Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Adventures in Public Breastfeeding: The Graduation

I've been slacking on my blog.  I promise I will publish a birth story at the very least and catch up on all my half written posts, but first I am inspired to tell this story. 

This past evening I attended my brother's junior high graduation.  I brought along my kid.  In the 3 weeks since he has been born, I've practiced public breastfeeding in a variety of locations including  a nursing school graduation, an outdoor market and several restaurants.  I know the law in my state states that I can breastfeed my child any place that I am authorized to be, the only exception being churches who are allowed to make their own rules.  Since you aren't likely to find me in a church, that means I can whip it out anywhere and feed my kid.  Incidental exposure of my nipple is irrelevant, according to the law.   

That said, I did feel slightly uncomfortable when my son started crying at the graduation.  I was seated in the middle of the room, right by the center aisle.  I elected to first calm him and then offer him the boob so as to attract less attention to myself while I got him to latch.  My plan was working.  Kiddo settled down and I exposed my breast momentarily while he latched.  My mom was sitting next to me and reached over to try to cover me.  

"I don't need a cover." I said.  Unfortunately, this may be the one time I did, as I looked up to see my friend's kid pointing his camera at me.  He had run down the center aisle in the middle of the ceremony to do this.  Now, this kid is autism spectrum, so his behavior can be more easily forgiven than a typical 14 year old.  It took me a moment to realize what he was doing and why the people around us were laughing.  I laughed too, but I also let my friend know what had happened.  

Now, some people might argue that this is exactly why women shouldn't breastfeed in public.  Here we have an impressionable young man who was witness to my *gasp* breasts in a public setting.  At a graduation, for cryin out loud!  A gymnasium filled with impressionable young minds! 

This is incorrect thinking.  I did nothing wrong.  I fed my baby.  The young man was the one in the wrong.  Photographing my exposed breast without my consent was completely inappropriate.  Likely, up until this point, all of his experience with breasts was through photos or videos on the Internet.  Of course it seemed appropriate to photograph this boob.  Since breastfeeding isn't something we see very often, he didn't know that this was different from the boobs he's experienced in the past. 

The outcome of this situation is exactly what should have happened.  His mother was informed of his actions, she corrected his behavior and he apologized to me.  He has been educated on breastfeeding and appropriate camera use.  Again, please remember that he is autism spectrum and thus has a different understanding of social rules.  It does not come naturally for him to predict the correct social behavior.  

When I prepared myself for breastfeeding in public, I did not prepare myself for this occurrence.  However, I think I handled it well.  The important thing is that my child was able to eat and I wasn't hassled for feeding him in the most natural and simple way that there is.   

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