Ya, I’m going to go there~ right into giving my two cents on the whole breastfeeding in public debate and while I’m at it I may as well throw my hat in the “should everyone breastfeed” ring too. Let’s just hit that old nest of rattlers with a big stick.
I don’t actually think my opinions are terribly biased or anger inducing but then both issues come with some strong feelings, so I’m sure I can offend someone all the same. So be it.
Should every mother breastfeed? The simple answer is yes. I firmly believe all mother’s should breastfeed and avoid the dreaded formula. Why would all mammal produce their own milk if not to most effectively feed their own young? Formula is advertised as providing the essential nutrients for a baby; however, there is no lab that can recreate the complexity of breast milk. Not to mention with mother’s milk you can avoid all these formula scares where Chinese factories are accidentally dumping arsenic into the mix.
What’s the more complex answer though? I also believe that not every mother can breastfeed. And there can be both physical, emotional, or medical reasons for this.
Medical seems the most clear-cut of reasons: if you are taking medication that can be
passed through breast milk to your baby and there are not enough long-term studies supporting the safety of that transfer then you simply cannot take that path for feeding.
Emotional and physical problems are a bit trickier. On the emotional side, women who have suffered abuse may have problems with this activity and closeness. It is an action that can bring up a lot of feelings and past memories. Perhaps these can be worked through with counselling; however, asking a woman to expose herself to this vulnerability at an already emotionally heightened point in her life seems cruel.
Then there is the physical. Purely, “I cannot breastfeed my child”. And I’ve heard this and other reasons from many mothers, so let’s take a look at each complaint:
“it hurts too much”: while feeding isn’t immediately comfortable, the fact that it hurts is most often a sign of something being wrong. A poor latch is likely.
“i didn’t want my nipples to get tough” or “i didn’t want to ruin my breasts”: this one is just selfish. You decided to bring a new life into the world but refuse to give them the life-sustaining milk your body produces because you’re too concerned about your tits?
“i tried everything, even the nurse couldn’t get the baby to feed”: I find these parents, though well-meaning, give up too soon. Even women for whom feeding is going pretty smoothly have a 2 week adjustment period before they really feel they’ve “got it”. If things aren’t going so well you need to visit a lactation consultant. Start with your hospital but then move on to a real clinic if you’re not getting the help necessary (this of course is if you have the $ for private consult~ I know not all people do. I sure don’t!) Also, something that new mother’s don’t always know is that a baby may refuse the breast for a few weeks, and then magically come around. It happens all the time!
“we had to start using bottles for XXX reason, and I’ve heard they won’t take the breast after (nipple confusion)”: Try. Babies love to eat and will often learn to take food from whatever source they can get it. Also, research your bottle choice. There are some new ones on the market that are trying to emulate the breast more, making switching possibly less of an issue.
“I wanted Dad to be able to have a part in bonding with baby through feeding”: I can see both sides to this one, but at the very least have him feed the baby pumped milk. I get the desire to share the care and bonding time (and giving mum a break on a late night feeding sometimes too!); however, feeding is a motherly task. It is naturally and inherently for the woman, the mother to perform. I don’t see a reason to force this in another direction. Dad will find his bonding niche with baby, but to give up your time for skin to skin feeding contact so he can stick a plastic bottle in your baby’s mouth seems silly to me.
Now, on to the Breastfeeding in PUBLIC~ Aaaahhh!
Really my position is a simple one: be discrete and use your judgement. All of the women who have taken the stance that they have the right to, not only breastfeed in public, but also to flaunt that they are doing so and make a point of exposing their bare breast in inappropriate environments have done more to harm this cause than help it.
I find it unfair of women to promote the sexualization of the breast, but then as soon as they have a child to demand that everyone see them as a food source. The same women can one day dress up for a night out in a low-cut, revealing top, enticing others to imagine the sexual beauty of her breasts, and the next expose herself on a park bench feeding her child?
I just don’t think it takes much effort to bring along a towel/small blanket to drape over while feeding. I don’t expect women to be breast hiding ninjas, a flash of inadvertent exposure doesn’t irk me.
And then there’s the using your discretion about location. Are you sitting in an area that has people of other culture and would they culturally/religiously be offended? Just because it’s breastfeeding doesn’t make it okay to be racially and culturally insensitive. Are you sitting with coworkers or other acquaintances who perhaps, though supportive of your feeding, are going to be forever uncomfortable with the knowledge that they have seen you exposed? Are you in an environment that requires a dress code? Ok, this one is a bit odd, I know. But I feel that places where you would be asked to wear a suit or meet a standard of dress are just not great places to perform this kind of personal bonding moment right out in the open. Generally you can find a quiet corner or space off to the side for a bit of privacy.
And lastly are restaurants, which seem to be the hot topic. I’m on the fence, quite frankly. With discretion I don’t think it should be an issue. And I know, a mother just wants to get out for a meal sometimes and there’s no sitter, and your baby has to eat. It is what it is and to expect that woman to sit in a bathroom is just plain rude.
The overall point being, when you breastfeed try to think if your simply feeding your child or are you making a stand? Because if you’re making a stand you’re probably also making it worse for future mothers to feed their child in public.
Those are my thoughts on the issues and I think many are in agreement. Feeding your baby in public should not bring scorn from others, but those people will never be won over by further pushing it into their faces. We need to all meet half way on grounds of respect for other’s needs and comfort levels.