Will it ever end? At the moment it’s looking doubtful. Almost equal numbers of both men and women have varying degrees and varying opinions on whether it’s okay to breastfeed in public, but sometimes we’re not getting the full story from both sides…
Many women who do feed in public don’t do it solely because they feel it’s their right. Being able to get out of the home in the weeks and months following birth is incredibly important for women so that they are less likely to suffer post natal depression. Some people might argue that bottle feeding in public and breastfeeding in the home is a suitable alternative and that may be, but babies are not always like clockwork and things like spilled bottles cannot be helped. Similarly, breasts often become tender and sore when mothers don’t express and spending a long time outside the home can require a feed. Should women be made to feel like they should prepare for things like this before they leave the house, or go home if they need to express? Many would argue that mothers are busy, tired and don’t have time to make these preparations. They might also argue that the importance of her and her child’s health is greater than the importance of someone not wanting to catch a glimpse of an exposed breast.
For those who are against breastfeeding in public the issue is often not about themselves, but in protection. If a man sees breasts as a sexual thing it might make them feel uncomfortable to have a baby thrown into the mix and immediately want to protect that child and that mother from their own awkward thoughts. Should the fact that people see breasts as sexual become a problem? Many public breast feeders think so. Yet couldn’t it be argued that just as breastfeeding is natural, sexual desire is too? It may simply be our society of wearing clothes to cover our breasts has created this image of them, but that is neither here nor there. What does need to be sorted out is whether the mother should be protecting her breasts from view, or other people should be able to look the other way without either staring or catching a glimpse and feeling embarrassed.
For now it seems that the best thing to do is cover up with a blanket or a nursing shirt if you are breastfeeding in public. Some mothers don’t enjoy this as they can’t see and make eye contact with their baby, yet others argue that not covering your baby from the outside world while they feed distracts them, they look around and stop suckling properly.
Most importantly, remember that you have a very strong belief that what you have chosen for you and your baby is right. With this in mind, remember that other Mums feel this strongly about their own choices and simply because they differ from yours that doesn’t mean they are wrong. Every mother and baby is different and unless you know them intimately you cannot judge their individual situation.