Public Schooling

            Three kids.  Over two combined years (thus far) of breastfeeding.  On airplanes, while walking, on the Tube, by the side of the road, in the Enchanted Tiki Room.  And the  other day was the very first time.

            I got called out for public breastfeeding.  Oh, yes I did.

            I was talking to the preschool director about some issues and she haltingly brought it up.  “I am getting some comments about the breastfeeding,” she told me.

            “Why?” I asked, already defensive.  Sometimes, I feed Lilah on the benches outside the school or on the couches in the waiting area because she is shrieking and hungry after drop-off or before pick-up of her brothers.

            “I don’t know,” the director told me.  “I used to breastfeed everywhere.  But I guess some of the kids are asking questions at home.”

            “Well, if they want to complain, send them to me,” I replied.

            “I think I took care of it,” she went on.  “It seems to me it is a very natural way for them to see a breast.”  Not, of course, that anyone sees much.  My baby’s head is sort of blocking the view.

            I suspect she was hoping I would offer to cover up to save her the headache of dealing with the complainers.  She probably does not think I should have to but would appreciate if the issue resolved itself.  Of course, we all know that most babies prefer not to be covered while eating, and I have yet to see a single baby sitting out front who is covered while drinking a bottle or a toddler with a blanket over her head while eating Cheerios.

            I am not going to cover up.  But, the question remains whether I should simply find someplace to hide while doing it.  If it were just adults, I would say, “If you don’t want to see, don’t look.”  But, these are kids who are always looking at everything, and the parents do have a right to raise their kids within their belief system.

            As do I.  So, I think I will stop feeding my baby in front of them as soon as they stop parading things in front of my kids that I don’t believe in.  That means, no nail polish on their children, as I don’t approve of my kids wearing nail polish (a subject for another post).  And they will have to pack lunches without any disposable items, because I do not use baggies or Saran Wrap.  I expect to see the boys wearing pink on a regular basis, of course, since that is what I am raising my kids to feel comfortable doing, and we are now all adjusting our parenting to make everyone’s kids feel comfortable with my values.

            Did I mention they’ll need to start buying organic produce?  

32 responses to “Public Schooling

  1. Love this post.

  2. The breast-feeding issue is one that I rarely weigh in on because, well, I don’t have much place to have an opinion in the matter. But I have to say…this post rocked. I had the image of a little boy with a pink blanket covering his head, desperately searching for Cheerios with his painted fingernails.

  3. yes, and I want all parents to put their kids to bed between 7 and 8, because that is when my boys go to bed and they feel bad when “all their friends” get to stay up so much later “watching TV” all night.

  4. As a early childhood professioinal I must say that this director was WRONG!!! Instead of telling you others were complaining, she should have used it as a informal way to help the other parents understand the rights of all parenting choices and provided you with a “nursing space” that not only gave you privacy, but encouraged other mothers to do the same! The space should not be used for you to hide but instead to provide you with the needed space to take care of your baby. In my program we have two rocking chairs in a corner of each classroom for mothers to be able to stay and watch their older children, while still tending to the needs of their babies.

    This just goes to show you, though we have made tremendous strides in the rights of parenting choices (and partner choices), we still hav a very long way to go.

    By the way, J’s older brother M was the first baby I saw being breastfed. My aunt was sitting in a rocking chair in the nursery. M must have been about 4 weeks old. I was given the chance to look, ask questions, and understand the natural and wonderful way our bodies are made to take care of our offspring. I think I was about 5 years old.

  5. Seems reasonable to me.

  6. Rock on, Mamma…GREAT post. Let me add to this my list of things parents should keep away from my kids: cammo, Braatz, earrings on girls less than 8 years old, slutty toddler clothes, gameboys, purple yogurt, and any conversation involving “No…I said no…No!…Oh, all right, just this once…”

  7. Wow. I tend to agree that she was looking for too easy an out mentioning it to you.

    It’s frustrating. I agree with Ashley – Bratz dolls are WAY more offensive than having to explain to my kid how a mom nurses a baby. Don’t they let these kids watch Discovery Channel? heh.

  8. oh you are sooooooooo frigging right! Same thing happened to me and I thought along the same lines as you.

  9. you’re so hard core. I love it.

  10. I have such a crush on you right now.

  11. he he

    i NEVER got called out on public breastfeeding, but I guess third time’s the “charm”, huh?

    at least the director didn’t ask you to stop!

  12. Most of my friends have breastfed, and only one of them has not done it in public. I have to say, even as a bottle feeding mom I am more surprised by the one than by the others. I don’t hide the formula in front of breastfeeding moms (though sometimes I think maybe I should) so I’m not sure why any nursing mom should sit in a hot car or bathroom stall to feed her baby.

  13. Your hungry child appreciates that you are putting her needs ahead of the other parents’ concerns. And I use the word “concerns” loosely. I have been known to plop down in the aisle at Target and feed my hungry baby. I have never nursed in a bathroom unless it was a fancy pants bathroom with plush carpet and big fat comfy chairs. More power to you for standing up for what you believe in!

  14. LOL… the image of a toddler sitting there eating Cheerios with a blanket over his head made me giggle! Thats really strange, of all the places where people would be offended by seeing someone breastfeed, you wouldn’t expect it in a preschool! Didn’t any of those other mothers breastfeed? ANd how hard is it to explain to a curious kid, “That mother is feeding the baby.” Hmmm…

  15. Wow, nice post because it made me think. I come from the other side (as a guy) but I still see valid points to both sides.

