Sunday, September 23, 2012

Breastfeeding is NOT unprofessional

I saw this article in the Washington Post about a week ago and I had another one of those moments where I went: "REALLY?! This is an issue? Still?!" Well, here it is: Breastfeeding.  Apparently a professor at a university upset a bunch of her students when she breast fed her child in class.  She was called unprofessional because she did it while she was giving a lecture. Back story: she was a single mom, her baby was ill, it was the first day of classes at American University, here in DC. She didn't want to cancel her fist day so she brought the child in. She let her TA (teachers assistant) watch the child and when the child became too fussy, she put the child to her breast and continued with the lecture.

Students were horrified! OMG, she's feeding her baby on her titties!!! It's not appropriate. What if a man who was hot just opened up his shirt or needed to scratch himself…down there… and just went ahead and did it.  Same thing right. Nope. It's not.

The issue here is not whether the university provided a space for her to breast feed or gave her parental leave to care for a sick child. The issue is that dang word "professional" and it's connection to a woman. We as a society have lost acceptance of women providing nourishment to babies as normal behavior that is not improper, indecent or lewd. Why is it ok to occasionally bring the child to class, but it's not ok to feed her?  When I was at a funeral, and my child was starting to cry my uncle told me, "Put a titty in her mouth. That'll quiet her down." I'm paraphrasing…slightly…but that was pretty much it. My family's from the country. They saw this behavior all the time. It was normal, natural for a woman to feed her child in this way. Women working in agriculture have always carried their babies with them and breastfed them as needed.

But is it professional? It may not be, but it should. A breastfeeding baby is generally quiet for the length of time they are on the breast. A lawyer or business person can still conduct a meeting while feeding her child because there is no more interruption putting a baby to the breast than getting a glass of water.  The problem is not the mother, it's the people around her. If people become acculturated to working mothers having to take care of their babies needs, then there is no issue. She is not baring her breasts for the public to see. Once the baby is fed, take the child back to it's care givers. The process is over in minutes with barely a pause.  If we are going to accept women into the work force, we have to accept women in the work force and all that pertains to that responsibility.  

We cannot preach to women that they should breast feed for at least 12 months without acknowledging that woman will need to work in this society for at least 6 months of that time; minimum. There may not be the ability to bring a child to work for every position, but it should be a goal as a society to promote healthy parenting habits within work settings of which breast feeding is one.

I went back to work after 6 weeks and breast feed both of my children for 8 and 17 months respectively. When I was on tour, I autographed CDs and talked to fans sitting in a chair in my high heeled boots on with a baby on my breast. They both had teeth by 3 months. Yeah…teeth. You don't want to even go there….

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