If you follow me on Facebook, you are probably aware that last week I stood beside a mother as she took the brunt of social media backlash for posting online about a restaurant who requested she cover while breastfeeding and then proceeded to call her selfish for declining. We shared beautiful Breastfeeding Photos, staged a Nurse-in, chatted with the public about supporting breastfeeding mothers, and even got a smidge of air time as the media covered this woman's story.
Nonetheless, on the semi-viral facebook post were responses in support and in disgust. We saw opinions from all across the spectrum. But it sparked a conversation that is important to have.
Most of us know by now that all 50 states have laws protecting breastfeeding mothers from indecent exposure charges and federal law allows mothers to nurse anywhere they are otherwise authorized to be. So where does this fall within private establishments? How should business owners respond to patrons that complain about a nursing mother? Should you cover or not?
I could write an entire book on this topic, so I'll do my best to keep it "short" and as "sweet" as my fired up self can be.....
TLDR: A breastfeeding mother should nurse however she feels most comfortable. If that's covered, great. Uncovered? Great. Partially covered? Cool! Upside down? Rock on, mama.
So what are some of the common concerns with public breastfeeding uncovered?
"No one wants to see THAT."
Hmmm... this seems to be the most common remark. I have a few responses.
1. I do! I wanna see "that". I wanna see mothers nursing their babies, unphased, supported, and respected. I want to see mothers comfortable with meeting their child's needs despite the general public's needs, opinions, etc.
2. No one wants to see what, exactly? A baby eating? Don't go to a restaurant then... Ask bottle feeding parents to hide too... Oh, no... that's not what you meant? Then what? You don't want to see cleavage? Go ask everyone wearing a low cut shirt to cover then.... wait. No? That's not what you meant either? Ohhhh... I get it! (see next response)
3. ....You don't want to see a child suckling a teat? LOOK AWAY AND STOP SEXUALIZING BREASTFEEDING.
"BUT Breasts ARE sexual"
Yup. They can be. Various other body parts often can be and are utilized for sexual purposes. But we don't ask women to cover their mouths, hands, or anything else that has purposes beyond pleasure. If you have some kind of "breastfeeding mom" fetish, then deal with that with your therapist, don't project it onto a MOTHER FEEDING HER BABY.
"Well I don't care if it's natural. So is peeing. But I can't whip my penis out anywhere I want"
1. Your penis doesn't feed a child.
2. Your waste products are gross. Breastmilk is food. Not bodily waste. Breastfeeding is not going to possibly help spread infection.
"Masturbation and sex are natural... why can't I do that in public?"
Refer to above remarks....
Modesty is not what you wear or don't wear. It's how you use your body. Using your breasts to feed a baby (ya know since that's what they were originally designed for), is not immodest. Covered or not. You're not breastfeeding with the intention of "seeking attention" or catching the eye of another woman's man... (Yes. There are people who actually think that's why we feed our babies uncovered. For attention.)
"I don't want to have to explain 'that' to my sons" or "I don't want my kids to see that. They're too young"
*insert eye roll* See above remarks...
So then, why feed uncovered?
Some babies don't like a cover.
Some moms don't have enough hands to juggle a cover while figuring out how to latch a baby and maybe even use devices like a nipple shield.
Covers can be inconvenient. Breastfeeding can be so convenient.
Men, women, children should ALL see breastfeeding. That's how we make it normal. That's how we make it not a taboo topic or experience. This is how we normalize breastfeeding. This is how we raise breastfeeding rates. Certainly making breastfeeding socially challenging on top of the REAL challenges it can come with doesn't help anything...
Or... any reason... no reason... no one needs an excuse to feed their baby how they deem fit.
Bottom line... don't be a butter... Don't say "I support breastfeeding but...." Support breastfeeding. Tell a mom she's doing a good job. Offer her a drink of water. Or food. Or a comfortable chair, or anything BUT a cover.
Stay tuned for part 2 where I tell you what you can say to someone who is offended by breastfeeders.
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