All Fed-Up

May 15th, 2012

It hurt like hell, but I did it. I was a mess, thought I might die, but I did it. I bled, cried, and stunk like cabbage but I did it. I did it in cafes, libraries, church pews, bed, and at school Christmas concerts. I did it discreetly but not shamefully. And I did it for as long as I felt fit. Nobody cared, commented or blinked an eye.

And then we moved to America. The land of the free. Free accept for breastfeeding mothers. No, here they go sit in another room, small cupboards, dirty bathroom stalls or with blankets covering half their bodies in fear of being noticed.

A recent magazine cover here in America ignited the blogger world on fire. Yes dear editors, you win. One hot mama sticking her chest out, hand on hip, with a child on a chair sucking her pretty little boob while she stares blankly into the camera not only satisfies your teenage boy fantasies but has pitted mother against mother. Cheap shot. bull’s-eye! I reacted like many others; in anger, disappointment and frustration. Really? I thought aloud to myself….who the hell feeds a kid like this?

But it wasn’t till my healthy breastfed kids (now 12 and 9yrs) bustled in and spotted the cover photo on our kitchen counter that the pain of this image was felt “ewwww’ one said, “yuk” another chimed in. Breastfeeding in the past may have coaxed an awkward giggle out of them, but never before a “yuk”.  I took it personally, it hurt for it felt as though they were rejecting me and what we shared.

Breastfeeding my kids did not feel at all natural for the first few months. It was endless, exhausting. Mastitis hit me hard countless times and I leaked awkwardly everywhere, anytime. The two hard bricks on my chest felt alien and I wanted my old body back. But once over the physical and emotional hurdles, it became a favourite part of my day. We each have our own stories, that was mine.

I don’t have any opinion about attachment parenting or breastfeeding toddlers; I couldn’t care less to be honest, each to their own. But to change my children’s attitude with one sexualized image, now that I have an opinion about!

“No no, it’s not at all like that!” that I tried to explain to them. “It’s beautiful, normal, healthy and I loved feeding you with all my heart and soul. I sacrificed so much to feed you, I cried for you, I held you, stroked you and comforted you. Oh please don’t say Yuk, please just go back to your non-opinions, childish giggles and shrugs of your shoulders.”

Days later the unread article about the non-issue is now in recycling. Bloggers are blogging, mothers are mothering, and the world keeps turning. My kids still snuggle and are as attached as they always were. Yes,  i really ought to have trusted that a simple moment in time, would not come between us.

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  1. Susan says:

    SO much that I want to say about this topic, but you have already said so much so beautifully. Just sad that something that, for me, was one of the most beautiful, moving, wonderful experiences in my life (and, yes, also one of the most frustrating, challenging experiences) – that of FEEDING the children I gave birth to – the most NATURAL thing in the world – has been sensationalized in this way. How long a mother nurses her child is such a personal decision, based on the needs & wants of mother & child, and the rest of the family, and should be determined by them. I send love & support to my sister-mothers, especially those who are dealing with the already considerable challenges of breastfeeding in this society.

  2. Angie says:

    Well said! They wanted a reaction, and they got it! It was one of the hardest things I ever did as a mom, but so worth it. I guess it just bothers me that this is their representation of attachment parenting, because dads do it, adoptive parents do it, etc. It’s about so much more than nursing. Thanks for sharing your experience!

  3. Kelly says:

    This picture was the talk of many of my daycare moms.  We all agreed that the cover photo didn’t realistically show mother and child.  Many of these women talked about how, after a certain age, usually 1 1/2 or 2 years old, breastfeeding became more about comforting, bonding, connecting, soothing distressed kids.  This mom on the cover stated that same reason as to why her son still breastfeeds.  Shame on the photographer!  I have never seen a mom look LESS-CONNECTED to what should be a special moment between mom and child.

