Breastfeeding in Public

I stumbled across this blog post, entitled “Addressing the Most Common Misconceptions About Nursing in Public”  on a blog entitled Nursing in Public and I really enjoyed reading it!

Luckily I have had almost no problems with nursing in public in my nearly 5 months of doing so.  Personally, I’m not afraid to nurse in public and I’ve done it in many places.  Sometimes I use my nursing cover, sometimes I don’t… it sort of depends on where we are, who we’re with, how I’m feeling at the moment, and how hungry Julia is/how relaxed or distracted she is.  But I thought I’d add my own $0.02 to each of the Misconceptions that are pointed out in the blog post.

1) Breastfeeding is a Private Act

Most of the eating that we do is in a social setting, done with other people.  Why should breastfeeding be any different?

2) Women want privacy when breastfeeding

Given that at the beginning, Julia was breastfeeding for what felt like 10-12 hours a day, it would have been very lonely and isolating to breastfeed in private all the time.  I surely would have developed Post-Partum Depression if I had been breastfeeding in private all the time because it would mean spending the majority of my day without other adults to talk to, without much human interaction other than between my breast and Julia’s mouth!

3) Women who nurse in public are exhibitionists

This is just stupid.  Exhibitionists are people who expose themselves to get a rise out of people, or who get off on exposing themselves in public.  If I expose my breast or my nipple in public while I’m breastfeeding my baby, it’s not to get a rise out of anyone, it’s not because I find it thrilling… it’s because my nipple is a tool that I use to feed my baby!  It’s no different than showing off a bottle in public, or holding up a Coke can.

4) Women who breastfeed in public have no class

I don’t get this one… what does breastfeeding have to do with class?

5) You should just use a bottle when feeding your baby in public

One of the things I love most about breastfeeding is that there is no equipment needed: we don’t need bottles, formula, brushes, ice packs, clean water, a bottle warmer, etc. When we’re out and about and the baby needs to be fed, all we need are my breast and her mouth.  It’s great!

Also, I pump just enough milk to send with Julia to daycare each day (and sometimes a little extra that we can freeze for our “freezer stash” so we can eventually leave her with a babysitter), so why would I waste any of my pumped milk to feed her a bottle when I’m with her and can just feed her myself.

Finally, babies are more efficient at getting milk out of the breast than a pump is, so even if I were to pump and feed her what I pump, she would probably still be hungry for more milk and there would be plenty left in my breasts for her to have!

6) Breastfeeding attracts predators

I’ve never felt threatened by anyone while breastfeeding Julia in public.  There was one time when I was feeding her (with my nursing cover on) and a man walked by several times and flashed me a big smile… it was a little creepy but I didn’t feel like he was a predator by any means.  I think he either just liked seeing a mother nursing her baby, or maybe he had some weird idea that he’d get to see some booby, but he didn’t get a peep show. Other than that I’ve never noticed that we attract predators!

7) Women should breastfeed their babies before they leave home

Often, I try to do this–I feed her right before we leave to go somewhere, in the hopes that while we’re gone, she won’t need to eat so I can get done the things I need to get done while we’re out.  This is especially true when we’re trying to get errands done–I can’t feed her in the car while we’re driving somewhere, it’s hard to breastfeed while doing grocery shopping, etc. but unless I limited myself to 1-hour outings (which would be impossible given the time it takes to get somewhere, do what I want to do and get back home), it would be really hard to only feed her before leaving home.

And sometimes she just wants a little snack or dessert, or maybe some seconds!  So even if I do feed her before we leave, she might want a little more when we get where we’re going.

8) Women shouldn’t breastfeed their babies where children can see.

This is stupid.  Breastfeeding is natural and it is great for children to see women breastfeeding their babies.  I breastfed Julia in front of our niece and nephew and they didn’t ask any questions or say anything.  I agree that it’s important to normalize breastfeeding and the best way for this to happen is for people (children included) to get used to seeing it happening everywhere.

9) There is a time and a place for breastfeeding.

Agreed.  That time is whenever my baby is hungry, and the place is wherever she and I happen to be.

10) Mothers who nurse in public don’t have any respect for themselves, or anyone else.

I would say the opposite is true.  By nursing in public, I’m respecting my body’s natural abilities and I’m respecting my baby’s need for nourishment.  It has nothing to do with anyone else.

11) Women should breastfeed in the bathroom. 

First of all, it’s kind of gross and unsanitary to eat and shit in the same place.  There’s a reason people have always kept their bathroom separate from their kitchen.  Secondly, if grownups don’t eat in the bathroom, why should babies need to?  Finally, if I were giving my baby a bottle nobody would ask me to do that in the bathroom, so why can’t I breastfeed her where I would give her a bottle.

12) If we don’t shit, pee or masturbate in public, women shouldn’t be allowed to breastfeed in public.

One of these things involves eating, the others do not.  We eat in public so we should be able to feed our babies in public.

13) People shouldn’t be forced to see breasts in public

But we are forced to see breasts in public all the time… on TV, in magazines, on billboards, in movies, etc.  If you don’t want to see my breasts don’t look at them.  The way I dress means that you’d have to look really hard or you’d have to stare at me in order to see any more breast than you would see when someone’s wearing a bathing suit.

14) People shouldn’t walk and breastfeed

I have not yet mastered the art of walking and breastfeeding but if I could, I would.  I’ve heard it’s possible to put the baby in the Baby K’Tan or the Moby Wrap and breastfeed her while wearing her (which would make multi-tasking much easier!) but I have yet to figure this out.

15) You should nurse with a cover

Sometimes I do–when I feel that a cover is needed or when I feel uncomfortable breastfeeding without it.  But chances are, if I put on my nursing cover while I’m feeding her it’s because I’m with people who make me feel uncomfortable.  When I’m with people around whom I feel comfortable and at ease, I don’t feel the need to use my cover.

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