This post was originally written for inclusion in a blog carnival hosted by NursingFreedom.org in June of 2010. See the bottom of this post for more information on NursingFreedom.org.
I would love to be breastfeeding and/or pregnant for pretty much the next 10-15 years of my life. Crazy? Maybe a little. But let me explain. My hubby comes from a family of 6, and his mom is one of 8 kids. His aunts have between 2 and 9 kids (the one with only 2 is the youngest and may have more!) Family gatherings at his grandparents' house are some of the most joyful events I've ever been exposed to, with kids running around, teenaged cousins watching sports together, engaged 20-somethings showing off their rings, middle aged aunts cooking and gushing about their grandkids and bragging about their honors students, and nursing mamas and their grinning babies. Seeing these happy large families has given me the confidence that I could successfully raise 6-8 kids if I'm able to have that many.
So for me, and for other mamas who want or already have large families, the issue of nursing in public seems even more pressing. I guess it's sort of like taking the concept to the logical extreme. Because the nursing phase of my life (hopefully) won't be over anytime soon. It will be a big chunk of my life. In fact, when my almost-year-old baby is a teenager, there's a good chance I'll be nursing a new baby.
Very few people in contemporary American society would argue against the proposition that women in general have the right to be in public places. Yet many of them do argue that nursing moms should just stay home until their babies are old enough/weaned enough that they don't need to nurse in public. I've seen this proposed in the comments on pretty much every news story I've read about a nursing mom being told to stop or leave the public place she was at. I've also heard it from relatives.
Which leads me back to my 10-15 year plan. If I have older kids and teenagers and nurslings at the same time, I can't live in some sort of babies-and-mommies-only-dreamworld. I will have to (and want to) be out in public, driving my kids to stuff and watching them compete and perform.
And you know, babies don't "choose" when they want to nurse. They get hungry and want to eat, or get frightened and want to nurse for comfort. Period. There isn't a thought process like there is for adults, or an understanding of time that allows babies to think "well, we're almost done here, so I'll just wait 15 minutes to nurse." At some point (although I'm not sure when) a nursling may be old enough to be asked to wait and to understand what that means enough to be willing to do it. But not for a long while. Anyway, if a nursing mama and her nursling are out in public for hours at a time, there's a good chance the little one will want to nurse at some point.
My question for people who say nursing mamas should stay home is this: if my current baby turns into a baseball player, and has a tournament, do I not have as much right as any other parent to go watch him play? And what if I do have a nursing baby-say 4 months old, old enough to be out and about, but young enough to be nursing exclusively and frequently? To argue that I should stay at home instead of being present at my older children's activities is an infringement of my rights as a parent, and my human right to go out in public.
Guess what? I'm not hiding in my house for the next 15 years so I can nurse my babies. I'm going to nurse my babies in front of their older siblings. And any of their friends who happen to be around. I'll try to use discretion, but I honestly don't think it damages kids psychologically to see mothers breastfeeding (which seems to be the implication of many people who argue that they don't want their kids to "see that"). I think it's probably good for them, if anything.
If you can make it work financially, I think being a stay-at-home mom is best for kids, which I believe is well-supported by social science data and anecdotal evidence. But to argue that moms actually have to literally stay in their homes? Absurd.
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