Breastfeeding in Public…

One topic which has been so twisted out of shape that it no longer resembles its original message is breastfeeding in public. I have seen so many articles written, ‘cute’ little raps  and so many newscasts about it that I am frustrated with the whole mentality. These people are missing the point entirely. Most of these complaints have little or nothing to do with feeding babies. I will totally defend your right to be as naked as you please in public but I won’t condone the complaining for any fallout. It is a choice to put oneself on display or not and the countless mothers who don’t exhibit themselves and practice a small amount of discretion are not harassed and we don’t hear from them. Yes, some are unwarrantedly targeted but I truly believe it has more to do with the current heat of the debate than the simple act of feeding their children.

For generations it has been commonplace to nurse one’s child in in the home or out in society and anyone who was uncomfortable had the good sense to look away and not ever make the nursing mother feel his/her discomfort. The fact that they would be squirmy about it was, itself, embarrassing. I, myself, fed my three children (more than three decades ago) wherever I was and whenever they were hungry. I never used a blanket or cover-up and I was never asked to go somewhere private or to stop breastfeeding. Mostly, no one even noticed. It is very easy to be discreet, yet comfortable, while breastfeeding. It was commonplace to do so and yet there was not the fallout we are now consistently hear about in all forms of media.

It has been only in recent years that this has become controversial and I think I know why. In my day those of us who chose to breastfeed did so because our mothers, sisters, aunts and cousins did and we followed suit. It was a learned custom growing up but also cost effective, easy and portable. There was no feeling of superiority and mothers were not judged for their choice method of feeding their babies. We know so much more, now, about the benefits of mothers’ milk and many (not most, by a long shot, but many) mothers who breastfeed feel superior to those who don’t. After all, it is best for the child but that does not mean formula is not a very high quality food! It closely mimics breastmilk and it isn’t soda pop, for goodness sake! I can’t even imagine that any of these moms would admit this out loud but that doesn’t make it any less true.

Breastfeeding in public was not frowned upon until it was used as a political statement, exhibiting the fact that you are not one of those mothers who bottle feeds. When I hear little songs mocking people who don’t want to see your milky boobs I shake my head. Do people really believe that this is where the offence lies? No one cares if they see skin, folks! The public is offended by the exhibition that feeding babies has become (again, not by most) by the need to be seen as superior. There are plenty of mothers who nurse their children in public places and are discreet enough to never have been asked to stop or leave. They are not trying to agendasize  their method of feeding because they just want to feed their babies. They feel no need to compete. Why does anyone? The ninja nursers are offensive in that they seem to be on a crusade to prove that they are the very best mothers and using their babies to do so.

I recently read of a mom who was irate at having been asked to leave a tiny accessories store after asking for a chair to nurse her baby. This mall has three levels, all with several benches, and a large food court. Yet she chose to be in the way in an already small store to feed her baby. I know that it is legal for me to eat in public but I’m pretty darn sure that I would not have been welcome to pull up a chair and proceed to eat my sandwich and coffee while patrons squeezed around me to shop! This whole incident had nothing to do with her tending to her child or she would have done that in any of dozens of acceptable places in that shopping centre, but was about attention, hence the fact that she felt the need to call the news station and get some air time.

For every one of those who do what they can to grab the negative attention there are countless others who quietly go about nursing discreetly and draw no complaints. It is actually easier to  lift your top to  feed your child than to  squeeze your whole boob out through the neck but one newscast was about someone who did just that at a restaurant and was asked to stop or cover up. You have the right to be as vulgar as you please but logic would suggest that in doing so you forfeit your right to be irate at any protest. It’s a darn shame that any women approaching motherhood, who are on the fence as to feeding method, see an unflattering side of breastfeeding feel no encouragement to even give it a shot. I think it would be a better experience, in this world and as a parent, for mothers to support each other, without competition and judgement.  Probably everyone would benefit from that, including the children!

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