Nursing in Public

I read an excellent article yesterday about all of the public places/situations where it is inappropriate to breastfeed. Amazingly enough, as a strong breastfeeding proponent, I agreed with it!

Five Places Where Breastfeeding is Certainly Inappropriate

A friend of mine reposted the article and one of her friends commented about the “courtesy” of breastfeeding women not “drawing undue attention to their exposed anatomy” and of being modest. In my somewhat limited experience, those are some of the most common reasons given by people who seek to restrict where a woman is able to feed her baby in the biologically normal way. Given that our society still has a great many social biases towards *artificial baby-milk feeding, I believe that it is of extreme importance to address those biases whenever I see them.

This was my response:

It’s also courteous to look away if someone is nursing and showing too much skin for your comfort. I would ask you, very respectfully, to consider the following:

Perhaps the hypothetical woman who is “drawing undue attention” to the act of feeding her baby is just starting out with nursing. Perhaps her baby won’t nurse with a cover (most babies I know personally refuse to nurse while covered up). Perhaps she wore something that (in retrospect and to her great embarrassment) wasn’t the most practical nursing attire. Or perhaps her baby needed to nurse immediately due to hunger or injury, leaving no time for the mother to be overly concerned with the opinions or even sensibilities of adult strangers who can easily avert their eyes if their sensibilities are offended.

Perhaps the fact that the mother could have very valid, non-exhibitionist, reasons for not being as modest as some might prefer could help you see that (rare, in my experience) occurrence in a different and more positive light than as, negatively stated above, a purposeful drawing of attention or lack of modesty.

 

Babies need to be fed. If a baby is hungry, then they should be fed as quickly as possible. Preferably with breastmilk, but with formula where necessary for whatever reason. If someone can bottle-feed in a location or situation, then mothers should be able to also breastfeed in that same location or situation. Feeding a baby is not a sexual act. Breasts are primarily organs for feeding babies, not for titillating the males in our species.

*I am not anti-formula and I fully understand that it is necessary to feed babies artificial baby-milk under several circumstances. The first rule of feeding babies is “Feed the baby” and many babies thrive on formula. However, I also believe that we do a disservice to both babies and mothers, as well as society as a whole, when we pretend that artificial baby-milk is in any way comparable to breastmilk or ignore the fact that there are very real disadvantages, and even dangers, to feeding babies formula when compared to breastfeeding directly or feeding babies breastmilk from a bottle.

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