Breastfeeding in Public with Jessica Morgan


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Today’s podcast is about breastfeeding, yes i said breastfeeding. Some of you are thinking this is weird and why would we talk about this on a podcast, which is exactly why I’m doing it! We will talk through what it’s like to breastfeed in public, and how the female body is portrayed and accepted in the public eye.

Episode Transcript:

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This is...Activism with Andrea!

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Today’s podcast is about breastfeeding, yes I said breastfeeding. Some of you are thinking this is a weird and why would we talk about this on a podcast, which is exactly why I’m doing it! We will talk through what it’s like to breastfeed in public, and how the female body is portrayed and accepted in the public eye.

And now the woman behind the mic- its me! Andrea, and joining me today is Jessica Morgan, a sign language interpreter at the Rochester Institute of Technology, but more importantly the mother of two beautiful, breastfed children.

Andrea: Jess, welcome. I want to start this conversation by handing it over to you and let you talk about your experience with breastfeeding. What it is like to breastfeed in public, and any situations (positive or negative) that have really stood out to you.

Jessica: My name is Jess and I have two breastfed children. I have an 8-year-old son who is not breastfed anymore, that ship has sailed. And I have a daughter who is 17 months old and she is still nursing.

Andrea: And then what about breastfeeding in public.

Jessica: Yes. So the thing is, when your children are breastfeeding and you take them places, sometimes they have to feed in public, and that’s a thing. You know, if you look on amazon you can see so many different options for nursing covers and I have to be honest, none of them look comfortable, or functional really.You know, I don't like eating with a towel over my head so I can't imagine my child would.

Andrea: I imagine it gets very hot under there.

Jess: Ya, and I run kinda warm anyway, so just having something additional draped over, and like, I can't see anything so I end up. Like I’ve tried to use covers before and then I end up just baring all anyway and just like okay where is your mouth, where's my nipple and just making it all work. And then I could re-cover if I wanted to, but again I don't like eating with a towel over my face so I don't think my babies would want that either. So ya it happens in public from time to time and I tend not to cover up when it does.

Andrea: Have you ever had any experiences that stood out to you. Anybody approach you, or anything or have you ever felt judged by people in public?

Jessica: You know it's funny. Mostly people don't say anything. I've seen looks. And it seems to vary depending on the situation. When I take my kids to the children's museum and I nurse my daughter there. Mostly nobody says anything or looks at me because it is a kid friendly space. We don't go out to eat with our kids that often, but when we do and I have to nurse my daughter, I definitely get looks from people if I'm nursing her at the dinner table at a restaurant because thats a more uncomfortable place.

Andrea: Yet, that's where we eat

Jessica: Right, and it's where she's eating too but people still think that it's gross. And would prefer me to go somewhere else to feed her. So like I said, my daughter is 17 months and she's still nursing. It's much more socially acceptable to nurse an infant than it is a toddler. Especially because for an infant if they’re nursing that's their, that is their sustenance. That is how they are getting food and nutrition. Especially under the age of 6 months, because the recommendation is to not feed your kids solid food until they are 6 months old. So, people see nursing like a 3-4 month old baby and they're like “oh, well she has to do that because that's their only option for nourishment and comfort” But if I nurse my 17mo daught for comfort, people look at me like “Um, you could give her a blanket, you could give her a pacifier, you could give her something else to eat”. Like they know that I don't need to do that. So people get a lot more awkward about seeing me nurse a toddler because you know, even though in other parts of the world, it's not weird to nurse your toddler. For some reason here, people see that and they're like “Ew, you're still nursing!?” It starts as like this beautiful thing between mother and child and then it turns into “oh that's gross, why are you doing that with your toddler.”

Andrea: Ya, it’s amazing how we develop these stereotypes. Now, personally, I feel that the breast has become oversexualized. Meaning that when we see a female breast pushed up in a bra shown as cleavage, we find that acceptable, or even sexy. But if we see the top of a woman's breast covered by a baby underneath, we think that is unacceptable and we tend to pass judgement on that. Would you agree that it's a sexual thing?

Jessica: Oh, of course! I think breasts are absolutely sexualized in our culture. I do think it's interesting because many people have that perception and you know, not to throw him under the bus, but I think of my own husband. He wouldn't think twice about seeing an advertisement or you know, something that has a woman in it with like cleavage or something that is designed to look sexy. And he will not think twice about whether or not it's appropriate for, for example our 8yo son to be standing there and exposed to that kind of advertisement. But for me, if I am nursing our child in our home he doesn't want our son to see that. He will me up or cover his eyes, you know overt his attention to that. Which I think is so odd because like I’m not doing anything sexual or sexualized. I’m feeding a child. But for some reason, still that exposure to potentially my son to see nipple, is something that makes even my husband (who is a dad) uncomfortable. Which I find very odd.

Andrea: Right, it is very, very interesting. It makes me wonder if we are just cultured that way. It's something at such a young age we are used to seeing the breast in that image, in that way. So when we see it in its functional way, of feeding our offspring, it's like woah- it doesn't match what I'm used to seeing it as.

Andrea: Thank you so much for sitting down with me. This has been wonderful. I really really appreciate you sharing your experiences.

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