Mikko and I ventured forth to the playground to enjoy this fabulous Seattle summer weather. We were sitting in the sandbox when a lady came over who had an approximately four-year-old daughter and an approximately four-month-old infant. The baby was in one of those stupid plastic infant carrier things I hate, but I tried not to judge (no, really!), because she did have the two kids and I wasn't clear if she'd just come from her car or had walked there. I didn't see a stroller or similar, so I figured she might have just come from her minivan. (Ha ha, I guess I can't resist some judging. She just looked minivan to me. Don't worry if you like minivans — who knows if I'll eventually fall prey to the lure...)
The baby was crying, and the girl was asking for her mama to play with her. The mother said, "Just let me feed the baby first." So that made me happy, that she was being so responsive to the cries and was going to remove her infant from the carrier rather than just jiggle the plastic to try to calm her down.
So she settled the baby girl in her arms and started preparing to feed. Mikko was fascinated, because he loves him the babies. I kept my eyes respectfully downcast on the sand I was scooping so that I didn't freak out the mama as she arranged herself, but I talked with Mikko about what was happening.
I told him the baby was hungry and wanted some nummies from her mama. I spoke to him quietly and in German, so I figure no one could understand us, but that maybe my tone of voice showed that I was speaking respectfully about what the mother was doing.
Something caught my eye, and I noticed the mom had whipped out a receiving blanket and was settling it over one shoulder. Now, I'm not one to use a nursing cover-up, but I understand that some mamas need them to feel comfortable nursing in public. Again, I was being conscious not to judge (no, really!), just feeling happy that she was a breastfeeding mama like me, out enjoying the sunshine with her kids.
I wondered if I fed Mikko in front of her if she would feel camaraderie or, you know, not, considering my "baby" is a ginormous almost 2-year-old. It didn't come up, since Mikko was too busy staring to ask for his own fill-up.
So, like I said, I was trying not to stare, but I didn't want it to seem like I disapproved, so I looked over to see what was going on now, in case there was an opportunity to say something further to Mikko about the process or flash the mom a smile, and I saw a bottle sticking out of the blanket.
She wasn't breastfeeding at all. And, for some reason, this cracked me up.
Because the first two reasons that came to mind about why she was bottle feeding under a blanket were as follows:
1. The mother took the messages against breastfeeding in public so much to heart that she now thinks bottle feeding in public is equally disgusting. Slogans from the pro-breastfeeding crowd like "You wouldn't expect to eat in a bathroom, would you?" made her realize that, oh, my gosh, eating really is nasty — all that moistness, and chewing, and smacking, and slurping — and that, indeed, everyone should eat in private if at all possible. But what can you do when you have a newborn who must eat while you're out? Feeding her under a blanket is the only recourse!
2. Or, she was so shamed by the pro-breastfeeding lobby that she thought she had to hide her bottle feeding. Maybe she could tell by my ample bosoms and my robust toddler that we are a breastfeeding dyad and she feared I would launch myself over and fling sand into her face for daring to feed her child the poison of formula.
And then I came to my senses and remembered that it was unaccustomedly bright out and she was just shielding her baby's eyes from the sun.
Note that I have no idea what was in the bottle, and it was sort of a strange shape so could have been breastmilk or some specialty formula. I also have no idea what reasons she has for bottle feeding, so I was trying not to judge (no, really!).
Anyway, I just thought I'd share how wild my first theories were before I came up with the plausible one.
I want to share a little caveat as well, having to do with not judging. I'm personally not wild about nursing covers and I am a fan of nursing in public rather than feeling you have to resort to bottle feeding if you want to leave the house. This is not so much that I disapprove of other mothers making different choices. For instance, if you are horribly uncomfortable breastfeeding in public without a cover-up, or even with, far better to feed your baby in whatever way works for you rather than being confined at home for the duration! (Although I'd recommend that you keep giving it some practice.) And if you're in a situation where your baby needs to drink from a bottle, I hope that no one makes you feel inadequate for that choice.
The reason I'm against the suggestions that nursing mamas use Hooter Hiders and the like or take along bottles of expressed milk when out in public is that I feel an implicit judgment that not doing so is unacceptable. When someone's using a nursing coverup near me, and I'm breastfeeding without one, I wonder if that person is judging me as indiscreet and exhibitionist. I would rather every mama felt comfortable enough to breastfeed — or bottlefeed! — in whatever way works for her and her baby, without fear of overhasty and uninformed condemnation.
And since breastfeeding is so awesome, I especially want breastfeeding to become normalized to the point that no one bats an eye at a woman lifting up her shirt or reaching in to unlatch a bra strap, of positioning a hungry infant or guiding a toddler into place, without the need of a draped blanket to hide the actions.
Hey, but if either of my first two guesses were right, that makes me wonder — will bottlefeeding mamas need their own Hooter Hiders next? Bottle Bundlers? Vessel Veils? Canteen Camouflagers?
Wait for it...