Breastfeeding in public

Nowadays, breastfeeding in public has become the center of debate in the US. Moms in malls, restaurants, coffee shops, swimming pools and even hospitals are asked to go to the bathroom to breastfeed. Or to cover up because either people were complaining or there were children around and it was not appropriate for them to see a mother breastfeeding her child. There are even cards with states’ breastfeeding laws printed on it, so women can educate other people and enforce their rights to breastfeed their infants anywhere, anytime.

The excuse that children are around and it’s inappropriate for them to see a woman breastfeeding her child or some of her breast is not fundamental. It’s inappropriate to see a woman nurturing her child, but it’s appropriate for children to see the female video game figurines with voluptuous breasts almost popping out of their provokingly tight outfits?? Or certain magazine covers, billboards, TV commercials, movie posters, etc. where women are treated more as objects of desire than people?

Covering up is a personal decision. Breastfeeding in public can be done discreetly without covering up. While many women feel they shouldn’t have to cover up, there are others who feel they need to. While some might say having a nursing cover over your baby and yourself screams “there is a baby breastfeeding” and might not help normalize it, others don’t feel comfortable showing some of their breast in public. A nursing cover helps keep the mom and baby together while socializing with the rest of the world, as she will not have to leave the room. Also, babies can be easily distracted by noises and other people around them, making breastfeeding discreetly a little difficult. For those times, a nursing cover would be appropriate. Again, this is the mother’s decision and not anyone else’s.

Once, I was home breastfeeding my daughter and some people came over. One of the guys came to see my daughter. After a few minutes of looking at her, he realized I was breastfeeding, got a little embarassed and excused himself. While this was pretty funny to me, it also made me realize that people may not even know when you’re nursing. They will have to pay close attention to you and your baby to figure it out.

Offering a bathroom for a woman to breastfeed her infant is unacceptable. Would she be offered the same if she was bottle feeding? Probably not. A breastfeeding mother should also be afforded the same accomodations. Bathrooms are no place for a baby to eat as they’re full of bacteria and germs. Further, certainly not for an infant whose immune system is immature.

A nursing room in the mall, store or other public places is a nice thing. However, it is the choice of the mother whether to use it or not…not society’s. Breastfeeding doesn’t have to become an isolating time in a woman’s life. By sending women to nursing rooms , we are sending the wrong message to future generations. Do you want to socialize? Bottle feed. Do you want to isolate yourself in a room while everybody else is having fun? Breastfeed. Nobody, except from the artificial infant milk companies, is benefiting from these ‘nursing rooms”. It’s just another tool to make artificial baby milk more attractive to moms, who are already feeling overwhelmed by the lack of support that our society gives to new parents.

The bottom line is that the baby needs to eat. If a mother is bottle feeding, she will get the bottle out and put it in the baby’s mouth. If she is breastfeeding, she will get her breast out of her shirt and put it in the baby’s mouth, plain and simple. If you’re hungry, you will put food in your mouth. Babies are no different. When babies are hungry, they need to be fed.