Wednesday, August 15, 2012

the culture of motherhood: feeding

My absolute favorite thing about mothering in Africa is the freedom women have here to nurse anytime, anywhere. America is a stressful place to be a nursing mother. From Target employees to Time Magazine writers, everyone seems to have an opinion. Wherever I went I was always asking permission or trying to guess the proper etiquette for a group of potential onlookers or trying to time things just right o that I could get back to a “safe” place in time to feed. Stressful. And then we moved back to Zambia. Oh sweet freedom! I had been a little worried that the stark white color of my goods would attract unwanted attention, but no one has blinked twice. I have been offered all kinds of hands on help (as in, women grabbing my ladies to demonstrate breast compression – and then pulling their ladies out of their shirt to demonstrate on themselves as well!) In church, a regular part of the announcements is, (and this is a quote, not a paraphrase) “Ladies, if your babies are making noise, please put a breast in their mouth. Thank you.” There is an expectation that the first peep out of a baby’s mouth will prompt swift action on the part of the mother of putting her child to the breast. This is actually the only thing that can be a little stressful – namely, I don’t always move fast enough and people look at me like I skipped day one of parenting class. But all in all, I very much appreciate the attitude of “our babies have a need, we can meet that need, and we shall do so promptly and without shame.” No exiting the room or hiding in a corner, no shawls or capes or blankets. It’s wonderful. And since Bronwyn and I are found looking like this like, 3/4ths of every day:

(Yes – the girl has a serious appetite!) I’m abundantly thankful for this freedom.

I understand that it’s the sexualization of women’s breasts in the USA that accounts for this particular cultural difference. I get it. If we are ever back in the states with a nursing baby, I probably won’t bust out African style all over the place. I can respect people’s wishes. But I will always be thankful for this time in my nursing mother life – a time of great bonding with my daughter without anxiety, complication or embarrassment.  So to my nursing neighbors all around me, the best lactation consultants, the ultimate La Leche League, to you I simply say, thank you.  
Bana Kazembe awesomely tandem feeding her twins, Kapya and Impundu


  1. Thank you for posting about this. It certainly was stressful to nurse in public. It does make me wish we had the freedom you have there, here. Keep the blogs comin' I enjoy reading them.

  2. Loved this post.... keep sharing....