There. That's out.
I admit it. I can put down half a cow while not even realizing that a child is hanging off my left boob in a nice restaurant.
My tits are machines now. Completely utilitarian. Baby-soothing bottles protruding out of my chest, always full and always at the ready. No longer imbued with any kind of pornographic meta-messages, except to my husband who has generously shared my breasts with Edie until he lost nearly all claim to them, I barely am aware that a toddler has pulled my shirt down to my belly button to lovingly inspect the nipples. While the whole world looks on.
That I breastfeed in restaurants seems weird except that it is so much a part of my every minute that doing it in a booth to comfort the child or giving her a little because it's handy, seems so natural, so us, I barely even think about it.
I try to keep my breasts under-wraps as much as I can in public and God knows my husband is like running after me tucking pieces of towel and cloth across my chest to preserve whatever sexual appeal and mystery they may have left, but I admit, you could be sitting across from me in a nice restaurant, lifting your fork full of escargo to your lips and in the corner of your eye catch a glimpse of my nipple. That could happen. It probably will.
Which brings me to the mild uproar over at Chow recently on Helena Echlin's Table Manner's column which introduces the topic of breastfeeding in restaurants. Here my 10 Favorite Wack-a-doodle comments from that post. And my responses.
10. Yes, I think it's rude for a woman to just whip out her boob and feed her kid in a restaurant. But, when I can tell they are being discrete (the nursing blankets, etc.) it really doesn't bug me. Probably because I don't see the actual process. I don't know if breast milk has a smell, but the idea makes me gag. The vomit that often ensues after a baby eats is enough to ensure I wont be finishing my meal.
YM: Can anyone really see baby vomit three tables over? If you can, you are spending way too much time looking at me. Eyes back on the foie gras, lady.
9. Stay home and feed your child in the privacy of your own home. Nobody wants to witness the intimacy of you bonding with your child in order to feed it. And nobody wants to have dinner in adult settings like restaurants when there are babies there. You decided to have a child, not everyone who went to dinner at the restaurant. And nobody thinks it is cute to see your hooter in your kids mouth. Stay home and cook for yourself and your family until the child can order for itself and have a glass of wine.
YM: Dooh! This guy's pissed. NYS law says you have to deal with my breast in my kids mouth, dude. Thems the breaks. Please stop calling them "hooters". This isn't a bar.
8. I think the mother-child connection can survive a two-hour hiatus known as dinner at a restaurant. Do you really believe the relationship between a mom and child suffers because mom missed one natural feeding because she went out for a couple of hours? I mean, really? What do you think happens to the baby when mom is at work? When a mom goes to work, does that mean she's severing the mother-child connection?
YM: Thanks for schoolin' me on the ways of the mother-child bond. Glad you're stickin' to what you know.
7. I was one of the original posters who frowned on it in the other column, but I mainly object to rude yuppies who think motherhood gives them the right to ignore everyone else, except to the extent that they serve as handmaidens.
YM: I am zee handmaiden. I meelk zee cows and...What is she talking about anyway?
6. Personally, I do think, as long as you're breastfeeding—for how long, a few months, a year tops?—you should try to stay out of nice restaurants with the baby as much as possible. You did sign up for the gig, presumably, aware that there would be temporary sacrifices to be made. I don't think a nice restaurant where people are conducting business or celebrating privately or what have you is the place for a baby, *whether or not* it's feeding. The potential is always there for disruption: wailing, pooping, etc.
YM: Duh! Another romantic interlude foiled by a pooping child! Little bastards.
5. I agree completely that there are family restaurants where it seems less out of place. If you simply must get have the nice meal and aren't cool with pumping, then the special clothing also ameliorates the problem, for sure. It at least shows you give a shit about other people. You don't have to fully agree with other people's concerns to respect them, and many of the responses of you mothers show you do try to meet your/your baby's needs and acknowledge others' concerns too. That's what polite society asks of any of its members, I think.
YM: Yeah, I'm not wearing a "Hooter Hider". Sorry.
4. I'm pretty sensitive to smells too, and I would be bothered by it within "smelling distance". But would I say anything? Hell no. Why? Because I would be crucified for it. That doesn't stop me having a problem with it.
YM: The stink of breast milk is overpowering, indeed. In like some kind of reverse world where flowers smell like skunks and kittens smell like buffalo.
3. Babies are not quiet while they feed, and some of us find the little weeweewee nummy noises less than appetizing.
YM: If I've said it once, I've said it a million times - I can barely think with all those suckling noises coming from that 2 week old.
2. But seriously, I feel that infants (or any non-toilet trained child for that matter) should not be brought to public places that don't have changing tables provided in the restrooms. It's a big hint that the babes aren't welcomed.
YM: Let's just keep all the ankle biters locked up in the house, shall we?
1. The idea, however, of seeing a three year old nurse, quite frankly, just disgusts me completely. I've asked my friends and family about this, too, to see if I was the odd one out, but they all agreed. It's your business if you want to nurse a three year old, but please do it at home. If a child is old enough to eat food off of the menu in a restaurant, when out at a food establishment, that's where he or she should be getting his or her meal. Certainly, the child can wait until getting home to nurse, unlike an infant.
YM: Okay, Edie and I are bent over hysterically laughing. She just pulled my boob out of her mouth long enough to look up and me and say, "Hey Mommy! If that lady were the Queen of us, we'd never be able to leave the house!" And then she pooped.
Oh, you kids keep me young...