Breastfeeding On The Battlefield (Literally?)

I said I wasn’t going to blog about breastfeeding. It’s the proverbial dead horse, drug out in the street being beaten with sticks. Then, right after I posted that Time magazine came out with their ridiculous cover an article on extended breast feeding and attachment parenting. The cover was ridiculous, not the article, I didn’t read it. And the cover was only absurd because it was so obviously staged to be as dramatic and shocking as possible. The mother looked angry, the boy looked bored. I still managed to get away with simply reposting a few clever blogs about other opinions on the subject. Then this.

These women are breastfeeding their babies while wearing a uniform, in case, like me, you are wondering what you are looking at that is supposed to be such a big damn deal. It’s the uniform.

I wanted to leave this one alone, too, but the comments are everywhere and they are beyond misguided and insulting. The Time article featured something a little harder for me to grasp, extended breast feeding, so it was easier to ignore. I don’t know the “right” age to stop breastfeeding and I am glad it’s not up to me to decide. I know I would have quit before my kids went to school but that is me and my family, I don’t know when anyone else should quit. My thoughts on extended breast feeding begin and end with, “I don’t care what anyone else does with their breasts as long as they aren’t doing it with my family.” Show ’em off for money, whip ’em out at parties, reserve them for mealtime until your kid is 10, none of it matters to me as long as you don’t breastfeed my kid or stick them in my boyfriend’s face.

This “controversy” though, annoys the hell out of me. I don’t know a more eloquent way to say it. Above is a photo of two women feeding three babies. We should all be commenting on the fact that she is feeding two babies at once, because I find that pretty cool, or that they look amazing even with very young children and careers. I mean in general, not their breasts, but I’m not going to claim I didn’t notice. There is a lot to be said about this picture and none of it has anything to do with what they are wearing. It has a lot more to do with what they are not wearing. They are not draping blankets over their babies or hiding in a restroom stall to feed them. To quote my wonderful sister in law:

“As I understand this article, the women were part of a larger group and were doing and wearing what they normally do and wear when nursing their children. The controversy can be distracting but it can also illustrate just how much more work needs to be done for this society to understand that the function of breasts is to feed a baby, no matter when, where or how, there is no reason to hide or be ashamed.”

So, suck it, haters. <— That’s all me, that’s really not her style.

I read several articles, forums and Facebook conversations about this photo last night. People are comparing breastfeeding in a military uniform to urinating or defecating in it. These would probably be the same people that think mothers should breastfeed in the bathroom.  Others suggest it is a disgrace to the country. I can handle these haters, not because I agree, but because I think they are morons and I have no reason to respond.

The statements that spurred a response were from intelligent, well spoken women, many were advocates of breastfeeding. The following are all real quotes from women that I had conversations with on Facebook in the last 24 hours.

“Women in the military have unique situations and positions we are put into. If we let the whole world see our boobs guess what the men will be thinking about instead of following orders or working together in combat.”

I am not suggesting you should breastfeed during combat.  If your breasts are so sexy that they are still distracting men from combat days, weeks, or even months later, then yes, please keep them covered. And seriously, if you know any men that see you breastfeeding and are suddenly too horny to follow orders there should be someone you can report them to. That is their problem and they may need help.

“And as far as men being distracted by breast feeding it’s different in the military world versus civilian.”

No. I was a married to a man in the military and even though I am a mere civilian, I have known a few others. They are all pretty equally fascinated, indifferent or disgusted about breastfeeding and it varies more by their maturity level and general feelings about children and women than it does by career.

If anything, men in the military should be more disciplined and better able to show restraint.

“And men by nature are always going to see boobs and think sex. Unfortunately it’s the world we live in and I don’t see that changing anytime soon. “

Not as long as we keep saying it’s okay for them to decided when and where we breastfeed because they can’t handle watching us nourish our babies without all the blood flowing to their wieners and subsequently losing the war.

“You can’t expect a man to see boobs and not get distracted from battle.”

What are all these babies doing on the battlefield?!?

“The military is no place for breastfeeding mothers, though. They should be at home.”

… making me a sandwich.

Why are we constantly lowering the bar for men? Why do we set the standard so low and how do we expect them to improve if we just assume they can’t even handle a little flesh? I remember when Stepson was about 4 and wouldn’t flush the toilet. A friend said, “Oh, boys do that, even grown up boys.”  The hell they do, not in my house. In my house everyone flushes the toilet, even if they have a penis. If you hold the opinion, “boys do that so it’s ok” then boys will think it is okay and continue to do it. I hold this in the same reguard as, “She had it coming, did you see how she was dressed?” It is the basic idea that men are not responsible for their actions, we are.

