These Breasts were Made for Feeding

This article was published on Huffington Post and can be seen here. If you like it, buzz it up and feel free to share, with proper accreditation of course.

These Breasts were Made for Feeding

~ by Lara M. Gardner

Time magazine recently ran a cover story about long-term breastfeeding. It depicted a cover photo of a woman standing and staring into the distance, a three-year-old boy standing on a chair in front of her, attached to her breast. Needless to say, the photo and article caused an uproar. Some people thought it was obscene. Others, myself included, thought it was misleading, to say the least.

It doesn’t surprise me that breastfeeding and breastfeeding to an age that more naturally suits biology has come to the fore in the public consciousness. It fits right in with the resurrection of the right-wing war on women, statements by politicians that women should never have been able to vote, laws that force women to share their sex lives with employers, and basically anything that says women cannot and should not be able to determine anything about themselves, and most especially their sexuality or anything related to their bodies (unless they are getting their breasts cut off because they have cancer, then it is okay).

All this furor over women breastfeeding children beyond an age our culture has deemed appropriate (corporate profits aside) belies a greater underlying issue. Ultimately, any discussion of breastfeeding as obscene is part of this American cultural hostility against women. Our culture would like to maintain that women’s bodies are property and should be available at all times as sexual playthings. Seeing the female body as life-giving and nurturing (i.e., breastfeeding) is a far more powerful message, and certainly not something that can be owned and controlled.

The Time photo is offensive precisely because it is obscene, but it is not obscene because the young child in it is breastfeeding. Rather, it is obscene because it has taken something that is nurturing (and arguably scientifically best for children and women), and turned it into something salacious and indecent.  Nothing about the photo is in any way representative of breastfeeding as it is. It seeks to make breastfeeding seem suggestive and forbidden, something tawdry that should be stopped before it gets out of control, something that should be hidden under a blanket.  No matter that breasts are flaunted as sexual playthings in advertising and on magazine covers. In the latter context, breasts are kept in their place. It is the former that touches a nerve because it suggests that breasts might have another, more fundamental purpose, one that doesn’t involve breasts as property or women as objects.

Perhaps the editors of Time intended for the photo to inflame and kickstart further discussion about women’s bodies and women’s place in our culture. Perhaps they understood that breastfeeding is something so fundamental to being a woman, something as life-giving as the birth process itself, that it should be acceptable in our culture, without question and without blankets. Perhaps they wanted to make it loud and clear just how ridiculous it is to claim this act is obscene. Maybe they weren’t just trying to sell magazines. I doubt it, but it is possible.

(In the interests of full disclosure, this article was written while my 2 1/2 year old daughter nursed in my lap.)

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One thought on “These Breasts were Made for Feeding

  1. My first breastfeeding excireenpe began almost 6 years ago. That’s how old our eldest boy is now. His was a wonderful birth and despite some conflicting advice in the hospital and himself being a very slow feeder, we got on wonderfully and our breastfeding excireenpe was to last 13 months.Our second boy literally popped out and into the world ninety minutes after arriving at the hospital. He, too, latched on straightaway and he soon proved to be the opposite of his big brother. Not for him the long, lazy snuggles in his mothers arms, but rather lets get this job done so I can go back to sleep. He was a very efficient feeder from the get go. Breastfeeding came into its own when he fell foul with a horrible bout of chicken pox at seven months. Coupled with three top teeth that decided to appear at once, this chap just couldn’t catch a break. 9 months later, I was six months pregnant with son number three, and he fell asleep for the first time without a breastfeed. At 16 months old, he weaned.Our third little boy was born via emergency section and for the first time as a breastfeeding mother, it looked as if it was not going to work out for us. He was sleepy and not at all interested in latching on but the second day, when I was feeing a little less groggy, things took a turn for the better and we didn’t look back.Another little bloke who enjoyed his mothers milk for 16 months. I was 6 months pregnant with son number four and with the joyful prospect of feeding a newborn again, it was with a light heart that I let him go onto the next stage of his life.Our fourth son was a wondeful VBAC and is now 7 months old and as much a joy to feed as his older brothers. Of course, he is doing that acrobatic twist of his head at the slightest noise which makes it practically impossible to feed him sometimes.I love breastfeeding. It is so calming, nurturing and precious. I love the way all of our boys went into a massive body tremble when they saw me and realised dinner was about to be served. One of the lads used to get excited when he spotted a particular bra I had. That poor chap has no surprises left for his teenage years I fear!It may have been a challenge in the beginning and certainly after the section, but I am so proud of the fact that I am a breastfeeding mother.This Christmas will be the first Christmas in 6 years that I am not pregnant BUT still breastfeeding.

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