National Breastfeeding Month
Dial down the breastfeeding judgment: Nursing someone else’s toddler is not “just wrong”
A photo of a mom with her "milk siblings" causes an online uproar
By Mary Elizabeth Williams

Our simultaneously prudish and T&A-obsessed culture has a hard enough time accepting the idea of women using their breasts to feed their own children. Using them to feed somebody else’s? Time for an even bigger dose of Internet outrage!

It started last week, when the Mama Bean Facebook page posted a photo of Jessica Anne Colletti celebrating World Breastfeeding Week nursing two contended looking toddlers. The photo caption read, “My son on the right is 16 months and my friend’s son is 18 months. I watch her son while she works and have been feeding them both for a year! So much love between these milk siblings, it’s a special bond between us all.” The reactions were…. varied, to say the least.

moments in motherhood: my breastfeeding journey, so far

I’ve mentioned before that the beginning was some of the most painful experiences I’ve ever had living. After a while (but what can honestly feel like eternity. Imagine this happening all day and night because it must) it got super easy, but I had to get there first.

Then there’s the hurdle of learning how to nurse in public. Or feeling comfortable and confident to do it in public. Because no one preps you for that part. You just confront it when your little bean looks at you with big hungry eyes. I never had a problem with public nursing personally and thankfully absolutely no one has communicated anything verbal or nonverbal to me all this time. I love getting knowing smiles from other mothers and giving them right back.

Only once in the beginning did I feel super unsure of what to do. I still couldn’t handle holding him for long periods and Dennis was wearing him exclusively in public. We were close to the Apple Store and he was crying. We stopped in because we were certain there was a family bathroom, but we were wrong. Instead, I found myself hunched up in the ladies room using the handicap stall and hating every second of it. I vowed to never hide away again after that experience. Now I carry a sarong that a friend gave me and I slip him under it so we can stare at each other while he nurses and has a ball. Seriously, he makes all kinds of sounds and flings his arms and legs the entire time usually. It’s hilarious.

I duck into any store or restaurant and nurse him without hesitancy. I do it at the table with friends when we’re eating or having drinks. I do it in the park. The only place I haven’t done it, but I’ve been tempted to, is public transportation. That’s only because our rides to anywhere are so short we just wait to get off. Not that he’s a screamer for food or anything. I can explain to him that it will be a tiny while and he usually calms down once I sing to him or something.

Recently, we’ve entered the world of teeth. That has its own set of new hurdles, like somehow teaching a baby not to use those little sharp things to tear open such a sensitive mound of flesh. He’s become much more of a man handler with me, which I’m fine with. I just cannot handle being bitten. We are still working on it since he hasn’t done it often and teeth are new to us both. He got 2 in the span of a week which was relatively painless I think, but now he’s on again/off again feeling pain because a third tooth is on the way. That’s increased his need for feedings and I’m such a tired mama as a result.

“It felt like we were capturing that multifaceted woman we’ve been discussing – that we know we can be,” the actress continued. “You can be someone who is at once maternal and professional and sexy and self-possessed. [But] I mean, I certainly don’t really look like that when I’m [typically] breastfeeding. And there’s usually a diaper involved.” – Olivia Wilde, Olivia Wilde Breastfeeds Her Son Otis In Glamour Magazine’s September Issue via HuffingtonPost

I breastfed both of my children well past infancy. I breastfed them at night. I breastfed them at the mall. I breastfed them in church, without a cover and without shame. I spent countless months of both my children’s lives whipping out a tit left and right to assuage their panic, their sadness, their hunger. I nursed, on demand, for three years straight.

You might think, then, that I’d be all over National Breastfeeding Month, aninitiative started by the United States Breastfeeding Committee in 2011, in order to “protect, promote and support” breastfeeding every August. The USBC,according to the mission statement on its web site, would like to champion breastfeeding as “the norm” for mothers and infants, and purports that breast milk is the “preferred and most appropriate source” of food for infants. This proclamation has led countless nursing moms to post infographics, nursing selfies and long-winded diatribes on the benefits of breastfeeding on social media. It’s led to nurse-ins and demonstrations. From Twitter to Instagram, breastfeeding is trending.

But when I see smiling selfies of mothers serenely nursing their babies, claiming they want to “normalize” breastfeeding, I pause. Is that really what we’re trying to do here? From the pictures I’m seeing, breastfeeding looks heroic. It looks ethereal. It looks effortless. But it certainly doesn’t look like normal. Is there anything “normal” about breastfeeding a toddler naked in a field of flowers?

It’s National Breastfeeding Week — and Month — great! But the over-the-top imagery and rhetoric needs to go