Monday, January 21, 2008

Breasts on Vacation

I have an acquaintance who once mentioned to me that she was weaning her eleven month old because they were going on a family vacation in a few weeks. She said it like I should understand why that made the weaning necessary, and I didn't really question her decision because I didn't want to seem nosy or rude. I was actually very confused. It was sort of like, "I have to go to the mall next weekend, so I have to stop breastfeeding." It's awesome that she nursed that long; most women in our society don't. I just don't understand the whole vacation=weaning thing; I mean, she was bringing him with her anyway!

My husband and I used to joke that for the first year of their lives, our kids saw every vacation destination as the background behind my breast :) I have nursed in Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina, Missouri, Arkansas, Texas, and the Caribbean. Each time, I wondered if I was going to be hassled or treated rudely, but it never happened. I personally think that travelling is one of the hidden benefits of breastfeeding; something my friend obviously didn't know...

  • You don't have to pack bottles, formula, bottled water to mix with powdered formula, etc.
  • You don't have to worry about how you will sterilize (or even clean) bottles on the road or at your destination.
  • Unlike my neighbor, who was laid over at an airport for seven hours with a small baby and ran out of formula, you won't have to worry about bringing enough formula.
  • When you are in a strange environment, your baby will have her greatest comfort with her to soothe her.
  • When you lie down to sleep in a hotel, your baby will have his favorite "sleep aid" at hand. He will drift off to sleep just like he's at home.
  • If you are travelling to a different country, you don't have to worry about the water's effect on your baby.
  • When you are out and about on your trip, you always have something at hand to calm, distract, feed, your baby when she needs it.
  • Your baby will be better protected from all of the germs he will encounter on vacation.

We love road trips and have taken many a year since becoming parents. It took a bit of practice, but I figured out how to nurse a baby in a rear-facing carseat without having to unbuckle anyone. That was great with a small baby who nursed and slept frequently. If we stopped for me to take the baby out, he or she would nurse to sleep, and then wake up frantic when I transferred them back into the seat. If I nursed them while they were still buckled up, they drifted off and stayed happy for an hour or two. That doesn't work once the baby is facing the front, but at that point, they aren't nursing as often anymore.

I believe that breastfeeding has helped us enjoy our vacations more because we don't have screaming, unhappy babies/toddlers with us. They go with the flow because they are being treated as well as they are at home.

Until my oldest was two and a half and weaned, she never had any trouble on vacations. The first trip we took after the birth of her little brother was a shock to us. She had a great time every day (we were at Disney World) and screamed for home every night at bedtime. We'd had no experience with that before because on every other trip with her, she had nursed to sleep beside me wherever we were. I felt such a weight of guilt settle over me while she writhed and screamed because I had taken away her source of comfort. She had weaned without a single tear, but months later I was seeing a sweet girl who still needed it. She fell asleep beside me at home every night without nursing, but in the unfamiliar surroundings of the hotel she was beside herself. Meanwhile, her seven week old brother was sleeping just fine. We took turns walking her around until she fell asleep, and she was fine by morning every day. We didn't have that experience after our son was weaned, but he was a whole year older (3 1/2)by that point.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Ignorance is Not a Good Excuse

I've just been reading comments from posters who read an article about a woman suing a restaurant for harassing her about nursing there. My blood pressure is normally fine, but it's skyrocketing right now! I simply cannot believe the ignorant people at large in our society. It's hard to determine whether they are a true sampling of the population, or if the type of people who go out of their way to be nasty on a public forum are just idiots in every aspect of their lives, and not a representation of Americans. I hope it's the former.

People were mentioning that the mother should have known her baby was going to need to be fed, so she should have set her schedule accordingly. Why in the world should a mom revolve her life around being able to nurse at home, in the car, in the bathroom, etc??? Just because formula companies have brainwashed people into believing that bottles of synthetic milk are the "normal" food for babies doesn't make it true. If a parenting "expert" writes that babies should only be hungry on a certain schedule, it doesn't mean that your baby will follow it (unless your genius baby has read the book for herself and decides it's the best thing for her). Normal baby feeding is breastfeeding, and normal breastfeeding doesn't follow a schedule. It is this thinking that makes women only nurse for the newborn period (if that). They are afraid to nurse in public, so breastfeeding becomes a cage for them. Who would want to lock themselves away in their home for months and months with only their baby for company? Even if you believe that nursing is the best thing for your child, the solitude will wear you down.

There were several comments from Super Morons who wondered why the mom didn't pump her milk and bring it along in a bottle for the baby to drink in public. My youngest child is now nineteen months old. None of the three of them have ever used a bottle. It is not the same thing as breastfeeding, even if there's breastmilk in the bottle (although it is better than formula any day). If the mom didn't use bottles, why should she start just so that she could eat out? It's no one's business to insist that all babies be trained to drink bottles.

Some of the posters used the classic line, "Peeing and sex are natural too, but you can't do those in a restaurant." Wow, those people are so clever. See how they turned other normal behaviours against breastfeeding mothers? Well guess what that baby was probably also doing while in the restaurant? Peeing and (Gasp!) Pooping in her diaper!!! Can you believe that? What kind of a mother brings non-potty-trained babies out in public! What if I smell a dirty diaper and throw up? Some of the posters actually mentioned that they might be sick if they saw a woman nursing. If I ever cause someone to vomit through the act of feeding my child, I hope it gets all over their pants.

There were also complaints that children might see and question what the woman was doing. What the hell is wrong with that? I'm a little worried if your child doesn't know what breasts are for. Are you waiting until he's twelve to tell him that breasts are for him to play with? Are you going to tell your teenage daughter that she's developed a nice set of accessories? It's not as if telling a child that babies drink milk from their mother's breasts sets you up to talk about sex. What if your child sees a pregnant woman and asks how the baby got in there? Maybe all pregnant women should be forced to stay at home once they are showing so that Americans can keep their children from knowing about reproduction. It will be good practice for after the women have given birth and have to hide at home to breastfeed.