I read this story about a professor whose breastfeeding was made into an issue because people are ignorant and have too much time on their hands. See it here. It made me think of my own situation where my own breastfeeding became an issue for the same reason. Her points were so valid, I felt a kinship with her expressions of frustration that anyone actually thought her public breastfeeding was worth turning into an issue. And actually, the breastfeeding that became an issue for me wasn’t even in public, it was in the privacy of my own office.
I used to share my attorney practice with a small firm, but basically ran my own practice my own way, which included nursing my daughter during the day during my breaks. I was in a satellite location and worked in that space alone. A couple of years ago, I was in my office breastfeeding one afternoon between clients. After she finished, I handed my daughter to her dad, who took his parenting time with her while I worked. I entered my waiting room to discover that the potential client who had been waiting there had left. I called him and he told me he didn’t want anything to do with my “kind of outfit.” I made some joke to my baby’s father, saying that my clothes must have been too nice for the guy, then promptly forgot about it. I didn’t actually know it was because I had been breastfeeding because I had been in my office with the door shut and he could not see what we were doing. It wasn’t until a situation arose later that I finally got what made the man leave.
Two years later, two YEARS! while having a dispute with the firm over something completely unrelated, one of the old partners of the firm out of the blue and in a completely non-sequitur response to what I had just said blurted, “Well, you lost a potential client because you BREASTFED in front of him. He ended up hiring your old firm.” He spit the words at me. I was in such shock at this for so many reasons, I was momentarily speechless. Then the rage took over. WHY was this relevant? WHO the hell was he to bring it up? Why NOW? It wasn’t even true! I did not keep my cool. I angrily explained that this had not been what happened and told him that his even bringing it up gave me an idea of the sort of person that he was. “Seriously?” I said to him, practically yelling. “Are you actually bringing this up as evidence of my lack of work ethic? First of all, I bust my ASS, working full time AND I’m a single mother! And secondly, I did NOT breastfeed in front of a potential client, not that I would object to doing so OR that it’s any of your business.” He tried to backpedal and tell me that he was only “Letting me know what people were saying,” because theoretically my old boss had shared this story with him. Later he recanted this assertion. He couldn’t even own what he said, but no matter. I was ready to part ways at this point anyway; this situation was just one of many that made this clear for me.
Like the author of the article, I’ve breastfeed my youngest daughter everywhere, on two continents, in half a dozen countries. I’ve never once had anyone say anything negative to me about it. I did the same with my oldest until she was four and a half years old. Never a peep, and here was this old jackass using it to create conflict because he had no reasonable arguments in our disagreement. I completely lost any shred of respect I had for the guy at that point. I had never really liked him. He seemed to spend all his time worrying about all the work others were doing and never doing any himself. In the three years I worked with him, I never once saw him actually working. I saw him loitering in the lobby. I saw him playing with plastic toys. I saw him complaining about money. Never once did I see him at his desk, doing his job. Our conflict was over him wanting me to work more than I already did. Apparently my taking time to breastfeed my daughter interfered with that, at least that was the only point I could derive from his saying what he did.
Unlike the author, I have been more outspoken about women’s right to breastfeed. I wrote a law review article on it in law school (see that here). I have long felt that efforts to marginalize breastfeeding are anti-woman and anti-child. Ultimately, though the author is not an activist in her choice, I share with her the view that feeding our children as they were meant to be fed is a basic right of our biology, and should receive no more notice than menstruating, or growing hair, or doing anything else fundamentally human and female.
I’m still breastfeeding. It’s great for my daughter’s health and immune system. It provides comfort and nourishment. As an infant it was available on demand, with no effort other than pulling up my shirt. It’s free. It makes her very happy. That’s good enough for both of us.