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It’s safe to say that the three mothers are past the stage of babies, diapers and midnight feedings but we know that not all of our readers are. We’ve relied on our own experiences and we’ve tapped some 4th mothers … Continue reading

The Milk Truck: One Boob at a Time

image credit

Have you seen this?  It’s called The Milk Truck (A Mobile Breastfeeding Unit) and is “part guerilla theatre, activism and a little slapstick humour”.  It was created in September 2011, but I only learned about it when it was scheduled fairly recently to make a stop at a maternity shop where I got fitted for a nursing bra (an aside:  knowing how your boobs are supposed to look in a nursing (or other?) bra and getting them to look that way is absolutely, positively, not common knowledge).

The Milk Truck’s raison d’etre is to provide a mobile breastfeeding unit for mothers to nurse their babies in places where they have been discouraged to breastfeed.  No doubt also to raise awareness and eyebrows.

I don’t think I’ve ever been made to feel uncomfortable breastfeeding in public, and I do it all the time.  But I suppose that just means I’ve been lucky or sheltered from breastfeeding bullies, who obviously exist.  Generally I like to be thoughtful of other people’s comfort, so if I’m in company that I think might feel a little self-conscious by an exposed breast, like maybe an older man, I might use a nursing cover or slip somewhere a little more private.

But that’s always been my own initiative; I think if someone were to come down on me for breastfeeding, I would be mighty provoked.  Maybe I’d strip to my undies and nurse lying on the floor while singing the anthem.  Or maybe I’d call The Milk Truck, and find myself in the following scenario:

A woman in a restaurant is nursing her baby at a dining table. Restaurant management ask her to stop creating a spectacle and use the bathroom for nursing, or leave the restaurant. The mother is in a dilemma –  she simply wants to feed her baby in the same space where she is eating her food. Who wants to eat lunch in a bathroom? Not her baby! And she shouldn’t have to. The woman tweets to The Milk Truck her location and situational information. The Milk Truck posts the information to Facebook, Twitter, and The Milk Truck’s website. The Milk Truck (and supporters) arrive to the restaurant location, park in front of the establishment, and set up the mobile breastfeeding unit. The woman feeds her baby in the comfort of the truck’s cozy chairs and shaded canopy, and the restaurant owner is left to ponder the sense of making a woman feel uncomfortable for doing something as simple as feeding her baby. Thought the nursing mother created a spectacle? Meet the Milk Truck!

As soon as I learned about The Milk Truck, I knew I had to tell you about it.  What do you think?  Do you love it, as I do (see the nipple/siren as its crowning glory!)?  Or do you find it all a little much?  In hopes of persuading you to love it, here’s The Milk Truck’s answer to concerns about offending people with that “obnoxious boob on the top of the truck”:

I’m concerned that we offend hungry babies every day by not letting them eat when they need to.

Why Don’t You Put a Blanket Over Your Face?

It rarely happens to me – being speechless.  I was sitting in Starbucks, cup in hand, and my mouth agape.  Eyes wide.  I could not believe what I had just heard – and trust me, I have heard a lot of crazy spew in my day.

On Monday evenings my son has cooking class with his best buddy and it just so happens that his mom is one of my best buddies. After the boys are aproned and spoons are in their hands, we practically trample over the gaggle of nannies signing-in their charges, to make the most of our alone time.

For forty-five minutes we gossip, vent, plan birthdays, and lament how we don’t fit into our skinny jeans since having our babies.  Recently a new girl joined our coffee-talk, my girlfriend’s five-month-old daughter.

Obviously being 5 months old her addiction to caffeine has not yet fully developed and after some moments of being fussy, communicating her desire for both sleep and food, my friend removed her own down vest, placed it on the chair behind her and facing me, discreetly pulled up her top to allow her baby to latch onto her breast.  Within seconds, her daughter was calmly nursing and the conversation returned to what skating lessons we’d be signing the boys up for.

That’s when it happened.  A man dressed in a suit and tie, obsessively fondling his iPad, looked up.  Red-faced, he extended his arms wide, as if to give a bear hug, and in a loud, obnoxious voice said, “Would you mind putting a blanket over you or something?  You’re making me very uncomfortable!”

That’s when the mouth dropped, the eyes bulged and all the witty comebacks retreated from the tip of my tongue.  I thought I was the only one having this reaction but I noticed a similar look on the mother of three sitting at the table next to us and the gum-smacking high-school girls behind us appeared more uncomfortable with his outburst than the feeding baby.

My friend mumbled that she didn’t realize he could see anything and reached for a blanket to cover her daughter’s face.

I never breastfed any of my three children but regardless I felt that this ignorant comment meant to shame was an attack on mothering.

First of all, breastfeeding a child is natural. If it makes you uncomfortable, then YOU turn away.  Breastfeeding does not have to take place in a dingy washroom stall or underneath a suffocating blanket so other people are made to feel comfortable.  I once saw a woman breastfeeding her baby while pushing a grocery cart.  I wasn’t uncomfortable at the sight of her bare breast; I was more in awe of her dexterity.  I am not able to talk on my phone and push the cart, never mind provide nourishment for my infant while plucking a box of Cheerios from the shelf.

