This past week, I was introduced firsthand to the willful ignorance that some people demonstrate towards breastfeeding. An older woman came into the store to browse with her friend, if I had to guess their age, I would guess mid-50s. This woman is going to be a grandmother soon, her son and his wife are expecting their first baby in the summer. She looked at our cloth diapers, and commented on how she used cloth diapers with her babies. At this point, I liked her -- clearly she's A-OK if she used cloth diapers, right?
We talked a little bit about the cost of cloth diapers, and how you can save anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars if you use cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers. From this conversation, we (well, she) moved onto the cost of infant formula, she was shocked at how expensive it is. I mentioned something along the lines of "At least breastfeeding is free," assuming she'd be on the same wavelength, and that is where our brand-new friendship abruptly ended. Her son's wife won't be doing *that*.
I was shocked, as was her friend. Quite frankly, although I've heard about people who disapprove of breastfeeding, I've always regarded such people as a kind of folklore -- surely in this day and age, people can't be so ill-informed that they would knowingly pass up the benefits of breastfeeding without so much as trying it? I asked her why the mother-to-be won't be breastfeeding. Simple answer? Her son wants to be involved, he wants to be able to give the baby bottles. I suggested he could change diapers, or mom could express milk for the dad to bottle-feed, but nope. The idea of breastfeeding was clearly disgusting to this woman.
She then proceeded to tell me she bottlefed all of her children, and she described seeing a woman breastfeeding in the 1960's (1969, to be exact):
"We were at the Ex in the stands, there were thousands of people around, and this woman 'plopped it out' and stuck her baby on the tit."
To hear someone describe the natural act of a woman breastfeeding her child in such crude terms was quite shocking, it actually left me speechless (imagine that!). Fortunately, this woman's friend was as gobsmacked as I was, and she spoke up about her own experience. When she had her first baby, the doctor advised her to breastfeed because it's the 'best thing for her baby,' she went on to breastfeed all three of her children, for 18 months to three years of age -- at this point, it was her friend's turn to be gobsmacked!
The woman was clearly taken aback at the thought of anyone nursing a toddler, asking her friend why she would do *that*, and her friend recalled how special it was to cuddle with her babies while she was breastfeeding them, and how she missed that bond when their breastfeeding relationship was over. The woman commented again about how 'disgusting' it is that people would breastfeed in public, to which I replied that most women are discreet, to the point that it often goes unnoticed (I sincerely doubt that she's never been around a woman nursing in public since 1969, I'm sure she has, but she just didn't know it!).
Clearly, this is a woman who is not going to budge on her stance against breastfeeding, but it was refreshing to have an unlikely ally in her friend. It's disappointing that some people, though clearly a minority, view breastfeeding with such contempt -- one can only hope the mother-to-be has a change of heart before her baby is born, although without the support of her husband, it' highly unlikely.