Monday, November 7, 2011

What breastfeeding is, what breastfeeding is not

I don't even know where to begin with this post. All I know is that I feel compelled to write it, because I am still bugged by a breastfeeding related post - and some comments made in response - I read 2 days ago on Facebook.

I think there is a serious flaw in the way breasts are viewed in America. Somehow, we're unable to separate the two separate functions of breasts: for sexual pleasure, and to nourish a child.

First of all, our view is so completely warped as a culture when this is viewed as gross, perverse, or a turn on

and this is viewed as perfectly normal, attractive, and beautiful.

(After searching for an "appropriately inappropriate" photo to use, I now feel like I need a shower. My eyes....they burn!)

There is a strong distinction between uses of breasts in those two contexts.

In the first picture (and yes, that's me), the breast is being used to feed a child her first meal. It is being used to bond mother and child. My husband was in the room watching it all happen, and I assure you, he was in no way, shape, or form turned on by it in a sexual manner! He thought it was tender, sweet, and beautiful, but certainly not sexually arousing.

In the second picture, the breasts are clearly there to attract sexual attention. It doesn't leave much for the imagination, that's for sure! I am sure there were a lot of men at that event (I can't tell if that's a stadium, theater, or what) who were sexually aroused by that woman's immodesty.

Breasts were designed to nourish children. Thousands of years before the baby bottle, there were breasts. Thousands of years before infant formula, there was breast milk. Its only within the past 75ish years that we've taken what is natural and normal, replaced it with artificials, and in doing so have thus removed all the cultural "normalness" from it, and our view has become so completely distorted that we view it as disgusting, immodest, gross, a chance for a peep show, inconvenient, embarrassing... The list is endless.

Breasts were also designed for sexual pleasure. But there is criteria for that. Certainly we were never meant to walk around with half our tatas hanging out of our shirts, arousing every guy that walks by! Sexual arousal is supposed to happen behind closed doors, between two individuals. Its not supposed to happen out in the open, unsuspectingly, by some hot little blonde walking by in a low-cut shirt.

But that's where our culture has gone. What was meant to be private and intimate, is now abundantly on display on just about every channel of my TV, walking down my street, shopping at my mall, in my magazine... And what was meant to be natural and normal, is now viewed as perverse, gross, and to be done behind closed doors. Public low-cut shirt wearing is now normal, but public breastfeeding is not.

What happened?

And as far as the whole "breastfeeding is gross" thing, I ask you, would you rather fill your baby's mouth with natural, human milk from your own breasts, or artificial milk that is a far cry from "human," from a sterilized piece of plastic? Now maybe I've just turned into a crazy breastfeeding nazi, but I always find it sad when a parent gives a child a propped bottle then walks away. Part of breastfeeding - and to me, the most beautiful part - is the one-on-one time spent gazing into eachother's eyes, the skin-to-skin contact, the hormonal exchanges between mother and baby... Those are things no bottle can ever provide.

I am not trying to guilt trip anyone who bottle fed, nor am I trying to start a debate, but I am just so bothered that so many people are so convinced that breastfeeding is gross, embarrassing, to be done only in private... As a culture we have it so backward!

Breasts are for nourishing babies. Breasts are also for sexual arousal. But don't blur the lines.

What do you think? Do you think breastfeeding is beautiful or gross? Do you think breasts are just breasts, or do you agree with my theory that there are different purposes within different contexts?

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