I chose to breastfeed Cuddle Bear. In addition to all of the named benefits of breastfeeding ( like it’s free! ), it was the perfect time to create teachable moments for Funny Bunny. I was going to instill confidence in her; instill in her the normalcy of having breasts before society got a hold of her and planted in her mind that breasts were objects of sexualization. I wanted her to understand that breasts have a biological function just like your arm or leg and to just be a kid. Breastfeeding is no big deal!
Funny Bunny, however, already has confidence in abundance. She isn’t thinking about breasts like I am; I have had a decades of observing how all things breasts are overly focused on from size to how much should be covered to breastfeeding in public. Instead, Funny Bunny related breastfeeding to her experiences: the milking of cows.
One day we were too low on milk for cereal. Funny Bunny came up with what she thought was a workable solution. While I sat feeding Cuddle Bear, Funny Bunny came up and asked “Can we just use yours?” and pointed at my chest.
My automatic thoughts sounded in my head like this: “What?! No, no, no!”
However, when you think about it, it makes sense. The milk she drinks comes from cows. What Cuddle Bear drinks is called milk and Funny Bunny knew she used to drink it, too. My partner had, on one occasion, referred to me as a “walking milk machine.” So what had changed? Surely I could churn out milk as easily as a cow. And at some point I was bestowed with the wonderful nickname of “Mummy Cow.”
I had to counter her logic with more of her logic in order to get out of becoming Pajuna from the show Puss in Boots. I didn’t make enough for a bowl of cereal. Also, Cuddle Bear needed all of what amount I did make (the girl is hungry!). Funny Bunny proceeded to tell my partner later that I was Cuddle Bear’s “only food sorceress” and that my milk came from “my utters.”
At least not making a big deal out of breastfeeding has lead her to look at the process from a functionality point-of-view. Breasts in literature aren’t treated much differently than what you see on TV, movies and magazines in a sense that they have metaphorical presence, a phenomenal power to represent both larger issues and cheap thrills. In my grandmother’s romance novels they were “captivating globes.” In thrillers, they are perfunctory details in a sex scene that the author zips through to get back to the gore. Everyone needs to take a break from hunting serial killers or fighting paranormal phenomenon for a little sex.
In poetry, women use “breasts” symbolically and as a whole book could be written on the subject, I will list just a few examples. Breasts can be used as an indicator of aging, as in Adrienne Rich’s poem “Snapshots of Daughter-in-law”:
Deliciously, all that we might have been,
all that we were – fire, tears,
wit, taste, martyred ambition –
stirs like the memory of refused adultery
the drained and flagging bosom of our middle years.
Breasts are part of what we lose when we lose our youth. This poem was published in 1963 during the feminist movement and you can also see how breasts are being listed with those other things that women missed out on simply for being born women. Breasts were being reclaimed during this period in the arts. Women were taking back ownership of a body part from the world men made.
In “Poem for the Breasts” by Sharon Olds, breasts are an obsession for men: “boys were said to worship their category of being, almost starve for it […]”. That worship is fleeting, even for her husband who leaves her. Breasts are just unthinking “creatures.” The poem is metaphorically rebelling against a patriarchal system. I know – feminism is emotionally heavy and charged right? That doesn’t mean that Olds’ point is untrue or an overreaction. Big breasts are a symbol of attractiveness and Olds is on point.
Breasts are, when you boil it down, part of a practical biological system. I am sure Cuddle Bear agrees as she is always hungry. Like Funny Bunny, she also does not care about the other kinds of attention breasts receive.
And yet I feel the urge to cover up or flee into a private space while out and about and Cuddle Bear needs a feed. Knowing what I know I still feel self conscious. Ignoring how we have been programmed is really difficult.
Funny Bunny wonders when she “will get boobies” and “why don’t boys have nipples?” One lunch, she shoved her knees up into her dress and said “I have boobies now!” My partner asked “Like Mummy’s?” She quipped “No. Like yours.” Zing!
But Funny Bunny also realizes that Cuddle Bear using my breasts takes time away from her. Breastfeeding deprives her of the undivided attention she had for over 4 years. Here is where breast feeding has become a symbol. Funny Bunny has to share me and she seeks to wrest attention away from Cuddle Bear even at the cost of getting into trouble. A frownie face on her reward chart because she created a paint explosion in the conservatory and kitchen in less than ten minutes is still attention that Cuddle Bear isn’t getting. (My partner complained “I want to go the water park this weekend. How is she supposed to work off those frownie faces in 2 days!” He can be just as funny as she is.)
I was shooting for Funny Bunny to see breasts literally, for breastfeeding not to be a big deal since I clearly am self conscious. I wanted Funny Bunny to not have to deal with the sexual or shameful connotations we’ve placed on breasts. The adult world will take her too soon. I don’t have time for all of those external judgements and expectations because Cuddle Bear is always hungry.
Right now, I am a food sorceress. I am Mummy Cow.