The above letter was shared with permission from the original poster.
Oh, Boy Scouts of America. Why do you taunt me so? Whispering sweet nothings about how breastfeeding is so great for the health of the mother and the child. Waxing poetic about a moms’ legal right to breastfeed in public, and how you support that right…and then…well, then you go and flush all that progress right down the toilet you think I should be breastfeeding in…
“…there are those in your son’s Troop who are uncomfortable. When you choose to nurse your baby uncovered…it causes disruption. Some young boys do not fully understand about breast-feeding and have families who may not be ready to have this discussion…”
But you didn’t stop there, dear Boy Scouts of America. You went on, suggesting a cover, stepping into a different room, making the choice between meeting your babies needs in isolation or participating in your son’s troop activities. All this in a message sent directly from the Boy Scouts of America, to Jasmine Millar, a Tennessee mom of three.
This is a big problem. I get that not everyone is comfortable with breastfeeding. Before my own experience breastfeeding my child, I was taken a back to see a breastfeeding mom in the wild. But that’s just it—it was shocking because it wasn’t something I saw very often, if at all.
A multitude of variables have collided over the past century—from the production and marketing of formula, to a wave of moms’ heading into an unaccommodating workforce—and with these variables, breastfeeding fell out of vogue for too long. Between the 1940s and 1980s breastfeeding rates in the US fell dramatically, and with it, we forgot how important it was to see a lactating breast. And to see that breast often.
Even now, as breastfeeding initiation starts to bounce back ever so slightly in the US, women are confined to the privacy of their homes to learn how to breastfeed their babies in those early days. We design special furniture, clothing, and accessories that tell women that mealtime for their children should be a closed affair. But that wasn’t always the case, and in many cultures (with substantially higher breastfeeding initiation rates), that isn’t the case even today. Ethnographic research has it: women learn to breastfeed best by watching other women do it.
But breasts are for sex, right, Boy Scouts of America? Breast are only for the bedroom, and young boys can’t separate the sex from galactogenesis. And maybe you’re right here. But, this is not because the breast is inherently sexual. On the biological level, breasts are for food. But in sending lactating women to restrooms and cars, asking them to cover up and dry up, we keep that breast up high, on a culturally constructed sexual pedestal. The more we hide breastfeeding, the higher that pedestal flies. And that Tennessee mom of three, she aims to set that pedestal tumbling.
You may not be comfortable with breastfeeding, Boy Scouts of America. And that troop in Tennessee may not be ready to talk about it. But that’s the very reason we need to yell about it. Because without strong moms paving the way, and standing up for their rights, and the rights of their children, how many uncertain new moms, endeavoring to step away from the bathroom they were quarantined to will just stop right there?