The Best Breast Cancer Awareness

Photo by Hamish Darby

October is Breast Cancer Awareness month, as espoused from every company wanting to make a buck. It seems everywhere you turn in October, someone has a pink ribbon slapped on a pink product, as though buying such a product does anything to help prevent breast cancer. The truth is that very little of the money spent on pink products actually goes toward breast cancer research.

Rather than sporting little pink ribbons on everything from Campbell’s soup cans to NFL uniforms, garnering too few funds which won’t even impact research for today’s women, we could be running an educational campaign about lifestyle practices which could actually impact the women of today and the women of tomorrow.

The greatest thing that women can do to significantly reduce their risk of breast cancer is to breastfeed. While the numbers cited vary, most studies show a 10% decrease for each year of breastfeeding. If the average woman has two children and breastfeeds for the bare recommended amount of time (2 years), than according to most of these studies, she would have decreased her chances of breastfeeding by 40%! That is a significant decreasem especially when added to the 7% decrease for each pregnancy. Not only does breastfeeding decrease mothers’ chances of having breast cancer, but studies also show that daughters who are breastfed will have a lower chance of having breast cancer as adults.

It seems odd to me that we can use breasts to sell items. We can use breast cancer awareness to sell items. Yet, there is a fundamental lack of support for the basic function of breasts and actually lowering rates of breast cancer. I’ll gladly wear a stereotypically pink ribbon as soon as our society can support women of all ages to breastfeed their children whenever and wherever they need to, to know the benefits to both mother, child, and society of biologically appropriate breastfeeding, and to help families with their breastfeeding journeys.

If I Wanted to Show Off My Breasts…

Photo by United Nations Development Programme

If I wanted to show off my breasts, I would probably do so by…

  • wearing a very small bikini
  • wearing a low cut shirt, preferably with a push up bra
  • stand up straight and stick out my chest
  • wear a shirt asking people to look at my breasts
  • keep everything away from obstructing the view
  • go shirtless

I probably wouldn’t chose the following ways:

  • cover my chest with a baby or toddler latched on
  • wear a sling with a baby or toddler across my chest
  • cover up my cleavage with a bunched up shirt pulled up to nurse
  • be engaged with my child, especially those moments when I have a little foot in my face for me to kiss or smell and play the ew! stinky feet game
  • sit down in a comfortable spot
  • go about my business

Breastfeeding is about taking care of our children, not about showing off breasts.

a matter of choice…

An Afghan woman and child in Parwan Province, Afghanistan. Photo by Sgt. Sean A. Terry, USA

I recently had a conversation with my children about women covering themselves, after we saw a woman who wore a head covering. My 5 year old daughter wanted to know why the woman’s head was covered, and we discussed the fact that some religions require women to cover their heads or bodies so that others do not see them. The next question to follow was whether or not the woman had chosen to cover her head or whether someone had made her do it.

This brought about a very insightful discussion about women’s rights, and human rights in general. Some women choose to cover themselves based on their beliefs. Others are forced to cover themselves or suffer persecution.The distinction between the two – freedom and oppression – is clear; it’s a simple matter of choice.

The choice to cover oneself, including covering when breastfeeding, is a personal choice. Women who choose to cover do so out of personal preference based on their beliefs. To tell tell others that they should cover themselves is an attempt at oppression, whether the cover is meant for the woman’s head or her child’s.

the reality of nursing in public…

Most stories about mothers nursing their children in public are negative. We hear the stories of discrimination and oppression. Those against breastfeeding will claim they saw a woman fling her breast out to breastfeed her child. Breastfeeding mothers tell of snide comments they heard, demands that they leave a public place or feed their child in a restroom. I’ve had my share of comments. They do exist, as much as some will have you believe otherwise. Occassionally a mother may have a positive comment or smile. Personally, I try to encourage other mothers I see nursing in public, even if it’s just with a cheesy smile. However, overall neither of these scenarios is the norm.  

I’ve never once seen a woman fling a breast, which frankly sounds quite painful. If you know where I can witness this, please let me know; I’ve never quite understood the logistics of it. The truth if the matter is, most people don’t notice a mother nursing her child. When a child shows signs of wanting to nurse, a mother matter of factly lifts or lowers her shirt enough to allow the child to latch on. They nurse and go on about their business. No fanfare precedes the event. There are no requests for cheers or hurrahs. The mother is merely attending to her child’s needs, just as she would hug the child or hand the child food.

While negative experiences sadly occur, in the thousands of times I’ve nursed in public, the number of negative comments are comparatively small. I’ve nursed in a laundromat full of college guys, out hiking, in stores while pushing a cart, while helping my older children with crafts at a children’s museum, next to a strange man on an airplane (who was kind enough to offer to pull my tray down for my water), at concerts, parks, libraries, and more. Most of the time, no one says a word.

So while we do need to normalize breastfeeding and nursing in public, new mothers shouldn’t feel frightened to do so. Chances are, no one will even notice. If they do, it’s very likely they won’t say a thing. And if they do, take confidence in the fact that you are doing the best for your child and stay firm in your rights.

