Sucked Dry

I am in no way qualified to spout opinions on the breastfeeding of tiny babies seeing as I have pushed no baby out of my body ever. Know this. The reasons for inexpertly floating the subject are two-fold: i. it’s the internet, I can do what I want and ii. recently I passed a Stoke Newington café bulging with new mums, awkwardly parked buggies and romper-suited bubbas. The mum near the window was pressing an enormous brown nipple into the face of her tiny pink spawn and the thing gurgled happily. Protocol dictates that the job of the accidental viewer on seeing this is to politely unsee it, to let your eyes slide off the naked bit of lady and land instead on her plate of jam scones or whatever. Your correspondant did this. Mums should feel free to get them out, is what I’m saying.

I am all for the natural feeding of babies. I like buying a thing and using it for the exact purpose it was created for – it makes me feel prepared and in control, a master of my domain in a non-masturbatory sense; I like old specialist shops run by ancient men who have spent the last 70 years selling nothing but umbrellas. Using tits for their predestined duty is exactly what you should do with them. These two tanks of milk with mouthpieces were designed for feeding tiny babies. Do it in public. Do it in private. Do it to appease the tiny hungry mouth screaming next to the person who’s come to the café to write an article on their laptop. But the important thing, and this is the crux of my point here, is to stop doing it. You know, at some point in the child’s near future.

[For the benefit of the tape our opinionated monster is now showing a flashback scene]

We’d just moved into a new house in a new neighbourhood. I was twelve, my sister eight, and my brother six. None of us had drunk milk out of a human for some years. The family in the house across the road invited us over for a welcome barbeque, just a little get together to meet the people who you hope will call the cops if they see a burglar attempting an inelegant entrance through the front window. We made potato salad, we brought over a bunch of beer and lemonade. We sat out on the porch – him and her and their three kids and us – and everything was fine until this one kid, this grown-ass girl of about eight years old starts making eyes at her mum over the lettuce.

“Not now, you’ve had lunch.”

“But mum….”

“Not now, we’ve got guests,” she said. “Go and play Nintendo.”

But she didn’t go play Nintendo. Her mum, a desiccated husk of a woman approaching fifty, uncrossed her legs and motioned for the accidental pregnancy to sit on her skeleton lap. Then she hefted her loose summer shirt and revealed to us – the barbeque guests – one saggy former breast, a deflated isosceles triangle, an ungenerous samosa. She tweezed it between thumb and forefinger and eased it gently into mouth of this kid who had a full-house, teeth-wise. The owner of the teat asked if we’d like some more taramasalata. He daughter, feet resting on the floor, sucked her deflated mother dry.

Our expedited exit was blamed, respectively, on “work”, “football practice”, and on a “science experiment involving a potato”, and we made our way across the street, up the stairs and shut the door, whereupon a speechless family of five gaped at each other across a front room like “What the fuck was that?”

We never reciprocated the barbeque invite.

So my point is sure, breastfeed all you want in public. But if your kid has reached and breached the boundaries of a rollercoaster height requirement: put a cap on that milkjug.

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