Fortunately for me, my mother-in-law gave birth to my husband. Unfortunately, that means that I am forced to spend time with her for Mothers’ Day. Trust me when I say that, since our last encounter on Christmas, I’ve missed her in the same way I’ve missed 7:30 am gym class in high school. Though, in fairness I have to admit that getting smacked in the face with a dodge ball is far more pleasant than my MIL, but I will spare you the rant on my dislike of the woman and get to the point.
Yesterday at lunch she asked a question that I found particularly annoying. This is a question that I’ve been asked on several occasions and each time I’ve found it to be annoying, even though (and especially because of the fact) it seems like such a normal question.
We were eating some delicious Indian fare, and I was sharing my food with my son giving him little bite sized pieces of potatoes and peas and cheese naan. Suddenly he started fussing. I had no idea why and still don’t. All we knew was that he was certainly still hungry. So my MIL asked the question, “Did you bring a bottle?”
Now, in the interest of keeping the unpleasantness of this meal to a minimum, I simply replied that no, I did not and that I never do. Of course, I was given the look saying nothing less than what the hell is wrong with you? With some obvious assumption that I am a neglectful mother who doesn’t care enough about her son to feed him. Mr Elyse tried to recover my apparent fumble by explaining that he won’t take a bottle if he is not at home and that I share my meals with the Moose (my son) whenever we go out. I knew what he was doing, and I appreciated him coming to my rescue.
The truth is, I don’t take bottles with me because my Moose is very particular about taking one. He’s not a fan. And I dislike toting around bottles that will just end up going bad. So, if we’re out and he needs “a bottle” I just nurse him. And it’s way less of a big deal than I ever thought it would be. In fact, I look back at the days when I would bring bottle along and think, “Man, I was such a n00b.”
Moose and I would get into power struggles, I’d try to get the bottle into his mouth, he’d spit it out and start gagging (his way of saying “Shit that’s cold!”). He’d crying, still hungry, angry that he’s being teased with food and frustrated that I’m not getting it. I’d be frustrated that he’s not getting it. Meanwhile my boobs would be filling up, starting to hurt and sometimes start to leak.
Finally I realized that, if I just whip a boob out, he’ll eat. Then I can go back to what I was doing and everyone is happy. What really bothers me about the question “Did you bring a bottle?” Is society’s assumption that bottles are how babies are fed. I never realized how bizarre the question was until I gave up attempting to bottle feed in public.
Apparently though, feeding my child in a way that is easy, convenient, natural and effective is a huge big bad deal and is just as offensive as smoking a cigar two feet away from my emphysematous grandmother and exhaling directly into her Oxygen tubes while kicking puppies.
The emotional response to public breastfeeding is amazing. I don’t get how, in the 21st century, people still have hangups about possibly accidentally viewing a nipple. Even more amazing is that, in my life, I’ve never once noticed a woman BFing in public though I’m sure (and I hope) it’s happened many times. In fact, no one has ever noticed when I’ve done it either. When the Moose starts fussing, I just throw on my Hooter Hider, grab him and feed away. Either he’ll fall asleep or emerge happy and playful.
When I’d try to give him bottles, he’d just keep crying until I’d give up and go home, exhausted, frustrated and with errands unfinished. Being a stay-at-home mom, I cherish every single moment I get outside of the house. I am not going to screw it up anymore. And there’s no reason to.
I don’t even understand how bottles became the norm. Giving Moose a bottle just seems strange and awkward to me, even though I’ve done it a million times. In fact, I do it every day. But to insist that he must be fed by bottle simply because I’ve left my house? It’s unbelievably offensive.
Granted I do not have the tits of a 19-year-old porn star, but they’re not so grotesque that a split second glance at some side-boob would cause anyone’s eyes to burn. The thought that I need to hide them at all cost, act as if they don’t exist or as if they have no function is disturbing to me.
It’s just a boob, folks. It’s feeding a baby. It’s not a big deal. Get over it.
Next time you are with a new mom with a fussy baby, instead of asking, “Did you bring a bottle?” (As in, “I sure hope you brought a bottle because how else is your baby going to eat?”) Ask, “Does (s)he need to nurse?” She may or may not be comfortable nursing in public yet… or ever. But a little encouragement and support is always a nice thing to have.
(BTW, I was totally breastfeeding while I wrote this… and you didn’t notice at all.)