Nursing in Public

I read an excellent article yesterday about all of the public places/situations where it is inappropriate to breastfeed. Amazingly enough, as a strong breastfeeding proponent, I agreed with it!

Five Places Where Breastfeeding is Certainly Inappropriate

A friend of mine reposted the article and one of her friends commented about the “courtesy” of breastfeeding women not “drawing undue attention to their exposed anatomy” and of being modest. In my somewhat limited experience, those are some of the most common reasons given by people who seek to restrict where a woman is able to feed her baby in the biologically normal way. Given that our society still has a great many social biases towards *artificial baby-milk feeding, I believe that it is of extreme importance to address those biases whenever I see them.

This was my response:

It’s also courteous to look away if someone is nursing and showing too much skin for your comfort. I would ask you, very respectfully, to consider the following:

Perhaps the hypothetical woman who is “drawing undue attention” to the act of feeding her baby is just starting out with nursing. Perhaps her baby won’t nurse with a cover (most babies I know personally refuse to nurse while covered up). Perhaps she wore something that (in retrospect and to her great embarrassment) wasn’t the most practical nursing attire. Or perhaps her baby needed to nurse immediately due to hunger or injury, leaving no time for the mother to be overly concerned with the opinions or even sensibilities of adult strangers who can easily avert their eyes if their sensibilities are offended.

Perhaps the fact that the mother could have very valid, non-exhibitionist, reasons for not being as modest as some might prefer could help you see that (rare, in my experience) occurrence in a different and more positive light than as, negatively stated above, a purposeful drawing of attention or lack of modesty.


Babies need to be fed. If a baby is hungry, then they should be fed as quickly as possible. Preferably with breastmilk, but with formula where necessary for whatever reason. If someone can bottle-feed in a location or situation, then mothers should be able to also breastfeed in that same location or situation. Feeding a baby is not a sexual act. Breasts are primarily organs for feeding babies, not for titillating the males in our species.

*I am not anti-formula and I fully understand that it is necessary to feed babies artificial baby-milk under several circumstances. The first rule of feeding babies is “Feed the baby” and many babies thrive on formula. However, I also believe that we do a disservice to both babies and mothers, as well as society as a whole, when we pretend that artificial baby-milk is in any way comparable to breastmilk or ignore the fact that there are very real disadvantages, and even dangers, to feeding babies formula when compared to breastfeeding directly or feeding babies breastmilk from a bottle.


Exactly, Just Exactly!

The poem below is exactly how I feel right now about my house and about my fourth (and almost certainly last) baby. I just want to snuggle and love on this baby boy as much as I possibly can before he gets big, which I know will happen too soon, and maybe won’t want to snuggle with his mama any more (I don’t even want to think about such a thing!).

The laundry and cleaning does get done eventually, but very gradually and on an as-needed basis. Snuggling the baby, homeschooling and spending time with the older children, and spending time with my husband are taking priority right now.

I can’t imagine that I would possibly ever regret spending more time with my lovely family when I look back on these years ❤


Song for a Fifth Child
by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth,
Empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
Hang out the washing and butter the bread,
Sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She’s up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.
Oh, I’ve grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(Pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping’s not done and there’s nothing for stew
And out in the yard there’s a hullabaloo
But I’m playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren’t her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(Lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
For children grow up, as I’ve learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I’m rocking my baby and babies don’t keep.

A New Look!

Oh my goodness. Has it really been two and a half years since I last blogged? Time flies, as they say, and like most sayings, it has a great deal of truth in it. I’m not entirely certain where the time has gone, but it has, and here I am.

In the past three years I have become an apprentice midwife, started a doula service, helped to found a chapter of BirthNetwork National in my town, started midwifery school, learned how to encapsulate placentas, written two first drafts for two novels, taught two children how to read, and had a new baby. I’ve been involved with groups to improve birth options for women in my part of the country and I’ve learned more about birth politics than I ever could have dreamed there was to even know in the first place. I have become quite active on a wonderful message board with members who encourage me in Grace Based Parenting every single day that I read there and I have made a wonderful circle of friends locally, in real life, who encourage me in the same way.

There have been a great many other things that have happened, of course, but I don’t think I could even begin to remember them all, let alone write them all down in the amount of time I have right now.