    It is important that each parent be able to teach their own children their own beliefs. Therefore for you to insist that they be exposed to breastfeeding (out in the open for all to see) when their parents object is not right. Some parents are just not ready to answer questions that are brought up to them by their kids.

    But I also see your point that you should be able to feed your child when it is needed. Yeah, it is natural and as adults we can look away (giving you privacy to feed your child). And why should you be stuck somewhere uncomfortable just to feed.

    I think my upbringing just instills a sense of modesty and decorum towards this subject.

    Just my two cents worth….

  16. Yes!!!

    And anyway, feeding a child is not about a belief. It’s a basic human need, unlike nail polish.

  17. Oh. my. god.

    I love your take on it. So if parents could stop letting their kids watch crap TV so that mine won’t learn words like “butthead” and “stupid” and “hate”, I’d appreciate it. (-;

    I understand a bit of what Mike is saying b/c I always covered while breastfeeding or found somewhere I could hide the very large girls. For me, it was impossible to breastfeed w/o showing a lot of boob just b/c of their size.

    BUT I generally covered up b/c it’s MY problem, not to protect the modesty of others.

    Because I HAVE breastfed in a bathroom & fought with a baby who insisted on pulling the blanket off CONSTANTLY or popped off 5000 times to look around, I am a very firm advocate of telling people to step off. No matter what your “values” or your personal sense of “modesty” you don’t get to tell people where and how they can breastfeed.

    It has nothing to do with values. If you don’t want your kids to see breastfeeding out in the open, then home school them and never leave the house.

    Babies need to eat. They don’t like to be covered. Get the hell over it. End of discussion.

  18. *dies laughing* Oh, my God, I love you so much right now. And I have to say an AMEN to all the folks talking about what THEY’D like their kids not to be exposed to. Especially Bratz and “slutty toddler clothes” and words like “butt-head” and “hate.” Oh, I hate (;D) those things with a fiery, fiery passion.

  19. These days, breastfeeding isn’t as much of a hot button issue for me because my boys are older. But I do vehemently support a woman’s right to breastfeed where ever and when ever needed. I think if breasts were seen more, in the function for which they were intended, the mystique would go away. They would become much like elbows. Nobody ever asks a woman to cover her elbows. Why? Because we’re all used to seeing them.

  20. Seriously, our society has hyper-sexualized breasts for so long and with such thoroughness that we completely overlook their primary, natural purpose: to feed babies.

    If other parents are uncomfortable with their children seeing a breastfeeding mother, perhaps they ought to take a moment to reflect on WHY our society sends this message and why they buy into it, before they start jumping on the “it’s not decent” bandwagon.

    It is perfectly decent and natural, and I applaud this post, Emily. I may even fight Jennifer for you, even though I love her dearly.

  21. I find it weird that she said it too you in a way to make you stop, while telling you she breastfed everywhere. Seriously people need to chill out on this issue. A baby need to eat, no matter how you do it. I had a kid come up to me at the pre-school just last week and say, babies are sposed to eat from boobies, not from bottles. All I said was, well yes, some eat from boobies and mine eats from bottles. The judgments we place on each other are just exhausting. But putting that crap on a kid, it’s just wrong.

  22. Your preschool director blew it big time, looking for the comfortable way out through you. Wrong.

    Nothing wrong with the kids seeing a baby being fed by its mother… kids here are surrrounded by breastfeeding mommies at all the playgroups, etc… doesn’t phase them in the slightest and it shouldn’t.

    But I like your view, too, about them not exposing your children to all the CRAP that’s other kids are showing up with.

  23. How ridiculous. What nursery school is that, anyway?

    Of course the kids are looking – they are probably all wondering what happened to the good old days.

  24. I love this post! I never understood why people have a problem with public breastfeeding. You are feeding your child for God’s sake! I remember being a young kid and getting embarresed when I would come to look at a baby only to discover his mother was breastfeeding. But my mom would just tell me that that is the way babies eat and I understood just fine.

  25. Amen, sister.

    I am so over the public breastfeeding debate. Puh-leeze. Kids gotta eat. I nursed. And with my first two, twins, I didn’t have the time, energy or inclination to cover up.

  26. I totally agree with Coco. If more mothers remembered that breasts are for feeding babies and breastfeeding is a natural and DECENT thing then children would stop looking and they’d stop asking questions as they’d know all about it and that would stop their mothers giving comments to principals and the world would be a much nicer place … 🙂

    So, yes, I’d continue doing what you’re as you’re doing a great job. Cheers.

  27. I’m still appalled that the director said something to you about this. You can’t starve little Lilah, you can’t decide to wait to pick up your children and feed at home…. of course, I am someone who has nursed in almost all of the places that you mentioned plus standing in front of the cash register. (it was Petit Bateau, so they should be used to babies there). Today it was Hyde Park (brr…).

    New parenthood is tricky enough as it is– I would hope other parents would remember this and that we can cut each other some slack.

    (Having fumed about this on your behalf for a while, I shall cut the other parents some slack and think that maybe they were having a trying day and the question from the little one was just the last straw).

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  29. It is not like your breast is just hanging out there for the world to see, for heavens sake! There is a BABY blocking it!
    God forbid children should learn that breasts were intended to feed a mother’s child instead of fill out a bikini top.

    Makes me damn mad!

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  31. Good for you! I have a baby (ok I’ve had two babies so obviously I’m doing something wrong! -or right??) who refuses the bottle, so if he’s hungry, he eats. No. Matter. Where. I. Am. I was at a party recently and opened my nursing tank and fed the baby while I walked around.
    I don’t try to hide it and fortunately, have never been asked to move. I am not sure how I’ll react if anyone ever says anything to me. I hope that I never have to find out either!