Exposing My Breasts in a Law Office

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.

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.)

Day 11

Tenth day of life.

Oh, tired.  Tired to the bone.  I sleep.  I actually sleep many hours.  I just don’t sleep that many in a row, so I’m tired.  Isabel and I took three naps together today.  I was falling over in my soup I was so tired.  I had to just get up and go into the bedroom and lie down on the bed.  Normally I tend towards insomnia and cannot sleep deeply without earplugs.  Since my baby sleeps with me I am not using the earplugs and have learned to sleep without them.  This is useful.  The funny thing is when I had bad insomnia and was a walking zombie I could not fall asleep without them.  Maybe it helps to be flooded with baby love hormones.

Isabel has a cold.  I have instituted a no visitors policy.  When visitors do come again, they cannot touch my baby without first washing their hands.  She has congestion and this morning she had a fever.  She is so tiny, I hate her feeling ill at this age.  Apparently it is good for the immune system, but I still don’t like my babies to be sick.  Breastfeeding helps, considering it has immunities in it she doesn’t have and won’t for a couple of years.  She has been drinking a lot of milky.

Cutting the frenulum helped immensely with nursing.  She gulps her milk now.  I have also discovered that I basically cannot eat sugary things at all.  It gives us both gas. Since making this discovery both of us have felt better in the gas department.  I wasn’t even eating that much, just dessert after a meal.  I don’t sit around forking candy into my face or anything.  But the amount was enough to bother both of our digestive systems, so no more for me.  I’ll have fruit for dessert instead.  It’s healthier anyway.

Thoughts certainly fritter off into the ether when I’m tired.  I had a thought about something I wanted to write when I was writing about fruit for dessert and by the time I get here the thought is gone.  This is how it has been for me, but oh well, I have a baby to love so I don’t care.


It just makes me sick, those poor babies made ill by milk powder in China.  It reminds me of Nestle going into third world countries, telling the women to stop breastfeeding and to “use formula like western women,” all the while ignoring the fact that the water is unsafe to drink.  The result is a 50% infant mortality rate in these countries because the babies die from dysentery.  Now we have over 59,000 babies sickened and killed in China from drinking poisoned milk powder.

Fifty percent infant mortality rate.  59,000 sick and dying children.  All these giant numbers, all these sanitized words used to cover one salient fact:  some parent’s baby got really sick or died.  Each of those hurt or killed had a mom and dad who either had to sit up worrying about a sick baby or they lost a little baby they loved, not to mention the fact that these little kids had to suffer through sick stomachs, diarrhea, and vomiting.  Use sanitized words and it becomes so easy to forget that.

The other piece of this that strikes me is how truly sad it is that formula is fed to children instead of breastmilk.  I wrote a law review article calling for laws requiring employer accommodation of breastfeeding women.  For that article, I did extensive economic and medical research to back up my arguments.  The conclusion I drew was that breastfeeding saves lives and money.  We never should have switched to a system where it was not the norm.  Of course, money drove the trend on many levels.  Money, money, money.  Everyone wants it.  Everyone wants everyone else to think they have it.  Stupid decisions are made because of it, from the decision to make our babies sleep in other rooms to the decision to feed our children milk made from powder to prove we can afford it.  Later these decisions became the norm to the point where children who want to sleep with their parents are considered problems and babies drinking from mothers’ breasts is considered obscene.  No one questions why it started and what was normal for thousands of years becomes disgusting and unnatural.

I continue to marvel at the ridiculousness of human beings. We’re too smart for our own good.  Unfortunately, we aren’t smart enough to make milk that is as good as our own and the result is that it makes babies sick and kills them.  Pitiful.  Truly pitiful.