If this topic feels too personal for some, I get it. Here’s your chance to opt out.
I am a public breastfeeder.
I’m not bringing this up to cause controversy, but because it’s been a significant part of my life for the past 4+ years.
A headline caught my eye yesterday: “The Voice Australia contestant Dallas James’ moment in the spotlight was dashed on Wednesday when the mother of his child breastfed on national TV during his live audition.”
This sparked controversy in Australia, apparently, but mention was made to the facts that:
a) the clip NEVER would have been shown in the U.S.
b) it would have sparked exponentially more drama here.
I utterly (udderly?) do not understand what folks’ issues are with breastfeeding. I really don’t. How did we get to this place of judgement around something that women have been doing across the globe for millenia?
Here’s the deal. Plain and simple.
1. THE BOOB’S FUNCTION IS FOR BREASTFEEDING.
2. Some women can’t breastfeed for multiple reasons.
3. Some women choose to breastfeed and some don’t. That choice is up to them, hopefully with appropriate support and education about the subject.
4. Some women are more comfortable breastfeeding in public than others. Great.
5. Some women use cover-ups, some don’t. Sounds OK to me.
6. Some women choose to breastfeed past 6 months. Or 1 year. Or 2 years. Or 3 years. Some don’t. Let’s support women’s choices instead of judging them.
7. Having lactation rooms available is AWESOME. And. Women still may choose to breastfeed in public and that’s OK.
8. Also, and I think this a point that gets lost sometimes, breastfeeding is HARD. It’s not easy and if a woman is choosing to do it, it’s a very conscious choice for the good of herself and her child.
OK, getting back to being a public breastfeeder.
I happen to be comfortable breastfeeding in public. That’s a personal choice for me. For the most part, I have felt extremely supported. And, that is certainly because the 2 places I’ve lived over the past 4 years have been Santa Cruz, CA and Ann Arbor, MI.
I am as discreet as possible, but it’s pretty obvious when someone is breastfeeding a child whether or not you can actually see what’s going on.
Part of the reason I don’t find a more private place is because:
1. There often really isn’t anywhere else to go.
2. Sometimes the only other option is a public restroom, which is gross to me.
3. I often don’t want to miss the conversation or event that’s happening!
4. Honestly, I want others to feel comfortable doing it, too.
One of the places I breastfeed often is at daycare. This is a supportive place and I don’t worry about it at all. What’s interesting is that I nurse Ash 2-3 days a week there and I have only witnessed 2 other moms doing the same in the almost 3 years we’ve been going there.
At the end of the school day all Ash wants is a little mama comfort. The other day another mom said to me, “You’re *still* nursing him?! How old is he?!” She wasn’t being mean at all. In fact, she was smiling and acting more curious than judgmental. It truly didn’t bother me that she asked because in some ways I LIKE being a person who is willing to show – in public – that breastfeeding a 22 month old is OK and normal.
We shouldn’t have to hide or cover up (unless we want to!)
I’ve only had one negative experience, a few years ago, when a waiter at a restaurant completely changed his tone and friendliness once he saw that I was nursing Austin at the table.
Mostly I’ve had good experiences. But I know a lot of women feel judged.
Please understand that feeding a child can be more than just nourishment. It can be comfort. It can help to avoid a meltdown. It can prevent tantrums. It can be healthy for the mama. It can provide a feeling of safety and love. And did I already mention it’s not easy?
Why am I writing this?
I guess I hope the people closest to me (and others) will feel comfortable challenging anyone who attempts to negatively judge a women who chooses to breastfeed in public.
Feel free to comment on this one. I’m completely open to your thoughts!