Thursday, June 17, 2010

Morality & Breastfeeding in Public

A recent comment from a relative that even with nursing clothes and discretion "just because you can [nurse in public] doesn't mean you should!" set me to thinking quite seriously about the morality of breastfeeding in public, and here's what I came up with:

I believe based on the scientific research and anecdotal evidence I've seen that breastfeeding is the best choice for babies' mental, physical, and emotional well-being. Because of this, I think I have a moral duty to breastfeed.* And I believe other mothers do too, unless it would be an unreasonable hardship or otherwise impossible. I don't think mothers who can't breastfeed should feel bad or are doing anything immoral by formula feeding though, of course! Or say, a mother who has to take a medication for a serious condition that is not safe for breastfeeding babies and has to use formula- I definitely don't think that's immoral! I do think that if a mother is reasonably capable of breastfeeding safely, she has a moral duty to do so and provide her child with the best nutrition and comfort available. Anyway, there are a couple of other moral duties I've been thinking about with this too.

One is that as a Christian, I think I have a moral duty to behave modestly. In life in general for me, this means not wearing low cut tops, not posting sexy pictures of myself on Facebook, and a myriad of other things. So how does this balance with the moral duty to breastfeed? I think I ought to breastfeed modestly. I don't think that breastfeeding is in any way obscene, but I do think that due to the oversexualization of our culture, many men would be prone to sexual thoughts if they saw exposed breast, and I don't want to elicit sexual thoughts in anyone other than Hubby!

To help me nurse modestly, I got a few super-cute nursing tops from Motherwear that allow me to nurse without revealing any of my breast except maybe when Baby's first getting attached and when he's done. And I try not to flash anyone. Baby won't tolerate a blanket over his head, so I don't bother even trying that anymore. For other moms who can afford it, nursing tops, etc are great. But I certainly don't think any mom should feel she has to make expensive purchases to breastfeed. Simply exercising reasonable discretion with what she can afford is all I think is necessary. But even with that being said, Baby's needs come first, and if that means some breast is exposed to public view, I don't think that's bad at all!

I also think the general population has a duty in regards to breastfeeding, and that is to mind their own business. I know that some people are creeps and might be trying to check me out. But beyond attempting to be modest in my feeding Baby, it's really not my problem. I cover up in hopes of not tempting anyone/causing anyone to sin by lusting after me, but I think that's as far as my role goes. My obligation to my baby comes before any obligation to the general public, including the obligation to modesty.

This goes for church too as far as I'm concerned. While I try to nurse modestly and quietly so I'm not a distraction, I think it's ultimately the responsibility of the other people in attendance to ensure their own focus is on God and not on the people around them, including me and my nursling.

What are your thoughts on the morality of nursing in public?

*"Duty" tends to have a little bit of a negative connotation in some contexts, so I just wanted to state for the record that besides thinking that I should breastfeed, I also love breastfeeding my son, and while I consider it a duty, I certainly don't think of it as a chore!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Ways to Have Outdoor Fun with a Pre-Walker

Welcome to the June Carnival of Natural Parenting: Outdoor fun

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared their stories and tips for playing outside with kids. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.


Baby and I both love being outside. But since he can't walk yet* it's easy to feel like there's nothing to do outside. And it's true that he can't ride a bike or fly a kite or play tag or kick the can yet. But here are some things we've come up with to allow our crawling baby to enjoy the great outdoors!

Feed the animals
Scatter birdseed in your yard or a park and point out the animals and birds that come for a nibble. We've had cardinals, robins, pigeons, thrushes, grackles, chipmunks, and squirrels! Baby gets really excited and waves to them, which is adorable and makes me giggle.

Go sight-seeing
Many landmarks, state and national parks, etc have wheelchair accessible trails, which means they are also stroller accessible, plus you can bring a baby carrier pretty much anywhere!

Go on a nature walk in your own neighborhood
To a baby, even manicured lawns, landcaping rocks, and backyard flower and veggie gardens are exciting new examples of nature. Act as baby's tour guide, pointing out the names of natural things in your everyday world. Look for things baby can touch and smell, like rocks, pinecones, and flowers, and supervise closely to make sure your baby doesn't eat anything dangerous.

Use the playground equipment
Baby loves swinging. He's a chewer though so I always bring baby wipes and wipe down the black rubber park swing before I put him in it. They also have cloth covers for baby swings you can buy if you're worried about germs and to add padding if your baby is still pretty little for the swing.
We feel comfortable now letting him "ride" a little dinosaur on what looks like a giant spring (it's only about a foot off the ground). We hold him the whole time even though he hangs on too most of the time.
We have also started using the baby slide, again holding him the whole time. You have to gauge your baby's abilities and the limitations of the playground equipment available to you, but you might be surprised how much you can play at the playground if you're willing to get involved in the playing yourself.

Make a Splash
While you have to be extremely careful, swimming can be a great option for pre-walkers. And there's tons of great gear available to keep baby safe and comfy, from swim diapers to UV protective shirts to floaties. If your baby thinks he's a fish like mine does and never wants bath time to end, swimming is an awesome way to let them enjoy the water more!

These are just a few things we've thought of to do with Baby, but it's by no means an exaustive list of the possibilities for outdoors fun with a pre-walking baby. Be creative and have fun with your little one and the wonders of nature!

*No longer true as of this weekend...I now have a walking baby! Hurray!(I'm very proud)


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants: