"Our culture has become completely saturated with breasts as sexual objects," Heironimus-Bishop says. "Breast-feeding makes people uncomfortable because they're so used to seeing the breast as something that's supposed to arouse them, but then they see a child there, and it sends mixed messages."
Simply ignoring breast-feeding women will be difficult for Lawrence residents who stroll by South Park Wednesday evening. As part of a national nurse-out, some local lactaters plan on celebrating their mammalian nature en masse in the park. At the same time, they'll get to exchange stories, pointers and information.
"Breast-feeding has been pushed to the background and seen as something that's very private," Heironimus-Bishop says. Because breast-feeding isn't openly acknowledged and information isn't as available as it could be, she says she's not sure she would have been able to breast-feed successfully had friends and family not been there to guide her. "You have to kind of learn how to do it," she says.
People who aren't mothers might not notice the subtle implication pervading our mass media that bottle feeding is the normal thing to do. Heironimus-Bishop recalls a gas company commercial in which a young family's power goes out. "The baby's crying," she explains, "but the mom can still warm up the bottle of milk because she has propane." Never mind that a boob could do the job just as well.
At 24, does Heironimus-Bishop ever feel awkward whipping out her breast in public to feed her daughter? "In the beginning, I was just concerned with getting her to latch on the correct way, so I think I was more self-conscious because I didn't know what I was doing. But I've never been one to be too terribly modest," she says.
"At first I'd go and get nursing shirts and stuff like that," she continues. "But then I found it was just as easy to wear a normal shirt. The only thing is finding bras that make it easy to nurse while still giving support and everything. But the clothes and the nursing bras I found, they're very conservative, and that's not my style. They tend to be marmish."
Not only does she quietly rebel against messages telling her to start wearing muumuus now that she's a mother; she shrugs off the notion that her breasts should cease to be sexual just because she's nursing.
"I do think they can hold dual roles," she says, recalling the revealing, low-cut dress new mother Uma Thurman wore to the Oscars last year and the good press she got for showing off her voluptuousness.
But nursing has undeniably changed Heironimus-Bishop's sex life. "Now I try to seek out other erogenous zones, because this one's definitely involved in being manipulated a lot of the time. Every now and then I just want to be like, 'OK, let's move on to something else.'"