Selling Sex to Nursing Moms
Breastfeeding mothers have enough to think about without worrying that they’re not sufficiently sexy
Orthodox women tend not to breastfeed in mixed company; those who do are careful to cover up with blankets and drapes. (Perhaps they’d appreciate another unnecessary product’s press release I got recently, for the Covillow, which combines a breastfeeding pillow and a poncho into one bulky, diaper-bag-space-consuming package!) For them, breastfeeding is still covered by the laws of tzniut, or modesty. But even with a drape or a blanket, very religious women may find nursing embarrassing and isolating. One Haredi mom blogged movingly about her revelation that she didn’t have to nurse while hiding in corners. “Anna T” wrote: “It had been months since I’ve been to synagogue because I didn’t feel comfortable nursing in the (mostly nearly empty) women’s section…I just went outside, crouched somewhere in a tiny spot of shade and nursed. The baby and I were stiflingly hot and I was crying because I felt so suffocated by always having to miss out on conversations and family celebrations. I felt as though I had spent the best part of the last months hidden away.” But seeing another mother nursing publicly in the dining hall inspired her to come out. She resolved that in the future, she’d be less ashamed.
I, on the other hand, am of the hippie school of Jew that has always believed that breastfeeding is not inherently immodest; those who see the act of feeding a baby as provocative need to get over themselves. (I’m talking to you, woman in the Friendly’s off I-95 in Connecticut who yelled at me to go nurse Maxine in the bathroom and tried to get the waitress to kick me out of the restaurant when I wouldn’t budge.) Nevertheless, you don’t have to be religiously observant to have mixed feelings about nursing. If you’re working and pumping, you may feel guilty for “shirking” at the office while also feeling sad about not being home with your baby. If you’re home and nursing full-time, you may feel anxious about not contributing financially to your family and nervous about your ability to rejoin the work force later. (And of course, if you’re not nursing at all, or having trouble nursing, well, there’s plenty you can feel miserable about on those fronts, too.)
The one additional pressure you don’t need when your baby is tiny is to feel presentational and self-objectification-y. Your hormones are doing a hora, you’re exhausted, you’re adjusting to the notion that a tiny person is utterly dependent on you and you may never have clean hair or go to the movies ever again. (Eventually you will. And then you’ll find entirely new things to worry about.) But it’s OK not to multitask for while. It’s OK to accept that you will not look like naked pregnant Demi Moore on the cover of Vanity Fair. (Fine, that was a vintage reference. But look what happened to Demi Moore. She wasted the best years of her life with that skanky cheating Ashton Kutcher, so you might as well wear sweats and stay on the couch. I forget what point I was making here.) If strappy corsets and G-strings make you feel good, then rock out with your knockers out. If you prefer to nurse in a ratty oversized concert T-shirt from 1997, then that’s fine, too. Neither choice makes you more or less of a mother. (And not nursing at all, for whatever reason, does not invalidate you, either.) If products with twee names appeal to you and you want a (shudder) Hooter Hider to nurse under, amen to you. Just don’t be embarrassed to do what is legally protected in 44 states. And most of all, bear in mind that anyone trying to sell you anything—lingerie, formula, or ironic Frankie Says Relax repro T-shirts—is primarily motivated by selling, not your emotional welfare.
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Sages in a superstitious age accepted the existence of invisible devils and the use of magic to render them visible