Comments such as this and the one I received while bottle-feeding my infant son years ago (from a nosey witch well-meaning individual:  “Breast is best you know!”) further perpetuate the struggle that many mothers, especially new mothers have.  It’s hard enough being a mom without constant judgment from passersby.  My husband believes that this man never would have said anything to my friend had a man been with us because men, whether we like it or not, are held to a different social standard.  Had my husband been bottle-feeding our infant in public more likely than not he would have been perceived as a doting father, whereas I was practically hissed at.

Society bashes mothers over the head about the benefits of breastfeeding and to persevere through cracked, bleeding nipples, sleepless nights, and insufficient milk supply.  What new mothers don’t need is to be on the receiving end of boorish comments and sideway glances.

Once the mother sitting next to us recovered from shock, she silently offered her support with a thumbs-up.  After the baby had fallen asleep and was returned to her stroller, we got up to leave, the mood at coffee-talk definitely dampened.  When we walked passed the table with the man, who had been joined by female companion, my friend politely said, “I am sorry if you were uncomfortable but next time why don’t you move to another seat.”

Before she could even finish, right after the word “sorry” was spoken, he interrupted and replied, “Well, I appreciate you covering up.  I was very uncomfortable.”

Seeing that her message wasn’t heard, my hurt friend pushed her stroller out the door.  I couldn’t let this go.  I had to stand up for her and her daughter.  I looked at him, sitting there with a smug expression on his face, and this time let the witty comeback flow freely from my mouth:

“She was feeding her baby.  If it makes you so uncomfortable why don’t you go and sit in the corner with a blanket over your head.  That would make me feel more comfortable.”

photo credit: http://pregnancy.about.com/od/feedingyourbaby/ig/Breastfeeding-Gallery/

Finding My Confidence

I am pregnant with my third child.  A boy.  Both my husband and I are over-the-moon excited and can’t wait to meet him.  Our other boys are looking forward to the day that we bring home their new brother from the hospital, almost as much as we are.  Because this is my third baby, I am feeling a lot more confident about the whole newborn phase.

When I had Jack, our first, I had never held a baby so new before nor had I changed the diapers of a baby with scrawny legs and a belly button stump.  I made sure that I bought the best of everything that the books claimed I needed.  I figured that these “experts” had been through it all before, so they must know the benefits of premium brand diapers over the no-name variety.  I was constantly terrified that I was going to harm him or even worse, drop him.  At night, when I should have been relishing those few winks of sleep, I would hover over him and stare.  Every few minutes, leaning over the bassinette and turning my cheek to his nose to ensure that he was breathing.

I was never one to care what other people thought of me before I became a mother.  But like so many other aspects of my pre-baby life, my confidence seemed to vanish after I found out that I was pregnant.  I have always been tenacious, goal-oriented and fixated on the “right” thing.  A true believer that hard work and stick-to-ive-ness will get me what I want.

So when after weeks of unsuccessfully breastfeeding my son, my husband and I came to the decision to introduce formula, I felt like the ultimate failure.  I had done exactly what all of the “experts” had warned against.  I might as well wipe out his immune system, put tubes in his ears and wait for the plague of childhood diseases that were about to descend on our precious baby.

I felt like Hester Prynne when I took my son out in public, but instead of an A branded on my chest it was a 4 ounce Evenflo bottle in my baby’s mouth.  The bottle caused me to recoil and contort my body in effort to hide the evidence that boldly announced to the world: I am not breastfeeding my child.  I am a bad mother.

For the most part, these feelings of guilt stemmed from within (and I don’t have an endless well of money to invest in therapy to find out the root) but it didn’t help that several “well-meaning” individuals, many of them strangers, would come up to me while I was feeding my baby to tell me all about the evils of formula:  I wasn’t going to form a vital attachment with my baby that will haunt us throughout his life, he was going to be a sickly child because I wasn’t providing him with the necessary antibodies, I just wasn’t trying hard enough, I hadn’t called the right lactation consultant, and (my favourite) I was allowing Corporate America to raise my son.

Life moves on and a year later my child was eating solid food.  For the time being, the world of breastfeeding shame was behind me.

I chose not to breastfeed my second son because I had contracted a potentially lethal infection from the hospital.  I was taking strong medication just to be able to hold my baby. I was fighting each day to keep a fever at bay and to get well.  Breastfeeding on demand would have exhausted what limited energy that I had.  My infant son spent many of those first feedings in the arms of his father and grandmothers, whom rocked him and bottle-fed him formula.

The breastfeeding world seemed to give me a pass with this one,  although a hard-core faction insisted that there were ways I could have continued breastfeeding or at least I could have resumed the practice once I was feeling better.

With the arrival of my third son nearing closer every day, I find that my confidence increases.  I am not worried about having the right gear, I know that all he really needs is some basics and love, love, love.  I am not worried about how I will make it through the sleepless nights. I know that they will be grueling but somehow I will manage.  I am not worried about dropping him or hurting him while I change his diaper. I’ve learned that babies are not glass and are generally malleable.

And the one thing that I know for absolute certain is that if I am not able to breastfeed or choose not to breastfeed this baby, he and I will be all right.