So, in honor of coming back (really, I’m going to try and stick with it somewhat this time around!), I’ve chosen a new theme for the blog and I hope that this will help with my motivation a bit more as well.

It’s been a busy last few years, but it’s been a very good sort of busy! The very best kind of busy – the kind that involves children, reading, births, babies, friends, and good food (that last one is extremely important, of course).

Here’s to a new look!


The Taboo Topic

I’m going to start off my first post of this year by talking about a pretty hot-button issue. I feel very strongly about this issue, but it’s really none of my business what other people choose to do about it. So, please, don’t tell me what you did or what you will or won’t do with regards to this issue. I don’t want to know because it’ll probably just make me sad and I don’t want the comments to turn into a debate (assuming enough people will even read this to make it a potential debate).

The issue, you ask? The issue is circumcision – routine infant circumcision, to be specific. This is a very American issue since the rest of the developed world stopped routine circumcision quite a while ago. This is also a human rights issue mixed in with the question of parental rights.

With this issue, there are many questions to ponder:

Why did the rest of the developed world stop this practice?
Where do parental rights end and the child’s right to his or her body begin?
What about religious beliefs?
How culturally important is it for a child to have a surgery simply because the parent of the same gender had that same surgery as a child?
What is lost to circumcision?

However, my main goal with this post is to encourage parents to really research circumcision before they decide either way. Please, look at what is lost to circumcision, which could also be called “foreskin amputation.” The foreskin is not just a useless flap of skin. Please, understand what you are taking away from your son before you decide to take it away.

There are all sorts of resources about the benefits of circumcision and I think it’s of extreme importance to get the other perspective – to seek it out before making a final decision.

Educate yourself so that if your son comes to you when he’s older and asks, “Mom/Dad, why did you circumcise me?” you can give him a good answer. “Because everyone else was doing it.” is not a good answer. The odds are good that your son will be happy with whatever he has, but as more boys in the US remain intact (the rate of babies being circumcised in hospitals during 2009 was a mere 32.5%), the likelihood of him realizing that he’s missing something and questioning your motives will probably increase.

Educate yourself so that you won’t learn something new in 1, 2, 5, or 20 years that makes you regret your decision. The more research you do, the more confident you will be in your decision.

I cannot even tell you how many mothers I’ve met who wish someone had encouraged them to look deeper into the issue of circumcision before they had their first-born sons. I’ve met countless women who circumcised their oldest and then, after learning more about what the surgery actually entails, left subsequent sons intact. Many of these women state that circumcising their son(s) is their biggest parenting regret.

Please be certain, before you send your son in for irreversible surgery on the most private and personal part of his body, that you are making the best decision for him. Not the best decision for you or for your family or for your friends, but for your son who will have to live with your decision for the rest of his life.

I encourage you to check out and read the studies located there. The site has a definite pro-intact (not circumcised) bias, but the relevant studies are all represented and you can certainly ignore the commentary from the owners of the site if you wish to be more balanced about the issue.

You may also wish to take a look at Doctors Opposing Circumcision (DOC) if you’d like to hear the case against circumcision from the medical perspective. You’re almost guaranteed to learn something new about the foreskin which is, truly, an amazing part of the body!

Speaking of the case against circumcision, Dr. Paul Fleiss wrote an article many years ago called just that! Dr. Fleiss is a pediatrician and I believe he’s also a member of DOC.

If you’d never consider cutting your daughter’s genitals, but consider male circumcision to be beneficial for your son, I suggest that you look at this handy comparison chart, compiled by Hanny Lightfoot-Klein, an author and activist who has written some of the most groundbreaking books about the topic of Female Genital Mutilation. Of course female and male circumcision are different, but probably not as different as you may think.

What about the question of religious beliefs? I’m a Christian and can only really speak to the Christian aspect of religious circumcision. There are plenty of resources out there for Jews who want to look more into this issue. I don’t know enough about the Muslim faith to speak to the topic. However, it is very clear to me that, in reading the New Testament, circumcision is not something that is necessary for Christians.

In fact, Paul is very clear in Galatians that circumcision is not worth anything to followers of Christ Jesus. In fact, he states that if a man lets himself be circumcised, Christ is of no value to that man. Search the scriptures yourself – be very certain that it is truly a religious requirement before you circumcise only for that reason. Many Christians believe that they must circumcise, and that is clearly not the case.

