We, as a nation, have lost our minds about breastfeeding. Specifically the act of breastfeeding in public. I don’t remember when a mother breastfeeding their child in public became an issue. Maybe I wasn’t as sensitive to it before I was a father, or maybe it’s just been pushed to the forefront lately by our obsession with outrage for the sake of outrage in this country. I’m not sure which of these is the case (likely it’s a combination of both), but I figured I’d give one dad’s view on breastfeeding in public.
So, what do I know about breastfeeding? I know my wife did it for two years, and as far as I’m concerned it was an important part of my daughter’s development. I believe a kid can be raised perfectly healthy without breastfeeding, but it’s what worked best in my little family. I also know that she breastfed basically everywhere on the planet (my personal favorite being while actually standing in line at the Boston Aquarium… that was impressive). Lastly, I know that it was really difficult both physically and mentally.
She would be sore if my daughter had not eaten recently, or she would be sore if she ate too much. Sometimes my daughter would only eat from one side, and my wife would almost be in tears until she could pump the other side. It was a never ending, and impossible balancing act. Especially during the first 6 months or so.
Mentally it would be taxing as well. She never thought she had done enough, or she would be upset if my daughter had not eaten well. Since my daughter was so little, my wife would be constantly on edge about how much milk she actually got. Furthermore, if pumped milk was wasted or went bad she would be extremely upset (her running quote was “Anyone who says you can’t cry over spilled milk, has never pumped”).
The point of the above paragraphs isn’t just to glow about how strong and amazing my wife was (and is). It’s to provide context to the breastfeeding in public discussion. The point is that breastfeeding is hard enough without women worrying about being lashed out against in the event they need to feed their child outside of their home.
The main arguments I see against public breastfeeding all seem to come back to the idea that exposed breasts in public for the purpose of breastfeeding are in some way obscene. This obscenity can offend people, or possibly distract others. These arguments are crafted in slightly different variations, but it all comes down to the idea that there is some sexual connotation to breast feeding.
I want to be clear on this, because it is so ridiculous to me. There is nothing sexual about breastfeeding. It is not a sexual act in anyway, the nudity associated with it is not sexual, and it’s not a woman’s fault if you cannot handle something less revealing than a Calvin Klein ad. I’m not saying somebody somewhere doesn’t have a thing for seeing women do this, but if we are going to base societal norms off of corner case scenarios and fractions of a fraction of our population; then we are going to have a major problem.
I have also seen arguments that it is gross, entitled, a liberal agenda, etc. These arguments range from misinformed to absurd. Breastfeeding is not dirty, and breastfeeding mom’s are not, in any significant number, taking some kind of political stand. That last part I can guarantee, because as new parents they are way to tired to fight causes.
All joking aside, the bottom line is this, of all the things to rally against, a mother feeding a hungry baby is such a non-issue. It’s a foolish stance, and wreaks of the outrage obsessed society we have found ourselves in today. I encourage anyone who has made this their hill to die on to really reconsider where they are placing their energy. Still, the nice thing is that if someone is breastfeeding in public and it offends you, there is a really simple way to avoid it… Don’t look.
With all this in mind, I thought that as a handy reference sheet I would compile a list of places it is appropriate for a mother to breastfeed in public and all the places it is not. Feel free to consult it later if you are confused as to what is acceptable behavior.
SOME PLACES A MOTHER CAN REASONABLY BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC:
Park Bench, Clothing Store, Restaurant, Playground, Front Porch, Sporting Event, Parked Car, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Church/Temple, Supermarket, Space Station, Library, Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters, Etc.
PLACES IT IS TOTALLY INAPPROPRIATE FOR A MOTHER TO BREASTFEED IN PUBLIC: