This morning a mom in our community has made the local news for the photo she had taken sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall while breastfeeding her baby. The look on Santa’s face is priceless and the expression on the mother’s face as she looks down at her baby boy radiates with love. It is a beautiful photo and an unusual sight to see in a Santa photo. According to the original article, even Santa himself had never accommodated such a request.
As a mother of three, I am pro-breastfeeding. To be clear, I am pro-doing whatever is right for YOU and YOUR baby actually, and for me, that is breastfeeding. I have been fortunate enough to breastfeed all 3 of my babies. I am grateful for the special time we are able to share during our feedings and I am always amazed by the female body’s ability to nourish our little ones. I silently give myself a pat on the back at every baby weigh-in/health check knowing that I was able to provide their nourishment with my own body. It is nothing short of remarkable.
As I read the comments on the article attached to this breastfeeding/Santa photo, I found myself feeling a full range of emotions as I read some of the hate and judgement spewing out through some of the readers’ fingers as they typed their opinions in response to this post. The comments ranged from “This should be done in private.” to “It’s bad enough we have to see this at the malls…” (I couldn’t be bothered to read how that one ended.) to “In my day we only did this at home.” to “This isn’t appropriate.” and finally, my personal ‘favourite,’ “These women should have a little dignity.”
And that’s when the blood started rushing through my veins and my thumbs started typing a response as quickly as my brain could think. But then, when I clicked “post,” it wouldn’t let me. Because the original poster had deleted her hateful, ignorant argument with, what had turned into a handful of readers by the time I had finished my response.
So, rather than argue with strangers on the internet I thought I would share my thoughts on this photo here…
I am not ‘that mom.’ You will not find me spontaneously deciding to breastfeed my child on Santa’s lap in front of a professional photographer and what I can only imagine was a lineup of parents and children, being that it was the week before Christmas. And that is okay.
However, I am so grateful that there are moms out there who are ‘that mom.’ I respect, appreciate and am encouraged by the moms who take a stand, who are public advocates for breastfeeding and who challenge the social ‘norms.’ These moms are strong, empowering and inspiring. These moms pave the way for moms like me to overcome our personal fears and discomfort when it comes to breastfeeding in public.
Breastfeeding in public is not easy for me. I do it…but I don’t like it. I’ve had 3 children and I am currently breastfeeding my third and I STILL try to time outings just right, hoping that my little guy won’t have to eat while we are out. I still find my stomach flipping with anxiety when I’m sitting in a waiting room full of people at the doctor’s office and they are running behind and my baby is going to be hungry soon. I still opt to feed my baby in the car in the parking lot rather than inside of a busy store. Breastfeeding in public is not comfortable for me at all.
I love breastfeeding. I am proud to be a breastfeeding mom and I admire ‘that mom’ that carries on with her groceries, her museum visit, her trip to the library or even her visit with Santa while breastfeeding. I always try to let them know they are doing great as I pass them or at the very least, offer a smile of encouragement and support. Because it’s not easy.
Hell, at the beginning, NOTHING about breastfeeding is easy. Your boobs ache, your nipples hurt, your back hurts, your neck aches. You actually look forward to the day that your nipples have toughened up enough that it doesn’t hurt like hell every time your baby latches on to you. (But I digress.)
As a breastfeeding mom, I really do struggle to feel comfortable feeding my baby in public. I am anxious every single time. I find myself fumbling to try to cover up as much as I can and scanning the crowds to see if anyone is looking and if they are looking, what they are thinking. The moms who are advocates, who take a stand to show just how beautiful and NORMAL it is, make it easier on us ‘not so confident’ moms. I am grateful for ‘that mom.’
When I saw the photo of this mama proudly nursing her baby on Santa’s lap, I smiled. I had just been at this very same mall last week with my now 8 week old son. As I waited in line at a store checkout, he started to fuss. He was hungry. I could feel the anxiety building inside of me as I calculated how far away we were from home, if there was a private room for nursing and what I was going to do. I immediately forced myself to dismiss this anxiety as I walked out of the store to the bench out in front and told myself “We’re doing this!” Then I looked down at my baby and told him (out loud) “We are doing this!” And I unbuckled him from his seat in the stroller, sat down and fed him. He immediately settled down and started to eat. In spite of my racing heart, I looked around to see if anyone was watching me. Some were, some weren’t and some were trying really hard not to look. ‘I can do this,’ I told myself. And I did. And I felt empowered. I was putting my own petty feelings of discomfort aside and nourishing my child… when he needed it and where he needed it. And there are few things more natural and ‘normal,’ than nourishing your child when he or she is hungry.
Without ‘that mom’ and other moms taking a stand and proving that breastfeeding in public is perfectly normal, acceptable and necessary, it would be even harder for moms like me to get the courage to do it. I’m a pretty confident person. I’m a confident mother. But 3 kids in and I can admit that I am NOT a confident public breastfeeder. I support and applaud other moms breastfeeding in public 100%, but doing it myself still remains a personal struggle of mine. Perhaps it is because I don’t want people seeing more of me than I want them to see. Or, perhaps it is because it isn’t always accepted.
I personally have not faced any sort of criticism for breastfeeding in public but I do know moms who have been shamed for it and it isn’t right.
Moms who are breastfeeding in public aren’t doing it for attention or doing it to be inappropriate or doing it to show off their breasts. They are doing it because their baby is hungry. It really is that simple.
So, to the reader who asks that moms who breastfeed in public “show a little dignity,” I think that a woman putting her own comfort and feelings aside to feed her baby when he or she is hungry is nothing short of dignified. Motherhood is hard enough. We need to stand together and build each other up, not tear each other down.
To the readers who expressed that this woman was an attention-seeker, that this was inappropriate, disgusting, repulsive, crazy, something that should be done in private, please know how much some of us moms struggle to feed our babies in public. We fear being criticized. We fear not being accepted. We fear these things because they happen every single day. Moms like ‘that mom’ breastfeeding her son on Santa’s lap help to normalize it. They help it to be accepted and they help moms like me to break free of our comfort zones and think “If she can do it on Santa’s lap in front of a photographer, I CAN and I WILL feed my baby wherever and whenever he happens to be hungry.
To the readers who responded with “because it’s 2015”, “What boob? It’s SANTA!”, and who jumped to this mama’s defence and the defence of all of us breastfeeding mothers and breastfed babies, I applaud you and I high-five you! YOU are the people who make it ‘okay’ to not make our babies wait when they are hungry. To know that what we are doing is right and to not feel ashamed.
To the mom pictured in this photo, confidently smiling at your baby as you feed him, Thank You. Thank you for being ‘that mom.’ You are an inspiration. You will never know the impact that you have made on moms like me.
Original article with Santa photo can be found here: