Breastfeeding Awareness And Nipple Acceptance Should Go Hand In Hand (But They Don't)

5:54 AM

Breastfeeding awareness traditionally centers around breastfeeding advice for women. But the discussion has taken an interesting turn toward the nipple.

tipper gallagher breastfeeding advocate

Nipple Aversion

Breastfeeding advice for women is easy to come by. Our country is borderline obsessed with breastfeeding benefits for mom as well as breastfeeding benefits for baby. The other thing that we're obsessed with--no borders around it--is the nipple. Nipple aversion is so very interesting, especially given our hyper-focus on breastfeeding awareness. The recent surge in discussion about the nipple makes some people uncomfortable. Others? Not so much. On VProud there's an interesting conversation about this very topic, specifically how engrained nipple aversion is in the United States. This is fascinating to think about juxtaposed to how very much and often we tell women to breastfeed. Today, Tipper Gallagher is a lactation counselor and a self proclaimed boob geek. But below she reflects on this video and topic with an even more interesting perspective: as someone who used to believe women should cover up while breastfeeding. Take a look at what Tipper has to say and see how her perspective fits into your own nipple aversion or acceptance.

—The VProud Team

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What Is It About Nipples

By Tipper Gallagher for VProud

What is it about nipples? The last I checked, every single mammal has them. Some mammals, the hussies, parade around naked and have more than two nipples. Male humans have nipples, and they’re often pert, hairy little things that seem to enjoy a warm summer’s breeze. Male nipples are allowed to get a breath of fresh air and no one bats an eyelash, but should female nipples see the light of day, well, lock up your children, bar the doors, and pray, for civilization as we know it is ending.

I find it hard to not be sarcastic about nipplephobia, because, despite trying for years to figure this out, I’m nowhere close to understanding. Why are we so scared of female nipples? More specifically, why is it so scary to see them feeding a baby? We are not scared of seeing them on billboards or magazine advertisements, and we are not scared of seeing babies fed, so it must be some combination of the two things that shakes so many to their core.

Isn’t it ironic that cultures that traditionally keep the female form from view embrace breastfeeding—and even bare-breastfed, public breastfeeding—and our comparatively liberal Western society recoils at the thought of breasts feeding babies being visible? Part of the answer is that breastfeeding is considered the normal, usual, common, standard way to feed a baby in many regions of the world. But in the United States, for example, we use a baby bottle and pacifier as our universal iconography to represent “infant.” In America, breasts aren’t meant to feed babies—bottles are—and seeing breasts used for their “unintended” purpose is shocking.

We also have a terrible lack of literacy around sexual topics in the United States. (I can’t speak for countries such as the United Kingdom, but I’d be interested in hearing their take, as they have even more dismal breastfeeding rates.) When people can’t distinguish between homosexuality, pedophilia, and bestiality, no wonder they get confused when they see Sex Breasts being used as Food Breasts. To some degree, I can understand the heterosexual male response to the naked female breast, as it’s possible they’re all 13 years old deep down inside and can only think, “BOOBIES!” But women are just as bad, if not worse, about demanding that breastfeeding is hidden away.

Today’s lesson in sexuality is that breasts not only attract mates, but feed our young. Our bodies are meant to have and enjoy sex and are also meant to grow and feed our babies. On some level, this is the whole point of our existence, to mate and then rear our young. And today’s lesson in being a kind human is that we should all be free to choose whatever feeding method works best for our babies, without fear of criticism of any sort.

I’m not sure how to go about convincing anyone that nipples and breasts on female bodies are not something that needs to be hidden, but I will tell you this: I, a person who is writing at least 300 words about the collective fear of bare, baby-feeding nipples, used to believe that women should cover up while breastfeeding. I’ve change quite a bit, so there’s hope for others, too.

tipper gallagher vproud
About the author: Tipper Gallagher inhabits the suburbs in Minnesota, where you can find her wrangling a gaggle of children, editing things, being overly concerned about branding, bossing her husband around, feeding people, thinking about boobs, and writing about breastfeeding- and parenting-related stuff for her blog, The BoobGeek and on Facebook. You will probably not find her cleaning her house. Join Tipper's honest conversations on VProud.

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