What a Teenager Thinks About Breastfeeding

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After attending a hearing at the NYC Council that would mandate all public health buildings in NYC have special rooms reserved for pumping or breastfeeding, Angelina Egan, a 16-year-old High School student and daughter of midwife Carol Bues, CM, CNM, WHNP of Midwifery Care NYC has written this poignant essay on the lacking reproductive health education in schools and how much the women of our city need support to nurse their babies safely and peacefully.

Have you ever experienced that feeling of being the center of negative attention? Thirty pairs of eyes boring into you? For a quick second you take inventory of your appearance. You are the main focus and if you are a girl that has experienced puberty (like myself) and have breasts, that is where the boys’ eyes flicker down to. The look lingers. Instead of squaring your shoulders and having confidence, you want to concave your chest to hide. This is a daily occurrence.

You and your friends talk about it and you reassure each other that it is just teenage behavior. All the awkward once-overs will end when you leave High School, as if that building is the problem. That is what you tell yourself to get through the day, “Only two more years”.

After going to City Hall with Shar and Mom and listening to the Bill Intro 1063 that would require “certain” government buildings to have a separate room for breastfeeding and pumping, I am not too sure.

This bill has a lot of support as shown in the large turn out. I had the privilege of listening to people supporting the bill. I got to see the way that these supporters came and were actually being listened to. Some people suggested ways to make the bill even better.

Maybe the taboo surrounding breasts never leaves, through my personal observation it seems that is fostered in school. Breast have become a sex symbol. To the point where some people are embarrassed of a part of themselves. The craziest part is breasts are not a rarity. Half of the world population have them. A person can even buy breasts! Through all of the hype around “boobs” or any other derogatory name used to refer to breasts, people forget that their is a purpose to breasts. That purpose is to feed babies and to provide for a child in the most natural way. It also protects them and keeps them safe.

NYC DOE mandates students to take a health class and sex education class on “the birds and the bees”. I did this for one semester last year. The short time frame really caused the teacher to rush through sexual health. We study the anatomy of men and women and the role each play in creating a baby. Not once was the role of breasts discussed. That reinforces the idea that breasts should be hidden and their only purpose is for fun. I have an advantage, from before I can remember my mother, Carol Bues, has educated me about breastfeeding.

The amazing thing about Intro 1063 is that it does not require the mother to use that designated area. Robert Cornegy, who is pushing this bill, is very consistent with the message that he just wants to do all he can to encourage breastfeeding. It is not to usher women off to hide them in shame.

During the assembly some of the speakers brought up that while they love this idea of a clean quiet space, they do not want to make any women to feel like they are forced to go into the allotted area. Breastfeeding is a major benefit to babies it gives them better immunity and gives their bodies exactly what they evolved to need. Though contrary, uninformed popular thought, breastfeeding is hard. It requires a commitment, it needs a women’s full attention. So being interrupted only to be told that what she was doing is not appropriate is unnecessary. Robert Cornegy and the people on the council understand this.

After sitting through the whole proceeding, I have concluded that the awkward feeling of all eyes are on you does not end in high school. It lasts particularly longer for women who choose to do what is best for their babies and breastfeed. Although this situation is sad, the proceeding did inform me that there are people trying to fix that.

Maybe by the time I start having babies and need to breastfeed, I won’t have to worry about the dirty looks. They also presented me with images of women who have worked their butts off to build up an exterior of defiance to people who give them mean glares.