We’re just back from (partially) summering in Buenos Aires, which probably sounds a lot fancier than it actually is. I’m still in a sleep-deprived fog and feeling lots of the feelings these days. I actually blame it on the Spanish-dubbed version of “Inside Out” that we saw while we were down there. P.S.- In case you were wondering, the Spanish-speaking version of Lewis Black sounds EXACTLY the same. He should definitely consider calling himself Luis Negro…
It’s always hard getting settled back into life when you’ve been away for so long. As I told my mom the other day, you always think you’ll just magically pop into one culture and then magically pop right back into the other, but it doesn’t work like that. When you’re back, you’re not really all the way back – you’re like 75% back. Everything, even familiar things, look different, the food tastes different, your brain has to switch language gears again… and it’s freaking hot. (It’s winter in Argentina right now. We literally experienced all four seasons in a month. Muy weirdo.)
And as wonderful as it is to be back in my own home, in my own bed, relaxing into my own routine, there are always things that I miss when I leave Argentina. Usually it’s a tie between empanadas and dulce de leche. This time it’s breastfeeding publicly. Stick with me here for a second.
The thing about public breastfeeding in Argentina is that it’s not a thing. At all. As in, you never have to worry about someone giving you the “crazy gringa” look if you happen to be nursing around them. They might think you’re a crazy gringa for something else you do, but that’s another post for another day.
So during our last few days in Buenos Aires, I began feeling sad that I wouldn’t have that kind of freedom and acceptance back home… not unlike our little sad friend here.
I actually mentioned something about it to a relative, which brought about a realization. Our conversation went something like this:
Me: Wow, it’s been sooo nice being able to feed the baby without worrying about someone being offended. I’m going to miss this!
Relative: Oh, is bottle-feeding more accepted than breastfeeding in the U.S.?
Me: Actually, no, people shame you for doing that, too. Maybe even more in some cases.
And that’s when it hit me like a ton of bricks…
Moms today are damned if they do and damned if they don’t.
If we choose to breastfeed our babies – a practice that is regularly touted as being the healthiest, best choice for baby – it has to be on everyone else’s terms. You’d better be breastfeeding, but if you are, it had better not be in public without sticking to the unwritten rules. You need to either cover yourself and your baby up, (‘cause it’s okay if you two are uncomfortable – just not anyone else), or else be exiled to another room each and every time your baby gets hungry. Oh, and since the APA recommends you breastfeed for 6 months to a year, you can expect to feel like a social pariah for a good chunk of that time.
Not cool with any of those options? Well then you’re either a militant feminist using your leaky, unwieldy boobs as weapons, or else you’re a pervert who gets her kicks by publicly displaying her leaky, unwieldy boobs. Or you’re just lazy and a bad baby-scheduler. Plan to get lots of disapproving looks and/or comments.
Oh, and if you’re not breastfeeding? Ah, then you must be an uncaring, selfish beast who doesn’t know what’s best for your child. Planning on feeding your little one a bottle of formula in public? Plan to get lots of disapproving looks and/or comments.
You see where I’m going with this?
So I’ve decided what I probably should’ve decided a long time ago. I’m not giving up that freedom of breastfeeding without fear after all. I’m going to feed my little girl when she’s hungry, and if that’s offensive to you, well… you were probably going to be offended anyway. I’m no longer going to feel anxious because of your dirty looks or feel like I’m doing something wrong when I’m not.
Are we cool? No? Eh… too bad.