Posted in Blog, Emma, Mother

Beyonce’s breastfeeding in public

I had a dream last night that Beyonce married into my extended family. Let’s get one thing straight before we move on – Beyonce is fierce and awesome and haters don’t have to read this article if they’re not into her. We can just agree to disagree on the B.

But the reason I had Beyonce on the brain was because I’ve been reading a lot about her lately. You see, much of the stuff I see online is pregnancy and birth related, and Beyonce just had a baby. And, recently, she took that baby out for breakfast and she (the baby) got hungry so Beyonce fed her. From her boob.

People made such a big deal out of this. And I have a problem with all of them.

First of all, I have the biggest problem with people who were shocked because she’s BEYONCE, and for superficial reasons they didn’t expect her to breastfeed: she’s beautiful, glamorous, majorly successful and busy. I will admit that these are not necessarily things that your average American gossip-hound would associate with the typical picture of a breastfeeding mother (which is what? dreadlocked? frumpy? asexual? stay at home? I don’t even know.)

Secondly, I have a sad, not-even-mad-I’m-just-disappointed problem with those who, consciously or not, were shocked or surprised because of what color Beyonce is. In case you’re like, 90 years old and don’t have a TV or a radio or a cool grandchild and don’t know, she’s Black, and Black women, for a host of reasons, have lower breastfeeding initiation rates than White women. I’m not going to get into why this is messed up because you’re smart and you can go there yourself. Safe to say, it’s messed up.

Thirdly, I have a problem with the lactivists who wrote blog posts (hypocrisy alert!) and searched for photos because they wanted to champion her as a supreme example of what all we mothers Should Be Doing, which is not just breastfeeding our babies, but doing so in public. If Beyonce’s doing it, you should, too!

Now, if you have ever met me or read anything I’ve ever written you know that I have exclusively breastfed my daughter (I don’t just mean with breastmilk, I mean from my actual boobs) since she was born and that at one year old, she is still nursing. I nurse her at home, I nurse her in public, I quit my PEPS group because they asked me to use a cover (which is not in my repertoire, though I completely understand women’s need to use one – we’ll get to that later). So, I speak from that camp, and I agree. Beyonce, good on ya’ for whippin’ it out.

But, I don’t think Beyonce should have to be a figurehead for All Breastfeeding Mothers, or all Breastfeeding Black Mothers. Can you imagine what the scene must have been like outside of that restaurant trying to get even a blurry, very very zoom photograph of even a sliver of BEYONCE’S BOOB!?!?! And all Beyonce’s trying to do it eat and get her (probably sore, engorged) boob into her kid’s mouth for what was likely a 30 minute nursing because newborns take forever.

Get this, people, she didn’t even use a nursing cover! She didn’t let it all hang out, either – she wore a stylish scarf and covered herself that way, but she just got her baby fed, without a big fuss (from her or the baby) and got on with her breakfast. Which she needed cause she’s nursing a baby!

I am down with nursing covers. I never use one because they are hot, one more thing to remember, my baby doesn’t like to be under something while nursing and, most importantly, it just doesn’t make me uncomfortable to nurse in front of people. But some women are and I very much support their right to feed their children in a way that feels modest/not distracting/religiously appropriate/etc. Beyonce didn’t use a cover and, shocker, maybe it was for my reasons, not because she is showing off and doing a breastfeeding demonstration for everyone in the restaurant (and on the internet).

She’s in the public eye and she is engaging in an activity that is, like it or not, unusual for her peer group. She chose her life and she knows that her behavior garners attention. But this is also a woman who is famously private about her personal life. She showed up to things with Jay Z and everyone knew they were serious, but they never officially acknowledged their relationship and wed in secret. She didn’t acknowledge the pregnancy, either, until she was very much showing and had no choice and even then she didn’t say much.

I think that every woman who has ever fed her baby in public (and folks, that’s every breastfeeding mother) has wished for the same thing: to be treated like everyone else. Whether they use a nursing bra or not, a cover or not, whether their baby is 3 days old or 3 years old, I would argue that very few, or none of these women breastfeed for attention. They breastfeed for their children. And we should leave them in peace to do it.

So, though I am glad that Beyonce’s daughter is getting breastmilk, and am equally glad that Beyonce is lowering her risk for breast cancer in the future and enjoying her breakfast and time out with her baby, I am not glad that she ended up all over the internet for it. I wish that her nursing session could have gone unnoticed – not because it isn’t awesome, but because it is, or should be, normal.

Just one more little thing. She also went out on a date with her man, Jay Z, and was criticized by the same group for not being home with her new baby. How could she put on those gorgeous heels and leave her little girl so soon? Dude, Beyonce can’t catch a break!

This goes along with my whole philosophy of how mothers deserve to be treated. Our job is hard enough. NONE of us should catch flack for anything we do as long as it doesn’t harm our children. Wanna leave your newborn at home for a nice dinner in their first week of life? Sweet! They’ll probably sleep through it and you deserve it! You just GAVE BIRTH. Don’t feel like you can leave them ever and take them with you always? (Me.) Cool. Whatever floats your boat. Because, you see, we are all finding our way as we go along. And some choices may not “jive” with others, but we should make them because it makes us happy, it serves our family, our baby, our older children, because it gets us more sleep. Not because anyone else will approve.

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