Bitty, want bitty

I don’t have a problem with women getting their tits out for their kids.  It seems perfectly natural to me. However, it does seem to upset a lot of people, especially other women.  Notably, older women.

How can breastfeeding be wrong?  We’ve all got to eat, er, drink.  How can breastfeeding in public be wrong?  We all eat and drink in public.  It’s sometimes a major family or social event.

Yet, breastfeeding brings strange and polarised reactions from most people.

Personally, if I see a women breastfeeding a contented looking baby, I border on no reaction through to ‘ah, cute’. This is pretty similar to my reaction in all things baby and toddler, to be fair (Well, apart from shitty nappies [diapers], how can that ever be cute?).

Having said all that, something somewhere in the back of my head said that the picture on the front of Time magazine was a bit, well, ‘woah’.

Attractive 26 year old mother Jamie Lynne Grumet is pictured standing up and breastfeeding her nearly four year-old son Aram.

So, why the ‘woah’?  Well, for me, I guess, it was because such a photo had never been published in such a public arena before. Plus it seemed cold, with the child not being snuggled up.  Plus it almost seemed sexual.

Or maybe it was something a little deeper.  I have to try to break down my reaction, I guess.

Around the world, the average age that a child self-weans from breastfeeding is actually four.  Yet in the Westernised world we force them to wean as quickly as we can.  I’m not sure why this is the case, but it’s what we do.  Partly, we seem to do it because the mothers want their independence back, and they want to see their child as independent.  Mainly, however, there’s definitely peer pressure on women to stop breastfeeding as soon as they can.  It’s almost as if it’s because they are doing something wrong.  Obviously they aren’t.

When David Walliams’ Little Britain character Harvey kept demanding ‘bitty’ from his mother until she would breastfeed him, we all laughed and felt awkward watching the spectacle of a fully grown man suckling at the breast of a woman.

Maybe that’s the point.  There comes a time when it is ‘wrong’, at least in our heads.  I guess, in the same way that most Brits think breasts, well nipples, in public view is in some way wrong.  Many other cultures don’t bat an eyelid of course.  Indeed, even if you live in a Westernised area with nudist beaches, the naked breast is an accepted view, and loses its novelty value.

But, maybe it’s because, as part of sexual intimacy, a man will suckle on a woman’s (milkless) breasts in a fashion not too dissimilar to a baby breastfeeding.  It is done in order to turn her on (or is it just turning himself on?), and so the breast has dual function.  For a grown man it is sexual.  For a baby/child it is a source of food and comfort.

So, I’d guess, somewhere in all that is a dividing line.  Maybe, a baby suckling for milk is ok, but when it’s an independent toddler then it’s not ok and it’s straying into ‘man’ territory.

I offer these as possible suggestions as to why the ‘woah’, because I still don’t know why I went ‘woah’.

Behind the photos is a woman who believes in ‘attachment parenting’ and has some very ‘radical’ ideas about how to bring up children.  Her views aren’t really radical, of course.  Only in the Westernised world, maybe.  Her way is actually the way of life for large parts of the world, where family is stronger and children grow to be more self-reliant and stable than around these parts.  In a way, she’s just going back to the natural relationship between mother and child that for some reason has been lost along the path we in the Western world have taken.      

Don’t get me wrong, I fully support Jamie Lynn and Aram’s choices, and I fully support Jamie Lynn’s decision to go with the photo shoot.  She’s got people talking about it all, and that’s got to be a very good thing in this age of not being as enlightened as we like to pretend we are.