This is a response to Your Right to Breastfeed in Public, My Right to be Apalled published on August 8, 2006. Some of this article I agreed with, but some parts I think were unfair over-generalizations. You may have run into a few rude nursing moms, but the article came across as if you’ve never met anyone who does it up to your standards. Here’s my take on the issue…
First off, I was happy to see my own state on the list of states that allow mothers to “breastfeed in any public or private location”. It’s nice to know I have the law on my side if I want to feed my child, although it’s sad to realize that we needed to legislate that.
You said you wear a “special nursing shirt”. It’s great that you can afford a special wardrobe, but you should realize that not everyone has that luxury. I sew, so I was able to alter some of the dresses I already own. But some people don’t have the time or talent to do that either. And with more and more women taking shorter maternity leaves, I think a lot of them just opt to “make do” with less accessible clothing for what they expect to be a short-term situation.
You claimed that “Current mothers are less and less discreet about breastfeeding.”. This is not only an unfair generalization, but it’s also a contradiction. By definition, the mothers that are being the most discreet are the ones you’re least likely to have noticed. Did you go looking for nursing moms?? Probably not. You just counted the ones that you couldn’t help but notice, and you may have overlooked a whole army of polite, discreet, considerate mommies. Like me. I can feed my daughter in public without causing a scene. I ask for a booth in restaurants, rather than being seated at a table out in the middle of the room, and I tend to sit towards the back of the church, (which is also handy if I need to take her out because she’s fussy). I won’t hide out in the bathroom to feed my child, but I also don’t sit in the most visible spot in the room. You probably wouldn’t even notice us.
You that said your technique involved “throwing a baby blanket over the appointed shoulder and slipping the baby underneath so they could feed”. Wow, I’m impressed at how coordinated you and your baby are. It’s sounds like you had such an easy time with this that you might not realize that it’s not like that for everyone else. Both my kids had latching-on issues, and I need to be able to see them while they nurse, so that I can help them. Having a blanket over their heads won’t work for us. There’s no way for you to know, just by looking, which people have a medical need to see their child’s mouth/face, and which people are just being indiscreet.
Breastfeeding isn’t as easy as non-nursing people assume. It’s not uncommon for first-time mommies to give up in frustration because they’re having trouble getting themselves and the child coordinated and comfortable with the process. Trying to also do it “blind” underneath a blanket is just too much to ask of them. And feeling embarrassed because people are staring at you and condemning your efforts is likely to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back.
You also said that you “walked into a room in my own home to see a guest with her shirt completely off nursing her kid”. Okay, this I can see your point on. Your home is not a “public” place, and your guests need to be respectful of the traditions in your home when they visit. Taking off the whole shirt is something I only do when the baby is brand new, because skin-to-skin contact is recommend for newborns and because I don’t want to have anything extra in the way while the baby and I are learning to work together on this. But I also spend those early days in the hospital or at home, not out visiting.
You asked, “Why should I, my children, my husband, have to see something we do not want to see?” This is just silly. Why are you all looking?? If it’s something you don’t want to see, don’t look. Have a little self-control, please. You and your family shouldn’t be staring at strangers while they eat, not matter what they’re eating or what they’re eating out of.
In the end, you tried to draw a parallel that I don’t think was valid. You said, “Yes, it is just a baby eating, but does that mean when I am eating I should open my mouth so you can witness me chewing?” That’s not a fair comparison. Seeing a breast while a baby is eating can be compared to me seeing the glass you are drinking from, or the plate you’re eating off of; not the inside of your mouth. The breast is a container, like Tupperware, it’s used to carry food.
(P.S.: I typed his article while my baby was nursing. I bet you didn’t even notice!)
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