08 January 2012

Why I don't give my baby a fake boob in public or anywhere else

Because I don't have any. If I had one, I wouldn't have anything to put in it. I don't buy formula (that's one of the primary aims of nursing) and I don't have a pump. I don't have a pump because they are expensive and I have so little occasion to use it (that's one of the primary aims of staying home).

I don't get why people think pumping means Mom will get a break. It actually means the opposite. It means she will spend time hooked up to a machine getting schlooped like old Bossy before the time when the baby will need milk in her absence, and possibly again for her own comfort while she is absent from the baby. It means someone else will have to give the milk to the baby from a fake boob (more work for another person, although I know some mothers-in-law are pushy about wanting to do this work). It is totally inefficient. Pumping also doesn't work for everyone in a purely technical sense--saying, "Why doesn't she pump?" makes nearly as many assumptions about how a person's body works as, "Why doesn't she breastfeed?"

The number of stars in my eyes about breastfeeding is zero. I have had a plain rotten time of it. I do it because it is free and healthier for the baby and me. My commitment to it is strong, but purely utilitarian. I am sorry if this makes me a monster or something, but not sorry enough to feel even remotely like a monster.

Despite and because of this monstrous utilitarianism, I despise pumping. I have had to do it, what with the plain rotten times. While I prefer a little space when I nurse, I would prefer to be on another planet to pump. A pump makes me feel like some sort of inferior biological cog in a dystopian future; like my brain wasn't good enough to be connected to the Central Thought Reservoir so the alienbots settled for my lacto-glands instead. Nursing is meh. Pumping is mortifying. I could never pump without asking myself, “Is this really worth it?” When it was the only way the baby could get milk, it was worth it. If it was so I could leave the baby for a length of time so great that the baby would need a fake boob . . . not worth it. If someone walks in on a mom nursing, there's a very good chance he'll just think she's holding a sleeping baby, and she will almost certainly let him keep thinking that. If he walked in on her pumping, they would both die of embarrassment.

This means that occasionally I have to risk it. If the baby and I go somewhere, I can feed her before we leave and hope she doesn't want to nurse before we're home again. But it's complicated, because nursing doesn't always happen just because the baby is hungry. While we're out, I may need to find some way to keep her occupied and quiet because babies are squirmy and noisy. Nursing is the least obtrusive way for me to do this. It is immediate and quiet and still. I do not have to get up and walk out or shake a jingly toy or whisper-read a book. She is used to it and it is how she is most comfortable. Unfortunately, it is also nursing, which some people find inherently obtrusive. The best part is that you don't know who the obtruded upon people are until someone else tells you what the obtruded upon person said in some other time and place about how gross nursing is. 

Why don't you just carry one of these around?

While we're on this exciting topic, the obtrusion problem is why the nursing cover is mostly a ruse. Those who wish to be covered are usually able to nurse in such a way as to not need a cover. Those who don't care that much may use a cover unsatisfactorily to the critics. The real trouble is that using a cover tips people off to what is going on, such that those who find nursing inherently obtrusive will feel obtruded upon even if they see no skin at all. They don't really want you covered. They don't want you nursing; at least, not where it might cause them to think about it in some non-abstract way, and especially if the baby is of a certain age (ie older than two days).

So, ye obtruded upon, sorry. Sorry these aren't good enough reasons for you. Sorry I don't carry a fake boob around because I know looking at fake boobs stuffed into babies' mouths doesn't gross you out at all. Try not to think about the fact that you don't know if it's nice, clean formula or gross boob milk that the baby is slurping out of the fake boob because that might gross you out if it were gross boob milk. May all the boobs in your life be fake.


Untamed Shrew said...


If I had a million dollars, I'd give you half. :D You said everything I couldn't articulate.

I was barged in upon once whilst pumping, and indeed began to sob from embarrassment. I ranted to the barger-inner on how humiliating and degrading pumping is. And then the baby wouldn't take it from a bottle anyway. He thrashed his head and gagged and sputtered and cried.

Yes. The oh-so-noble-intentioned cover-up really is a ruse. It tips off, then ticks off.

Gauntlets said...

The cow says, "Moo."
The mom says, "Coo."
The pump says, "Thwaka-thwaka-thwaka."

Hate pumping. HATE IT.

HappyFox said...

Gauntlets: ROFL!

I pumped on and off for a couple of months while #1 was tiny and I was still working. It was a PITA and my body sucked at it. I'm glad I had the experience so I know never to say, "Why doesn't she just pump?"


Alison Schroeder said...

Your third paragraph also kinda sums up my own (not so warm and fuzzy) feelings regarding natural childbirth. And, housekeeping-in-general. And, going to church. Wait, how'd that last one...

Coincidentally, I had to congratulate myself and baby for (barely) making it all the way through this morning's service without pulling out the nursing cover even once (not that she was very happy about it)! Of course, it was 'non-communion' Matins, but I'll take it.

Reb. Mary said...

Words cannot express how grateful I am to have such an earnestly hilarious friend.

Mrs Gregory said...

But it sounds very different from a recent Issues, Etc interview. One with which I agreed until the comments about moms not breastfeeding in church.

HappyFox said...

