Anyone who knows me even a little knows that I am very passionate about breastfeeding. I had wonderful experiences nursing both of my children and very much look forward to nursing this next little guy/gal. I firmly believe that anyone who wants to breastfeed should be given full support and every opportunity to be successful.
I think most people (reasonable people anyway) support a woman's choice to breastfeed whether or not they choose it for themselves. However, there is this weird phenomenon in our culture where we fully support it going on... as long as we never have to actually KNOW that it goes on.
What is it with our aversion to public breastfeeding? I just don't get it. Just to be clear- I understand why it can give you the squirmies as that is how you were probably conditioned. We are just leaving a time when it was actually considered superior to give formula since it was scientifically designed for babies (since apparently nature failed at that??) and where it was considered something done by women who couldn't afford formula. I have even found myself to feel a little unease in the presence of a mother breastfeeding in certain situations. The line you cross when you officially are added to my "list" is when you do something that makes that mom feel uncomfortable whether it be complaining, staring, a rude comment, etc. Even though breastfeeding in public is something that is protected by law in most states, these moms aren't protected from the cruelty of those around them. She is doing the most natural thing for her baby so why should she be made to feel that she is doing anything wrong?
I have heard a whole host of "valid reasons" for why women breastfeeding in public is inappropriate. At the risk of offending people, here is a list of these reasons... and why I think they are ridiculous:
1. It is indecent to be exposing so much in public.
Unless you feel it necessary to walk into Victoria's Secret and complain about their billboards of half naked women then you have nothing to complain about. And even then, those women are almost naked for the purpose of selling underwear- a nursing mother is nourishing her child. I personally was always more comfortable with using a cover in public- that is just me, and I was also very lucky to have babies who were willing to stay under that cover. This is simply not the case for many babies, and some mothers just don't want to use a cover due to one reason or another. Are there women who are a bit brazen about their nursing and trying to make a statement? Maybe a few, but this is the exception, not the rule. And I guarantee you that in most cases that momma sitting on the bench is showing less skin than that teenager across the park wearing the skimpy tank top and daisy dukes.
And at the risk of moving too far off topic, let me take this opportunity to reiterate something- breastfeeding in public is not only natural, it IS a right protected by law most states. This means that even if it bothers you- TOUGH. And if you are an employee at a public place (restaurant, store, etc) it is NEVER within your rights to ask the woman to cover up or leave as long as that woman and child are in a place where they would otherwise be allowed to be. I am so tired of hearing and reading stories where a mother is asked to cover up or leave due to customer complaints and the employees claim ignorance of the law. Why is this not something covered in the training of these employees? I know that I never knew of this law until I started nursing so, sadly, it isn't common knowledge, so why aren't employers educating about this if for no reason other than to protect themselves from a lawsuit? I get that employers have a lot to teach new employees, but the law simply isn't that complicated: If someone complains about a nursing mother, tell them that they are protected by the law. Simple.
2. I don't want my children to see that.
For this I just have to ask why? We were once at a public playroom when a mom starting nursing her infant. Jameson never noticed and Delaney just kept pointing and saying "bayee!" (baby), but had Jameson noticed it and started asking questions it wouldn't have bothered me in the slightest. If your child does notice a baby nursing, what exactly is so uncomfortable about explaining that the baby is getting milk from his mom? And if you are concerned about them seeing body parts that you don't think they need to see, then kindly refer to number 1. :)
3. Urinating/defecating is natural but that isn't considered appropriate to do in public so why should breastfeeding just because it is natural?
This is the one where I have to really take a deep breath before I answer because you just compared the nourishment and need fulfillment of an infant to the release of bodily waste. You know what would make a good comparison to relieving yourself in the middle of a restaurant? A mother changing her child's diaper on the table during the appetizer and then leaving the diaper next to her fork. You know what? That is gross and offensive. Go ahead, complain about that action. It presents health concerns that could potentially affect all those around them. But please, please explain to me how the a child eating the dinner that his mom produced is putting you at risk?
4. If you need to breastfeed when you are in a public place you should just go to the bathroom/nursing room.
Eat in a bathroom?... gross much??? I don't know about all of you, but I personally don't enjoy eating in the bathroom, especially a public one, so what makes you think that a baby would want to do that? Not to mention that it would be very difficult to do in a sanitary way! And even on the rare occasion that the establishment has provided a nursing room, why should the mother have to leave what she is doing because you might feel uncomfortable about what is going on? Really, really think about it, and then tell me how that makes any sense.
5. Nursing is an intimate time for the mother and child and should be done in private
I can see where a person could feel this way- if they have never actually nursed long term. Don't get me wrong- I loved nursing. It creates a special bond with your child comparable to nothing else- but that doesn't mean each session is a Hallmark moment. Infants nurse every 2-3 hours-sometimes more often. While some nursing sessions are an amazing experience in bonding with your child, some are just about feeding the kid!
6. Just pump milk and bring bottles to feed your child!
All I have to say to this is- WHY??? Let's say you are going to party where they will have your favorite beer on tap for free. Do you go through the hassle of packing your own cooler of bottles, pack it with ice, and lug it along? Of course not! That would be ridiculous! So why would you expect a baby to do this? Sure, pumped milk is a perfectly wonderful food for a baby, but fresh is the best! Not to mention the amount of inconvenience that you are suggesting to the mother so that you do not have to endure that squirmy feeling.
Bottom line? Breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable? No problem! Your opinion is in line with the culture in which you were raised. But that is your problem to deal with, not the problem of the mother!
I would love to hear what you all think on this topic. I realize it is somewhat controversial, but please realize that I am not really sway-able on this topic nor am I really interested in hearing disrespectful comments and will deny posting them. If you have something nasty to say about breastfeeding, feel free to share it with your buddy and have a good laugh. But if you have something respectful and constructive to say or would like to share your positive/negative experiences with me I would love to hear it!