogger. That means that no one can reply to your comments. If you need help fixing it let me know. Thanks for visiting and leaving me a sweet comment.

    Have a crazy beautiful day!

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  21. Breastfeeding is as natural as eating for adults, many adults have bad eating habits, some downright rude and offensive. I have no problem flopping out a boob in a public space, if they don't like it they have plenty of open space to look at rather than my babys head! After all thats what they will be seeing more of than my boob!

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  22. I hear your pain, friend. It is a sad day when something as natural and beautiful as breastfeeding is despised.

    May you never feel ashamed to give your child the best and to parent in the way that is right for you. This is freedom, no?

    Found you through IP. Nice to meet you. :)

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    1. Thank you, Kelli. I like your words a lot.

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  23. Ok, warning, I will ramble here. Kid's been in bed for 2 hours, I've had 5 hours of sleep and 1.5 glasses of wine. Still reading? OMG - I knew we were soul sisters! I breastfed my son regularly until he was 14 months old (he started eating solids at 8 months and taking cow's milk at 13 months) but still wanted boobies after that. There was no way that I was going to take that away from him until he was ready. I never pushed him to stop, never pressured him or influenced him with words of "you're a big boy now" and he totally weaned himself. I mean that seriously. He weaned himself. He NEVER cried for the breast and I think that's the way it's supposed to be. Also, considering he's on the autism spectrum and supposed to be "auto" as in ALONE and he's not...well, I think this has something to do with the fact he's so highly functioning.

    Friends told me stories of how they "had to" cut their kids off and I was always like "why?" Why shame a person who has gone to this as a primary comfort/food source from day one (ok maybe day 2 or 3) in all of the history of time? Why not keep allowing it when they're too young to know why they're being rejected?

    Prior to writing the supposed memoir that eventually became my blog, I started writing a book about parenting - and how we should take some lessons to our fore-sisters living in caves. Let's face it. The most judgmental asshole moms out there would be doing anything it took to raise a happy NOT crying baby if she lived in a cave and didn't have Tiffany's moms to look down on her for allowing the baby to dictate his needs regarding comfort, independence, and how to wean himself.

    I could go on and on, but will spare your followers more of my thoughts before they grow weary of my rants.

    Bottom line is YOU DO WHAT is right for YOU and your kids. F*ck those assholes who judge. They have their own issues and should focus on them.

    If I didn't love you before, SO love you now <3 (in a solidarity cool sistah sense, ya know)

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    1. Aw, thanks, Kristi! I really appreciate it. You know I feel the same way about you!!

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  24. I am just finding you today from the Social Weekend link-up. I love this post! And thank you for sharing your find of paintings displaying breastfeeding. Just wonderful.

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  25. We were made to breastfeed our children...from Eve to Mary, and down to every one of us. Hang in there. You will treasure these times later in your heart, just as she did.

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    1. I agree with you. Thank you for the encouragement!

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  26. Hi! I'm this week's #MTMMixer Hop Mixologist and I'm following you! Great blog!

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  27. It truly is sad that women are so judgemental towards each other whether it is about breastfeeding, SAHM vs working moms, or whatever it may be. We should all be a little more supportive of one another for whatever choices we make in life. The world would be a boring place if everyone did everything exactly like everyone else. Great post!

    xoxo,
    Melissa

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    1. I agree with you. I must say the judgment has been sporadic. It's just hard when it comes...

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  28. Great post! The painting you showed is just beautiful. I don't know why I ever thought about Jesus breastfeeding but he must have! More power to you for doing what is best for you and your precious babe.

    Thanks for linking up this week at the MTMmixer! Glad to have you.

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    1. Thank you for the encouragement! Yes, it was cool to really think about the fact that Jesus breastfed, when I went to the museum!

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  29. Great post. I loved the painting. Sadly the imperfection of our state as human beings is we tend to forget that there is a lot of heart in the decisions that we make and assume that someone should see things the way we do. It would be nice if others would ask questions before making faces on all areas. I breast fed and I am glad I did. I have a friend though who couldn't because of her child's allergies. She would have loved the opportunity. We don't all have to agree, but it would be nice if kindness would prevail. After all, isn't the most important thing being that we love our children? Again, loved your post. Dropping by from the weekend hop. :) Have a great weekend!

    http://heresmytakeonit.blogspot.com/

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    1. I feel very grateful to have had this time with my daughter.

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  30. I love the pictures that you posted!! Hello from your newest follower from the Friday Hop! Would love if you followed us back...www.sugaraunts.com

    We also love FB followers and will like in return...just send us a message or comment on our page wo we know where to go :) https://www.facebook.com/pages/Sugar-Aunts/406711342711382?ref=hl

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  31. Very nicely written! My youngest was on the "boo-bah" until 24-1/2 months when she self weaned. Well put reminder "beliefs about breastfeeding are culturally constructed and shifting".

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  32. great post, thanks for sharing on sunday parenting party, I'm pinning this to the SPP board. I couldn't agree more that the length of time you breast feed is entirely your choice whether its not at all or for years and years, and we shouldn't judge each others choices. Maybe the long looks were just admiring glances? or am I just being too optimistic

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    1. Thank you. I appreciate the support! But, no, the looks are clearly glares. The one bright spot is that they are only sporadic. The comments on articles about extended breastfeeding are AWFUL, though. People are REALLY mean.

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  33. I actually just left a comment on the parental advisory post ...I enjoyed that too but it may not have gone thru- my computer had an issue- anyway I agree...I remember when Alicia silverstone got in hot water for Premasticating- I looked up that word and thought- I do this too- and I thought it was lovely...I too wish we could either accept it or just look away! Just saying hi from the Tuesday prayer link up!
    joyandgladnessofheart.blogspot.com

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  34. Hi, I’m a new follower of your blog from the Monday Mingle Blog Hop! Would love if you could stop by mine. Thanks :0)

    The Three Whiskateers
    http://thethreewhiskateers.blogspot.com/

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  35. You had me at The Met! (I can't wait to go back an visit one day....kids in tow) but seriously, I decided to reastfeed both mine till two as well. I didn't care what anyone thought but I remained discrete. As it turned out, both really only kept up night feeds so feeding out in public after about 16 months wasn't an issue. I really believe it is a cultural thing an it's sad western culture seems generally more offended nowadays, very sad.

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