I have never been rendered useless at my job by a shirtless man, even if he was attempting to be sexy and not just feeding a baby. (I would probably find a hot, shirtless guy bottle feeding a baby way sexier than just posing, but that might just be me… I’d still get my job done.) It’s time we start sending that message, too. Men do actually have the same capacity for self control as women. Men, we expect you to protect eachother in battle, even if you did glance a little side boob yesterday.

And since we are on the topic of breast feeding… I think we can all agree breast is best. You already know the facts or you can Google it yourself. The controversy over public breastfeeding will probably take quite some time to die down but I’d like to see the breastfeeding controversy evaporate for one simple reason. I didn’t breastfeed and I’m tired of hearing how my children are somehow less than children who were breastfed. I have two teenage daughters that are not obese. They are gifted. They never get sick. the only reason they ever miss school is because I let them take a “mental health day” when they need one. I expect the boys to follow a similar pattern, or if not I expect it will have little to do with how they are fed. Breastfeeding didn’t work for our family but my formula fed babies are perfect.

There ya go, everything I never wanted to have to say about breast feeding. Be kind to eachother in the inevitable debate. May the odds be ever in your favor.

And GO:

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When Boys Become Heroes

My (former) Stepson leaves for basic training for the National Guard next week. (Yes, I know, just when you thought you had my family figured out I throw in another player. Get used to it, there’s more.) He’s 17 years old and for another week he is still a junior in high school and then he leaves to begin his training as a soldier.

I always thought of soldiers as men and women, never teenagers just learning to drive, girls giggling about boys, boys giggling about farts, kids playing football in the yard. Soldiers are heroes, every one of them, for the choice they made when they signed on the dotted line. Soldiers, in my mind, are not the kid I just stopped buying Pokemon cards for not that damn long ago.

As I wrestle with this dichotomy I realize my own parents must have, too. My Oldest Brother is a Marine. I have only vague memories of the time right before he left for basic training and they are most likely skewed by time and my own ideas. I don’t remember being upset that he was leaving or fearing for his safety. I was probably only 12, though. When you are 12 and come from a safe home in a safe environment you tend to assume the world is safe. It still seems strange to me, though, that I have no memory of my parents’ reactions or emotions during this time. As an adult, I find that I am intuitive and empathetic. Was I dense as a child or just wrapped up in my own little world? Probably both.

I do remember conversations on our kitchen phone and a letter he sent. He liked Guns-N-Roses and wondered if I did, too and wanted to know if I could send him some of the books I lifted from the school because he wanted to read everything. I remember that his visits home were always a “big deal” and he looked different every time we saw him. And I remember that suddenly my parents were worried about a possible war and I was probably 15 by then and war was something that only happened in history books and the background of Mash. I can tell you so much about 15, what kind of clothes I wore, parties by the boat docks, the notebook my friends and I passed, the fights we had, the trouble I got into, but I can tell you very little about Desert Storm.

My brother was deployed to Saudi Arabia and it might as well have been Narnia, to me. He was still very far away, just in a different far away place. CNN was on night and day at our house. I wasn’t doing much to make anything easier on my parents, I know that. My Middle Older Brother went to University and that left just Youngest Older Brother and me at home and I’m pretty sure we were both ridiculously naughty for the entire year.

It was some time during that year, though, that I started to pay attention. I still wasn’t worried but I was starting to form opinions, such as, my brother should come home immediately because war is dark and ugly and bad. I think this was my mother’s doing. She had a notebook with poems she wrote as a teenager and newspaper clipping of friends that didn’t make it home from Vietnam. (Note to self: Ask mom if that actually existed or if my memory is skewed yet again.) If our home had a soundtrack of the year it would be Bob Dylan and The Beatles and the steady drone of CNN in the background. You can’t help but form opinions under those conditions.

I have my opinions. I would not choose the military for Stepson, but it was his choice and I am proud of him. It was expected. Everyone he looks up to, including his father, my ex-husband, is or was in the military. It was not a surprise. It was only a surprise that the idea “someday he will join the military” suddenly became the reality that he is leaving next week.

I worry now. It started when Oldest Brother was no longer in danger. His time in Saudi Arabia was over, he was back to Hawaii and would be home soon, this time for good. A “big deal” was scheduled and everything was a celebration. That is when I started to worry, not about the dangers of war, but that something else would happen and he would not make it home, something more realistic than a war, like a car crash or a mugging or some freak accident. I’m an adult now and I don’t need to channel my fears into something more realistic. I have no problem worrying about the most far-fetched of possibilities, let alone the very real danger of joining the military in troubled times.

I always thought of soldiers as men and women, not teenagers just barely older than I was when I could not grasp the reality of war. But they almost all start that way, as kids, not even old enough to drink legally, but prepared to serve their country in any way necessary.

That is the thought I want to leave you with this Memorial Day. We grill out, we swim, we gather with friends and we do it all under the protection of our armed forces, the sons and daughters of our friends and family.

Do not forget.