  4. ginger says:

    Breast feeding had been proven to be extremely important to the infant’s health and body growth.  It is so amazing that Allah Almighty’s Divine Claims in the Noble Quran are always scientifically proven to be accurate and Greatly beneficial to humanity.   Noble Verse 2:233 .

  5. suzi says:

    thank you for so eloquently putting to pen what so many mothers feel. 

  6. Mindy says:

    From a non-breastfeeding mother, I was a tad miffed when I saw the Time cover (I did not waste my money on the magazine itself).  I knew it for what it was – a ploy to sell magazines and an attempt to distract intelligent people from the real happenings in our country. However, what I have been upset by is how it has pitted mother against mother in a war of judgment. How dare one mother judge another on how she chose to feed her child – that is if she even had a choice. I did not. I wanted so much to breastfeed but due to our personal situation, I was unable to. So for one mother to say that I am less of a mother because I could not (or for those mothers who simply choose not to) breastfeed, it’s…sad. Being a mother is the most wonderful “job” in the world but it’s also very challenging. We should be supporting each other, not making it even harder. I just find the whole thing very sad…

  7. Meg says:

    Yes Mindy, more love less hate – always. 

  8. Mindy says:

    I so agree!!!  🙂  I read a quote somewhere once upon a time that basically said that life is not hard; it’s the choices we make that make life hard.  As women and mothers we should be choosing love, honor, and respect for each other and to support one another.  Thanks for your post today!  It is so good to see there are mothers out there from both realms (bf & not) joining together instead of falling pray to mass media junk.  Have a beautiful day!

  9. Poetjanstie says:

    I am not, nor ever have been a nursing mother; I am indeed a father of three lovely grown up children, who were breast fed through joy, pain and all the other things mentioned above by Meg, by an exemplary mother, my wife, for as long as she could manage and that, if I recall correctly, ranged from eight months to a year for each of them.

    I saw the image in question on the front of the extremely well-known and once respected magazine – I say once, because I now question whatever respect I may have had for it, utterly. It was provocative on several counts, not least sexually, but I suspect, maybe subliminally, but maybe deliberately, driven by some commercial imperative or other: and you can bet there’s no money to be made out of mother earth’s most natural product, breast milk! So I ask, apropos of no particular cause, out of interest (um, yeah right) how many manufacturers of synthetic / formula milk may benefit from the effects that such an image will undoubtedly have had on the minds of anxious young mothers.

    It strikes me as nothing more than totally abhorrent that such an image should have found a place on the cover page of such a high profile publication. Everything has its place and this image is about as far removed from its ‘place’ as any I have ever seen, even taking into account the tricks that the tabloid press get up to sometimes!

    Meg Lawton, you have my deepest respect. 

  10. Meg says:

    Thank you – I appreciate you sharing a fathers perspective as this is not just a woman’s issue.  It shouldn’t even BE an issue, but if it must, it’s a social one.

  11. Hey Meg… Great article and thank you for posting this.  I am another mother who felt it was the only way to feed my children.  I had my first in 1976 and asked the doctor how long I should breast feed.  He told me 6 months.  At the end of 6 months, my first daughter had weaned herself to a cup and was had no desire to continue nursing.  It wasn’t planned, just worked out that way.  She was just more interested in running around the house and had no interest.  With my second daughter, that wasn’t the case.  I also joined laleche league and there were a lot of mothers nursing their kids past toddler age and very comfortable with that.  My second one nursed around 19 months and again, stopped when she was ready.  I just let my kids decide.  I have two very healthy grown daughters in their 30’s and have no nursing regrets.  I know it was the best or rather the only decision I could make.

  12. […] on Soulseeds, Meg Lawton tells us about her breastfeeding journey and why TIME’s sexualized image put her […]

  13. Xaka says:

    As one of the few people who actually LOVES this cover (the only one I know of, so far, but I assume there are others out there), I have to say: Breastfeeding DOES look like this.  I have nursed my children in all sorts of places, in all sorts of positions, and during all sorts of activities.  While I agree that the cover was meant to be divisive and controversial, I will never agree that it is a poor representation of breastfeeding.  I was so happy to see it and the first thing I said was, “THIS is what nursing looks like!” 
    Because nursing is more than the “it’s beautiful and we sat in our favorite chair and I stared into your eyes” romanticism we throw about everywhere.  We sell this frilly image, not because it is false, but because we live in a society that is so anti-woman and everything that comes with being woman (like nursing a child) that we feel forced into the position of selling one of the most natural acts in life. 
    So, yeah…this is (also) what breastfeeding looks like.  And, I’m glad somebody had the guts to put it out into the mainstream conversation, even if it was with the intention of causing drama. 
    If anyone thinks this image is sexualizing breastfeeding, I implore them to understand that it takes more than a defiant stance and a chair to see that image in that light.  It takes, first and foremost, a mind that has bought into the lies about breastfeeding, breasts, children, women, and humanity.  God forbid we see a woman and not think of sex!  The world might explode if we went that far, huh?

  14. Kelly says:

    The World Health Organization recommends breastfeeding for at least 2 years, yet the American Medical Association only officially changed their recommendation from 6 months to 1 year just over 10 years ago, right around the time I had my second baby (my two sons are now 10 and 21). I have had the privilege of working with some amazing physicians who informed me that the reason for the discrepancy in the length of time recommended by WHO vs AMA was social not medical. The AMA felt that changing the recommended length of time from 6 months to 1 year was going to be shocking enough for Americans; they felt they would have less breastfeeding mothers if the recommendation was 2 years. Americans have been working on accepting “breast is best” since the 1970’s and it baffles me. Everywhere I look there are sexual representations of breasts, yet it’s considered lewd to be seen using them for their intended purpose. Don’t get me wrong, I also think it’s natural for them to sexual, I just think that is more private than feeding, yet its feeding that bothers people. I just don’t get it. Having had my two Kids 11 years apart, I can say it’s getting better, but we still have a long way to go. I was only able to breastfeed my first son for about 2 weeks due to a hospitalization for an infection coupled with a total lack of education and support. With my second son, I got mixed messages. Everyone agreed that breastfeeding was best, but there was still a lack of education and support and no one wanted to see it. Something else: there was this weird tendency to judge women who did not breastfeed by other mothers. That’s a lot of pressure! I was able to exclusively feed my second son with breast milk for 18 months and the weaning was gently directed by me, but very natural (my son asked about it, but didn’t cry or protest at all). I did this despite working full time which was a source of pride for me. That being said, while I acknowledge that breastfeeding is the best source of nutrition for at least as long as one would formula feed, I was in a different place with my first son. Even if I gotten past hospitalization still able to breastfeed, I don’t think I could have handled the concept of committing to breastfeeding past 6 months. In fact, too much pressure would have overwhelmed me and caused me not to try at all. In addition to feeling sad that I had stop breastfeeding after the infection, I would have felt like a failure. Because of my different experiences with my first and second son, I understand there are infinite reasons for the choices mothers make. We don’t need a magazine to show us what those choices look like or tell us why we make them. We need to understand that we are sisters who all have the same goal, to raise our kids into strong, healthy individuals who will contribute to the community and make the world a better place. Perhaps if we kept this in mind when dealing each other, we would reach that goal.

  15. Amanda says:

    The photo would of caused less mother against mother if they used a less attractive woman .. Maybe a heavey tired unwashed sweat pant wearing with a grey bra no make up .. No trip to he hairdressers..Because really attractive people don’t breast feed do they?  Rolls eyes  Sata more about women than it says about breast feeding 

  16. Homegirlblog says:

    Yes. I nursed whenever my son was hungry wherever we were–once minutes after crossing the finish line at a 5k. I sat on the grass sideline and fed him while watching others finish the race. Kids gotta eat! The issue with the video was the gaze. Both mother and child were looking at the camera and that made it something other than capturing a naturally occurring situation. 

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