You may be sitting down in a restaurant, eating a nice meal, when you hear a baby start to fuss and cry. You may look over, and just happen to catch the mother raising the child to her chest to feed the crying baby. As soon as the baby starts nursing, they quiet, and the restaurant is quiet again once more. How would you react to this situation? Would you feel ashamed, or would you shoot the mother dirty looks? Have you ever gone so far as to say something to management, or even the mother?
There has been a lot of discussion for what is best for a baby, and breastfeeding is one of them. However, breastfeeding in public seems to have become a taboo as breasts have become more sexually pleasing than the mammary glands that make us mammals. For those interested in the topic of breastfeeding in public, as a supporter, nursing mother, person who does not know much about it, or those against it, please read on. I would greatly appreciate your thoughts and opinions on this.
As many of you may know, I am currently breastfeeding my son, my little man. I have always done my best to provide for him, both in public and private settings. You can see the health benefits in how much he has grown, and how well he is developing from it. We have had several ups and downs in our journey, from the “nipple confusion” of trying to offer him a bottle when he was younger, to the teething and nipping phase we are in now. Thankfully, in the age of the internet and supporters of breastfeeding, I am able to overcome these obstacles, and continue to offer my son the best my body has to offer. That is, when he feels like nursing, and not playing or nipping. My husband, the proud supporter of my breastfeeding our child, helped me do some research initially, as to my legal rights to breastfeed in the states we frequent most, Florida and Georgia. The La Leache League has some helpful sites to help breastfeeders and supporters, from advice and support, to legal aspects. Through the La Leache League site, I was able to ascertain breastfeeding rights from a site called BreastfeedingLaw.com.
There has been a lot of research done, showing the benefits of breastfeeding a baby, although there are many people who believe that nursing mothers should not nurse in public, that feeding a young human with a breast is shameful, and the mother is trying to put on a show. This group could include anyone, from former breastfeeding mothers, to people who grew up on bottles of milk or formula, and think that is their right to tell others how they should and should not feed a child not their own. There have been several stories in the news over the past few years, of mothers being asked to leave various establishments because they were nursing a baby. Some mothers may even be assaulted, as the workers may place items over mother and child without even asking the mother first. How a baby is fed should not make a difference as long as the baby is fed, and we should be supportive no matter what.
What these people do not know, is that a mother has the right to feed her child anywhere she and her child are legally allowed to be, be it by bottle or breast. She is not obligated to leave where she may be at currently, or to cover herself. Some states specify that the mothers breastfeed discretely, but that still leaves plenty of wiggle room. Unfortunately, there are many states that do not protect the mother from these overtures of others harassing her, as there are no repercussions for those harassing a mother in many states. States like Florida, have specifics in the law that state that breastfeeding does not constitute indecent exposure, lewd conduct, or any of the other labels someone may try to use on her. Unfortunately, Florida does not penalize those harassing the mother, so the people bugging her are able to continue to do so. (Breastfeeding and the Law for Florida)
I hope that, with subsequent posts, to be able to further educate our population on how breastfeeding should be as accepted in public as bottle feeding is. It should not matter how the baby gets the nutrition they need, as long as they get the nutrition. People who find the art of breastfeeding distasteful should simply look away, rather than draw attention to their own inability to accept a baby’s hunger. Claiming a mother should feed her child in a bathroom is as gross as eating in the bathroom yourself, and being relinquished away from where the mother was before her child was hungry makes her feel as though what she is doing is dirty and wrong, when it is not. There is nothing dirty or shameful about breastfeeding a child, and the few months or years that they need assistance eating should not ridiculed.
No one should be ashamed of how a baby is fed. It should not matter to anyone by the mother and child. This is purely about what is best for the child, and this is such a brief period in life that it should not be remembered with shame.
What are your opinions on breast feeding in public? Do you know someone who has, wants to, or is breastfeeding? Have you said anything to a mother you may have seen nursing, either with or without a cover?
If anyone has any comments or input, I beg you to leave comments below, and share your thoughts and feelings on this. I intend to use this information not only for the spread of breastfeeding awareness, but also as a class project and paper.
Marcus, J. A. Florida Public Breastfeeding Laws. Breastfeeding Law, State Laws. Lactation and the Law Revisited. Retrieved from: http://breastfeedinglaw.com/state-laws/florida/