Breastfeeding in Public

Oh no, run for the hills, she’s gonna talk about boobs! Seriously, I do not understand our national discomfort, disdain and downright hostility towards breastfeeding and breastfeeding mothers. One of myFacebook friends posted a link to a blog where a mother posted her thoughts about breastfeeding, along with (gasp) pictures!

And now while I realize that a blog is posted publicly, you still don’t have to read it if you don’t want to. Seriously, if breastfeeding is so offensive to someone, then just avoid it I guess. But I truly don’t get it.

Breastfeeding is the best thing you can do to feed your baby. It is the most nutritious thing to give a baby, it is full of antibodies to help them stay well and healthy, it promotes the best oral motor development as well as developing the part of the brain that tells us when we are full/hungry. One could make the argument that a primary cause of overeating is being forced to finish the bottle or clean the plate when full or denied food when hungry due to some arbitrary schedule, we train babies not to trust themselves to know when to eat or not eat. And then there is bonding and attachment and comfort that all come from the breastfeeding bond. Where, in all of this, is there something wrong or bad to find?

Yet people find it. The evil, horrible dark side to breastfeeding (according the American public in general) is that someone might see a glimpse of a breast! Shocking I know. Forget that fact that every bathing suit at the beach or the pool, half the advertisements that you see and even just the day to day fashions that are in style now ALL show more breast than you generally can see during a feeding session. Somehow people are horrified, offended and outraged at the sight of a breastfeeding mother because a man or a child might see some breast. My response to that is pretty much, so what? If a child sees a mother breastfeeding her baby, what idea might they get? That breasts are for feeding babies?

There is truly nothing sexual about feeding babies and the only reason I can find that people get so uncomfortable about it, that they find it so offensive, is that, in their minds, they link the breast to sex and only sex. And that is their issue, not the issue of the infant or the mother. Why should mothers and babies be held hostage to someone elses misguided and wrongheaded thinking? Why should mothers be forced to hide what they doing, like it’s some dirty secret? Why should babies be deprived of something that is so good for them, to make some grown adult who should know better, more comfortable?

Babies are innocent, helpless and unable to add their voices to the debate and as seems to always be the case, the weak get run over by the strong. Might makes right. Babies have no voice and mothers can often be bullied and harassed into complying with what’ s “socially acceptable” at the expense of what is biologically appropriate for their child. Not all mothers can overcome such strong persecution and hostility. They need support, information, education and the knowledge that they are not the only ones.

Which brings me to the other upside of breastfeeding in public: letting the world see that this is normal, making it become a commonplace sight. Bringing widespread acceptance to it requires visibility and requires making some people uncomfortable. We all have times when we have to confront things that make us uncomfortable and question ourselves about WHY it makes it feel that way and hopefully be able to see all sides of the situation and overcome our own prejudices.

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