Mrs Gregory,

I was disappointed by that part of the Issues interview as well. I've nursed in church for four years. No one's complained; I suspect most people either don't realize what's happening or don't care. Kid's gotta eat and my discreetly hooking them up is a lot less disruptive than putting up with Angry Screaming Baby.


Katy said...

>>Those who wish to be covered are usually able to nurse in such a way as to not need a cover

My babies didn't get the memo on this "covering up" thing. From about a month on they're smacking and flailing and pulling away to look around. I like the nursing apron, even if everyone knows what's up, because otherwise I'd be doing a lot of flashing.


Mrs Gregory said...

My kidlet didn't go for the nursing cover, either. When I realized that men would come up to me and chat (or other women) and even rub the baby's head...they had no idea I was nursing.

As a pastor's wife (as many of you are) I am single-moming it on Sundays. That means every time I need to leave to nurse, I take the whole troop out. And that would mean missing communion on occasion. Which, frankly, since we never hear the whole sermon with our full attention (come on, who's with me?), is God's particular gift to us. I am grateful for that means of grace.

Anna Maschke said...

Once, at a church event, I was nursing my most recent under a cover. A member of the congragation walked up to me and said "We all know what you are doing. You don't have to suffocate the poor thing." Well, all right then...

Anonymous said...

I pumped for 10 months and stuck it in the deep freeze so my baby who wouldn't nurse could have breast milk for 18 months. The pump was only about $40, so it was almost free, certainly way cheaper than formula, an healthier. The second baby was a great nurser, and sleeper. Man, how I love that kid. Still, I am glad there are pumps for those sorry situations when you actually need it. I am pretty small and I loved being able to pump it all out and get back down to near flat chested even if it only lasted a few hours. Too much info, I know, but that was a real relief sometimes. I never bothered much with covering up and no one ever said anything, so maybe I am just lucky. But I am not embarrassed about it, so I wouldn't care if someone did say anything anyway. Which is funny because I dress modestly and never wear anything revealing, but nursing is different, it is not like you are trying to be sexy or hoochie LOL.

Leah said...

Oh nursing covers....

I'm with Katy here. Mine was a horrible nurser, and it was awful having to try and figure all of that out. Mine even stumped the kindly nurses (all 9 of them) who came to assist when we were in the hospital. If it wasn't for nursing covers, I wouldn't have been allowed to go out of my house for the first six months.

Not that I think they're discrete, or even easy to use. They were a pain. But at least I didn't have to go sit on a public toilet to nurse him, which would have been the only alternative many times.

etem said...

rebekah, you are right about all of this. but: i don't mind pumping (i know, i'm a sick freak). i don't do it often, but it's not too bad. i don't even mind giving my own baby a bottle in public once in a while, so terrified am i of someone noticing, or seeing, or thinking...etc. and i like that i can go to choir practice without worrying about my husband and a crying hungry baby (what if i got a flat tire or slipped on some sheet music?). but what i really don't like or understand is why once the milk is out and in the gadget, my desire to not touch the liquid is so great it may as well be poison. why is that?

Rebekah said...

Alison, :D

Yeah, covers are not the perfect solution any more than pumps are, but isn't it nice of us to play along? And I know not everyone hates pumping as much as I do; I just love hating things so much.

As for the Issues issue: I haven't had a chance to listen to that show yet, but I did hear about it and I also read Adriane's posts on the topic at her blog. Of the many, many, many, many lovely breasts I have seen in church, not one has been anywhere near a baby. Where I live, putting nursing mothers in the "you wish you had these curves" group sounds kind of like saying, "It was so bad that we killed the Indians with war and disease and alcohol and took their land! And then this group of volunteers went to the Ho Chunk reservation and painted the houses super ugly colors!"

But I don't live where Adriane lives. Nursing is pretty uncommon among new moms at my church. Adriane has seen enough un-subtle nursing in church (which I agree is inconsiderate, to the extent that such things can be helped since babies do flail and spew and moms are so desperate to stay in church) that nursing moms and immodestly dressed women fall into the same category in her experience. So that's something for us nursing types to consider. If I'm not the one nursing in a distracting way, I don't think I need to feel offended by her comments. The annoyance to me is that nursing itself is offensive to some people, even if I am feeding a quiet baby under a cover and/or in an isolated spot. And I think it's funny that all these ultra-boob-sensitive people are fine with carrying fake boobs around and saying the n-word as long as it's in reference to one made of silicone.

Beth said...

Bravo to the post! I couldn't agree more.

I was also upset by the BFing association in the Interview and Article, but this last comment is a nice, balanced way of looking at it, so thanks you for that as well. :)

Elizabeth said...

Confession: as much as I'm not a fan of pumping, there is a small bit of satisfaction that I get out of seeing just how much breast milk my body produces (one day I got over 5 oz. out of one! - see that crazy pride??). While I don't need a pump or scale to tell me that I'm producing enough for my baby, it's sometimes kinda nice.
And as the pastor's wife in a church with very few babies (and almost none of them breastfed),the nursing cover (hated by baby 1 and 2 and me)is my compromise - I get to nurse my baby when I need to,and the nursing cover lets them know to look away and stay away if they are offended by this. :)
Thanks for this lovely post! :)

HappyFox said...

Rebekah - Excellent comment, thank you!