Tori's Blog

Breasts – What On Earth Are They For?

Tuesday, December 3rd, 2013

Here again, is the beauty of having a forum for my own thoughts, opinions, and philosophies. The luxury of it being written is that anyone can choose to read it or not read it, have an opinion about it, comment on it or best yet, to really think about what is behind just the words.

I have breasts on my mind today. It seems as though breasts, similarly to people’s opinions on “right or better” choices in childbirth, tend to cause a lot of emotion in people, whether or not they even have them. Breasts are beautiful; they are part of who we are as women. We work hard to protect them from cancer. Whether they are small or large, natural, or enhanced, they certainly take up a lot of space on the collective brains of Americans.

Breasts are also how nature designed mammals to feed their young. Even though we like to believe we are smarter than other mammals, we are, in fact, still mammals. And frankly, as far as nature is concerned, our intelligence hasn’t actually served us all that well. I’m going to approach this from a less obvious angle. How have we gotten so far away from ourselves that we can’t be comfortable with our breasts simply being part of our bodies? Is it really necessary to make them into an entity of their own?

The looming question that always seems to come up with breasts is; what are they actually for? Are they sexual? Are they functional? Does it have to be either or? Why can we not enjoy them sexually when we wish to and also be comfortable with feeding our babies with them? Whatever we’d like to think, this is a much larger issue than whether breastfeeding women should be welcomed to feed their babies in public places or whether they should be kept from feeding their babies in public places.

Let’s face it. We, as Americans (collectively speaking), have some very distressing and misguided beliefs on sexuality and body image. Does it really matter if you want to wear a bikini on the beach and your body isn’t perfect? Is it truly shocking if your child walks into a room and casually sees you when you are changing clothes? Why did  Salma Hayek’s choice to nurse a hungry baby in Africa (once) warrant a national discussion? The truth is that it didn’t.

Don’t get me wrong. This is just as much about women who go out of their way to “show” the world that they have the right to expose their breasts while nursing. If it is one thing that really gets me going, it is the politicizing of matters that are private in nature and should remain so. I am incredibly pro-breastfeeding but, candidly speaking, it would bother me too if I were sitting on a subway and the woman next to me slapped on a breast pump. Certainly, she should take care of her own needs but where is the line drawn where privacy and courtesy are concerned? Here’s where I am going to get a whole bunch of incensed emails.

Whatever happened to us having a general sense of etiquette and in keeping our private matters, well, private? How about also simply minding our own business and carrying on our lives without having to announce what it is we are doing every step of the way. I breastfed my son for a year, and if we were out in public and he was hungry, I nursed him wherever we were. I just didn’t put a sign out front. I even nursed him in the company of my very private father and frankly, it was no big deal because I was discreet. I took care of my baby while being gracious and considerate to those around me.

I’m going to come right out and say it. I happen to feel perfectly fine about my own breasts; in fact, I rather like them. And, shockingly, they don’t actually look just the same as when I was twenty. Oh well. They are part of me, just as those wrinkles I’ve earned over the years are. And – however, I choose to use them will continue to be a private matter for me. Collectively, I think an awful lot of people would be better off (and infinitely happier) if they spent less time paying attention to other people’s skin and more time getting comfortable in their own. I, for one plan to continue to wear my bikini.

Your Comments

  1. What about women who don’t breast feed? Is that really bad for the baby?

  2. Thanks for your great comments. The need and respect for privacy is definitely the most common response I have heard about this.

    When Alexander was a baby, my husband cared for him on some of the days I worked. He did bring him to me at lunch time so that I could nurse. I think it could be very difficult to have a newborn spend the day with a woman at work unless she was in an environment that fully supported children in the workplace.

  3. Haven’t you ever wondered why breastfeeding in public places is so frowned upon – even if it’s done very discreetly? you really can’t have men wandering around in public places never knowing when the sight of a lactating breast might appear. Same goes for work environments. Boobs in the workplace should remain covered. And kids are a no no. I love my kids, but they belong in day care. It’s not prudish, it’s responsible.

  4. How do you feel about new mothers being able to bring their infants to their workplaces so they can nurse throughout the day?

  5. Are you really serious? What do you think will happen if men see nursing breasts? You make is sound like men will start frothing at the mouth, their eyes rolling back in their head as they lunge dramatically at them. Mouths can be very sexual things, but I use that to eat in public. The only people that seem to think nursing breasts are a sexual thing are people who already have their minds in the gutter.

    I agree with Tori on this. Women should be able to comfortably nurse in public, and ideally don’t make a big song and dance about it. After all, either way,it’s just a baby eating.

  6. I think it’s pretty hard not to feel uncomfortable when someone is whipping out their privates to breastfeed in public. My wife always goes to a private place to breastfeed or she avoids a lot of public outings so she doesn’t embarrass herself. There is a level of appropriateness that should be expected. If it makes other people uncomfortable, then it shouldn’t be being done.

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