This post was originally posted on Nursing Freedom.

under-sexed…

When the topic of nursing in public comes up, the topic of sex inevitably follows. Anti-breastfeeding individuals liken breastfeeding to sex and claim enough is enough. Breastfeeding advocates claim that our society is over-sexed; breasts are lauded for their sexuality, plastered on billboards, used to sell beer and cars rather than their true purpose – their functionality.

Yes, breasts are sexual. It is possible to be functional and sexual at the same time. In fact, a person’s entire body is sexual. If someone is under the impression that breastfeeding is sexual and therefore taboo in public, I don’t agree that they are over-sexed. In fact, I would argue that they are under-sexed, because they seem to be wholly unaware of all of the wonderful sexual aspects of various other body parts which they see everyday.

If the idea of possibly seeing a body part which has dual functions bothers you, then a larger call to arms is in order. Don’t just target the breastfeeding mothers; go after anyone who uses any body part that holds dual functionality: mouths, hands, fingers, noses, ears, necks, eyelashes, arms, legs, feet, bellies, backs….the list goes on.

If your imagination doesn’t go that far or you think that’s too much, you may be just a little under-sexed. Frankly, assuming that breasts are sexual while other body parts aren’t just isn’t very creative on your part. So, we’ll make a deal. You won’t spout your ignorance about the functionality of breasts and the sexuality of other body parts. In turn, I will only use my breasts in public for the purpose of breastfeeding, and I won’t tell you about all of the other body parts I use to get my husband all hot and steamy.

feel free to be offended…

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public (“NIP”). See the bottom of this post for more information.

***

There are those who are offended by the sight of a mother nursing her child in public. To them I say, “Feel free to be offended.” 

In a world as diverse as ours, something is bound to offend another person – sexuality, race, gender, religion, clothing, speech, habits, etc. We have the right to our individual beliefs and, as a part of that, a right to feel offense. Where our rights stop is where they interfere with another person’s rights.

Personally, I’m offended by smoking. I think it’s disgusting, and I really don’t want to be anywhere near it. However, I’m not going to ask someone to quit smoking. I will quietly go somewhere else so that my children and I don’t have to be around it. I am also disgusted by the site of people chewing food with their mouths open. Apparently the memo that watching partially masticated food is unappealing didn’t make it’s way through the entire human population (or my in-laws’ house). I reserve the right to look away in my offense.

What I don’t have is the right to dictate how people legally live their lives. I may be offended by some things, but frankly it’s none of my business. I don’t have the right to dictate what they can and cannot do based on my sensibilities.

So the next time I’m out in public and breastfeed my child, feel free to be offended. Feel free to look away, walk away, cover your head in shame, or however you choose to deal with your uncomfortable feelings. You have that right, just as I have the right to nurse whenever and wherever I have the right to be.

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts – new articles will be posted on the following days:

July 5 – Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It

public intimacy…

Welcome to the July 2010 Carnival of Nursing in Public

This post was written for inclusion in the Carnival of Nursing in Public hosted by Dionna and Paige at NursingFreedom.org. All week, July 5-9, we will be featuring articles and posts about nursing in public (“NIP”). See the bottom of this post for more information.

***

Intimacy. 1. The state of being intimate. 2. Something of a personal or private nature. 3. Rituals of connection.

Breastfeeding is definitely an intimate experience. It allows mother and child to bond and promotes connection. And due to its intimate nature, many would claim that mothers should only nurse their children in private. Afterall, intimate acts should never occur in public…

…except that intimate acts constantly occur in public. People kiss. Hands are held. Hugs show affection and lift someone’s spirits. High fives convey excitement. Conversations occur. Hands are shook. Special looks are given. Personal jokes and stories are shared. Intimacy is all around us.

Those who claim someone should only breastfeed in private are merely intruding on an intimate act. Rather a social faux pas, isn’t it?

Art by Erika Hastings at http://mudspice.wordpress.com/

Welcome to the Carnival of Nursing in Public

Please join us all week, July 5-9, as we celebrate and support breastfeeding mothers. And visit NursingFreedom.org any time to connect with other breastfeeding supporters, learn more about your legal right to nurse in public, and read (and contribute!) articles about breastfeeding and N.I.P.

Do you support breastfeeding in public? Grab this badge for your blog or website to show your support and encourage others to educate themselves about the benefits of breastfeeding and the rights of breastfeeding mothers and children.

This post is just one of many being featured as part of the Carnival of Nursing in Public. Please visit our other writers each day of the Carnival. Click on the links below to see each day’s posts – new articles will be posted on the following days:

July 5 – Making Breastfeeding the Norm: Creating a Culture of Breastfeeding in a Hyper-Sexualized World

July 6 – Supporting Breastfeeding Mothers: the New, the Experienced, and the Mothers of More Than One Nursing Child

July 7 – Creating a Supportive Network: Your Stories and Celebrations of N.I.P.

July 8 – Breastfeeding: International and Religious Perspectives

July 9 – Your Legal Right to Nurse in Public, and How to Respond to Anyone Who Questions It