It seems a new controversy surrounding breastfeeding arises in the news almost every day – whether mothers are being asked to nurse their babies in public bathrooms, getting kicked out court rooms, or having their photos removed from Facebook for inappropriate content, it’s harder than ever to make the choice to be a nursing mom. Just yesterday I read a story about a mom getting kicked out of a public place for breastfeeding her baby – and she was in church! This article addresses the constant breastfeeding in public controversy and shares why we should be supportive of mothers.
Why Is There A Breastfeeding In Public Controversy?
I truly believe there is absolutely nothing wrong with formula feeding – I think it’s awesome that we have an alternative for those who can’t breastfeed. However, for those who do breastfeed, they need all the support they can get. I think that our lack of acceptance of breastfeeding is damaging the health of our nation.
We’ve all read the scientific proof that says breastfeeding prevents a long list of illnesses, including stomach viruses, lower respiratory infection, ear infections, and meningitis. Later in life, breastfed babies are less likely to develop types 1 and 2 diabetes, allergies, high cholesterol, and high blood pressure. Breastfeeding combats childhood obesity and reduces the risk of SIDS. We also know that breastfeeding is beneficial to the mother, lessening the chances of developing postpartum depression, and reducing the risk of breast and ovarian cancers. We can’t deny that it is by far the cheapest way to provide your baby with the best nutrition possible, or that it helps the environment by producing no waste. Breast milk is always available, the perfect temperature, and most easily digested by babies.
As I said, there is no reason a mom who is not breastfeeding should feel guilty – and that’s not what most breastfeeding mothers are trying to do. But because breastfeeding is so beneficial, we should at least allow it to become a normalcy in our society. Moms who aren’t sure if they can do it should be encouraged by the research to at least try, and they certainly should be allowed to breastfeed without being made to feel like a pervert or a stripper in public.
Thoughts On Public Breast Feeding
Let’s face it, breastfeeding is a huge commitment. Therefore, mothers who make the choice to breastfeed should be applauded, not shamed. We should be running up to breastfeeding moms in parks, restaurants, and shopping malls, congratulating them on their miraculous ability to provide perfect nutrition and encouraging them to keep going. Instead, we tell them it’s ok to breastfeed as long as they completely hide what they are doing. We tell them it’s ok to breastfeed as long as minors (and some squeamish adults) can’t see it. Contradicting this, we tell them it’s ok to breastfeed as long as the location is “kid-friendly” – I mean, how can you possibly enjoy your romantic night out when the woman at the next table is (gasp) nursing her child – oh please! Adults eating in public have grossed me out way more than any nursing babies ever have.
Many people make it so difficult for a woman to feel comfortable Breastfeeding In Public that she feels like she can’t even leave the house. And if she does leave the house, she should spend an hour pumping her own milk into a bottle so she doesn’t offend anyone when her baby has to eat. So I ask you, who’s going to breastfeed then? Why do we admit that it is the healthiest way to feed your baby, and then simultaneously deter women from doing it? How can we scientifically prove something is beneficial to our short and long term health, and then not accept it as normal behavior in society?
I’ll never forget the first time I breastfed my son in public. He was about 2 weeks old, we were returning from a doctor’s appointment, and we decided to have lunch at an outdoor café. It was June, and I was wearing a flowy camisole and shorts. Our food arrived and our sleeping newborn immediately started wailing (of course, don’t they always get hungry when they smell food!?) My mother-in-law was with us and showed me how to position the nursing scarf I had with me over my right shoulder. The wind kept blowing the fabric all over the place, but I pressed on. My son continued screaming at the top of his lungs, the cries getting progressively louder and more urgent – soon, everyone in the place was turning to stare. With my mother-in-law holding the scarf around me as if I were naked underneath, I pulled down my nursing bra and tried to position the baby. My heart was racing and I had a pit in my stomach as I prayed for him to latch on correctly and stop his high pitched, rhythmic crying. All that fabric over his head was making him angrier by the second, and that’s when I finally came to my senses.
Screw all these people – my newborn was hungry and I wasn’t about to deny him simply because some strangers might feel uncomfortable. What about my baby being uncomfortable? After all, isn’t it easier for them to look the other way than it is for me to ask my baby to not eat? Of course, it’s not like I ripped off my top or anything – I simply stopped worrying about holding the cover over him in the wind (It was June!) and pulled the loose fabric of my top up so I could still conceal the upper part of my breast. When the baby latched on, his head covered the rest, and we were both finally comfortable. I held him with one hand and was able to eat my brunch with the other. I breathed a sigh of relief as I thought to myself, “I can do this!”
The truth is, if you’re confident breastfeeding in public, most other people will respect you. The problem arises when we make too big of a deal out of it so no one feels comfortable doing it anywhere. Everyone has different levels of comfort when breastfeeding in public, and like anything, with more practice, you get more comfortable. Today there are so many products out there that help you breastfeed discreetly – nursing tanks, nursing covers, and nursing ponchos. You can buy an entire nursing wardrobe, or just get creative with your own clothing – like layering a lose top over a low-cut tank. Simply pull the top layer up and the under layer down, and you’ll be plenty covered. Hopefully someday soon we’ll all realize how silly we’re being.
A mother always does the best she can for her child and for her family. And whether that’s breastfeeding, bottle-feeding, or a combination, the last thing she needs is to feel guilty about something she’s doing or not doing. Let’s end the breastfeeding in public controversy. As a society, we can be more supportive of moms in general and that especially includes breastfeeding in public. They say the more moms breastfeed in public, the less sensitive to it people will become – so get out there nursing moms! I, for one, applaud you!