This week, many mothers and and supporters celebrated National Breastfeeding Day. Judging from the social media banter, the topic of breastfeeding is still one that sparks controversy. Not that breastfeeding is a bad thing of course, but doing it in public has been a point of debate for far too long.
One one hand, the act of nourishing a baby the natural way is seen as a beautiful display of mother and child bonding. On the other, it’s viewed as an inappropriate and at times obscene biological process that should only be done behind closed doors.
Personally, a woman breastfeeding in public doesn’t bother me one bit. I believe that a mother feeding her kid out in the open deserves her personal space without people staring like they’re on a safari. The ironic thing about people who are offended by women breastfeeding is that they are usually the same ones that get oh-so-annoyed when a baby is crying nonstop. I have to admit that sometimes I’m guilty of wanting to ram my head through the nearest glass window when a baby goes into the primal scream mode. So if mommy has to whip out a nipple in the name of cutting down noise pollution, I’m all for it.
Aside from noise control, it should be understood exactly how important breastfeeding is. The nutritional benefits are unparalleled for brain and immune system development. When you see a woman breastfeeding, what you should see is a baby with a mother that wants the absolute best for her young one.
And before you give a breastfeeding mother the side-eye, consider how much of a hassle transporting breastmilk is. Like cow or goat’s milk, it has to be kept in a thermal bag with an ice pack. Then, it has to be warmed to room temperature, bottled up and fed to the baby. That opens up the chance of air bubbles that can bother the kid’s stomach. Now ask yourself if you’re willing to take a bus ride with a baby having a stomach ache. If an infant is getting their milk straight from the tap, you can always just look away.
According to a few mothers I r spoke to recently, it’s mostly other women who give breastfeeding moms the evil eye.
“Men are generally much more tolerant and accepting than women,” says Fawn, a DC native and mother of three. “Most just give me funny looks. If they say anything, it’s something like, ‘you should cover up.'”
Our society has always been reluctant to embrace nudity on any level but yet we have no problem watching girlfights or videos of children being gunned down by police officers. I’m not going to soapbox here but you have to admit, it’s something to think about.
“Maybe they are sexually repressed in some way and unaccustomed to a woman’s physical body in a non-sexual way,” says Courtney, an expecting mom from New York. “Maybe they’re unaccustomed to the breastfeeding necessity and simply don’t understand how important and how frequently it needs to happen.”
Kizzy, a mother of four in North Carolina breastfed all of her kids and echoes the same sentiment. “They probably bottle-fed and didn’t understand enough to respect it,” she says. “I personally didn’t care. The most important thing was my children’s immediate need.”
Although every mom I spoke to didn’t have an issue with public breastfeeding, they all felt that a bit of cover-up isn’t a bad thing either.
“Babies gotta eat,” Kim a veteran mom says. “You should have a blanket or something, though.”
Courtney also told me, “I’m not gonna stay home and/or be out and uncomfortable with a hungry baby just because other people don’t want to see it, especially if I’m not really showing them anything.”
When our son was an infant, breastfeeding would’ve have been the most awesome option in the world except that Liam was too uppity to drink from the breast. My wife had to pump milk, bottle it and only then would he drink it. My hopes for dodging the nighttime feedings were destroyed as holding a bottle was something that I as a man, could biologically do.
OK, it was a wack plan but what else would you expect from a man? Seeing a woman breastfeed in public will not mentally scar you or your kids. If anything, it should open an educational dialogue about how the human body works. And the more educational convos with have with our kids, in my opinion, the better off they’ll be.