Finally, I would like to encourage all the circumcised fathers out there – particularly those who want their sons to “match” them – to take a trip down memory lane and remember how many times they really compared penises with their father and if their family was open about nudity, was their father’s circumcision status really the first thing they noticed? Or did they notice first that there was a size difference and all that hair too?

This decision is one of the most important decisions you will ever make as a parent. Your son will live with the consequences of this decision for the rest of his life. I entreat you to not take this decision lightly. Circumcision is a surgical procedure, it is not a “little snip” and not everyone is having it done to their sons any longer.


Babies and Overindulgence

It’s very difficult for me to write about topics that I think of as obvious or simply common sense. Once I’ve researched something to death and the conclusion I’ve reached has become obvious to me, it’s easy for me to forget that others probably don’t see the issue in the same way that I do. I think that’s true for most people, actually.

Occasionally this fact is really brought home to me by a friend or acquaintance who says something that I didn’t realize people still believed, and the obvious-to-me thing that I want to write about tonight is babies. Newborn babies in particular, but really all babies at least up through 12 months of age.

I was reminded this evening of a common phrase said to and about new mothers who actually hold their babies and nurse on demand, “You’re spoiling that baby!” or “She’s going to spoil that baby!” This is usually uttered by a well-meaning older relative or friend who was warned against spoiling her own baby when she was a new mother.

After doing extensive research into the way other cultures raise their children and into the biology of how babies develop once outside the mother’s womb, I came to the obvious-to-me conclusion that babies cannot be spoiled or overindulged. I personally prefer the term overindulged because it is a more accurate representation of what people actually mean when they say a child is “spoiled.”

So, why do I believe that a baby cannot be overindulged? First of all, during at least the first year, a baby’s needs and wants are the same thing. Babies are not manipulative – they are not complex enough to manipulate their parents or to even understand what that would involve. Babies simply know that they are hungry, lonely, wet, tired, or uncomfortable and they cry until someone responds or until they give up on someone responding.

Once they get what they need, babies are generally content until they need something else so it’s mainly a question of figuring out what they need and ensuring that they get it for as long as necessary. Some babies need to be held constantly, others seem to need to nurse constantly, and there’s nothing wrong with holding or nursing a baby anytime they need it. It is not overindulgence because if they need it, they want it and vice versa.

Wants and needs become gradually more divergent as a baby gets older, but it’s very clear to me that babies were created to have their needs met during the first year and that they cannot be overindulged during that time – perhaps longer. Studies have even shown that babies who are responded to more quickly in infancy are less whiny and clingy as toddlers and preschoolers. Perhaps they’ve fulfilled their need for being close to their parents and are better able to move on. This is explained fairly well with Erickson’s first of eight stages of personality: trust versus mistrust, and has certainly been borne out in my personal experience with my two daughters so far.

My older daughter was held all the time when she was a baby until she began to crawl everywhere at 6 months and to walk full-time at 9 months! She was nursed on demand until she was a bit over a year old. She has gradually become more and more independent and is now almost 4 years old, an age where I could certainly overindulge her if I continued to treat her as a 4 month old since her wants and needs are often very different now. Still, treating her as I did when she was tiny, feeding and holding her on demand, did not cause her to be overly dependent on me as a preschooler and it certainly didn’t hinder her gross motor skills at all!

My younger daughter is basically following in her older sister’s footsteps. We no longer hold her all the time – she’s been walking for well over a year now – and many times when she asks to nurse I’ll offer her something else like a cup of water or milk and she’ll take it instead. Generally asking to nurse for her means that she’s hungry or thirsty and I really don’t have any milk right now since I’m pregnant so it’s important to for me to fulfill her actual need as well as to help her realize that she needs to eat or drink when she feels hungry or thirsty. If she wants to nurse because she’s hurt or tired then I don’t refuse or redirect her because that’s a need to nurse while cuddling and not a need to eat or hydrate.

I haven’t personally received any comments about “spoiling” my children in the past, but now that I’m living in a different part of the country, as well as living closer to my extended family, I’m expecting to hear that phrase at least some after this new baby is born. While I appreciate the concern that I know lies behind the statement, I am fully confident that I have done the right thing in the past with my babies and that I will be doing the right thing with this baby when I hold or wear him/her as much as possible, co-sleep, and breastfeed on demand.

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